Thursday, November 30, 2017


Here comes the promised post about pumpernickel, the black bread from Westphalia that has a unique baking process and a funny name so popular with anglophone people. Chris Howland, sporting his English accent on German radio, was a well-known disk jockey in the 1960s. He nicknamed himself, Heinrich Pumpernickel.

Some people still claim that Napoleon - being blamed for everything* - coined the word when he - on his way to Hamburg, capital of the then French Département de bouche de l'Elbe - stayed for lunch at a small Westphalian village. The local peasants offered him the local black bread. The emperor took it in his hands, took a smell, and is claimed to have said, "Bon pour Nickel," pointing to his horse named Nickel.
*According to the German playwright and filmmaker Curt Goetz: Napoleon ist an allem Schuld (Napoleon Is to Blame for Everything)

The peasants did not quite understand what Napoleon meant and would have been annoyed by his statement that their bread was only good for horses. The imperial words, however, pleased them, so from now on, they called their dark bread pumpernickel.

The story is a hoax. It was the papal nuncio Fabio Chigi who first mentioned pumpernickel. When in 1644 - on his way to Münster where he attended the Westphalian Peace negotiations - he lunched at the Wittlerbaum Inn at Bocholt. Chigi summarized his experience as follows, "The people of Westphalia call their dark bread pompernickel, an almost inhumane food even for peasants and beggars."

And Goethe, describing his Campaign in France, tells the following story. His boss, the Duke of Weimar, had ordered his prime minister to accompany him as an embedded reporter during the campaign of the Princes' Alliance against the French Revolutionary Army. In France, Goethe felt captured in a bad dream zwischen Koth und Noth, Mangel und Sorge, Gefahr und Qual, zwischen Trümmern, Leichen, Äsern und Scheishaufen (between shit and misery, lack and sorrow, danger and anguish, between rubble, corpses, graves, and turds). Eventually, Goethe became depressed when the Alliance suffered a defeat against the French Republic at Valmy, and the troops had to retire.

On his way back home from his campaign, Goethe was passing through Westphalia, where the streets were full of aristocratic French refugees. The local population did not like the foreigners who, despite their humiliation and threatening poverty, had kept their arrogance and immodesty.

While taking a rest at a rural inn, Goethe noticed a modest young Frenchman obviously underway on foot eating his frugal meal and that, when he paid, the landlord cut his bill in half. When Goethe inquired why, the landlord explained, "He is the first one of these blasted people who has eaten pumpernickel. He had to benefit from it."

In southern Germany, pumpernickel is sold in supermarkets thinly sliced and packaged.

Does he prefer the dark pumpernickel to the blond girl?
Below is a typical pumpernickel dish. It is best sandwiched with half of a crusty roll, and in this case, the fillings are Serrano ham* on the right and pork lard refined with roasted onions and apples (f*ck cholesterol) on the left. Although Red Baron prefers flavorful craft beer, here, a mildly hopped Landbier (country-style beer) is the ideal accompanying beverage.
*Westphalian and Black Forest hams are too salty

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

NS Documentation Center

Red Baron is dedicating this blog to a friend who indefatigably digs into Freiburg's Nazi past. The city owes him a number of commemorative plaques - he partly financed himself - located at sites of shame. As an example, here is a photo of the plaque that was put up on his persisting demand inside the Basler Hof, a historical building on Freiburg's Kaiser-Joseph-Straße.

Built in 1496 by Emperor Maximilian‘s treasurer Konrad Stürtzel, the building housed Basel's cathedral chapter from 1587 to 1678 when they had fled their city as a result of the turmoils caused by the Reformation. Later the Habsburg governors of the Vorlande (forelands, i.e., far away from Vienna) resided in the Basler Hof until in 1806 the administration of the Grand Duchy of Baden took over and moved into the premises. As its last resort, Baden’s revolutionary government worked in the building from June 24, to July 7, 1849.

Stürtzel‘s city palace continued to accommodate governmental institutions. From 1933 to 1941 the Gestapo (Nazi Secret State Police) carried out its inhumane acts of mistreatment and torture in the basement. While Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) remind passing people outside the building the commemorative plaque informs the visitor inside about the Nazi past.

