Saturday, August 15, 2015

An Eerie Convention

Yesterday the Badische Zeitung published an article about the Reichskolonialtagung 1935 in Freiburg. German colonies?

Germany was divested of all its settlements in Africa and in the Pacific by the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Compared with other imposed conditions, the loss of Germany's colonies was regarded by many people in the Weimar Republic as a minor setback. This was possibly due to the fact that already in the Second Reich the acquisition of overseas territories played a far less important a role than in Great Britain or France.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933 they were not hot on colonies either but rather looking for new Lebensraum (space to live) in eastern Europe. Nevertheless many of those who had served in Deutsch-Südwest (nowadays Namibia), Deutsch-Ostafrika (Tanzania, Burundi, and Uganda), Togo (Ghana and Togo), or Kamerun (Cameroun and Nigeria) were still alive and preserved the memory.

Freiburg had sort of colonial tradition so it was no coincidence that the 1935 national convention on colonies took place in the city. Local arrangements were handled by the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft in Freiburg and supported by the highest Nazi dignitaries. Gauleiter Robert Wagner himself assumed the patronage of the convention and addressed its participants at the Münsterplatz.

Solemn demonstration at the Münsterplatz, June 16, 1935 (©Stadtarchiv Freiburg).
The 1935 convention was accompanied by an exhibition.

Invitation to the colonial exhibition (©Stadtarchiv Freiburg).
Crazy. Nevertheless one comment about the article stressed the point that although all former colonies have gained their independence a colonial mindset is still in our heads when we buy T-shirts cheaply made in Bangladesh.

Friday, August 14, 2015

zum Deutschen Haus

The name gastropub may be new but the idea is old. In Freiburg quite a number of small restaurants operate like gastropubs, i.e., serving beer or wine and local food. They proffer no multi-course meals on their menu but simple down-to-earth dishes.

One of the most original places in Freiburg is the restaurant zum Deutschen Haus on Schusterstraße. The place was already mentioned in a document of 1386 as the house Zum Spihlhof. Bakers are known to have owned the premises for several hundred years until in 1779 it became a pub when Bäckermeister Wilhelm Baumeister not only made fine pastries but served them together with a Viertele of wine to his neighboring craftsmen.

Today the zum Deutschen Haus luckily is not yet a tourist attraction. Instead connoisseurs sit in front of the gastropub and enjoy the best tapped Pils beer in town:

Some gentlemen sitting in front and enjoying their Pils beer.
The Coke bottle is a flaw of somebody who did not want to be photographed.
Note the menu written on the blackboards
and the coats of arms of Freiburg's various rulers painted on the wall:
Austria (the Habsburgs), France (Louis XIV) and Baden (decided by Napoleon)
As for the menu you'd better sit inside:

The traditional interior (©zum Deutschen Haus)
At present the chanterelle season is in full swing and Elisabeth and I enjoyed chanterelles à la crème and Semmelknödel (bread dumplings) yesterday; and we had Ganter Pils, what else?

Chanterelles à la crème and Semmelknödel served traditionally in a soup bowl with a spoon.
 Simply delicious.
On top of the delicious meal we enjoyed the Italian ambiance with a fantastic view through the open window of one of the cock towers (Hahnentürme) of the Münster church in the blazing midday sun.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Wirmer Flag

Red Baron has blogged about German flags on several occasions. Initially, people had difficulty arranging the colors black, red, and gold in their correct order. Then I wrote about an early flag for a German navy, and I eventually reported some strange (mis)interpretations of the German colors

Today I read about a new German flag, the Wirmer flag. I learned about the flag and its creator Josef Wirmer too, from an article in the English Wikipedia.

The Wirmer flag (©Markaristos/Wikipedia)
Born in 1901, Josef Wirmer was executed in 1944 by strangulation at the infamous Plötzensee Prison in Berlin after he had been sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof (People's Court of Justice). His crime had been participating in the attempted assassination of Hitler on July 20, 1944. The better-known conspirators Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg and Carl Friedrich Goerdeler had planned to make Wirmer the Minister of Justice in a post-Hitler government.

