Thursday, October 14, 2021


 Already Martin Luther knew and wrote 1523 in his essay, "Das Jhesus Christus eyn geborner Jude sey (That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew)." 

Referring to the bad treatment, the Old Church was bestowing on the Jews he wanted to covert the "blood friends, cousins and brothers of our Lord" to his reformed religion. He argued all you need is that they hear the Gospel proclaimed clearly.

No chance! Luther became furious, and when the famous Rabbi Josel of Rosheim asked him in 1537 to influence the Elector of Saxony Frederick III to lift the ban on Jews settling in Saxony, Luther replied, "Dear Josel, I would willingly do my best for your people. Still, I will not contribute to your [Jewish] obstinacy by my kind actions. You must find another intermediary with my good lord."

Eventually, Luther wrote in 1543 his treatise, "Von den Jüden und jren Lügen (On the Jews and Their Lies)" and an anti-Semitic pamphlet "Vom Schem Hamphoras und vom Geschlecht Christi (Of the Unknowable Name and the Generations of Christ)."

The façade of the Stadtkirche in Wittenberg - the church where Luther preached - shows a Judensau (Jews' sow) from 1305. In 1570 the parish supplemented the sculpture with the inscription Schem HaMphoras right from the reformer's pamphlet.

The Nicholas window of the Freiburg Minster church.
A Jew with his funnel hat is waving a stick standing there for his bond?
Without commenting further; what is important in this context are those hats the Jews wear. The funnel shape is the "classical" way to identify the bearer as a Jew ... 

Jew in the Middle Ages wearing a yellow ring.
He carries a bunch of garlic and the obligatory purse.
... but other forms are typical, like a bonnet or hood called Gugel.

On those Jewish hats, Professor Michael Bachmann had based his talk "The Freiburg Minster and Its Jews." He spoke in the framework of the Jewish Cultural Days Freiburg's active Jewish community had organized.

Professor Bachmann pointed out the interesting fact that there are "friendly" Jewish hats in and around the Minster church, as in the nativity scene in the tympanum of the main entrance hall.

Joseph sitting at the foot of the crib in a daze, wears the funnel head. Indeed, in an earlier blog, I wrote, "Joseph, not being Jesus' bodily father, is an embarrassing figure for the teaching Church. Medieval paintings of the Holy Family frequently show the carpenter as a small, unimportant, and hidden figure sometimes placed in a corner." The same here. Note the festively dressed shepherd to the right wearing a Gugel hat.

Here comes a discovery. The Crucifixion scene of the tympanum shows the righteous people at the right of the cross.


On the cover of Professor Bachmann's book, you recognize enlarged on the right Constantine the Great. On his side is his mother, Helena, who allegedly discovered the Holy Cross at Golghata. Of the three unearthed crosses, the correct one was identified by a miracle. Here a Jewish workman wearing a hat found the inscription I.N.R.I. (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews) belonging to the Holy Cross.

Another Jewish friendly example is the Tree of Jesse, where the ancestors of Jesus' mother, Mary (up in the middle), wear crows, hats, and funnel hats.

And with Luther, we know that Jesus was born a Jew. This fact is dramatically illustrated in the resurrection trilogy above: Near the tomb, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, the unbelieving Thomas lays his hand into Jesus' wound, and two disciples on the road to Emmaus recognize Jesus wearing a funnel hat while breaking the bread.

Here is a presentation in the keystone of a vault barely visible to the occasional visitor. It shows the child Jesus teaching the elders in the Temple. The scribes wear hats. Note to the left of the scene the Austrian "lark" coat of arms, to the right the Austrian barred shield red-white-red, and at the bottom the cross of St. George, one of Freiburg's patrons.

Here is the "classical" confrontation of the Church and the Synagogue. On the one side, the triumphant Church a chalice and a lance in hands riding a horse showing head and feet of the four evangelists. On the other side, the Synagogue blindfolded - not recognizing Christ as the Messiah - with a broken lance carrying a billy goat's head and riding a donkey.

Did Luther not recognize the Jews a "blood friends, cousins and brothers of our Lord?" Judaism is the precursor of Christendom. So at the end of his talk, Professor Bachmann wanted to prove that St. Paul, who has opened the Christian faith to the non-Jews, gave it to the world never lost his Jewish roots.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

A Citrus Ussie

A photo of Tuesday night went viral on the Internet, and Red Baron learned a new word, ussie.