Basler Hof in the 1930s (©Stadtarchiv)

The Basler Hof following the disastrous air raid on November 27, 1944 (©Stadtarchiv)

The Basler Hof rebuilt
Since long my friend has been struggling with the creation of a Nazi documentation center in Freiburg. I will never forget when a couple of years ago at a New Year's reception for our part of town my friend approached Mayor Salomon asking him for support of such a center. The Mayor’s answer was abrupt, "I have no money."

My friend never gives up. Constant dripping wears the stone and the exhibition Nationalsozialismus (NS) in Freiburg not only turned out to be a great popular success (Red Baron reported) but also turned the tide. Following a lecture by my friend explaining his ideas of a NS documentation center, all parties presented at the municipal council eventually sent a letter to Mayor Salomon writing, "We know about the great challenge for a documentation center to be up to its mission, i.e., acquainting future generations with Freiburg's NS past." The mayor said, "The municipal council gave us a mandate and we will start working on some ideas we had already developed before.“

Note: The other "we", the citizens of Freiburg, shall elect a new mayor or re-elect the old one on April 22, 2018. Let's face it, Dr. Salomon is starting his election campaign early.

Money shall be earmarked for the center in the municipal budget of 2018/19. As for the future site, some people proposed the basement of the Basler Hof, others regard the former Gestapo basement used for torturing people as inappropriate for the future NS documentation center.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kieser Training

Say yes to a strong body (©Kieser Training)
Red Baron has blogged about Kieser Training before. This time I would like to present a photo showing me among others listening to a lecture about better sleep.

©Kieser Training
Generally, people at Kieser Training are not listening to lectures. They instead come to Kiesers Therapieräume für Medizinische Kräftigungstherapie (Therapy rooms for medical strengthening therapy) working out their muscles. Mind you, we, mostly elderly women and men, are no longer building our aging and aching bodies but are struggling hard trying to maintain our muscular leftovers.

When I moved into a new apartment in fall 2007, I met a neighbor who was looking at my sorrowful countenance and said: Sie müssen zu Kieser (You must train at Kieser‘s).

I followed his advice while he - already straining his muscles at Kieser‘s - got a bounty for his successful proselytizing that we spent together with our wives on a lunch. Since then, we have become friends and celebrated our four birthdays during a year with joint lunches. I am grateful to my friend for his advice. Sadly he passed away lately. In his memory, we, the remaining, are keeping up the lunches.

And I continue to do my 90 minutes twice a week at Kieser Training.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Try Again in 136 Years

This is a rounded figure for the original message was “Send quota exceeded, try again in 4294967295 seconds”. It was popping up on my screen when I tried to send you the usual e-mail, announcing two new blogs.
©Deutsche Telekom
In the past Red Baron has already had many struggles with his Internet provider Deutsche Telekom. The present problem seemed to be a recurrent one. Already three years ago a similar message appeared although the time lapse then given was only 46800 seconds so the following morning I was able to send e-mails again. The reason was that the Magenta Giant had allowed me to send only 200 e-mails per months. When I complained that being a member of various associations I frequently had to send group e-mails Telekom technicians flipped a switch on their server and solved the problem.

What had happened this time?

On November 14, Telekom had changed my telephone from ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network ) to VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) so I was suspicious that the troublemaker was the switch on their server again.

When I called the Telekom hotline on November 19, the guy on the other end told me that the strange message was not their problem but a problem with Microsoft's Outlook mail program. I should rather call their specialists.

When I insisted, he gave me another special Telekom number. On the other end of the line, a girl took note writing down the above error message promising that a specialist would soon look into the matter and call me back.

In vain was I waiting for the telephone call during the evening so I called back Telekom the following morning. Same scenario: they will study the problem and call me back.

