Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Cryptic Poster

The other day my friend Kendall made me aware of a German-American association. Looking through their photos, I found a fascinating poster. The quality of the poem is questionable, but what caught my eye was the sailing ship. It flies St. George's Cross and the flag of the Bundesflotte (Federal Navy) of 1849.

Going back in history, the year 1848 was a year of revolution all over Europe. Following the defeat of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna in 1815 restored power to the previous princes and dukes with the constraint that they should become constitutional. The 38 German States were bound together in a Confederation and represented in a Bundestag (Federal Assembly) that met in Frankfurt under the presidency of the Austrian Emperor.

Constitutions the princes imposed on their people were, in some cases, not even worth the paper they were printed on. In the case of Baden having the most progressive constitution in all Germany, the Grand Ducal government frequently ignored the granted liberties. However, in the spirit of the American and French heritage, people demanded democracy and equal rights.

The revolutions that broke out in 1848 in most German states were violent with bloodshed as in Berlin (Prussia), Vienna (Austria), or Dresden (Saxony). Although the rulers eventually managed to quell the uprisings, they nevertheless were shocked and consented to the universal election of a Nationalversammlung in all German territories. This National Assembly likewise met in Frankfurt.

Without going into the detail of the many verbose deliberations at the Paulskirche (St. Paul's Church) where the delegates met, it was the First Danish-German War that shaped the Nationalversammlung profoundly. The Danish king had annexed German-speaking Schleswig ignoring the motto of the two territories Schleswig and Holstein: Op ewig ungedeelt. The slogan Eternally unseparated expressed in Low German is still valid today.

A federal intervention army soon came to grips with the Danes on land who, however, remained masters of the seas blocking the German harbors. The Confederation had no navy.

Admiral Brommy (©Wikipedia)
On June 14, 1848, the National Assembly by a vast majority authorized a credit of 6 million talers (possibly more than 6 million dollars) for the construction of a German navy. Besides, private sponsoring born out of a national feeling became important. On March 18, 1849, Rear Admiral Karl Rudolf Bromme (called Brommy) became Commander-in-Chief of the North Sea Flotilla with his flagship Barbarossa in Brake, Lower Saxony. The seaport of Brake became, at this time, the provisional naval base of the first German fleet. Brommy had served in the Greek navy and spoke fluent English, which he had learned while working for the American merchant marine.
The flag of the Federal Navy showed the colors black-red-gold and the Imperial Eagle. By 1849 the fleet was composed of a couple of steam frigates and corvettes but, in particular, was proud of two sailing ships, the frigates SMS Eckernförde and SMS Deutschland.

Frigates SMS Eckernförde and Deutschland (©Wikipedia)
Due to financial and political problems, the first German navy had a short life. Most ships were sold, and on March 31, 1853, Brommy signed the dissolution order. On April 1, with the disestablishment of all naval authorities, and the release of the personnel still in service, thus ended the history of the first German navy.

The Federal Navy parading on the Lower Weser near Brake (©Bundesmarine)
Coming back to the poster. Following the collapse of the 1948/49 Revolution in Germany, many of the participants fled to France or Switzerland from where they emigrated to the States. Some of these Forty-Eighters became known in the US, such as Gustav Struve as a journalist, Friedrich Hecker, as farmer and publisher, Lorenz Brentano as a member of Congress, Carl Schurz as US Secretary of Interior. He also fought in the Civil War as many others as Louis Blenker, Alexander Schimmelpfennig, and Franz Sigel. They all came to the States on British or French carriers.

Unfortunately, the poster does not show a historical event. Nevertheless, it makes me dream about some Freiburgers who - following the occupation of their city on July 7, 1849, by Prussian troops - fled and eventually embarked for the States on a ship of the Federal Navy flying the Federal Insignia and Freiburg's flag with St. George's Cross too.

Click on the following links if you want to read more about the Revolution in Baden or about the Bundesflotte in German.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Did you know that there is segregation in Freiburg? The Lorettobad located in the Wiehre neighborhood has a separate pool for ladies only.