Josef Wirmer at the Volksgerichtshof in August 1944.
The frame was taken from a Nazi propaganda film (©Der Spiegel)
Wirmer studied law at the universities of Freiburg and Berlin. As a student, he belonged to the left-wing of the Catholic Zentrumspartei (Center Party), dreaming of a grand coalition between the Social Democrats and the Center Party that would support the ailing Weimar Republic.

Following the Machtergreifung (the Nazi takeover) in January 1933, the Red Wirmer, as he was called, continued to fight the Nazis. As a lawyer, he, in particular, defended his Jewish colleagues who, under the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service (Gesetz zur Wiederherstellung des Berufsbeamtentums), passed in April 1933, had been dismissed as judges and prosecutors.

Wirmer's younger brother Ernst survived the Nazi terror. He explained the Wirmer flag that Josef had imagined for a free Germany: Black, red, and gold stand for Germany's first democracy, the Weimar Republic. According to brother Ernst, the cross stood for Christian values and was meant to counteract the swastika. Presently neo-Nazis groups and followers of Pegida abuse the Wirmer flag.

Commemorative Stolperstein (tripping stone) in front
of Josef Wirmer's former law office in Berlin (©OTFW/Wikipedia)

Sunday, August 9, 2015


Yesterday afternoon Red Baron visited Freiburg's first Craftival beer fest. The temperature was 32ºC (90ºF) and I had thought that not too many people would show up. I was mistaken for the site was overcrowded. The possible reason was that while the entrance fee was only two euros you could buy a beer menu for an additional two euros. This menu gave you the right to taste the beers of nine craft breweries. As my beer menu shows: I visited all the booths of the breweries present and tasted their beers.

I started with my friends from Braukollektiv and had their, by now well-known, Black Sheep Ipa:

I continued at Decker's with their Banana Joe Weizen:

I followed with the smile and the taste of Hopfengut No 20 – SUD EINS:

I only had a sip of FOX-Reynaert Tripel Blond strong beer:

I spoke French with the guy from Bendorf who served me their Neudorf Red Ale:

Schwarzwald Gold suggested tasting their VIF, a slightly sour wheat beer, but instead I wanted to try out their Coco d’Or, which is what they call the other kind of beer. However, their Perlweizen (sparkling wheat beer) was not on the tasting menu. So I paid for the beer champagne that was consequently served in an appropriate glass.

No wonder I ended up with two glasses in my hands looking for a seat to sit down:

The longest queue was in front of the Bîrtel booth. Everybody wanted to try their lorke beer that is based not on thin coffee but on black tea. It is strange how the Swiss use the "Prussian" word for thin coffee.

I learned the word Lorke from my father who often said when we had coffee in a restaurant: This coffee tastes like Lorke meaning that what we were drinking did not taste like coffee. Looking into the matter somewhat more closely I found out that the word is a malapropism of l'orge (French for barley).

The word Lorke was possibly coined in Berlin in the early 19th century during the Napoleonic occupation. With Napoleon's economic blockade of the European continent even the French occupants suffered from the lack of imported coffee. All sorts of ersatz were brewed on the basis of, e.g., roasted acorns and barley. Note that we have come full circle with roasted barley being the base of beer brewing too.

I finished my tour at the combined booth of Martin's* Bräu and Kleines Bierhaus. While I tried the Martinsbräu Chocolate Malt Porter:
*Read my blog about the German form of the grocer's apostrophe

the small Schwanauer brewery offered its Weizenbier:

Since the site of the Craftival was not reachable by streetcar, at the end of the day Red Baron had beaten all records: During the day I had walked 6.6 km, had burned 508 of a planned 350 kcal, and exercised 35 of 30 minutes, whatever that means.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Freiburg's New Banking District

This is how the Badische Zeitung (BZ) titled an article about four benches in front of Betzenhausen's* community center. The benches are gifts of Freiburg's sister cities Guildford (England), Matsuyama (Japan), Besançon (France), and Innsbruck (Austria).
*a Freiburg city district

Banking district? The word bank is one of those infamous false friends when translating from German into English and vice versa. Bank in German has two main meanings: a bench to sit on, e.g., in Schiller's Wilhelm Tell: Auf diese Bank von Stein will ich mich setzen (I want to sit on this bench made of stone) and a financial institution. This second meaning is the same as in English whereas a riverbank is called Flussufer in German.