During the morning I looked as silly as those few other people carrying their mobile phone from machine to machine while working their muscles at Kieser Training*.
*A blog about Kieser Training is in the pipeline

Luckily nobody had called me during my training session but the telephone rang when I was at home having lunch. I was not at all prepared and had to switch on my PC first, but the friendly lady on the other end told me not to hurry and worry. Thanks to SSD the booting of my PC only required 25 seconds and soon the lady and Red Baron were in business. She really opened my eyes guiding me to a magenta-colored bar and showed me (Honi soit qui mal y pense) that my e-mail storage on the Telekom server had reached 1 GByte so rien ne va plus.

There were amazement and disbelief on my side but in a certain sense, the first guy was right although he did not tell me how to cure an obvious MS Outlook bug. I use to delete very old e-mails on my PC on a regular basis but they still remained on the Telekom server in spite of an IMAP (Interactive Mail Access Protocol) account!

The Telekom lady on-line showed me how to squeeze their server so that deleted e-mails are gone forever. One actually can set time limits ranging from 3 to 90 days for keeping mail elements on the server before they are automatically deleted.

However, it was not over yet, for the next attempt to send a group mail failed with the known error message. Since most of the Telekom service technicians kept harping on MS Outlook I eventually transported the blog address list to the Telekom mail program sending my group e-mail to you from there last night.

Sending the group e-mail again failed but now a different message popped up informing me that I had exceeded the allowed quota of 100 e-mail addresses in a month within my present contract. At the same time, Telekom offered me an upgrade of space and number of e-mails on their server that I will never need. I grudgingly accepted their proposal although being sure that during the recent month I did not send e-mails to more than 100 addresses.

This morning my group e-mail passed using MS Outlook ... hurrah, I am back in business again.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


Red Baron has always been an admirer and supporter of the Freiburg Minster church and of its steeple, the most beautiful in the world (der schönste Turm der Welt) according to Jacob Burckhardt.

When I moved to Freiburg in 2001, I noticed that the Münsterbauverein (MBV, Minster Building Association) was not presented on the Internet. So I built their first homepage that was eventually replaced in 2012 by a more professional presentation, sic, made by professionals.

As remuneration, the MBV presented me with a slice of an original medieval pinnacle that I proudly present on my balcony.

Note the stonemason's mark.

Last year the MBV invited their members to become more financially active by reviving the position of the medieval Münsterpfleger (Caretaker of the Minster).

Eventually, I received a photo of my investiture as Münsterpfleger. Red Baron is wearing too small a cape that was only available for the photo shooting. The picture was taken on the fringe of the opening of an exhibition of gargoyles from the Minster church.

©Daniel Schoenen/MBV

Here are some highlights of the gargoyle exhibition. Gargoyles on medieval cathedrals like the woman with only one tooth are supposed to deter evil spirits. During the early Reformation, nuns left their convents and frequently married runaway monks, so the gargoyle got a particular interpretation. The rumor spread that only nuns with teeth were allowed to marry. In this sense, the water-spouting nun presents her single remaining tooth: Look, I am still available for marriage.

One tooth only
Aufhocker (crouchers) are a popular motif for gargoyles on medieval churches depicting people having nightmares. Humans or wild animals are crouching on people giving them bad dreams.

The oldest gargoyle at the Minster church dates from 1240
A billy goat crouching on a man as the symbol of lust (wet dreams?)
The sow as a symbol of gluttony
Blecken, i.e., showing the butt
was a well-known motif in the Middle Ages to deter evil spirits.
Nowadays the word blecken is used only in the combination of Zähne blecken:
A dog bares its teeth.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Luther and the German Language

Luther und die deutsche Sprache. In yesterday‘s lecture, Professor Lobenstein-Reichmann defended her three theses instead of Martin Luther’s 95:

I. Although frequently claimed: Luther did not invent the German language

II. Luther did not foster a unification of the German language

III. Luther hat dem Volk nicht aufs Maul geschaut (did not look at the peoples‘ mouths). Therefore he was neither a linguistic genius nor a ruffian.

1. In spite of the many dialects, people in German territories understood each other in Frühneuhochdeutsch (Early New High German) well before Luther. The famous Heidelberg Disputation of 1518 saw Luther from Saxony discussing with Alsatian theologians speaking their Alemannic dialect because Philip, Duke of Palatinate-Neuburg, their host, did not understand Latin, the lingua franca of the Middle Ages.

