Monday, December 31, 2018

And Goodbye

Yesterday Freiburg’s Sunday newspaper published an article titled, “Und tschüss” (And Goodbye) reminding the reader of persons and things Freiburg lost in 2018. On New Year’s Eve I take the opportunity to remind you of some blogs I devoted to some of those losses.

The renaming of streets in Freiburg continued and so we lost the following names: Rennerstraße, Lexerstraße, Gallwitzstraße, Eckerstraße, and Ludwig-Heilmeyer-Weg.


In 2018 we finally saw the scaffolding disappear that had disfigured the steeple of our minster church during twelve long years.  In 2019 we proudly present the most beautiful steeple in the world again.

At present two of the stands selling bratwurst at the market on minster square are missing. Therefore long lines form waiting to snatch a Lange Rote or a Currywurst. One of the vendors threw the towel due to old age, the other lost the license following his tax fraud. Because nobody likes to stand in line for his wurst the city has sent out a call for vendors hoping that more competition will be good for business, an assumption that does however not hold for people selling wurst.

Freiburger Bügel on Bertoldstraße
There now are less stands to park your bicycle at the university campus. In particular, 500 Bügel (brackets) to lock on bicycles were removed in front of the new university library. They had to make room for the new streetcar line that will pass in front of the building in March 2019. City and university officials are still scratching their heads while looking for alternatives.

Freiburg lost the speed limit of 50 km/h (31 mph) on the important inner-city thoroughfare between the Rhine valley and the Black Forest* replacing it by the lower 30 km/h (18.6 mph) generally applied in residential areas. The reasons given are air and noise pollution as well as excessive wear and tear of the street surface by heavy trucks.
*Bundesstraße 31 (Federal Highway 31)

The tenant of Freiburg’s historical restaurant Kleiner Meyerhof threw the towel too. The name of the place dates back to the times when farmers served food and drink like peasant Meyer did at his "little farm". Older Freiburgers and families with children liked to be served traditional Baden cuisine at the Kleiner Meyerhof, but the old people are dying out and parents rather follow their kids to burger places. Freiburg now sports a trendy place serving "freiburgers" to Freiburgers and tourists alike.

Last not least Freiburg lost its long-time mayor in 2018. Dr. Dieter Salomom standing for re-election was beaten by young Martin Horn. Red Baron reported extensively.

Watching the incoming election results with growing stupefaction (©BZ)
Let us hope that in 2019 there will be more gains than losses and fewer people throwing towels.
 Goodbye? My readers fear not! I am still not running out of topics for my blogs but as another task takes up much of my time I will have to cut back on my writing activities.

I wish all my readers a Happy New Year! and einen guten Rutsch as we say in German. This has nothing to do with a good slide into the new year but is rather spoofed Hebrew. “Rosh ha-Shana” means the beginning of the year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Austrian Translator

Red Baron had read about pre-Luther translations of the Bible into German before, but Der Spiegel recently devoted an article to an Austrian Translator as early as the early 14th century. His name and origin are not known, but he is assumed to be an Austrian because most of his handwritings were found in an Austrian monastery. The man describes himself as an unconsecrated layman, neither being ordained as a preacher nor educated at a university.

Indeed Luther was not the first who translated the Bible into German. The earliest translation so far is dated eleven years after Gutenberg had finished his printing of the Latin Bible. Johannes Mentelin had founded a printed house in Strasburg around 1460 and published a German translation of the Bible in 1466. Fearing of being accused of heresy Mentelin produced a word by word translation of the Latin Vulgate thus lacking Luther’s Sprachgewalt (powerful eloquence). Subsequently and contrary to the Luther Bible Mentelin’s translation did not become “popular” and was a flop.

Back to the “Austrian Translator” of the Bible. His translated texts are handwritten and in fluent, beautiful German. Some scientists suspect that his translation, which circulated in many manuscripts until the 15th century, was "decisive for pre-Lutheran German Bibles". And for Luther too?