A green-yellow or citrus ussie
The ussie of Green candidate for chancellor Annalena Baerbock, her co-leader Robert Habeck, Free Democrat (Liberals) Leader Christian Lindner, and his Secretary General Volker Wissing was taken at a neutral location following their meeting and posted on the Instagram accounts of the three gentlemen and the lady.

Although the four used different optical filters - Lindner and Baerbock tending to red (!) - the text published on the four Instagram accounts was the same, "In the search for a new government, we explore common grounds and bridges over dividing lines. And even find some. Exciting times. "

Remember the results of last Sunday's federal election? The two Volksparteien (popular parties) shrunk to around 25 %. Neither the Social nor the Christian Democrats can govern the country without forming a coalition with smaller parties sitting in the newly elected Bundestag (parliament).

The only two possible partners are the Greens and the Free Democrats. However, the differences in their party platforms are considerable. While the Greens, e.g., are inclined toward a government-led policy on climate protection, the Liberals would like to leave those mitigating measures to the free play of the market economy. That's why the two "chancellor making" parties met already last Tuesday night ahead of coalition negotiations with the major parties to first sound out common grounds for a Jamaica or traffic light coalition.

The memes on the Internet abounded.

Who is that rock band?
The Greens and Free Democrats had more success with young and first-time voters than the Christian and Social Democrats.

Making the Greens and Free Democrats more attractive to the older generation.

The specter of a Jamaica coalition.
Christian Democrat for chancellor Armin Laschet as photobomb. According to recent polls, only 22% of the voters like a three-party Jamaica coalition compared to 50% who prefer a traffic light coalition.

However, the latter is kein Selbstläufer (not self-implementing), as the following anecdote shows.

In the Hamburg state elections of 2015, the ecologists had high hopes that Katharina Fegebank of the Greens would become mayor instead of incumbent Olaf Scholz. They failed, but the Social Democrats lost the absolute majority and had to form a coalition government with the Greens. Before signing the agreement, Scholz said to the press, "We'll carry on as before, we now have a green annex, but no one has to worry. Upset, Katharina told him, "Olaf, don't say that again anywhere." He looked at her and said, "I don't have to say that a second time."

The success of the green-yellow citrus ussie led virologist, omni-attendee in talk-shows, recent winner of the direct mandate for the Social Democrats in his constituency, and future minister of health in Olaf Scholz’s government, Karl Lauterbach, to twitter an ussie with Christian Drosten, virologist, Germany's Fauci, national Corona podcaster, and recent recipient of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic.

The text in allusion to the above band meme is, "Not a rock band, to be sure. But at least full of ideas how the 4th wave could wash over Germany as flat as possible." Both scientists know what they are talking about.

Monday, September 27, 2021

A Voté

"Has voted" is the distinctive call of the polling station officer in France when votes find their way into the ballot box. Not so in my country: the officer just nodded when yesterday I had slipped my ballot into the box as one of the 60 million eligible persons to vote for Germany's 20th Bundestag.

Even Google honored the German federal election.
Germany has a mixed electoral system, and voters have two votes. 299 deputies are directly elected in their electoral districts with a "first" vote. This is the same as in the States or the UK. However, already Winston Churchill mused, "It isn't one hundred percent democratic, but it works." Right he was, for all votes for the smaller parties fallen unter den Tisch (are lost).

To remedy this "undemocratic "situation, Germany's electoral law stipulates that another 299 deputies are added to the Bundestag according to the percentage of "second" votes a party has gained.

Darker means a higher percentage of votes (©Der Spiegel)
Here are Germany's 299 electoral districts. By now, you know that for the two major parties, black stands for the Christian Democrats, red for the Social Democrats. Germany's south and west voted black, while the north and the Ruhr district are traditionally red. Here and there, the direct mandate fell to the Greens, so in electoral district 281 Freiburg (what else?). Unpleasant are those blue constituencies in Saxonia and Thuringia where the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland got the majority of the votes cast and the direct candidate elected.

With Christian and Social Democrats being the significant parties, it frequently happens that their number of direct mandates won in a particular state is greater than the percentages of their votes. These seats are called overhang mandates and are compensated by additional leveling seats, thus adjusting the number of deputies according to the portions of the "second" votes cast for their parties.

