Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 27

Yesterday evening Red Baron commemorated the 27th of January, the date when 70 years ago the Red Army liberated Auschwitz, the infamous concentration camp. Every year on this day memorial events are organized in Freiburg and elsewhere in Germany. As usual the commemoration took place in Freiburg's fully occupied Kaisersaal with the first rows of chairs reserved for dignitaries and organizers. I arrived early to find a seat not too far from the speakers' table, old age oblige.

This year's commemoration focused on the fate of gay people under the Nazi rule. Already in the 2nd Reich and the Weimar Republic homosexuality had been punishable as an "unnatural vice" according to §175 of the criminal code. Nevertheless same-gender contacts were tolerated as long as they did not offend public decency. An active gay scene had developed in Berlin and elsewhere during the Roaring Twenties.

Kaisersaal: Projected Röhm, taken from my seat
All this changed when the Nazis came to power although their members were not free of, as they called it, sodomite practices either. The best known example was Ernst Röhm chief of the SA. Following Hitler's Machtergreifung on January 30, 1933, Röhm's Sturm-Abteilung tried to push through their somewhat proletarian demands displeasing the dictator. During the Night of the Long Knives on June 30 to July 1, 1934, the "loyal" SS (Schutzstaffel) murdered the rest of any remaining opposition to Hitler including Röhm.

With the prominent homosexual liquidated a storm broke lose. On October 20, 1934, the police cracked down on the gay scene all over the Reich. Even uninvolved men who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time were arrested. The following court actions applied the heightened provisions of §175a the Nazis had added. Most of those having served their prison sentences were not liberated but directly sent to the Dachau or Buchenwald concentration camps wearing the pink triangle. As inferior human beings some men served for medical experiments, others were castrated, many were just beaten to death.

Never again ...

©Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Retrospect and Prospect

Here I will pause my blog activity for a minute for an assessment following 300 posts written from 2010 to today and honored by 90000 page views. I presented some statistics about his blogs in the past and commented on the results.

All time page views January 2015
Comparing the previous statistics with the present results shows that the five most visited posts have kept their position. The only change is that the post Nuclear Power to Save the World made it into the top ten pushing the one about Waldsterben out. Does this mean that the German woods are no longer doomed? We shall see.

For me there is one mystery. What is it that my readers find so interesting about a silly quarrel over the "real" golden color of the German flag presented in January 2013? I tried to find out what became of the dispute and failed. Nevertheless Red Baron identified the man as the retired publisher Christof Müller-Wirth. He had complained and written a letter to our federal president stating that "yellow" is historical amnesia and unconstitutional.

On May 5, 2014, the city of Homburg awarded Christof the Wirth-Medal for his work on the history of the German Revolution in 1848/49. The medal is named after his great-great-great-grandfather Johann Georg August Wirth who together with Philipp Jakob Siebenpfeiffer organized the Hambach Festival in 1832.

Lord Mayor Karlheinz Schöner (left) awards Homburg's Wirth-Medal
to Dr. Christof  Müller-Wirth (right). The painting in the back shows
his ancestor Johann Georg August Wirth (©City of Homburg)

Still yellow! In February 2014 the Chinese interpreted the "yellow" in the German flag as a synonym for pornography or sex industry. The government actually used all three colors for its propaganda: Black = fight corruption, red = sing revolutionary songs, yellow = abolish sex work.

Dissidents started to interpret the three colors their own way: Black = the top is corrupt, red = the middle class bleeds to death, yellow = the lower class is good for sex work. To avoid any future abuse of the German colors it would indeed be better the "yellow" were "golden".

Where do I go from here? Be assured I am not running out of topics. History as you know is always on my mind but I still have to finish the 1000 pages of The Dreamwalkers to write about my appreciation of the book.

In the meantime enjoy two more pictures from my old book of fairy-tales.