Beautifully illustrated handwritten copy of the "Austrian translator’s" text.
Fitting to the season a nativity scene and the circumcision of Jesus (©Der Spiegel).
Here is an example of the “Austrian translation”. “Unser herre Ihesus Cristus sey seinr muter, der rainen magd Marien des ersten erschienen” (Our Lord Jesus Christ appeared to his mother, the Holy Virgin Mary, first) although in St. John 20, 11-18 it is Mary Magdalene who sees Jesus after his resurection first. Indeed, for the “Austrian Translator” frankly added, “Wie aber die heyligen evangelisten nicht schreybent” (What the holy evangelists do not write).

Adding text to make a Bible translation more popular? A deadly sin for Luther whose leitmotif was  „sola scriptura!“ That meant forgetting the Latin Vulgate and going back "ad fontes", i.e., to the sources as there are the original texts in Greek and Hebrew.

Monday, December 24, 2018

O Tannenbaum

Yesterday morning I read an article in Freiburg’s Sunday paper Der Sonntag titled "O Tannenbaum".

"O fir tree" is the title of a traditional German Christmas song, translated into English as "O Christmas tree." The tune is that of a Latin mediæval student song "Lauriger Horatius" and was used since then many times over, e.g., Maryland’s state song "Maryland, my Maryland."

The lyrics of "O Tannenbaum" were written around 1819, but singers soon replaced the second line "wie treu sind deine Blätter" (meaning needles do not fall off, i.e., they remain true to the fir tree) by "wie grün sind deine Blātter" (how green are your leaves).

As far as we know today the evergreen Christmas tree originated in German-speaking Alsace for the earliest written reference dates back to 1492, the year when Columbus discovered the West Indies. In the account book of the Strasburg minster church you can read the following entry, "Item koüfft 9 Tannen in die 9 Kirchspill, das gut Jor darjnn zu empfohen, unnd darumb gebenn 2 Gulden" (To receive the new year well we also bought 9 fir trees for the 9 parishes for 3 gilders). Note: In those times the new year started with the celebration of Christmas, i.e., on December 25.

Freiburg Rappenpfennig
It seems that evergreen trees were much appreciated during Christmas time. An entry of 1521 in the account book of the Humanist Library at Schlettstatt in Alsace bears witness thereof, "Item IIII schillinge dem foerster die meyen an sanct Thomas tag zu hieten" (Also 4 shillings to the gamekeeper, so he will guard the trees as of Saint Thomas day, i.e., December 21).

Already in the outgoing Middle Ages, the Black Forest served as an abundant source of Christmas trees although in the minutes of Freiburg’s city council of December 1554 we read that the Schlagen der Weihnachtsbäume würde „grosser schad" anrichten (the logging of Christmas trees would wreak havoc). Therefore the city council imposed a „straff " (penalty) of 10 Rappen*.
*The Rappen or Rappenpfennig was a form of the penny minted in Freiburg im Breisgau in the 13th century featuring an eagle, which later on was interpreted to depict a raven. Nowadays the Rappen is still used in Switzerland.

©Der Sonntag, Freiburg
While early Christmas trees were raised in churches and in public places they later found their way into private homes. Here again, the Alsaciens were pioneers. Following his studies in Strasburg young Goethe writes in his bestselling novel The Sorrows of Young Werther about a tree he had seen decorated with wax lights, sweetmeat, and apples.

It is estimated that this year 60 million candle-lit trees will illuminate the Christmas Eve in Germany where LEDs not only replace fine dust polluting wax candles but energy hungry incandescent lights too. Since reusable plastic trees surrogate the real stuff serious discussions broke out about the sustainability of fir compared to plastic trees.


I do not want to spoil your Christmas feelings further so I better stop, but not without showing a lithograph presenting a hanging fir tree. Those of you who have tried in vain to fiddle a tree straight into a Christmas tree stand will appreciate this solution.