These two mechanisms try to make the election result nearly one hundred percent democratic but have the unpleasant side effect of swelling the Bundestag. The number of deputies increased from nominally 598 deputies to 709 in 2017 and now to 735 or from XL to XXL. All reforms of the election law to decrease the number of seats have failed so far. Note: No deputy will vote for his/her own suppression.

Percentages of "second" votes
Gains and losses are compared to the 2017 election results.
(©Der Spiegel)
Here are the final provisionally results of 2021 showing winners and losers.

Angela's reaction to her party's losses (©AP)
The big losers are the Christian Democrats, i.e., Angela Merkel's party, but the extreme right and left parties shrunk too. Germany moved to the center. Only a tripartite alliance can form a stable government. Will we get a center-right Jamaica or a center-left traffic light coalition? Let us hope that we have a new government soon; otherwise, acting Chancellor Angela will give the traditional New Year's address on national television.

At the evening of the election, Chancelor Agela Merkel at a party rally with the wannabe chancellor Armin Laschet (CDU). After 16 years at the helm, the chancellor looks tired. Did she support him enough?

Friday, September 24, 2021


Every year on the third Friday in September, my former class of '54 holds its annual reunion in a suburb of Hamburg with a dinner.

Park Cemetery Ohlsdorf (©bgmr)
I always use the opportunity to visit my parents' grave. They are buried at the Ohlsdorf cemetery, the largest in the world.

Sunflowers, my father's favorites 
My father died at the age of 54, my mother at 90. They were married for 25 years, and my mother lived on as a widow for another 35 years.

Roads run through the Ohlsdorf cemetery, and two bus lines connect the main entrance with 14 chapels used for the funeral ceremonies in various parts of the cemetery park.

Bicycles are allowed
Wilhelm Cordes had the idea to bury the Hamburgers in a vast garden. Indeed, during the rhododendrons bloom, people walk along the small lakes admiring the sumptuous flowers.

Public transport allowed, but a big surprise for those
cars approaching the barrier from the opposite side.
Other activities like teaching your children how to drive or speeding cars taking the quiet roads as a shortcut were initially tolerated, but the situation went out of hand. Now barriers prevent the transit for individuals.

In the late morning, I took the ferry crossing the Elbe River to Finkenwerder, now known for the Hamburg branch of Airbus Industries. 

During the day, the ferry boat is used mainly by tourists
cruising the Elbe River and just paying a token.
Bye, bye Hamburg

Passing a rudimentary Elbe beach
Finkenwerder is still famous for its fishing fleet. The specialty is plaice that is deliciously prepared on-site as Finkenwerder Speckscholle (baked plaice with bacon).

Even though I had dinner with my former classmates, I couldn't resist.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

AYF 2021/22

American students are back in town for the Academic Year in Freiburg 2021/22.

The AYF exchange program dates back to 1960, with a celebration scheduled in 2020 but had to be cut short in the same year. Because of the spreading pandemic, all AYF students were ordered back home. The program set up for them was canceled, including the events planned by the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft (FMG). The  FMG is keeping contacts with Madison, WI., Freiburg's sister city in the States.

 No student arrived for the AYF 2020/21. So we were all glad when Ulrich Struve, Program Director of the AYF, announced that a whole new bunch of 26 students from Madison and Michigan would come to Freiburg this fall.

Red Baron was proud to open the FMG student program. The guided tour of Freiburg's historical places took place on September 8. This year I had a record audience of 19 students participating.

As usual, I concentrated on the time of the Reformation, although Freiburg being a Habsburg outpost on the Rhine always stayed Catholic. Nevertheless, the effects of the religious division on Freiburg were dramatic.

Haus zum Walfisch
Witnessing the iconoclasm at the Basel Minster, the great Erasmus of Rotterdam left the city in May 1529 and settled in Catholic Freiburg at the House of the Whale. Those of my followers who read German may look for the full story here.
Basler Hof
I told the story of the Baseler Hof on Kaiser-Joseph-Straße, in which the chapter of the Basel Minster Church found refuge in April 1529, fleeing the radical reformists in their town.

Finally, our group ended up at Minster square admiring "the most beautiful steeple in the world," according to art historian Jacob Burkhardt.

Learning phase: The left tracery window shows the progression
from early Gothic (RHS) to High Gothic style.
The change in style from Romanesque to Gothic came as a surprise to the Freiburg Minster builders. Their attempts to build gothic window tracery were pitiful. But when they had called in colleagues from Strasbourg, their successive arches looked more refined.
Although all students were vaccinated and their masks well in place, it was a surprise that we were thrown out of the church. We were too many. Only ten persons per group are allowed to visit the interior of the Minster.

