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!

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