Friday, September 29, 2017

Lenin in Zürich

The Badische Zeitung in collaboration with the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung organized a day trip by bus to Zürich where Lenin lived from February 1916 to April 1917.

Leaving Freiburg we saw Lenin greeting from an election poster
 for the Marxist Leninist Party of Germany.
In the federal election of September 24, the party gained 0.1% of the votes.
Good morning, Zürich. We expected some rain.
Sexist segregation. For ladies only:
What is named Damenbad in Freiburg is called Frauenbad in Zürich
Another revolutionary:
Ulrich Zwingli who brought his Protestant religion to Zürich.
Our group visited the site of the house on Spiegelgasse where Lenin had rented an apartment and one of the three libraries, the Library of the Swiss Social Archive, where he spent most of his time reading and writing.

Entrance to Spiegelgasse
with the Cabaret Voltaire, the birthplace of Dadaism.
Lenin's apartment at Spiegelgasse 14,
a nondescript new building.
More celebrities worthy of a blog lived in Zürich's Spiegelgasse.

A house built in 1740 and named Zum Waldris at Spiegelgasse 11:
Johann Caspar Lavater lived here from 1741 (in a new building!) to 1778.
Traveling in Switzerland, Goethe visited Lavater in 1775.
At Spiegelgasse 13 Georg Büchner, revolutionary, doctor of medicine,
and as an author a master of the German language
died of typhoid fever at the age of 24 on February 19, 1837.
Table decoration at the Turm restaurant: Advent wreath with candles and apples on September 19.
Red Baron loves Swiss wine and abhors Swiss beer made by large breweries.
The restaurant only offered Spanish wine. I overcame the dilemma by ordering a Spanish beer.
Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (Zurich-style veal stew) with Rösti (fried grated potatoes).
The meat was a turkey instead of veal, the rösti was not crusty, but the melon was an extra.
All in all, it was a good three-course meal for a reasonable price.
Satisfied fellow travelers leaving the Turm restaurant
Before lunch, we listened to lectures on Marxism-Leninism and after lunch on Lenin's influence on Swiss and European socialism while he stayed in Switzerland.

Professor Koller talked about the Swiss Social Archive and Lenin in Switzerland

Eventually, Lenin moved from Bern to Zürich because the libraries were better
There is no Lenin without Marx, but in this blog, I shall describe our trip and will explain in a future blog what I learned about Marxism-Leninism and write down what may be interesting to my American readers.

Lenin's April Theses
Before he traveled by train through Germany, Sweden, and Finland to Petrograd (later Leningrad, now St. Petersburg) to lead the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin formulated his April Theses while still in Zürich: Peace, land, and bread. All power to the Soviets and to the working class.

Lenin's arrival in Petrograd by train from Finland
Lenin was successful with the Bolshevik Revolution for his Russians, having been slaughtered by thousands in the war, wanted peace above all.

Goodbye, Zürich, goodbye, Großmünster 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

National Anarchism

Yesterday‘s general elections saw support for the two big German parties dwindle and the rise of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a right-wing populist party.

In the meantime, intelligent commentators have written intelligent articles about the outcome of the election and the consequences, but I will not dig into those. One guy wrote that the winner is national cynicism, while I would rather call it national anarchism.

Voter turnout was 75.9 percent, up from 71.5 percent in 2013, but a long way from the 90 percent turnout figures of the 1980s. Twelve years of Merkel rule have created both disenchantments with politics and rage against the establishment in Berlin that is apparently pouring billions of euros into refugees while millions of German citizens live at the poverty threshold or below. Nobody in the AfD has so far said: Germany first, but it shows through all their statements.

Savoring their election victory. The right-wing Glorious Four, from the left (?):
Jörg Meuthen, Alexander Gauland, Alice Weidel, and Frauke Petry.
Twenty-four hours later they were only three (©Der Spiegel).
While the populist wing of the AfD led by Frauke Petry is copying the current political trend in many democracies all over the world, its nationalist fraction, the majority guided by Alexander Gauland, is the dangerous part considering the past of my country. There are hopes that the two wings will fight each other. In fact, in all German state parliaments the AfD, unconditionally opposed to the established system and parties, has so far not done any useful work but has rather spent its energy on debates on points of order and on internal quarrels.

And they were up to no good when yesterday AfD spokeswoman Frauke Petry declared that she will not join the AfD parliamentary group but rather sit as an independent deputy in the newly elected Bundestag. Today she even announced her withdrawal from the AfD.

While Merkel‘s Christian Democrats remain the strongest party and will certainly form a coalition government, Germany’s Social Democrats experienced their lowest percentage of votes since 1949. Consequently, they will go back to their roots and seek renewal in opposition to the future government. In fact, four more years as a junior partner in a grand coalition with Merkel would have meant the end of Germany‘s grand old party that in 1933 alone stood up in the Reichstag (parliament) against the combination of Nazis and bourgeois parties by not voting for the Ermächtigungsgesetz (the infamous enabling act).