Manger scene in front of a Christmas tree in the church of Staufen near Freiburg

With the above in mind, I wish all my readers a

Merry Christmas and a peaceful holiday season

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

House of Zähringen

Big events cast their shadows as we say in German and that is what we are experiencing in Freiburg right now. The big event is the jubilee of 2020 celebrating the foundation of Freiburg as a marketplace in 1120, the shadow is an exhibition: Die Zähringer, Mythos und Wirklichkeit*.
*myth and reality


The last Zähringer Bertold V died in 1218, 800 years ago, a welcome reason to commemorate the House of Zähringen. The exhibition opened last Friday in Freiburg’s Karl Meckel Halle and will tour other so-called Zähringerstädte (see below) in the coming months.

Laudatio: On stage from right to left the makers of the exhibition:
Dr. Heinz Krieg, Dr. Hans-Peter Widmann, Dr. Johanna Regnath.
They offer a special Zähringer LEGO edition to Thomas Walz (left), group leader events/PR
of Freiburg's Municipal Saving Bank being the main sponsor of the exhibition.
In the back two reproductions of stained glass windows by Fritz Geiges
showing the two founding fathers of Freiburg
 on the left Bertold III and on the right Konrad.
Freiburg's founding fathers were two brothers, Bertold and Konrad, Dukes of Zähringen. Well, they were both dukes but not at the same time. Bertold III (1111-1122) liked the art of warfare and while campaigning he told his brother Konrad (1122-1152) to look that everything stayed in order at home. You probably already guessed, Bertold was killed in action in 1122 while he was fighting in Alsace near the village of Molsheim west of Strasburg.

Already before in 1114, he was defeated when he went to war against Cologne, at that time the biggest (40,000 inhabitants) and richest city on German territory. He was captured but as a prisoner of war was kept in easy custody waiting for the ransom to be paid. While strolling around the vibrant city it is sai that he had the idea of transforming the village back home at the foot of the castle, his father had built, into a marketplace.

Model of the Zähringer castle on Freiburg's Schlossberg on display at the exhibition.
Today only an overgrown scree is left.
When liberated and back in his castle he told his brother to go ahead with the plans for a market while he went to war again. The condition Bertold imposed was that Konrad should model the market's charter according to Cologne’s municipal law. This original document dated 1120 is regarded as Freiburg's foundation charter.

Already ninety-eight years later the dynasty of the Dukes of Zähringen died out. Bertold V who had started Freiburg’s Munster church around the year 1200 was buried in the same building in 1218. Bertold V was the last Zähringer for he only had two surviving daughters, Agnes and Anna, whose husbands not only quarreled over the heritage between each other but with King Friederich II too. Eventually, Egino of Urach, Agnes’ husband, inherited the Breisgau and its city and subsequently called himself Count of Freiburg.

Back to the Dukes of Zäringen; they not only founded the city of Freiburg im Breisgau (1120) but another Freiburg im Üechtland (1157), i.e., in Burgundy nowadays a canton in Switzerland. In addition the dukes laid the cornerstones for the following cities or developed older agglomerations into cities as there are Villingen (1119), Rheinfelden (1130), Murten (1170), Burgdorf (1175), Neuenburg (1175), Thun (1180), Bern (1191), and Bräunlingen (1203).

Those of you who like to read German here is the link to an illustrated history of the House of Zähringen.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Das Beste

Waiting for my session of balance training at the geriatrics and gerontology center of Freiburg’s university I looked at the journals on display in the waiting room. The following booklet caught my eye: 70 years of Reader’s Digest, Das Beste für Sie of September 2018.


When I turned over the jubilee issue I couldn't believe my eyes. The editor had reprinted a few pages of the first German edition of September 1948: Das Beste aus (Best of) Reader’s Digest for the price of 1 Deutsche Mark (DM).  Only three months earlier, on June 20, 1948, Germany’s zones occupied by the western allies had the German currency reformed changing from Reichsmark to Deutsche Mark.


