Thursday, November 22, 2012

Local Saints and a Local Hero

Blessed Bernhard
Last August I blogged about Edith Stein Freiburg claims as a local saint. Well, I know that in the Catholic Church saints are considered universal, i.e., belonging to and venerated by the whole community. However, places where those selected people once dwelt are always special.

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch and Bernhard in the background
Today I read in my favorite newspaper that Freiburg's archbishop Robert had started the final step for the sanctification of another "local person": Bernhard von Baden.

In February 2011 I already devoted a blog to Blessed Bernhard who is considered as the patron of the Freiburg archdiocese. Now all supporting documents for his canonization including the one about a miraculous healing of a nun from Baden in 1956 were placed in a sealed box and sent to the Vatican for further action and final decision by the pope.

The name of Bernhard not always had a good reputation in Freiburg. Bernhard von Weimar, yes Weimar again, pushed Freiburg in 1638 into misery when during the Thirty Years War he besieged the city at Easter and took it after eleven days. Bernhard born in 1604 was the eleventh son of Johann, Duke of Saxe-Weimar, and had no chance to become heir to the throne. In these days later-born children either became clergymen or warlords. Bernard chose to support King Gustav Adolf, the invader from Sweden, and became one of his most valuable generals. Following the King's death in the battle of Lützen Bernhard continued serving the Swedes. Being successful he was granted the former bishoprics of Würzburg and Bamberg and the title Duke of Franconia. We read in Wikipedia: A stern Protestant, he exacted heavy contributions from the Catholic cities which he took, and his repeated victories caused him to be regarded by German Protestants [with Gustav Adolf dead] as the savior of their religion. But in 1634 Bernard suffered a great defeat at Nördlingen, losing the best of the Swedish army and his duchy.

The other Bernhard approaching the city of Breisach 1638
One year later still longing to become a German prince Bernhard made a pact with Cardinal Richelieu, the man Protestant Germans considered as a twofold devil being both Catholic and French. The Cardinal gave money and troops to his German speaking general to fight the Habsburgs on German territory. Soon Richellieu felt cheated as Bernhard rather used the French mercenaries to pursue his personal ambitions.

In 1638 in a blitz campaign he first captured the Habsburg cities on the High Rhine and then Freiburg. The following siege of Breisach, the imperial fortress, took him seven months. Conquered eventually Bernard made the city the site of his Princely Saxon Government unblushingly requesting Richelieu to make him Duke of the Alsace, the Breisgau, and the bishopric of Basel. Bernhard died a sudden death in 1639 and rumors had it that he was poisoned. Already in these days conspiracy theories circulated freely. Whatever the true story is, following Bernhard's death the French took it all, i.e., his troops, money, and territories.

Surely Bernhard is not Freiburg's local hero but he suddenly became Weimar's hero in 1935 where in an exhibition devoted to him he was talked up as the Führer's predecessor. A Weimar newspaper wrote: Duke Bernhard who came out of the people, lived with the people and belonged to the people deserves the honor the national-socialistic movement bestows on him. This is all so wrong. As most of his contemporaries nobleman Bernhard did not give a hoot in hell for his people. He at best considered them as cannon fodder when following his ambitious aspirations. In this respect he was a true predecessor of the Führer.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Weimar Literature


The first book dedicated to Weimar I read was Literarische Zustände und Zeitgenossen (Literary circumstances and contemporaries) written by Karl August Böttiger, a classicist. Böttiger collected gossip about tout Weimar during the time of the glorious four, Goethe, Herder, Schiller (not the Apple one), and Wieland that his son Karl Wilhelm Böttiger edited and published in 1838.


Book cover on the left: Böttiger looks with curiosity down at the glorious four with Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt standing in the back.

Most interesting is Böttiger's description of Madame de Staël's visit to Weimar. This courageous and intelligent lady had defied Napoleon, been banned from France and was traveling the few parts of Europe still unoccupied by the French at that time. Being an attractive woman tout Weimar was at her feet. Fascinated by the patchwork of small independent territories making up Germany's rich cultural variety she wrote her famous book De l'Allemagne. To a certain extent its content is still shaping the French view of Germany nowadays.

 In his book Böttiger even dares to unmask Goethe who is rocking his illigitimate son on his lap while getting bald and fat, the latter thanks to Christiane's, his concubine's, good cooking.