In the 2017 elections, Germany moved to the right. It is time that the Social Democrats fight back.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Wading Pool News

On several occasions, Red Baron has reported about the new Square of the Old Synagogue. The alleged abuse of the commemorative water basin patterned on the ground plan of the destroyed synagogue still excites the mind of many a citizen. For them, the water surface has degenerated into a Planschbecken (wading pool) not only for pre-school children but for dogs and adults as well.

Hand-written information in German and English.
Note the boy standing on the submerged commemorative plate (©BZ/Michael Bamberger)
There is a consensus that the commemorative plate submerged in the water is barely visible and that its text is rather general. Passers-by will need concise information about the history and the significance of the site.

Freiburg’s Social Democrats have already rushed forward, proposing a giant banner partly covering the front of Collegiate Building II that will undergo renovation during the next two years. In the meantime, the municipal council has decided to set up a working group including the Jewish community to work out a common explanatory text.

Coming back to the abuse of the water basin. Many citizens including moderate Jews regard splashing children as a way to fill the square with new life. With the consent of the parents, a friend of mine took the following photo.

Two splashing children yes, but naked? Is this a new dimension?

The scene reminds me of a song made popular by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder:

Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony
Side by side on my piano keyboard, oh Lord, why don't we?

Yes, why don’t we?

Thursday, September 21, 2017


For black bread, a German specialty, I and many of my compatriots will walk the additional kilometer to get it. Some Germans living abroad even have it flown in large quantities.

Sliced Vollkornbrot by Lieken called Kraftklotz (power log)
without preservatives, juicy and extra grainy.
While France is the land of cheese we are the land of bread. Among those many kinds of bread, the black variety is of a special significance but must not to be confused with Pumpernickel*. German Schwarzbrot is a bread made from whole grain rye and is sometimes also called Vollkornbrot although wholemeal bread may also be made from wheat or spelt.
*I shall come back to Pumpernickel bread in a future blog.

Elisabeth likes wholemeal toast bread and so do many others. Of the three kinds of toast bread sold at the local grocery store, the wholemeal variant is frequently sold out.

On the other hand, Red Baron prefers thinly sliced whole grain rye bread already for breakfast. There are many kinds of Schwarzbrot, some available only regionally although others like Lieken are produced by bakery chains and are offered throughout Germany. Support local bakers! So for a change, I often buy a loaf of whole grain rye bread at a local bakery cutting my thin slices by hand.

My favorite packed bread in Freiburg is the Kraftklotz but whenever in the past I was in Cologne I bought at least two packages of Rheinisches Vollkornbrot produced by the local bakery Merzenich. Their bread was very dark and tasty due to the addition of sugar beet syrup. Recently they changed their baking recipe. Now Merzenich’s bread tastes like any everyday Rhenish whole grain rye bread. So when during my recent visit to Cologne I wept in the presence of my sister-in-law, she, being an insider, recommended Zimmermann‘s Rheinisches Vollkornbrot, donating me two packages.

Zimmermann's bakery founded in 1875 produces a Rheinisches Vollkornbrot
without preservatives and without the addition of syrup.
On the left a thin slice of Kraftklotz,
on the right an even thinner slice of Zimmermann's Rhenish whole grain rye bread.
Recently the Kraftklotz too changed its baking recipe offering 20% more bread per package. I taste the difference. The new kind is somewhat tastier than the previous version.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Hitler in Freiburg

We are in the midst of our federal election campaign but Red Baron has never experienced a more boring one. Angela Merkel (Christian Democrat with a projected 38% of the vote) is hovering as the mother of Western democracy over the lowlands of German party politics whereas Martin Schulz (Social Democrat at a meager 24%) is struggling like the famous frog in liquid cream hoping that part of it may eventually transform into butter to give him at least some ground.

In light of such boredom the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung (lpd, State central for political education) scheduled a panel discussion at the university's Audimax (main auditorium).

General elections 1932 and 2017: Hitler in Freiburg 85 years ago
At campaign rallies in the Weimar Republic people had to pay an entrance fee.
Visitors came from Switzerland and neighboring Alsace to listen to Hitler.
Red Baron was early at the Audimax and got a seat near the stage but only in row four, the other seats in front being reserved for dignitaries including members of the local soccer teams Sportclub Freiburg (SCF) and the Freiburger Fußballclub (FFC). At the entrance I got a free ticket issued for counting purposes since seating of more than 800 persons at the Audimax is illegal. Nevertheless, as the starting time approached the auditorium became overcrowded.

During the filling and waiting phase we were entertained by video material. A documentary about Hitler's arrival and stay at Freiburg on July 29, 1932, was the "top seller". Here are some frames.

Most impressive. In July 1932, Hitler campaigned using an airplane
allowing him to give four speeches at four distant cities
 in one day. At Freiburg he arrived late.

Removing his earplugs after arrival at Freiburg (Cabins were not pressurized in 1932).

Saluting children and flowers as usual.

Hitler liked powerful and fast cars.
Rumors have it that the autobahn between Prussia and Bavaria was built
with priority so that he could quickly move between Berlin, the German capital,
and the Hauptstadt der Bewegung (Capital of the Movement), Munich.