In 1948 one DM was a lot of money for which you could buy four loaves of bread of one pound each. At that time a good monthly salary was around 400 DM and we had to change 4.20 DM for a dollar.

Today an issue of the German edition of Reader’s Digest costs 4,20 euro, an increase in price by a factor of 8.5 while good monthly salaries are around 3000 euro, i.e., a factor of 15 higher than in 1948. For the present price of an issue of RD nowadays you only get two loaves of bread while a dollar is worth 0.88 euro being equivalent to 1.76 DM.

Yes, times have changed, but I was all electrified remembering that as a high school student shortly after the war Best of Reader’s Digest was a revelation for me. Three years after the war I read unknown facts about the world that opened my eyes and that I did not find in my boring German textbooks. Mind you textbooks for schools were subject of approval by the three western occupying forces. I still have my original Latin textbook and the English grammar book with the following imprimatur:

The permission by the three occupying forces in the order of their importance
 "the US, the UK, and France" or in alphabetical order "America, Britain, and France?"
With trembling hands, I opened the few pages of the reprint of 1948.


The great narrator Archibald Joseph Cronin unknown to me at that time was the author of the first article but the second contribution about Galileo Galilei I certainly had read as an adolescent. Was this the spark that decided on my later studies and profession?


The monthly issues of Reader’s Digest accompanied me through the years up to my graduation from high-school. I remember that I even kept a collection of those booklets. Nowadays I realize that Reader's Digest was one of the many efforts by the US to re-educate the German people, a seed that fell on fertile grounds in my case.

A somewhat timid advertising by the German Ford factory
located in Cologne and destroyed completely during the war,
but in 1948 already producing trucks for a special performance:
Strong - reliable and rapid in the service of reconstruction.
Note: No passenger cars were built at that time.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Hazelnut is Black-Brown

Dr. Conrad Gröber


Schwarzbraun ist die Haselnuss is the start of a German folk song, and the next line may be changed to ... and black-brown is Conrad too, i.e., Dr. Conrad Gröber, late archbishop of Freiburg and during the Third Reich nicknamed "Der Braune Conrad". Red Baron wrote about Gröber’s disregard for #MeToo in an earlier blog.

On Monday I listened to a lecture by Professor Wolfgang Proske titled: Erzbischof Conrad Gröber: Was ist dran an den Nazi-Vorwürfen? (Archbishop Conrad Gröber: The Nazi accusations, what is it about?).

It is well accepted that Gröber was a Helfershelfer (accomplice) of the Nazi regime. Professor Proske documented Gröber’s attitude with several slides. The copyright of all those is with Professor Proske.

During the Freiburg Synod on April 25 to 28, 1933, the archbishop called for a collaboration with the new regime:


"The constitutional state (!) and the republic are outdated in the parliamentary form they have had heretofore. We had to fear [---] that socialism and communism would soon overthrow and dominate all of Germany, but they are interned or on the brink of flight*. Blatant atheism and proletarian free-thinking [---] are dead religiously. Today we witness flight, sudden immersion, and complete death. Something new irresistibly prepares its way instead" [---] "We must not and we cannot reject the new state but must affirm it with unwavering cooperation. [---] We must adapt. [---] We must get involved.” And Gröber added, “Neither need we change our goals nor our ways nor basically ourselves, at most we need to change our method”.
*By that time the Communist Party was already outlawed and apprehended members were either dead or interned in concentration camps. The Social Democrat Party was outlawed on June 22, 1933.

While visiting Baden’s capital Karlsruhe on October 10, 1933, Gröber had fully embraced the Nazi regime:


"I am not revealing a secret when I declare that in the course of the last few months the church administration in Freiburg (!) and the government in Karlsruhe (!) have had the most friendly relations. I also think that I am not revealing a secret to you or to the German people when I say that I am fully (!) behind the new government and the new Reich.”

