Thursday, August 29, 2019

Changes in Burial Culture

The trend of changing from casket burial (Erdbestattung) to cremation (Urnenbestattung) has dramatic consequences for the maintenance of cemeteries. Red Baron went to a presentation explaining the development in Freiburg.

The introductory talk by Freiburg's mayor of finances, Stefan Breiter, was followed by a long walk over the 27 ha (66 acres) main cemetery.

Mr. Martin Leser, the head of Freiburg's cemeteries (a total of 17 !), showed that less surface is needed for burials when nowadays 70% of the people opt for cremation or even have the ashes of their defuncts spread in a grove (Hainbestattung). Ten years ago still, 70% preferred a casket burial.

It was Elisabeth's wish to be buried in the traditional way.

Pebble pond and letterbox
 We also passed by the fetus burial area. Parents had asked the municipal council for a possibility to express their mourning. Following existing examples, Freiburg's cemetery administration introduced a pond of pebbles. Parents may label the individual stones and write the last letter to their lost babies.

Within ten years Freiburg's main cemetery has become greener.
The final discussion took place at the central consecration hall. We were informed that due to less revenue but an increasing workload maintaining more and smaller lawn surfaces between existing and remaining burial sites* the cemetery administration is working on a new financing scheme.
*At Freiburg plots are ”bought” for 15 years. If the burial lease is not renewed, the site is vacated.

Temporary use for unneeded surfaces: Gardening, pet cemetery, and bees.
To reduce costs, some participants proposed during the discussion that lawn mowing is stopped and wildflowers are allowed to grow.

Here Red Baron learned that meadows need Magerböden (poor soils) while the soil at the cemetery is fertile as required for lawns. This is why in one case, peripherally located plots were liberated and alloted to private gardening (Schrebergärten).

In the end, Mr. Leser summarized his talk:

Cemeteries are central places of mourning and remembrance and should remain so!

Present-day societies require multicultural cemeteries meeting the burial needs of different ethnic and religious groups.

Cemeteries will change their appearance by choosing more and more easy-care burials.

Cemeteries must continue to fulfill their function as monofunctional green spaces.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Splinters 2

Here comes the second issue of Splinters.


Remember my blog about Bielefeld a place that does not exist? Bielefeld gibt es nicht.

©Stadt Bielefeld
The city of Bielefeld would like to kill the conspiracy theory for good and is offering a reward of one million euros for the definite proof that Bielefeld does not exist.

With this gag, Bielefeld’s marketing department would like to make the city more attractive to tourists.


In his ballad Der Graf von Habsburg (The Count of Habsburg) Friedrich Schiller wrote the following lines in 1803: Denn geendigt nach langem verderblichen Streit, War die kaiserlose, die schreckliche Zeit (So ended after long and depraving quarrels, The terrible time without an emperor).

Schiller is referring to the so-called interregnum when the Holy Roman Empire was without an emperor from 1245 to 1273.

Mourning the dead king (©Wikipedia)
In fact, contemporaries had already mourned, "Also das Römische rich eine Wile one kieser stunt".

History repeats itself for from August 24 to September 1, Kieser Training in Freiburg is closed for a total renovation of its premises. Depending much on his muscle training Red Baron tuned in, "This will be a kieserlose, schreckliche Zeit."


I still remember the golden eighties when staying in New York on a Sunday morning I hunted for electronics in Jewish shops located on 34th street. Listening to the sales personnel talking Yiddish I nearly felt at home. This came to my mind when I read the following invitation on the Internet:

Most of the words are not of German origin but are derived from Hebrew so I had to look them up. Let me start enlarging my vocabulary:

chazer > a pig
ganef > a thief
ligner (Lügner) > a lier
mamser > a bastard
nebbish > a meek and timid person
nokhshleper (Nachschlepper) > a person hanging on becoming a burden
pisher > a pisser
putz (Putzlaputz) > a stupid and worthless person
schlub > a stupid, worthless, or unattractive person
schmegegge > bullshit
schmuck > a jerk, idiot (pejorative for penis);
schnorrer (Schnorrer) > a person asking for small things (cigarettes, a drink) without offering anything in return
shande (Schande) > a disgrace
shleger (Schläger) > a brawler
shtarker (Starker) > a strong person
tsvuak > a hypocrite

Schwarze Null

Maybe you have already read about Germany’s black zero. During recent years our Ministers of Finance were stubbornly watching that the federal budget remained balanced.