The Luther Triangle. The thick horizontal line represents the border between Low and High German dialects
2. Germany‘s linguistic atlas shows that Luther was working in the middle of the German-speaking territory. His German was certainly influenced by the many scholars from all regions sitting with Luther and his wife Käthe (Katharina) at the table for lunch and dinner where the reformer held his famous Tischgespräche (table talks). So he certainly did not write, as one often reads, in Meißen‘s Kanzleistil (office style), although in Hamburg somebody trying to „upgrade“ his Low German elocution with High German words is said to talk missingsch, i. e., meißnerisch.

Luther‘s choice of words was not guided by the most extended distribution pattern. So he proposed the less frequent Lippe (lip) instead of the widespread Lefze (chaps), although the latter word is still known today as the lip of wild animals and jokingly used in the case of humans.

In the case of Geißel (scourge) used by Luther in his German Bible, the Slavic Peitsche (whip) became the winner. In modern language, Geißel is only religiously known or used in a figurative sense.

In his translation of the Bible into German, Luther‘s driving force was instead: How do I best convey the verity of the Gospel? In his Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen (Epistle about Translation), he clearly states that translation means the transmission of evangelical truth.

3. In his concern for spreading the Gospel, Luther used the German language that he thought was appropriate to the occasion. He always wrote with an eye toward his potential readers. For him language and theology were interlaced.

Here is a nice example: Lieber Bapst, man soll dich bescheissen und an die Sonne setzen und lassen wider trocken werden, dass ich mit gutem gewissen jnen für einen Fartzesel und Gottes feind halten mag. Mich kan er nicht für einen esel halten, denn er weiß, das ich von Gottes sonder gnaden gelerter bin in der Schrifft (Dear pope, one should shit on you, place you in the sun, and let you dry so that with a good conscience I may take you for a farting donkey and God‘s foe. He cannot take me for a donkey for he knows that I am knowledgeable in the Gospel thanks to God‘s special grace).

In olden days Luther’s Bible often was the only book in a Protestant home. The fact that during long winter evenings somebody knowledgeable read some text to all others in the household established a common High German vocabulary during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Reformation Jubilee

It is finished.

Yesterday, on Reformation Day, Germany lived through the climax of the Year of Luther that had started on October 31, 2016. The 500th anniversary of Luther posting 95 theses at Wittenberg against the abuse of indulgence by the Catholic Church gave the nation an extra holiday. Elisabeth and I used the sunny day to fill our pantry in neighboring France.

We did so not out of disrespect but knowing that the Reformation will continue beyond October 31, 2017, both spiritually and by a series of talks to be given at Freiburg’s university examining various consequences of Luther’s feats.

Luther's personality is dazzling; he, who announced the Freiheit eines Christenmenschen (On the freedom of a Christian), i.e., the freedom of a person to find his individual way to God, was at the same time intolerant and brutal against the established Roman Church, Calvinists, Jews, and others who refused to follow his ideas. He admits in his own words: Ich bin dazu geboren, das ich mit den rotten und teuffeln mus kriegen und zu felde ligen, darumb meiner bücher viel stürmisch und kriegerisch sind. Ich mus die klötze und stemme ausrotten, dornen und hecken weg hawen, die pfützen ausfullen und bin der grobe waldrechter, der die ban brechen und zurichten muss (I am born to wage war and I am at war with with hordes and devils, therefore my books are pretty stormy and warlike. I have to destroy stumps and trunks, chop away thornbushes and hedges, fill in puddles. I am the coarse lumberman clearing and tilling fresh ground).

Red Baron, educated as a Catholic in his youth, shared Lutheran ideas as an adolescent, arriving at the conclusion that the Church can only give guidance. Everybody has to find his/her individual way to God. I thoroughly studied the Bible starting in my first school year with a book full of stories and wood carvings. Later I read the Luther Bible in its original version and loved Luther's powerful language. I am still proud that when discussing religion with a Mormon colleague, I was the guy with the more profound biblical knowledge. Was he fixated instead on the Book of Mormon?