In June of 1933, a discussion flared in Freiburg whether religious classes in schools should be started with the Hitler salute. Trying to avoid any clash between the Catholic church and the Nazi regime Gröber decided that the salute may be followed by a "Praised be Jesus Christ".


On July 14, 1933, the Nazis issued the Law against the foundation of new parties making the NSDAP the only legal organization. The new rulers nevertheless organized a propaganda campaign without precedent for the election of the Reichstag (German parliament) on November 12, 1933, hoping for an overwhelming majority. Happy about the Reichskonkordat (Treaty between the Holy See and the German Reich) that Archbishop Conrad Gröber had advised on and German Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen had signed in Rome on July 20, the Catholic bishops* hastened to call their lambs to the polls for a freudige Stimmabgabe für den Führer (joyful vote for the Führer). The result of the election gave a stunning 92.1% for the single, the Nazi ticket.
*The Catholic party, the Zentrum, had decided its self-dissolution on July 5.

In 1935 Gröber wrote about the resistance of Catholics against the new regime in a truly Lutheran way*:
*Luther always claimed that Christians must be righteous, obedient, faithful subjects and are obliged to obey their worldly authorities.


"The Church forbids [...] insubordination and subversion, i.e., the illegal elimination of an existing state order, just as Christ had refused to acquire the favor of the people by political means and to call for internal and external resistance by raising arms against the hated Roman rule. [...] Even authorities who abuse their rights do not readily lose their rights”.

Dr. Max Joseph Metzger
Not only resistance fighters but pacifists too were auszumerzende Pestbeulen am Volkskörper (pestilential boils on the body of people to be eradicated) in the eyes of the Nazi regime. When on October 14, 1943, the Catholic priest Max Joseph Metzger was sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof for his pacifist convictions, Conrad Gröber sent one letter to the President of the People's Court, Roland Freisler, "I deeply regret the crime of which he is guilty". In a second letter to the Reichsjustizminister (Minister of Justice) Otto Georg Thierak, Gröbner recommended not to inflict the death penalty but rather to send Metzger to the front so he may die a Heldentod (hero’s death). Gröber’s letter delayed Metzger’s execution on the guillotine by six months.

In 1935 Gröber wrote in his diary:


"From 1935 on (I belonged) to the pronounced opponents of the system."

Was this the reason that Gröber’s homilies in Freiburg’s minster church drew such enormous crowds during the Nazi area? What he said - he was an excellent preacher - must have been enlightening in the brown times or even brightening, e.g., when in 1939 he tried to prove by a somewhat Kafkaesque argumentation that Jesus was a half-Jew "only":


"By his human nature, Christ descended from a Jewish tribe. But only on his mother's side. Begotten by the Holy Spirit he had no earthly father,[...]. So Christ was the child of a Jewish mother. And in this sense salvation, according to his own words, comes from the Jews. Otherwise, however, he is enormously different from all the others in the Jewish country of that time. Yes, he almost forms a noticeable, sharp contrast to them, well-founded in his person and teaching.»

During the war, Gröber became deeply concerned about his Church. In 1942 he wrote to Bishop Heinrich Wienken (Berlin):


"I leave it up to you to judge who disturbs the inner front more, the Gestapo (Secret State Police) or our clergy. It would be wiser to deal with the communists, who are a real danger to the inner front, instead of troubling priests, Catholics, and Christians".

Gröber always remained in the focus of the Gestapo, but during the war, the Nazi regime could neither attack the Church openly nor take the risk of creating martyrs. Gröber became "the most evil agitator against the Third Reich", and by 1940 he had developed into "the greatest enemy of the NSDAP and the National Socialist state", as the Minister of Culture of Baden noted. In February 1940 Reichspropagandaminister Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary: "The Archbishop Gröber of Freiburg delivered a New Year's Eve speech that is clear-cut treason. We'll have to snatch the guy later."