Sommer, Sonne, Damenbad published by Lavori Verlag
As far back as 1980 a student challenged this gender segregation in court possibly because he felt deprived of the sight of girls in bikinis. He eventually lost the court case. According to the Municipal Code installations may be dedicated and used as such. No gender is deprived of swimming for the Lorettobad has other, bigger pools accessible to everybody. A Damenbad does not infringe on the principle of equality laid down in the Grundgesetz (German constitution).

In addition to his lost case the student was mistaken with respect to the clients in the ladies' swimming bath. As the name says the users are ladies while girls prefer the open area of the Lorettobad for they like to be seen in their bikinis in particular by students.

Today there was an exception. The Badische Zeitung had arranged a visit of the Damenbad for their readers only from 6 (!) to 9 a.m. before the official opening. Red Baron living nearby walked to the Lorettobad and arrived at 6:02.

I arrived at the Damenbad at dawn
A whole bunch of ladies were present and greeted the male guest but the promised coffee and the croissants were still missing.

First contacts under the moon at 6:06 a.m. (©BZ)

Two other gentlemen were there and started to undress but they were told to go to the public part of the swimming pool to change. When they came back in their swimming trunks Red Baron was tempted to take a swim too in spite of a water temperature of only 21 degrees centigrade.

Red Baron hesitating
The swimming pools are not heated. When in 1990 the Lorettobad was refurbished the old pools made of concrete were replaced by pools made of stainless steel. The advantage of the latter is better hygiene and a heating effect. The sun not only is reflected on the metallic surfaces of the walls and the ground but the red and infrared part of the spectrum going back and forth is partly absorbed by the water. This is why the pools look bluish. In a Green City only the sun is warming up the pools with their water continuously circulating and passing through cleaning filters. Since stainless steel is a bad heat conductor the water keeps its temperature over extended periods.

After the swim: Red Baron climbs out of the Damenbad (©BZ)

Technical details about water circulation and cleaning.
Red Baron listens skeptically to the explanations of the pool supervisor (©BZ)

When I left at 7:30 the sun had taken over
For Freiburg the Lorettobad and in particular the Damenbad is a cultural heritage. It is sponsored by the Freunde des Lorettobades.

Fund raising concert arranged by the Friends of the Lorettobad  Freunde des Lorettobades)

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Freiburg continues to enlarge its streetcar network. From April 2014 on the existing line number 2 will run beyond its present terminus Zähringen to the village of Gundelfingen. In the meanwhile the construction work on a new line number 4  has started connecting the Technical Faculty of the University and the buildings of the city's Trade Fair with downtown Freiburg. The line will branch off line number 5 to the University Medical Center. However, this new streetcar project suffered a delay of at least one year due to two reasons.

The old planning clearly shows the Beißschrecken Bent (©BZ)
The City Council discussed at length the fate of the protected Braunfleckige Beißschrecke (Platycleis tessellata) living in the area of Freiburg's air field. In order not to startle the grasshopper the new streetcar line was initially planned to approach the Trade Fair via a turn of 300 degrees (see above), quickly nicknamed Beißschrecken Bent. Such a sharp turn will cause a considerable wear of rails and wheels.

Platycleis tessellata (©Wikipedia)
The second reason was the recent planning of a new soccer stadium for SC Freiburg and the need to have the new line pass close to the projected site. Now streetcar number 4 will run on tracks in parallel to the three-lined road named after Madison. One of these days streetcars will show the terminus Madisonallee and remind Freiburgers of our sister city in Wisconsin.

Friday, August 16, 2013


Don Giorgio's apartment on Herrenstraße
It had been my intention to deal with the aftermath of Georg Gänswein's visit to Freiburg on the occasion of Archbishop Robert Zollitsch's 75th birthday by just adding a paragraph to my earlier blog. When, however, today's Badische Zeitung printed two articles about Don Giorgio being in town I decided to dedicate a special blog to our guest.