So here are three pictures of what I had intended to show and explain inside the Minster Church.

The builders had to raise the initial Romanesque columns
to accommodate the higher Gothic vault ribs.
Inside the Minster, at the transition of transept and nave, the change in style resulted in some construction acrobatics one had to make fitting the higher Gothic arch onto the supports for the Romanesque arch.

The photo above shows the Geigesgate. Freiburg's city council mandated the famous Fritz Geiges to complement broken stained-glass windows at the Minster Church. Compare the two pretzels being original and recreated. Read the full story here.

During my guided tour, I always show as my last photo the ruins of Freiburg following the British air raid on November 27, 1944.

People still call it a miracle that the Minster Church stood while all buildings around were in ruins. One reason is that the builders have solidly constructed walls and arches. They didn't know how to calculate the statics at those times, so they better over-dimensioned all building elements. Present calculations show that the safety factors built into the construction are at least seven times greater than would be required by modern architecture. One reason why the Freiburg Minster Church, although under permanent restoration and repair, will survive for another couple of centuries.
Honoring Madison's coat of arms ©US
We wish all AYF 2021/22 students all the best for their Academic Year in Freiburg.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Variant of Interest

Presently the Covid-19 Delta variant of concern (VOC) determines the Corona infections around the globe.

The scale of WHO Bedrohungslagen opened at the top by Stephen Colbert
(©Stephen Colbert/CBS)
The other day the World Health Organisation (WHO) identified a new, the Mu variant, as a variant of interest (VOI). Will this virus, with its multiple spike mutations, become the dominant spreader of Corona?

For my German readers "Zwischen Aufstrich und Ausbreitung"
of epidemics (©Stephen Colbert/CBS)
Here is what Dr. Fauci said regarding the present situation in the States, "There are isolates of the Mu variant in this country. The thing that is telling us it isn't an immediate issue right now is that the Delta variant continues to be profoundly dominant in this country. More than 99% of the isolates in this country are Delta. So, Delta seems to be pushing out all the other variants."

Mu is the twelfth letter in the 24-letter Greek alphabet, two letters short of the Latin alphabet used in English. With more mutants of the Coronavirus being identified, it is evident that sooner or later, we will run out of Greek letters.

When this happens, the Cyrillic alphabet could come in handy with its abundant 29 letters, not counting the modifying hard and soft signs. Mind you, some of the Cyrillic letters are of Greek or Latin origin. Will we ever need the umlauted and the accented letters to name new Covid-19 variants? I digress.

Four waves of Corona infections in Germany (©ntv)
The 4th Corona wave is somewhat frightening. Looking at the progress in vaccinations in various countries, you will note that with the aggressive Delta variant, vaccination rates around 60%, are far from any herd immunity. However, recently Denmark, with its 73,1%, lifted all Corona restrictions.

Vaccination progress for selected countries (©RTL)
Countries that started their vaccinations early, like Israel, the UK, and the States, are not better off than Germany, a late starter. With 61.3% of its population fully vaccinated, Germany has passed the US with its 52,3%. There is vaccine fatigue in all countries, so the present numbers increase only slowly with time.

Seven day Corona incidences for unvaccinated
and fully vaccinated people in a few German States (©ntv)
And then there are breakthrough infections. Fully vaccinated persons fall ill with Corona, although the progression of the disease is mild, showing the vaccination is effective.

The course of the pandemic is profoundly different in Germany in 2020 and 2021, as illustrated in the following graphics by Deutsche Telekom©:

After Germany met the initial wave with a lockdown, the Corona incidence stayed low during the summer of 2020 (orange curve) and started to climb with the cold season. In 2021 a similar trend was expected, but the Delta variant made that the Corona incidence began already to rise at the end of July, climbing since then. The rate has now reached a value above 83 infections per 100,000 inhabitants. Where is the effect of the vaccination?

We see the effect of vaccination in the above graphic comparing the number of deaths due to Corona in 2020 (orange) and 2021 (red). This year the number dropped as the number of vaccinations increased. In addition, the death rate remains low in 2021, although the number of infected people is increasing. Many of the older people have died from Corona last year. This cohort is now nearly fully inoculated, and the number of deaths due to the Delta variant in younger segments of the population is low.