The Gestapo summoned Gröber on several occasions but he survived all interrogations and the war. So he claimed “Soviel ist sicher, dass ich durch die geheime Staatspolizei und ihre Helfershelfer seelisch mehr gelitten habe als viele von denen, die in Dachau misshandelt wurden oder starben“ (One thing is sure. I have suffered more emotionally through the secret state police and their accomplices than many of those who were abused or died at Dachau).


In 1947 the former sponsoring member of the SS number 400609 of March 6, 1934, Conrad Gröber wrote to the governor of the French occupation zone:


"I never belonged to the party or any of its organizations."

What a hypocrite. May God have mercy on Conrad’s soul.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Havdalah and El Malei Rachamim

On November 9, 80 years ago during the Reichskristallnacht, synagogues burned all over Germany. It was the beginning of a Jewish genocide without precedent. My German-speaking friends may read the story of the burning of Freiburg’s synagogue here.

Freiburg's Old Synagogue as seen by the painter Alexander Dettmar
On November 10, Red Baron went to Freiburg’s new synagogue for the celebration of Havdalah marking the end of Sabbath and, fitting to the occasion, the singing of El Malei Rachamim in remembrance of 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust:

God, full of mercy, who dwells in the heights, provide a sure rest upon the Divine Presence's wings, within the range of the holy and the pure, whose shining resemble the sky's, all the souls of the six million Jews, victims of the European Holocaust, who were murdered, slaughtered, burnt and exterminated for the Sanctification of the Name, by the German Nazi assassins and their helpers from the rest of the peoples. Therefore, the Master of Mercy will protect them forever, from behind the hiding of his wings, and will tie their souls with the rope of life. The Everlasting is their heritage, the Garden of Eden shall be their resting room, and they shall rest peacefully upon their lying place, they will stand for their fate in the end of days, and let us say: Amen

In Wikipedia we read: The ritual of Havdala involves lighting a special candle with several wicks, blessing a cup of wine and smelling sweet spices.

While Irina Katz, chairwoman of Freiburg's Israelite Community,
lights the wicks of the candle, Cantor Moshe Hayoun sings the Havdalah.
Irina Katz is holding the Havdalah candle and Moshe Hayoun is blessing the wine.
Havdala and El Malei Rachamim were followed by a remembrance of the Reichskristallnacht.

Corner of remembrance at Freiburg's new synagogue
Mayor Ulrich von Kirchbach presented a copy of the painting by Alexander Dettmar.

Mayor Ulrich von Kirchbach finding the right words
Next was my friend Andreas Meckel talking about: 80 Years Ago, Pogrom 1938, Accounting of a Governmental Crime.

Irina Katz introduces the speaker of the evening, Andreas Meckel
By describing in detail the events on November 9, 1938, and beyond the speaker kept the memory alive. Thank you, Andreas, for your devotion to the cause.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Ehre, Freiheit, Vaterland !

Honor, freedom, and fatherland is the motto of Germany’s student fraternities (Deutsche Burschenschaften).

Red Baron’s apartment block neighbors two of Freiburg’s fraternities. Teutonia has its fraternity house besides, Franconia on the other side of the street. As a friendly gesture, these two Burschenschaften regularly invite their neighbors to their events as there are lectures, garden parties etc. Red Baron reported on a lecture in the past.

Last Saturday I followed an invitation to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the foundation of a Burschenschaft in Freiburg on October 10, 1818. At that time Freiburg had 10,000 inhabitants and there were 200 young men studying at the university. Today these figures are 220,000 and 20,000 and there are more women than men. For the celebration Teutonia as the organizing host had combined its efforts with those of the two other Freiburg fraternities Franconia and Saxonia-Silesia.

The initial Urburschenschaft (original fraternity) founded at the University of Jena on June 12, 1815, pursued the idea of abolishing the then existing compatriot fraternities and bringing all students together in a "general fraternity". As a side effect, following the Napoleon wars, the still existing 50 German states were to be abolished in favor of a united Germany. The colors adopted by the Urburschenschaft were black-red-gold that later became and are still the colors of Germany.