Presently George is spending his vacation in the region living in an apartment he still keeps on Freiburg's Herrenstraße. This is a decent place for a Curial Archbishop for the street was named after the clerical dignitaries - like those of Freiburg's Chapter - who once had their houses there in the shadow of the Münster Church.

George's doorbell
Vacation? No way! On the occasion of yesterday's Assumption Day (August 15) it was quite natural that Archbishop Robert invited his colleague George to preach in the Münster Church. St. Mary's Assumption day is the patronal festival of the Münster and hence one of the highest church holidays in Freiburg. It is the only day of the year when there is no Münstermarkt. The square stayed absolutely empty, however the Münster Church was packed with 2500 people and many a woman had come to catch a glimpse of handsome George.

Curial Archbishop Georg Gänswein (right) co-celebrating the Latin mass (©BZ).
In his homily Gänsewein dealt with the difficult topic of Pope Pius' XXII Dogma on the bodily Assumption of Mary into heaven promulgated in 1950. Admitting that this dogma nowadays somehow "stands in the way" he explained that the tenet means that God knows and loves the whole person, soul and body. Nothing that is precious to men and women will perish with death. God's love is the foundation of eternity and those who love God will not perish. George spoke in German but the mass - did you expect anything else? - was read in Latin.

Following the festival service Freiburg's Financial Mayor Otto Neideck invited Gänswein to the city's oldest town hall to sign the Golden Book. A Freiburg official whispered: Never before I have seen so many press photographers in our venerable Gerichtslaube. George, who was born in the Black Forest, acknowledged his roots: Those who cut roots, cut life. With this remark he passed a plate to Neideck who immediately filled it mentioning the succession to Archbishop Robert. Yesterday George modulated his previous statement about his future somewhat: I have never striven for a position (That's what they all say). My previous positions were all entrusted to me.

Get moving, Pope Francis!

Archbishop Rober Zollitsch and Financial Mayor Otto Neideck watching
Curial Archbishop Georg Gänswein signing Freiburg's Golden Book (©BZ).
More about Georg Gänswein you will find in two previous blogs on the occasion of Pope Benedict's visit to Freiburg and President Joachim Gauck's visit to the Vatican.

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Hermann at New Ulm, Minnesota (©Hermann Monument)
There is a 32-foot statue of Hermann the Cheruscan - the Romans called him Arminius - at New Ulm, Minnesota. Hermann's story goes like this:

Hermann a Cheruscan chieftain negotiated an alliance of the Marsi, Bructeri, and Chatti tribes with his own warriors to defend Germania from Roman conquest. In September of 9 AD, Arminius' cunning strategy led to the ambush and defeat of the 17th, 18th, and 19th legions of imperial Rome under the command of Publius Quinctilius Varus. This running battle, fought in the midst of the Teutoburg Forest ended abruptly in the Narrows near the Kalkriese Berg initiating a change in Tiberius Caesar's foreign policy. Although Caesar sent eight more legions to Germania, Arminius and his brave warriors continued their fight for freedom. Increasing casualties and a dwindling treasury during subsequent battles between Arminius and Germanicus Caesar eventually convinced Tiberius to abandon Germania in 17 AD. With no common foe the alliance faltered; inter-tribal strife and jealousy led to Arminius' assassination by his own kinfolk.

Our freedom from the Romans was so definitive that Germany's "Roman" neighbors still hold it against us that we are totally ignorant when it comes to Latin culture.

Hermann's footprint at New Ulm (©Bring me the News)
Coming back to New Ulm, Minnesota. The manager of the City's Convention and Visitors Bureau informed the press that a footprint of Hermann had been located in a basement during a cleanup and that it possibly was cast in Germany. He had put the 4-foot-long footprint on display on the wall outside his office with a note: Deutsche haben mehr Spass. Germans have more fun, just because we have bigger feet?