©Der Spiegel
Admire the Schwarze Null formed by the staff in the courtyard of the Federal Ministry of Finances in Berlin. They honor the leaving Wolfgang Schäuble (Christian Democrat) who was followed by Olaf Scholz (Social Democrat).

Presently the pressure is on to behead the holy cow with the blade of new debts. Fresh money is needed for investments in the moderation of the effects of climate change.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A German Legend

While in Berlin Red Baron visited the Emil Nolde exhibition at the old Hamburg train station. Here is the copy of two pages of the flyer (©Nationalgalerie).

You are looking at the main entrance of the historic terminus for all trains arriving from Hamburg. Like all old cities, Berlin suffered from the fact that trains from various directions ended in railhead stations at the former city fortifications. So there were the Dresden, Stettin, Silesian, Görlitz, Lehrte (Hannover), Anhalt, and Potsdam termini. People who wanted to pass through Berlin not only had to change trains but stations as well, just what the many horse-drawn cabs were waiting for. Only since Germany's reunification Berlin has a Hauptbahnhof (central station) with an upper and lower level where trains running from west to east and from south to north cross and meet.

A look into the former platform hall.
The building is now called Museum für Gegenwart (contemporary art) and is part of the National Gallery.
In the staircase, a photo of the artist and his wife.
In the back his atelier building at Niebüll near the Danish border.
The Nolde exhibition was on the upper floor. Red Baron took photos, but it is a pity that the copyright does not permit to show you some of his colorful expressionist masterpieces.

Having understood the statement shown above about Nolde's degenerate art (Entartete Kunst), it is difficult to realize that he was a convinced Nazi and anti-Semite. As Wikipedia writes, "Nolde was a supporter of the National Socialist German Workers' Party from the early 1920s, having become a member of its Danish section. "

In his book titled Years of Fighting* in 1934 Nolde wrote, "At the age of 18 I had seen the first Jew in Flensburg [...] Jews have much intelligence and spirituality, but only a little soul and little creative gift.
*Cf. to Hitler's book "Mein Kampf"

Later "he expressed anti-semitic, negative opinions about Jewish artists, and considered Expressionism to be a distinctively Germanic style. This view was shared by some other members of the Nazi party, notably Joseph Goebbels".

But Hitler was against all degenerate art, "and the Nazi regime officially condemned Nolde's work. Until that time he had been held in great esteem in Germany. A total of 1,052 of his works were removed from museums, more than those of any other artist (Wikipedia)."

Nolde protested vigorously, but some of his paintings were part of the exhibition Entartete Kunst in Munich in 1937. On Juli 2, 1938, Nolde wrote in a letter to Goebbels that he saw himself "as almost the only German artist in the open fight against the alienation of German art*."
*Cf. to Philipp Lenard's book "Deutsche Physik."

Goebbels visiting the exhibition Entartete Kunst.
To his left two paintings of Nolde showing scenes from the Bible.
Here a photo that I took from a film shown at the Berlin exhibition.
Nolde's cycle The Life of Christ is prominently seen in the back.
Behind an art expert trying to disentangle Nolde's entanglement in the Nazi ideology,
the same paintings as above are shown.
So you may get a forefeeling of Nolde's richness in color.
On August 23, 1941, Nolde was expelled from the Reichskammer der bildenden Künste (National Chamber of Fine Arts) because of "lack of reliability."

Note Nolde's weakness in spelling: Tod instead of tot. Tod (noun) means death.
On May 6, 1945, Nolde wrote in his diary, "Hitler is dead. He was my enemy. His cultural dilettantism brought much suffering, persecution, and ostracism to my art and to me. Now he is dead."

After the war, Nolde's exclusion from the National Chamber of Fine Arts was überhöht (exaggerated) as a "ban on painting", though it merely meant a ban on the purchase of all artists' supplies such as oil paints, canvas, and brushes as well as the prohibition of the sale, exhibition, and reproduction of his works.

Nolde was able to continue painting privately, spending his time mostly doing watercolors and flower paintings that were called the "Unpainted Pictures*" after the war when Nolde's role as a Nazi victim emerged. Siegfried Lenz's bestseller novel Deutschstunde emphasized Nolde's victimhood substantially describing the fate of a fictitious painter Max Ludwig Nansen in the Nazi area.
*The watercolors frequently served Nolde as templates for oil paintings after the war

Nolde was ranked in group V as unencumbered.
Because of his Berufsverbot (occupational ban) of 1941 and his Absage gegen das Regime (rejection of the regime), Nolde received the note "unencumbered" in his process of denazification.