Dornröschen (Sleeping Beauty)
Rotkäppchen (Little Red Riding Hood)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

L'Islam est Charlie

In the aftermath of the Paris massacre many a person will again ask how human beings are capable of such atrocities in the name of God. In a previous blog Red Baron had already described that fanaticism and religious intolerance are not the privilege of Islam.

Patriotic French Muslim (©AFP)
Muslims in western countries somehow helplessly call the Paris killers devils who pervert Islam. In the same breath they assure their Christian neighbors that they observe the constitution and consider freedom of the press as a fundamental asset.

Je suis Charlie in Arabic (©AFP)
Red Baron was curious what the Imams had to say in their Friday prayers last week. The well-known Imam of the Drancy mosque in Saint-Denis, a Paris suburb, Hassan Chalghoumi made some rather general statements: These are criminals, barbarians. They have sold their soul to hell. This is not freedom, this is not Islam.

The tenor was the same in the mosques of all mayor cities: The assassins are brainless. They are no Muslims. They damaged Islam more than the Mohamed cartoons.

We Muslims are strictly against any abuse of religious feelings and are disgusted by the action of immature youths who brought death and grief to Paris. These murders are an attack on our religion like the Mohammed cartoons. We strictly condemn both.

Many Imams cited Qur'an Sura 5,32: If anyone slays a person, it would be as if he slew the whole people. However, the text reads slightly different in the original and originally refers to Cain having slain his brother Abel: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person - unless it be in retaliation for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew all mankind.

Taking the original text, who will interpret the exceptions correctly?

L'Islam est Charlie.
The proof: Charlie Hebdo of January 14, 2015.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Germany's liberal party, the Free Democrats (FDP) had their annual party congress as usual at Epiphany (Dreikönigstreffen) in Stuttgart. The congress opened in a somewhat depressed mood because in all recent state elections the party got less than 5% of the votes. That means the FDP is no longer presented in those parliaments.

When posters with: Keine Sau braucht die FDP (No hog needs the FDP) appeared last fall during the electoral campaign in the State of Brandenburg party officials pasted these words over with magenta-colored stickers: Jeder Brandenburger braucht die FDP. It did not help. On the evening of the elections on September 14, 2014, the Free Democrats had earned a meager 1.5% of the votes.

The next state elections will take place in Hamburg on February 15. At the Dreikönigstreffen young party chairman Christian Lindner (38) aligned the delegates to the liberal core values of the FDP impressing them with an one hour free speech. At the same time Lindner officially introduced a new color for the party: magenta.

New FDP logo (©FDP)
Among the party delegates present in Stuttgart was Katja Suding. She is chairwoman of the parliamentary group of the Free Democrats in the Hamburg state parliament and FDP hopeful for the February elections.

Chairwoman Katja Suding (©ARD)
Will Our Man for Hamburg turn the tide and harvest more than the necessary 5% of the votes for the FDP?

Our Man for Hamburg (©FDP)
Some readers of my blogs will remember FDP Brüderle's dirndl-gate. The follow-up in Stuttgart was a leg-gate when German television made a pan shot of Katja's legs.

Leg-gate (©ARD)
In a first reaction Katja called the cut sexist. The director of the news department sent his excuses and even went a step further calling the cut an Altherren-Schwenk (Dirty old men pan). He continued: This is the proof that we need more camera-women than cameramen. Katja accepted the excuses; well recognizing the odd publicity for herself and her party.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Fribourg est Charlie

©BZ/Ingo Schneider
By chance Red Baron was in town yesterday at 11:30 - time of the Paris massacre the day before - and assisted at a solidarity demonstration: Nous sommes Charlie.