Later New Ulm's tourism chief admitted that he had the mold cast by a local artist and he added: I felt bad all along. You know, I was an altar boy for six years. I feel very un-altarish. It seems Red Baron's father was right with a remark he made to characterize radiologists: They start as altar boys, later they learn to lie, cheat, commit perjury, and then take X-rays.

Hermann der Cherusker near Detmold (©Wikipedia)
The New Ulm "altar boy" quickly recovered: It's been a fun promotion. We're expecting big reactions at the Octoberfest. Well, he may have gotten "his" idea when he heard about another footprint of Hermann, bigger than the one at New Ulm. It was cast in Germany in 2009, the Varus Year, commemorating the second millennium of the famous battle. The foot is on permanent display at Detmold, the city near the Hermann Memorial in the Teutoburg Forest. Hermann's statue on top measures nearly 27 meters (88 feet) with his footprint corresponding at 2.1 meters (7 feet). Like in New Ulm the foot was sculptured to attract tourists.

Looking for more and other footprints I came across carbon or green footprints. You can calculate your personal ecological footprint using two programs I found on the Internet:

The UK-program gave the following result: I actually need 1.71 planets or use a surface of 3.08 ha (7.6 acres) for my resources broken down into food 26%, home 21%, travel 12%, and stuff 41%. My carbon footprint is 6.1 tons per annum.

The German program resulted in 2.43 earths or 4.37 ha (10.8 acres) for my personal footprint with food amounting to 24%, home 33%, travel 13%, and stuff 30%. It is only little comforting that at 5.1 ha (12.6 acres) the average German citizen has a bigger footprint than me.

I knew that my figure for travel is low for I use my car just for 5000 km (3000 miles) in a year, walk what is accessible on foot, and take the train for longer distances. My apartment is built according to recent standards  and we keep temperatures low in winter. Having already changed my incandescent bulbs starting as early as 1999 to neon (actually mercury) tubes I now switch whenever possible to LEDs. Elisabeth and I eat more fish than meat and for our groceries keep to locally produced fruit and vegetables. On the other hand I like my electronic gear and I am always looking for more speed and efficiency.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Hesitant Brave

Archbishop Robert Zollitsch (©BZ)
On the occasion of today's 75th birthday of Archbishop Robert Zollitsch Freiburg's Sunday paper Der Sonntag published a whole page already two weeks ago. The article was titled: Der zaghafte Mutige (The hesitant brave) meaning that Archbishop Robert epitomizes the dilemma of the Catholic Church. He stands for minor reforms that eventually run into the sand.

During my stay in Switzerland I participated in the preparation of the Swiss Synode 72 in the 1970s. As an introduction the Swiss bishops wrote: To prepare we need your support and your collaboration. All suggestions and requests will be carefully examined and evaluated. After long debates the discussion groups came up with some well-balanced proposals for reforms. The Catholic episcopate politely took note and expressed thanks but except for mere outer appearances fundamental changes on root and branch of the Church were not even started.

In Freiburg in April this year a Diocesan Assembly demanded above all courage.The Catholic Church should no longer consider the political and social liberties of modern society as a danger but rather as an opportunity for reforms. Following three days of intense debate it was the same old story: Archbishop Robert took note but indicated that his hands were tied.

Shaken by child abuse, financial scandals, and an internal Mafia (why did Pope Benedict step down?) the Catholic Church is muddling through. In the meantime the number of people leaving the Church increases and churches without parish priests stay empty. So far the lack of priests has been somewhat compensated by imports from Poland but as I reported earlier: the last Polish Franciscans will leave Freiburg soon.

The other evening at a recent Stammtisch of the Freiburg-Madison Gesellschaft I learned that Americans continue to trust in God. Religious life is thriving. People assemble in manageable sized congregations and live the Sunday community with their ministers like the early Christians. Personal cohesion and solidarity are most important in a parish whereas the Catholic Church in Germany tries to compensate for the lack of priests by aggregating parishes. These larger entities called pastoral units are counter productive for the formation of a community. Robert Zollitsch said that the size of pastoral units in his archdiocese was based on the assumption of twenty new priests per year. Now he admits that the number is considerably lower.