As Hitler passed, young female voters were screaming
 like today's teenage girls idolizing Justin Bieber.

Looking determined and surrounded by his Brownshirts
he is marching to the FFC's Mösle stadium.

Hitler is giving his third and same speech during the day.

Already in 1932 there was fake news about the number of attendees:
30,000 according to the Freiburger Sport Club,
50,000 as estimated by the Freiburg newspapers,
70,000 as claimed by Nazi propaganda.

Hitler with flying cap ready to head for Radolfzell on Lake Constance
to attend his fourth and last rally of the day.

Können diese Augen lügen? (Would I lie to you?). Yes, you did.

Super election year 1932. Rektor Schiewer during his introduction
in front of a poster of the presidential election of April 10.
The evening was opened by the host, Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Hans-Jochen Schiewer, Rektor (head) of Freiburg's university. The purport of his introductory talk was: Although there have been dark times in the past, the motto of Freiburg's university is equality and freedom of speech and research.

In front of a historical photo
 showing Nazi Mayor Franz Kerber and Gauleiter (governor) Robert Wagner
here are the panel members from left to right:
Dr. Thomas Schnabel, Leiter Haus der Geschichte Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart
Dr. Dieter Salomon, Oberbürgermeister der Stadt Freiburg
Dr. Michael Wehner, Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Baden-Württemberg,
Außenstelle Freiburg leading the discussion
Christian Streich, Trainer, Sport-Club Freiburg
Dr. Heinrich Schwendemann, Historisches Seminar
der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
The panel discussion proper started with two noteworthy statements by Freiburg's mayor, Dr. Dieter Salomon: Jeder Mensch hat seinen Wert (Every human being is valuable) and Populismus ist geschichtsvergessen (Populism ignores history).

According to Dr. Thomas Schnabel, director the House of History in Stuttgart, a comparison between 1932 and 2017 is nearly ridiculous. In 1932 Germany suffered from the world economic depression and a resulting high unemployment rate of 18% (today 5,7%). This meant more welfare recipients and increased social spending that was compensated by a reduction of salaries in the public sector. Streets were dominated by politically motivated brawls and murder. This was an excellent climate for populism. Most important, however, was that more than 50% of the voters, be it right or left, rejected the Weimar Republic while today more than 85% fully support the democratic system of our Federal Republic.

Hitler and the National Socialists had their breakthrough in 1930 with 18.3% of the votes, reached their maximum with 37.3% in the July 1932 poll, and declined to 33.1% in the November 1932 elections due to a noticeable improvement in Germany's economic situation. Schnabel insisted that Hitler's January 31, 1933, rise to power was not imperative. The elites helped him to power and not the working class.

Schnabel is right, for the chancellor-makers and members of Hitler's initial government were industry (Alfred Hugenberg), military (Werner von Blomberg), and aristocracy (Franz von Papen) where the latter commented: In zwei Monaten haben wir Hitler in die Ecke gedrückt, dass er quietscht (Within two month we shall have pushed Hitler into a corner so he will squeak). All underestimated Hitler's will to power. Within only eight months the Nazi chancellor had brought Germany into line.

Why were two of Freiburg's soccer teams invited and was Christian Streich, coach of the SCF, sitting on the panel? As Dr. Heinrich Schwendemann, Historical Seminar of the university explained: At the beginning of the 20th-century soccer was an integrating factor when Catholics, Protestants, and Jews placed the team spirit above religious and ideological differences. The Mösle Stadium, home of the FFC, was sponsored by Jews. So it is one of history's ironies that Hitler gave his speech in a "Jewish" stadium.

The integrating power of soccer today involves Muslim and native African rather than Jewish players. This multicultural mix sometimes leads to racist outbursts during matches of the Bundesliga (Federal soccer league). Christian Streich, contrary to other coaches, has frequently spoken out against racist remarks and hate speech and in particular, has taken on the populistic AfD (Alternative for Germany) recently. To great applause, he explained that he had agreed to sit on the panel because here I am surrounded by educated people who are occupied the whole day with history and politics whereas I constantly reflect on how to prevent goals against my team.

Later in the discussion, Dr. Salomon made the distinction between a political movement and a political party. The Greens started out in 1980 as a movement with Joschka Fischer being their charismatic leader. Now, together with the Free Democrats and the Linke (left socialists), the Greens belong to the spectrum of the smaller established parties in Germany, each with the prospect of around 10% of the vote. The populistic AfD is still in the stage of a movement but missing a one and only charismatic leader. They will possibly get 12% of the votes in the upcoming general election.

Dr. Salomon said: With respect to Germany's past, present generations are not guilty but we have the duty to watch that such an inhuman period will never reoccur. With respect to our uneasy relationship with our nationality, Dr. Schnabel added: Nationalism yes, but never against others either inside or outside Germany.

Except for some interesting historical details and a few bon mots the panel discussion did not knock my socks off. Contrary to his habit Red Baron - this time being afraid of lengthy comments by people from the auditorium and verbose answers by the panel members - left the Audimax together with the majority of the audience before the general discussion started.