A warm welcome
When I arrived at the Historisches Kaufhaus I was greeted by a cordon of riot police protecting those willing to attend the celebration against about one hundred protesters of the Antifascist Left. They were shouting and drumming against the allegedly reactionary and elitist behavior of the Burschenschaften.

Inside at the historical Kaisersaal, all orators were anxious to stress that their fraternities stand firmly on the ground of Germany's democratic Grundgesetz (constitution). They were neither looking backward nor were they right-wing but fully devoted to a Germany in a united Europe and not to a German Europe. Burschenschaften were not nationalist but rather patriotic what the word patria (Vaterland) implies.

So apparently no one of the protestors had listened to or understood French President Macron’s critical words addressed to the self-proclaimed nationalist POTUS*: « Le patriotisme est l'exact contraire du nationalisme. Le nationalisme en est la trahison. En disant « nos intérêts d'abord et qu'importent les autres ! », on gomme ce qu'une Nation a de plus précieux, ce qui la fait vivre : ses valeurs morales. » ("Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying 'our interests first; who cares about the others! ', we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life — its moral values.")
*You know what I am? I am a nationalist.

We were listening to music
Keynote speaker in the morning was Professor Werner Münch, former Ministerpräsident (Governer) of the state of Saxonia-Anhalt, a right-wing Christian Democrat, and a harsh critic of Chancellor Merkel's rather liberal policy. The title of his talk: Freiheit und Rechtsstaatlichkeit in der Demokratie - Chancen und Gefahren (Freedom and the Rule of Law in Democracy - Opportunities and Dangers).

Professor Münch in full action
During his lecture my emotions were roller-coasting. Her rightly said that in Germany there is a mainstream of political correctness and those not following it feel excluded. But then all his examples to make his point were right-leaning, e.g., when he lamented that same-sex marriages in Germany now were considered as normal while at the same time traditional family values were eroded.

He continued to look at all controversial topics in Germany through his conservative glasses as there are refugees and immigration, energy transition, atomic energy and climate change, digitization, social media, and fake information etc. He was rubbing salt into hardly healed wounds of German society. Instead of building up a mutual understanding he was deepening the trenches between various ideologies in German society. He was just an angry old white man. While a few applauded him frenetically, others spent only muted applause, Red Baron did not applaud at all.

As one of the first guests Red Baron left for home disappointed and stirred. When I arrived at the cloakroom to fetch my coat a young Burschenschafter approached me recommending that I leave in a group or use the back door. Marauding leftists groups might attack single persons. With my head high I left the building through the front door and noticed that riot policemen and -women were not only protecting the perimeter of the Historisches Kaufhaus but were stationed throughout Freiburg. What an effort to protect 200 people against groups ready to use violence and what a big expenditure to assure the freedom of association and speech.

In the evening the colors of Freiburg's fraternities were still flying at the Historisches Kaufhaus.
At the right-hand side a few bored riot policemen and -women. Left, in front of the entrance
 a few fraternity students inhaling their last cigarettes before joining singing and drinking
 at the illuminated Kaisersaal on the first floor.
In the evening Red Baron felt reconciled when he went to the Festkommers (festive commercium) in the same building drinking beer and singing student songs. Although Rainer Wieland’s* fest speech on the future of Europe was too long I enjoyed the evening flushing with beer the old traditional songs as there are In allen guten Stunden (All those good hours), Burschen heraus (Come on fra students), and Freiheit, die ich meine (The freedom that I claim).
*Vice-president of the European Parliament

To my pleasant neighbors Teutonia and Franconia a strong vivat, crescat, floreat!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Obituary on America


Yesterday night Red Baron went to a reading of and a talk with Klaus Brinkbäumer, former editor in chief of the renowned magazine Der Spiegel. As you may imagine - even though people had to pay an entrance fee - the auditorium was fully packed with listeners eager to learn whether America will become great again and that in spite of the dark title of Brinkbäumer’s thick book: Nachruf auf Amerika.