Although the Protestant Church in Germany has problems too there still is the recollection of the traditional Lutheran parsonage where the pastor preached the Gospel and his wife exercised her charitable role. Why does the Catholic Church not abolish celibacy? In the near future when the last old men will try to keep the Catholic ship afloat they will possibly regret not having allowed priests to marry. It is comforting to read that Archbishop Robert who had previously said that celibacy is not "necessary" for priesthood at least allows his sheep to discuss the issue. In the same interview Robert considered God quite capable of working miracles.

Georg Gänswein congratulating Robert Zollitsch.
When asked about his future plans George said
that he liked his work in Rome very much. (©BZ)
Archbishop Robert turns 75 today and I wish him all the best for his future. At that age he is obliged to propose his retirement to Pope Francis who may take it or leave it. Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Colonge will retire too. In this situation many Catholics hope that the Vatican's George Clooney Georg Gänswein will come back to Germany as a bishop. Is he the flicker of hope although he is considered to be as conservative as his former master Pope Benedict?

On August 10, the Badische Zeitung reported about the festivities on the occasion of Robert Zollitsch's birthday. The President of the Central Committee of German Catholics said nothing other than what I wrote: Robert has the courage to walk his way, he is open, always constructive, creating a new culture of discussion within the Church. In his laudatio Cardinal Walter Kasper went a step further: We cannot build a new Church but we should become a new kind of Church drawing our force from our roots. As Pope Francis said: The Church must go to its limits.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Banana Peels of Language

Yesterday I read a one-page-article in the Badische Zeitung about Die Fettnäpfchen der Sprache (The banana peels of language) discussing political correctness in talking or writing. I once gave a talk at the Stammtisch of the Freiburg-Madison Gesellschaft about whether political correctness could be overdone. Yesterday's article shed a new light on the topic.

There are two words for black men (Schwarze) in German that are no longer politically correct: Neger (nigger) and the archaic Mohr* (moor).
*The word moor originates from the dark-skinned Muslim Moors (Mauren) who invaded the Iberian Peninsula in the early Middle Ages.

The other day however a quarrel started when publishers began to change the text in classical children's books following the American practice where the nigger in Huckleberry Finn mutated to slave and negroes became persons of African race. Yet race does not work in German because Rasse is a taboo word (Unwort) since 1945. Will they change the word Mohr in Die Geschichte von den schwarzen Buben (The Story of the Inky Boys) in Heinrich Hoffman's Der Struwwelpeter?

As he had often done before,
The woolly-headed Black-a-moor
One nice fine summer's day went out
To see the shops, and walk about;
And, as he found it hot, poor fellow,
He took with him his green umbrella.

Now Edward, William and Arthur followed him

And kept on singing, - only think! -
"Oh, Blacky, you're as black as ink!"

Now tall Agrippa lived close by -
So tall, he almost touched the sky;
He had a mighty inkstand, too,
In which a great goose-feather grew;
He called out in an angry tone
"Boys, leave the Black-a-moor alone!
For, if he tries with all his might,
He cannot change from black to white."
But, ah! they did not mind a bit
What great Agrippa said of it;
But went on laughing, as before,
And hooting at the Black-a-moor.

Then great Agrippa foams with rage ...
He seizes Arthur, seizes Ed,
Takes William by his little head;
And they may scream and kick and call,
Into the ink he dips them all;
Into the inkstand, one, two, three,
Till they are black as black can be.

See, there they are, and there they run!
The Black-a-moor enjoys the fun.
They have been made as black as crows,
Quite black all over, eyes and nose,
And legs, and arms, and heads, and toes,
And trousers, pinafores, and toys -
The silly little inky boys!
Because they set up such a roar,
And teased the harmless Black-a-moor.