Finally, the following graphic shows the number of people in intensive care again for the years 2020 (orange) and 2021 (red). This year's load on the hospitals is still low. So yesterday, parliament - in its last session before the deputies adjourned to fight for their seats in the upcoming federal election - passed an amendment to the Infection Protection Act, replacing the corona incidence rate with a hospitalization rate. This rate indicates how many Corona patients per 100,000 inhabitants were admitted to hospitals in the last seven days. Last Tuesday, that figure was 1.69 nationwide, having little meaning. So instead, in the future, each State will define its limiting numbers according to the number of still-empty hospital beds. Presently the State Ordinances are being adjusted.

Berlin, which had a traffic light for additional actions to be taken when the Corona rate in the city-state passed limiting values, converted its traffic light to an indicator of the hospitalization incidence. At a value of 4, the light turns yellow, meaning that the Senate (the state government) needs to talk; at a value of 8 (red), there is a need for action, i.e., for new or further Corona restrictions.

Baden-Württemberg's draft of a new Corona Ordinance stipulates that if the hospitalization incidence passes 8, unvaccinated people would only be allowed access with a negative PCR test to certain public areas, such as restaurants and cultural and sporting events.

A second alert level applies if the hospitalization incidence is 12. At this value, 2G becomes the rule in the land. Unvaccinated people would no longer have access to certain areas and must reduce their contacts to a minimum.

The planned rigid 2G rule in Baden-Württemberg is different from that in Hamburg, where organizers and landlords can decide whether to admit only vaccinated and recovered people under an option model to their premises.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Parashah Nitzavim

On September 4, Red Baron went to the local synagogue. It was the last Sabbath in the Jewish annual cycle, during which Moses’ five books are read from the Torah. On this day, the last verses of the book Deuteronomy (29:9-30:20), i.e., the 51st weekly parashah (section), are recited. This last Sabbath in the Jewish year is named Nitzavim after the first distinctive word - being the second - in the final parashah of the book Deuteronomy*.
*A similar scheme is practiced in the Catholic Church where Sundays in the annual cycle are frequently named after the first word of the introit, the first prayer in the Mass. So the four Lent Sundays are known as Invocavit, Reminiscere, Oculi, and Laetare.

I attended the service because of the invitation of the Freiburg Jewish community on the occasion of the European Day of Jewish Culture.

Red Baron took his kippah, the streetcar, and was early for the service scheduled at 9:30 a.m.; time to look around and watch old white-haired men arriving. They put their Talith (prayer shawl) and placed their Siddur Schomer Jissrael (Prayer book for Shabbat and [Jewish] holidays), waiting for the service to begin.

At 9:40 a.m, the Cantor started the service. I was left with the prayer book with texts printed in Hebrew, their phonetic transliterations, and translations of the Hebrew texts into German.

In the meantime, the Rabbi arrived. When he had terminated his private prayers, he walked around and helped the old men* finding in their prayer books the texts the Cantor was reciting. He helped me the goy too.
*Many of those pious men are Jews who fled the Soviet Union and settled in Germany

Frequently some of the men present participated in the recitation of texts.

The highlight of the service was the pulling out of the Thora and the reading of the last verses of Moses’ Fifth Book.

The Rabbi’s homily in German (!) centered around a rabbi in White Russia who went to the synagogue in his village for spiritual enlightenment on his religious queries. When he left the place of worship, he was deeply disappointed that the Lord had not spoken to him and went home saddened.

Later the keeper of the synagogue knocked at the rabbi’s door, asking him for some roubles for the work on the synagogue. The rabbi was generous. Hardly had the visitor left the house, the rabbi had all the answers to his queries. Amen.

Then a few men in the audience, one after the other, went to the front, and an attendee asked them in Hebrew who should be included in the prayers. Those questioned pronounced first names, included the Cantor and the Rabbi, and some mentioned the guests (me). The man knowledgeable in Hebrew repeated those names loudly, sometimes asking to make sure that he had well understood.

Near the end of the service, the Cantor prayed for the sick and the suffering. When he invited the community to mention names, I forwarded my daughter’s name.

The service was long. Luckily enough, the seats had cushions, so Red Baron survived the two hours.

Today September 6, is Rosh Hashanah (the start of the year). The Jewish New Year 5782 begins. Time to wish you all Shana Tova, a good year,

The impressive cupola of Freiburg's synagogue.