Genius Goethe's unmasking continues in Sigrid Damm's book Christiane and Goethe. Damm tells the fascinating story of the scandalous relation. Goethe, the Duke's State Minister, who had just returned to Weimar from his Italien journey (where a Roman girl, Faustina, had taken his virginity) made young Christiane Vulpius his mistress calling her his Bettschatz (bed darling). Goethe did not care that the Weimar society shunned him because of his concubinage as long as his friend Duke August became his son's August godfather. Goethe married Christiane only after she had courageously saved his life during an attack by some drunken French soldiers. They broke into the house following Weimar's take by the Napoleon army. The author tells us how Christiane suffered from the genius's ego during her life long relationship.


Das klassische Weimar (Classical Weimar) is a collection of texts written by contemporary witnesses. They describe Weimar personalities, the town's social life, life at the ducal court, the theater where Goethe had been director at times, Goethe's house at the Frauenplan and its inhabitants, the years of the French occupation, and people on a "pilgrimage" in Weimar.













Similarly the book Treffpunkt Weimar-Literatur und Leben zur Zeit Goethes (Meeting point Weimar - literature and life during the time of Goethe) describes Weimar's Golden Age but it is written in the style of a novel and therefore easy reading. The authors combine their text with citations from this classical period mostly taken from letters. This is a technique I use on my historical website for Freiburg too because contemporary witnesses write spontaneously and make the whole story more lively. In general only few explanations are required to clarify the embedded original texts.







Star journalist Peter Merseburger's book Mythos Weimar zwischen Geist und Macht (The Weimar myth between mind and power) looks behind what is called the Weimar myth. Merseburger analyses the Golden Age of Goethe, Herder, Schiller, and Wieland followed by Weimar's Silver Age with Franz Liszt. He continues with the Duke's abdication after the First World War, the adoption of the Weimar Constitution thwarted by the early rise of the Nazis in Thuringia, the rise and fall of the Bauhaus, the concentration camp Buchenwald, and the lost Second World War resulting in the communist takeover in the Eastern part of Germany including the continued use of Buchenwald.

The book Wege nach Weimar. Auf der Suche nach der Einheit von Kunst und Politik accompanied a exhibition of Weimar's history that took place in 1999 in the Gauforum. This building was started in 1938 with Hitler himself posing the foundation stone. Due to the fact that Nazis participated in the Thurigian government well before their Machtergreifung in Berlin in January 1933 made Weimar together with Bayreuth, Linz, and Nuremberg one of Hitler's favorite towns. On the other hand he detested Vienna because of its many Jews and Berlin because he was a native Austrian.

Consequently exhibition and catalog dealt with Weimar's history between 1919 and 1945 but they did not stop there. Both continue documenting the seamless transition from the brown to a red dictatorship. The people did not have the ghost of a chance. While the Americans taught us democracy in the West, the Soviets imposed their communist regime in the East forcing the Social Democrats into a union with the Communists Party becoming the SED (United German Socialist Party), and degraded the Christian Democrats and the Liberals to satellite parties. The catalog is a gold mine of pictures documenting Weimar's historical development during the last century.

Finally a two volume catalog of the Goethe National Museum Wiederholte Spiegelungen: Weimarer Klassik 1759-1832 (Repeated reflections: Classical Weimar) was published on the occasion of the opening of the National Museum adjacent to the Goethehaus in 1999. The catalog is a collection of pictures and texts describing the exhibition pieces. The two volumes of 500 pages each were heavy to carry home but every gram was worth the effort.

After the old exhibition was closed in 2008 a completely remodeled display opened on August 23, 2012. It is called Lebensfluten, Tatensturm (Floods of life, storms of action). There now are fewer pieces exhibited in a more modern environment concentrating on Goethe's life. Consequently the companion book is much thinner with only 288 pages.


The books:

Karl August Böttiger: Literarische Zustände und Zeitgenossen. Begegnungen und Gespräche im klassischen Weimar. Hg. von Klaus Gerlach und René Sternke. Aufbau-Verlag, Berlin 1998, ISBN 3-351-02829-6

Sigrid Damm: Christiane und Goethe. Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1998, ISBN 3-458-16912-1

Heinrich Pleticha: Das klassische Weimar, Komet Verlag GmbH, Köln 1983, ISBN 3-89836-517-4

Norbert Oellers und Robert Steegers: Treffpunkt Weimar - Literatur und Leben zur Zeit Goethes, Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 1999, ISBN 4-15-010449-1