For me changes in the wording of works of literature are unacceptable. I once read the politically corrected lyrics of Bob Dylan's Blowin’ in the Wind: From the original How many roads must a man walk down before you can call him a man? they were perverted to the grammatically incorrect text How many roads must an individual walk down before you can call them an adult?

In Germany we should now say Sinti or Roma and no longer use the word Zigeuner (gypsy). Nevertheless I still like to order my Zigeunerschnitzel mit Pommes Frites und Salat (Gypsy schnitzel with fries and salad). What is wrong with that? Do we really think that by "officially" changing names or words we will change the attitude of men and women toward people of other mentality, color and religion? Our languages become poorer when we replace grown words by artificial constructs. In his book 1984 George Orwell introduced the language Newspeak: Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?

One example of the so-called rat race of euphemism is the downgrading of the wording for schwer erziehbare Kinder (children who are difficult to raise or difficult to educate). As time went by this was softened to verhaltensgestörte Kinder (children with behavioral disturbances) and continued through verhaltensauffällig (children with behavioral issues) to the ridiculous word verhaltensorginell (children of inventive or original behavior). It is all so frustrating for the change in the wording does not change the behavior of these children a bit or transform them into clever kids as the word inventive suggests.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Get Your Kicks at Bayreuth

Red Baron loves the theater or should I write loved? I still remember the Golden Sixties of German stagecraft. Theaters in Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich played classical pieces by Lessing, Schiller, and Brecht as well as modern ones by Dürrenmatt, Frisch, and Kroetz. I was in Munich at the time and watched actresses like Therese Giehse, Elfriede Kuzmany, and Edda Seippel and actors like Rolf Boysen, Thomas Holtzmann, and Romuald Pekny performing on stage. They all are long gone but I shall never forget their fine acting and articulated speech. These artists had been educated in schools of renown like the Otto-Falkenberg-Schule, the Max-Reinhardt-Seminar, and the Folkwang Universität der Künste.

What a discrepancy between the past and today. Actors and actresses of the new generation prefer performing on TV, just move around the set, and mumble their words. As far as theater performances are concerned I no longer recognize the classical authors when stage directors rewrite the texts in what is called Regietheater in German. However, there are laudable exceptions. I remember a performance of Schiller's trilogy Wallenstein here in Freiburg where the stage director had reduced the text so that the three-evening show fitted into one evening. In limiting the story-line to just two threads, the personality of Wallenstein and the love between his daughter and General Piccolomini's son, the plot gained in density and depth. Eventually it only was a detail that at the end the Irish Colonel Butler dressed in a World War One uniform killed Wallenstein with a six shooter instead of using a halbert.

Coming back to Bayreuth. There is a crucial difference between the spoken theater and an opera: stage directors do not change the music. However they compensate their frustration by transposing archaic plots into modern times like this year in Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung at the Bayreuth Festival. In Rhinegold, the first part of the tetralogy, you meet some sluts and get your kicks in a motel on Route 66 instead of Wotan's Valhalla. Wotan is a noble rogue, the Rhine daughters are saloon sluts. Movies in black and white project gunmen on to a screen.
Rhinegold stage set 2013 (©Bayreuther Festspiele)
If you think that this is going too far take a look at the set for Siegfried. A communist Mount Rushmore featuring Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao intrigued the bourgeois spectators and resulted in some boos. Siegfried whacks Fafnir, downgraded from a terrifying dragon to a mere crocodile, using a Kalashnikov AK-47 (Crocodile Siegfried?). Following a spaghetti and red wine orgy the norn Erda (Urd) wearing a blond headdress gives Wotan a blow job. Critic Alexander Dick writes in the Badische Zeitung: Richard Wagner's music and Frank Casdorf's stage set do not have anything in common but so far that is the only thing that hurts.
Siegfried stage set 2013 (©Bayreuther Festspiele)
Yet the real Wagner aficionado is not concerned. He will simply close his eyes and enjoy the music.