©Michael Bamberger/BZ
Baubürgermeister Haag and an unknown lady are trying out the Guildford bench (Probesitzen) while Joe Gordon, Mayor of Guildford, pointed out that the coat of arms on the bench is the same as on the chain of office he is wearing on the photo. Only three benches are visible, the fourth one from Matsuyama made of bamboo was moved to the nearby Japanese garden.

When will we see a Madison bench? And will it be delivered together with Mayor Soglin's proposal: Occupation times of less than 24 hours?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Freiburg's New UB Makes the News

Freiburg's new university library (Universitätsbibliothek = UB) was opened on July 23. Here are some impressive photos of the reflecting diamond.

The UB viewed from the top of the university's main building.
Note the solar panels on the roof and
the trackbed for the new streetcar line passing in front of the UB (©BZ)

The main building of the university reflected in the front face of the UB (©Thomas Kunz/BZ)

The square in front of the cafeteria. Freiburg's theater is reflected on the right (©Sieglinde Köhler/BZ)
Today two events made the press. The UB is open 24h/7d but between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. access is limited to persons holding a university card, i.e., mostly students. On July 27, in the evening Red Baron passed through the extremely slowly rotating revolving door of the UB only a few minutes past eight. I wondered. Was this bottleneck built in to slow down bustling students? Although I only intended to visit the cafeteria a gorilla barred my entrance. Neither did I have a student card nor did I look like a student. Last Sunday night in spite of the meticulous entrance checks two guys succeeded in stealing audio/video equipment from the UB's media center. The theft still is under investigation.

During the day of the UB opening at the still fully equipped media center:
From right to left: UB Director Antje Kellersohn,
Head of all university construction projects Karl Heinz Bühler, and
University Rector Hans-Jochen Schiever (©Universität Freiburg)
On the lighter side the following photo with the UB in the background dates from yesterday morning. Did the police immobilize the car of a parking offender, a student using the UB? Not at all. One of the workers laying tracks for the new streetcar line to Madisonallee in front of the UB simply appropriated street barriers to protect his private car within the perimeter of the building site.

Private parking tolerated (©Alexander Schuhmacher/BZ)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Freiburg Writers' Group

Suddenly a date in my calendar started to blink in red announcing a scheduled Freiburg Writers' Group (F.W.G.) meeting, and I hadn't even started my homework. Yes, our charming M.O.C. (Mistress of Ceremonies) had told us in June to write something about an item lost in the past and suddenly regained. Was she talking about Milton's paradise or Proust's madeleine?

Being late with my work, I decided to make a virtue of necessity and turned my homework into a blog.

In spring, I had joined the F.W.G. organized by the Carl-Schurz-Haus. Already the first meeting impressed me. There were students and older people of English, German, and even Italian mother tongue eager to become writers in Shakespeare's idiom. Should I say that my aim is different? Being a writer neither of novels nor of poems but of prosaic blogs, I want to profit as much as possible on questions of grammar and style. Nevertheless, I bow my head to the demand of my M.O.C. Here comes my story about my item lost and regained.

Trying to avoid that my children will have to dispose of the things I have accumulated in the course of my life, I started reducing the number of my books and found one titled: Ein Musketier von Potsdam. I had read the book as a child and now sat down to reread it.

Hansgeorg Buchholtz tells the story of one of those legendary Lange Kerls (tall guys) who served the Soldier King and his son Frederick of Prussia. In this book, a simple soldier remembers the days when he was drilled for the pleasure of Frederick William for whom his children (as he called his tall guys) were too precious to be abused in a war. But the musketeer also remembers when as a sergeant, he was crippled in one of the many battles the Soldier King's son, the Great Frederick, fought for his personal glory.