Peter Merseburger: Mythos Weimar. Zwischen Geist und Macht, DVA, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 978-3423307871

Michael Dorrmann und Hans Wilderotter (Hrsg.): Wege nach Weimar. Auf der Suche nach der Einheit von Kunst und Politik, Jovis Verlag, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-931321-18-5

Caroline Gille, Gerhard Schuster und Stiftung Weimarer Klassik (Hrsg.): Wiederholte Spiegelungen: Weimarer Klassik 1759-1832. Ständige Ausstellung des Goethe-Nationalmuseums, Carl Hanser Verlag, München 1999, ISBN 3-446-19499-1

Friday, November 9, 2012

Weimar in October 2012

Remember? I started the first blog of my Weimar quadrology telling you about Elisabeth's and my recent visit to this cultural highlight but then I was carried away digging into my past Weimar experience. That happened in my second blog about Weimar too. Now in a third attempt I shall no longer go back in history but will move forward to the presence.

We took an early train at Freiburg but then suffered a delay of one hour. With our train being behind schedule we missed our connection to Erfurt in Fulda. A one hour delay on the Deutsche Bahn is typical for during daytime major train connections in Germany are served every hour.  So you just wait for the next train although seat reservations are lost. We filled the wait at Fulda's train station with a forced coffee and arrived in Weimar around 3 p.m.

Henry van der Velde advertising Weimar's onion market
Instead of star architect Walter Gropius and femme fatale Alma Mahler-Gropius-Werfel this time the founder of the Grand-Ducal School of Arts and Crafts in Weimar, the predecessor of the Bauhaus, Henry van der Velde greeted us from the balcony of the Elephant Hotel.

View on Weimar's market place from our room. In the background the Herderkirche

HE showed us the way to a souvenir shop
During an afternoon walk through the streets of Weimar we passed the National Theater ...

The well know Goethe-Schiller monument in front of the Weimar National Theater
modified: Thomas Mann Goethe's life-long venerator stands in for Friedrich Schiller. We visited the Schiller- and not the Thomas-Mann-Haus:

Entrance to Schiller's house
Photos were not allowed but I took one of the Loi du 25 Août 1792, l'an quatrième de la Liberté, signed by the great Danton himself making le sieur Gilles, publiciste Allemand, citizen of revolutionary France.

Schiller made citizen of revolutionary France
Le membre proposing the publiciste Allemand may have read Schiller's Die Räuber (The Robbers) but got his name completely wrong. Note that "called-up-late" Schiller is in company of well-known temporaries like Thomas Payne (Thomas Paine, Anglo-American political activist), Joachim-Henry Campe (Joachim Heinrich Campe, German linguist), N. Pestalozzi (Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Swiss pedagogue), Georges Washington (George Washington, First President of the United States), Jean Hamilton (John Hamilton, Congressman from Pennsylvania), N. Maddisson (James Madison, Fourth President of the United States) and H. Klopstock (Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, German poet).

Elisabeth and I closed the day having dinner at the Elephantenkeller. The round table of 1990 was still in place but this time empty. From the menu I choose a delicious Kohlroulade (stuffed cabbage leaf) and a Pilsner beer from nearby Apolda.

Delicious stuffed cabbage leaf
The following morning a guide showed us around Weimar. We saw Goethe's summer house (Gartenhaus) from a distance.

Goethe's summer house from a distance
For the afternoon we had reserved a visitor's slot for the Goethehaus and the adjacent Goethe National Museum where an exposition of artifacts documents the genius's curriculum vitae.

The evening we had dinner at Weimar's Ratskeller where I had a Rindsroulade (beef olive) that I drowned in and downed with the usual Köstritzer Schwarzbier.

Rindsroulade mit Thüringer Klößen (Thuringian dumplings)
On Saturday morning the Herder church was open to visitors.

The Herder church in October 2012, a building site

Herder in front of "his" church originally called Stadtkirche

November 1989: Prayers for peace not only in Leipzig: We are the people!
In- and outside the church were building sites; the Lutheran Church preparing their historic places for the demi-millennium of the Reformation in 1517.

Famous altarpiece apotheosizing the Reformation. Lucas Cranach the Elder started the painting in 1552, one year before his death. It was finished in 1555 by his son Lucas Cranach the Younger.
The original painting was covered in view of the building activities inside the church.
 I took this photo of a photo print on canvas displayed for the benefit of the visitors.
On the right you recognize Martin Luther, left to him the painter Lucas Cranach.
On the other side sits John the Steadfast who introduced the Reformation in Thuringia and his wife.
Passing Weimars castle ...