In her usual competent and charming way, Friederike Schulte, director of the Carl-Schurz-Haus, introduced the speaker who had spent many years of his career as a journalist in New York traveling the States as correspondent of Der Spiegel.

To whet the appetite of the auditorium Brinkhäuser started by mentioning that he had interviewed Donald Trump at his NY Tower in 2004 but the outcome of the meeting had been so meager that he renounced to write an article about the real estate mogul. Then suddenly in 2008 Brinkbäumers telephone rang and Trump was on the other end of the line. He wanted to speak to the young journalist hopeful from Germany.

This second story actually was Brinkhäuser‘s beginning of his reading but then he continued going into the differences and similarities between the German and English language citing well-known examples of the wrong use of English words in German as there are the public viewing for watching television in a group or body bag for a lady's purse.  He stretched Mark Twain’s complaint about the terrible German language and read about neologisms like Handy in German for a cell phone. According to him, Wellness is a German neologism too, i.e., a short form of "well being" and "fitness".

By that time some unrest had developed within the audience. Suddenly a distinguished lady got hold of a microphone and told the speaker - as only a distinguished lady can do - that she knew the States well and in coming here had expected to be informed about the aftermath of the midterm elections.

Suddenly both reading and the talk were forgotten and the speaker and his audience entered into a lively discussion. While Brinkbāumer mentioned that Hillary‘s flying over Wisconsin had been a big mistake* I could get my message in that Madison was Freiburg‘s sister city and that Wisconsin now has a Democrat governor.
*Red Baron still remembers, watching television in the early morning hours (CET) on November 9, 2016, when the results of Wisconsin finally tipped the balance in favor of Donald Trump.

In his answers to the questions from the audience, Brinkbāumer often remained vague and imprecise. When he said that Trump‘s tax reform privileged the already rich so they may consume even more he forgot to tell that above all the reform lowered the US corporate tax inviting American firms to repatriate jobs and money.

 I said that the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller by Jeff Sessions‘s successor Matthew Whitaker would disturb the US system of checks and balances or - as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer put it - even evoke a major constitutional crisis. When Brinkbäumer answered that the firing of Mueller was not excluded but in view of the consequences rather unlikely I, like Faust‘s famulus, was no wiser than before.

Somewhat disappointed I left the auditorium.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Luther and No End









Last Sunday night Red Baron was at the Konzerthaus (concert hall) to listen to the one and only performance of the pop oratorio Luther - Das Projekt der tausend Stimmen in Freiburg.

Rather than 1000 voices, here at the Konzerthaus we  listened to five local choirs with just 300 singers aged between 6 and 85 years clustered on stage. A permanent ensemble of fourteen professional singers and six instrumentalists who had toured Germany performing the oratorio throughout the Luther year 2017 completed the setup.

The participation of as many local lay persons as possible is the main aim of composer Dieter Falk and librettist Michael Kunze. So the music, a mixture of gospel, soul, pop, rock, and old church music, was simple, easy listening, and repetitive.

Introducing the singers. Sitting in row five I couldn't get them all in my photo.
First Mayor and Freiburg's culture man, Ullrich von Kirchbach, welcomes the audience.
Indulgence preacher Johann Tetzel picturing the tortures of hell.
Indulgence for sale. Note the nearly filled money box.
Enter Martin Luther.
Emperor and playboy, Charles V, is bored by the religious quarrel.
Luther confidently holding the letter to the Romans 3:28 and quoting:
For we reckon a man to be justified by faith alone without deeds of law
while the original Greek text leaves out the word alone.
Some of the professional actors
with little Luther recruited locally and trained on the job.
Post-finale: Singers and actors are waving and clapping hands with the audience.
So in the end, the audience was invited to clap its hands and sing the catchy melodies in a medley.

All in all, it was a pleasant evening.

For your listening experience here are three trailers on YouTube of performances in DortmundBerlin, and Munich.