All streetcars stopped at Bertoldsbrunnen (©BZ/Ingo Schneider)

Freiburg raises its pencils as a sign of protest (©Thomas Muffler)
When I came home I reread my blog from yesterday and became more and more uneasy about my quotation of the law of retaliation. Looking for some consolation in the Internet I came across the paradox of freedom by Karl Popper. He had written in 1945 under the experience of the Second World War in his book The Open Society and Its Enemies: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them ... We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

It is an irony of fate that the last edition of Charlie Hebdo of January 7, showed the following cartoon:

Still no assassination in France ...
wait, we still have time until the end of January
 to convey our wishes (©Charlie Hebdo)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

I am Charlie

France is under shock and so is Red Baron. Yesterday morning three terrorists shouting Allahu Akbar stormed the Paris editorial office of the fortnightly published satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. They opened fire using sub machine guns killing twelve people including the editor in chief and some well known cartoonist. Two terrorists are still on the run. Meanwhile the youngest - 18 years old! - turned himself over to the police.

Charlie Hebdo of January 7 (©Charlie Hebdo)
Charlie Hebdo is critical against politicians, actors, and the Catholic church. So far the latter has lost all court cases on denigration against the magazine. The latest edition pictures Michel Houellebecq who had just published his new novel Soumission. The words on Charlie Hebdo's title page refer to Houellebecq's prediction that in 2022 a Muslim will become France's president with the consequence that the author will "submit" to Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month. That should be no difficulty for in 2015 Houellebecq will lose all his teeth, i.e., his "bite".

In the past Charlie Hebdo had published cartoons about Mohamed that had caused some turmoil in the Arabic world. This, however, does not justify any killing of people. Intolerance in the name of religion that does not shrink back from murder makes Red Baron furious. I am tempted to advocate the law of retaliation from the Old Testament (Lev. 24,19-20): An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, but ...

©Large via Facebook
Moses and Mohamed agree with Jesus when he says: And yet we three delivered the same message of peace and love to them.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

A Successful Start-up in Brooklyn

On December 31, 2013, the Badische Zeitung (BZ) published an article about a young couple from the Freiburg region who had opened a restaurant named Black Forest Brooklyn on 733 Fulton Street in Brooklyn on December 6. On January 2, 2015, our local newspaper came back to the story reporting that the Black Forest joint is regularly crammed full.

The Black Forest Brooklyn on 733 Fulton Street (©Holler)
The Hollers, Ayana from Sulzburg and Tobias from Pfaffenhofen, had met in the Big Apple and fell in love. Although he is an architect and she a documentary filmmaker they rather decided to open a restaurant in Brooklyn with specialities from native Baden. They called their start-up, an Authentic German Indoor Biergarten and Kaffeehaus, Black Forest Brooklyn (BFB). Every hour on the hour an original Black Forest cockuu calls the customers to taste schnitzel, Käsespätzle (cheese noodles), and Freiburg's Lange Rote (long red bratwurst). Original decorative elements like pictures of the Black Forest and a heart with Freiburg written on it create a feeling of home away from home.

The Holler family and a big Black Forest cake (©BZ)
A year ago the BZ showed a photo of the small family behind a big Black Forest cake but in the lower right corner you notice a glass for a beer from Cologne, the Gaffel Kölsch. Although the BFB has 14 German beers on tap a brand from the Black Forest was still missing.

To honor the first keg of Rothaus Pils on US soil
Chairman Christian Rasch had made the trip from Rothaus to Brooklyn (©Holler)
Eventually on October 17, 2014 the Hollers celebrated the entry of Black Forest Rothaus beer into the US market with an official keg tapping ceremony and a special Rothaus happy hour at Black Forest Brooklyn. Getting a license for import was not easy since US home security considers all non-pasteurized beer as a potential biochemical weapon.

When on December 6, 2014 the Hollers celebrated the first anniversary of their restaurant they were overwhelmed thanking their customers: You made our first year terrific !

Schiller once wrote in his poem Der Spaziergang (The walk): Wanderer, kommst du nach Sparta, verkündige dorten ... a phrase that I would like to translate as: Madisonian, when you come to New York get the Freiburg feeling in visiting the Black Forest Brooklyn.