The castle's medieval tower crowned by a Baroque helmet
we took a stroll through the park at the Ilm river in the direction of Goethe's Gartenhaus. He had lived there from 1776 until 1782 when he moved into his town house at the Frauenplan.

Goethe's garden where he grow his vegetables
Picking up a Thüringer Bratwurst on our way we climbed up to the Nietzsche Archive in the early afternoon.

The archive was empty so except for the art nouveau building it had not been worth the entrance fee. Nevertheless we enjoyed the walk that also took us to Weimar's old cementary with Goethe's and Schiller's crypt. Recently a DNA analysis revealed that Schiller's skull is not his.

Many people still consider Ernst von Wildenbruch's citation engraved into the monument:
 Ich kämpfte nicht um anzugreifen, sondern um zu verteidigen
(I did not fight to attack but to defend)
 as a proof that it was Germany that was attacked by the surrounding countries in 1914.
The problem is that von Wildenbruch had already died in 1909.

Later on our way back to the center Big Goethe was watching us from a banner:
Lebensfluten, Tatensturm (Floods of life, storms of action)

We had a beer at a small place just opposite of the Goethehaus watching carriages drive by. For a moment forget those iron poles and the cars and live your dreams.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Weimar, the Second Time Around (Spring 1990)

Following the fall of the Berlin wall on November 9, 1989, and the opening of the border between West- and East Germany my friend and colleague working at the Nuclear Research Center near Karlsruhe invited the Professor for Radiation Protection Physics at Dresden's Technical University.
She arrived for the usual semi-annual meeting of our West German working group on the measurement of ionizing radiation at the beginning of December. We had long and good conversations feeling strange for in previous years when we met East German colleagues at international conferences they were not allowed to talk to us. We all were overwhelmed by the new German-German togetherness. So, in a follow-up Professor D. invited three of our working group to her annual International Symposium on Radiation Physics at Gaussig, a cosy castle east of Dresden used by the Technical University (TU) for meetings and on other occasions.

During the winter I prepared my paper: Personal Neutron Monitoring in an Accelerator Environment and was eagerly looking forward to my visit to Germany's heartland. At the end of March I called my host in Dresden and asked her whether she needed something I could take along: Well, the participants of the seminar organize at least one party and any contribution would be welcome.

A Bocksbeutel, half full
(©Wikipedia/Mussklprozz)
An empty Bocksbeutel
 (©Wikipedia/Prince Grobhelm)
So I decided the best would be to furnish some wine they possibly had not tasted behind the iron curtain. The day before I crossed the now open border into the still existing German Democratic Republic (GDR) I stopped at Iphofen's winery and loaded the trunk of my car with six boxes of Frankonian wine bottled in Bocksbeuteln.

Then I took a night's rest at Bad Hersfeld and heading east reached the border in the gray of dawn. I approached a wooden shed lost in the middle of nowhere bordering a tared strip as an ersatz for the non-existing road. Two sleepy border guards looking out of a window rounded up the surrealistic scene when they, completely bored, nodded at me to pass. Border guards under the Ulbricht regime would have taken my car to pieces. Apparently shocked by the lift of the iron curtain they even refused to ask for my passport.

I am on my way to my first stop: Eisenach, place of a German myth, the Wartburg. The oncoming traffic was heavy with one two-stroke engine Trabi after the other heading west filling the air with the typical smell of burned oil. People suddenly are free and eager to travel to the capitalistic enemy territory buying goods that they do not find in the GDR. Entering the town of Eisenach the smell changed to the typical taste of sulfur dioxide caused by the burning of lignite, the only energy source the GDR had plenty of. I parked my car near one of the ascents to the Wartburg and in beautiful sunshine climbed up the hill. It still was early in the morning but already streams of people flowed in both directions.

German History on Wartburg Stamps

Weimar Republic

1923: Inflation, a stamp of 5000 marks
1932: Great depression,
a semi postal of 4+2 pfennigs

Nazi Germany

1933: Wagner's Tannhäuser or the Wartburg song contest
(Der Sängerkrieg auf der Wartburg), a semi postal of 3+2 pfennigs

Divided Germany


1966: Agnostic GDR commemorating
the 900th anniversary of the Wartburg
1967: Religious FRG commemorating the
450th anniversary of the Reformation.
Luther concealed at the Wartburg
translated the Bible into German

I wanted to buy some picture postcards. The vendors only accepted Western currency. How did they know that I am not a Bürger der DDR (citizen of the GDR)? I rushed through the historic site: Luther's study, the Kemenate (Cabinet room) of Elizabeth of Hungary, the with mosaic overdecorated hall (19th century) of the Wartburg song contest.