Red Baron counts Frederick the Great among the greatest warmongers in history together with Louis XIV, Napoleon, and Hitler. Still, at the time of my youth Frederick was venerated as "the" German character who never gave up fighting although his enemies were overwhelming in keeping with the motto: Viel Feind', viel Ehr' (Many enemies, much honor).

Now, as an adult, I read the book differently, seeing not so much the Prussian king but the simple people deeply rooted in their Protestant faith suffering from the repercussions of Frederick's many wars. I noticed that it is quite an honest book, but I had read it differently as a boy.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Madison's Flag Flies on the Kaiserbrücke

For further information read below.

©BZ/Ingo Schneider
Last Wednesday in their last session before the summer holidays, Freiburg's city councilors were confronted with a heavy agenda. Among the many topics there was the discussion on the placement of the Siegesdenkmal (Victory Monument) that I had announced.

Mayor Salomon opened the debate using a well-known witticism*: Dann kämpfen sie mal schön (Have a nice fight). Eventually there was little controversy except for a proposal to postpone the decision and in the meantime "park" the monument in Freiburg's Stadtgarten (municipal park).
*In 1958 Germany's First Federal President Theodor Heuß when visiting soldiers participating in a field day had wished them: Dann siegt mal schön (Have a nice victory).

For many of the deputies, moving Victoria back into the visual axis of Kaiserstraße was delicate in particular with respect to the many visitors from France. Therefore, in a typical German decision, the majority of the city council asked that in its new, i.e., old position an explanatory plaque be added to the monument.

The one deputy from Germany's fun party Die Partei demanded that the bronze of the monument be melted down and a big middle finger be cast that could optionally point to France or to Greece.

Another topic dealt with was Freiburg's sister cities. The city council approved unanimously new partnerships with Wiwili (Nicaragua) and Suwan (South Korea) as well as a special declaration of friendship with Tel Aviv (Israel). There was however one abstention from the vote with respect to Suwan. The councilor criticized that Koreans do not speak English and that each time a delegation from Suwan comes to Freiburg interpreters are required.

I wondered whether Koreans are worse than Japanese visitors. Red Baron remembers that he was once sitting on a program committee for a conference when chairpersons for the various sessions were selected. An American colleague had written on the proposal for a Japanese chairman in capital letters: MUST SPEAK ENGLISH.

Freiburg's dozen is full. The round number of twelve partners was celebrated by replacing the flags of the Zähringer cities on the Kaiserbrücke by those of Freiburg's sister cities. The flags of cities founded by the Dukes of Zähringen in southwest Germany and Switzerland had in turn superseded the provincial, state, or national flags of Freiburg's partner and would-be partner cities in 2013 following an incident with the Iranian flag. At that time they had hoisted the flags of Franche-Comté for Besançon, Tirol for Innsbruck, Veneto for Padua, Wisconsin for Madison, and England for Guildford.

Freiburg now has six sister cities in Europe: Besançon (France), Granada (Spain), Guildford (England), Innsbruck (Austria), Lviv (Ukraine), and Padua (Italy) of which the flags are hoisted on the right-hand side of the bridge when entering the city from the south.

Right-hand flags on Kaiserbrücke. Note the streetcar direction Zähringen.
The flags of the six partners outside Europe are on the left-hand side, namely Isfahan (Iran), Madison (USA), Matsuyama (Japan), Suwon (South Korea), Tel Aviv (Israel), and Wiwili (Nicaragua).
Left-hand flags on Kaiserbrücke. Madison's flag is the first.
St. Martin's Gate in the back is in the visual axis of Kaiserbrücke/Kaiserstraße.
Will there be more sister cities in the future? Mayor Salomon answered in a truly Solomonic way: I don't know whether there is a limit but you can't take care of too many cities permanently.