I tried to be in Weimar at lunch time but potholes slowed down my progress while Trabis ignoring them overtook me flying by. Eventually at noon I parked my car near Weimar's central market place on an abandoned bomb site and walked over to the Elephant Hotel to have lunch at its famous Elephantenkeller, the basement restaurant. Entering the place a doorman stopped me: We are jam-packed. I asked for the second service: There is none. I handed him over a 10 DM bill. Becoming friendly he told me to come back in twenty minutes.

Warmed by the April sun outside I suddenly felt hungry for the smell of Thuringian bratwurst filled the market place. I could not describe my feeling taking my first bite. Still overwhelmed by my first all-German food I approached the entrance of the Elephant in time. The doorman guided me to a single seat on an otherwise fully packed table. When I sat down all conversation stopped for the men around the table smelled the Westerner. I greeted them friendly starting to talk about this year's early spring. Slowly they became confident and suddenly I listened to an argument: who of them following the Wende (political turnaround) had taken off his United Socialistic Party (SED) party badge first. They took me into their political discussion so that I do not remember what I had for lunch.

In the evening I reached Dresden and the following morning Professor D. showed her three West German invitees around her TU institute. Two facts immediately were obvious: too many people were working on research projects of which half would never have been funded in the West. What followed over the following years was a dramatic reduction of staff doing useless or socialistic research. Now we know that one of the reasons for the fall of the Berlin wall was that the GDR was bankrupt.  No wonder, for no capitalist government would have payed the relatively high salaries to so many "researchers".

The symposium in Gaussig developed into an extraordinary experience wet with tears and wine. I will spare you the scientific details but will mention two nostalgic moments:

1. For the first time after more than twenty years of abstinence I tasted salt potatoes (Salzkartoffeln) whereas Elisabeth always boils potatoes in the skin (Pellkartoffeln) to conserve their natural taste and nutrient.

Salzkartoffeln (Photo Wikipedia)
Pellkartoffeln (Photo Wikipedia)














The change in food culture was obvious. While in the East potatoes were still considered as Sättigungsbeilage (staple food in GDR-German) potatoes in the West had made the transition to a vegetable bought at the grocery in selected varieties and small quantities on a daily basis.

My teacher, classmates and me peeling staple food potatoes
during a fortnightly stay at a youth hostel in 1948.
Red Baron is just in the middle (the fifth from both left and right).
I still remember those men carrying potatoes in sacks of 50 kilograms (one Zentner, i.e., hundred German pounds) into our basement in fall filling up aired wooden boxes. Although these potatoes were stored in a cool dark environment their quality in the following year had deteriorated such that they had to be peeled taking off nearly half their mass in cutting deep.


2. In 1943 I spent the summer in a small place near the Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe Sandstone Mountains) called Lichtenhain famous for its artificial waterfall.

Lichtenhain's waterfall (Photo Wikipedia)

Bastei panorama in the Elbesandsteingebirge

Driving my host and colleagues to the Bastei on the free afternoon of the International Symposium we made a detour to the place of my youth. We found the house where I once stayed easily:

During the summer of 1943 my friend Dieter and me lived in the house located on the photo
 in the lower right corner

On the photo from left to right Dieter and me. You recognize our house in the distance.
Dieter was stricken with myatrophy and therefore? a precocious child.
I drove my parents crazy always talking back, putting their words into question:
But Dieter said ...  Dieter's father, a lawyer and highly decorated First World War veteran
looked with his white mustache  - my father being just 37 - like an old man to me.
He took the above photo and some more with a Leica, developed the films,
and made the prints himself. During the war I lost track of Dieter and his family
Entering the house where I had spent a couple of weeks of my early youth everything including the room where I once slept seemed so small, but nothing had really changed. Even the water faucet half way up the narrow staircase where I had my morning wash was still in place. I knocked at a door and from the inside somebody said: Herein! I opened the door. There the whole family was sitting around a table manufacturing Easter decorations. I knew that in the West people were already working on decorations for Christmas. I bought some Easter bunnies paid them with Western currency, and handed them to my colleagues as souvenirs.

It's all history.