Nolde's Persilschein for a local farmer he signed with Dr. Emil Nolde
As a prominent victim of the Nazi regime, he issued several Persilscheine* for friends. In 1946 the man who never studied became an honorary professor. There were no objections. Only one critic called the painter an entarteter Entarter (degenerated degenerator) on the occasion of Nolde's 80th birthday and an exhibition of his works in 1947. In 1952 Nolde received as one of the first persons the new German medal Pour le Merite of Science and Art.
*Certificates to bleach former Nazis, for "Nothing bleaches whiter than Persil" a well known German washing powder

Emil Nolde, as an artist undisputed, but as a human being, he remains forever in the twilight.

President Obama in Merkel's office. In the right upper corner,
you may guess Nolde's colorful seaside painting of 1936 "Brecher" (The Breaker).
P.S.: Until recently Angela Merkel's office in the chancellery was decorated by two Emil Nolde paintings. Our chancellor had them removed given the painter's past.

Monday, August 19, 2019


Here is a model of the Berlin Museum Island. The two arms of the river Spree in black forming the island are clearly visible. In the back, the Hohenzollern City Castel in dark gray is under reconstruction. It will be called the Humboldt Forum, a place of exhibition and cultural exchange. On the left in light gray rises the "new" Lutheran Berliner Dom (cathedral) compensating somehow - as I explained - for the Catholic Kölner Dom (Cologne cathedral).

The Museumsinsel proper is filled with the relatively small Altes Museum followed by the Neues Museum and to the left by the Alte Nationalgalerie. Behind the massive building of the Pergamonmuseum dominates the scene and last not least the Bode-Museum is located at the island's end.

The James Simon Galerie. In the background the still shabby facade of the Neues Museum.
As of late, the Berlin Museum Island has an extra attraction, the James Simon Galery.

The new central entrance facility giving access to all five museums on the island is named after the great "benefactor Henri James Simon, a German entrepreneur, art collector, philanthropist and patron of the arts during the Wilhelmine period (Wikipedia)."

Here are some maps of Berlin's center showing the development of the Museumsinsel:

In 1696 baroque fortification protect the City Castel and the
royal garden later called Lustgarten.
Further to the north, the island is fallow land.
In 1804 the city had extended to the west with the Zeughaus, Prinz Heinrich Palais,
the opera, St. Hedwigskirche and the Französische Kirche on Gendarmenmarkt.
Only small building activity is seen on the island in the north.
In fact, the Berlin Museum Island was initiated by order of the Prussian King Frederik Wilhelm IV on 8 March 1841, "Implementation of my plan to transform the entirety of the Spree island behind the Museum into a sanctuary of the arts and sciences."

In 1841 the now called Altes Museum already existed and further north the building of the
Neues Museum is finished. Note the old Berliner Dom on the right of the Lustgarten.
The Prince Heinrich Palais has become the University.
In 1908 four museums had been built. The Pergamonmuseum ist still missing.
Note the massive new Berliner Dom on the right of the Lustgarten.
When Red Baron recently was in Berlin, he visited the Neues Museum and the Alte Nationalgalerie on a Sunday morning. I was there early to avoid the crowds of tourists invading, in particular, the Pergamonmuseum but the Neues Museum too. There you find James Simon's most popular gift the Nefertiti bust, Berlin‘s Mona Lisa.

Double Statue of the Princesses Luise and Friederike of Prussia
by Johann Gottfried Schadow
This time I concentrated on the Alte Nationalgalerie where I was greeted at the entrance by two charming sisters, Luise and Friederike, Johann Gottfried Schadow's masterpiece. Luise, Prussian queen by marriage to Frederick William III, resisted Napoleon more than her husband. Therefore, many of my countrymen venerate the beautiful patriot as Germany's Jeanne d'Arc.

Paintings with famous court scenes by Prussia's glorifier, Adolph Menzel, dominate the exhibition in the Old National Gallery.

Proclamation of Wilhelm I as Deutscher Kaiser at Versailles by Anton von Werner.
This painting is not in Berlin's National Gallery. I took the photo at Friedrichsruh
in the Sachsenwald forest where retired Bismarck spent his remaining years.
But there are paintings of Anton von Werner too the well-known painter of the Kaiserproklamation at Versailles.

Anton von Werner 1895:
Crown Prince Frederick at the Court Ball in 1878
Von Werner also portrayed tout Berlin in the Second Reich. Stately Crown Prince Frederick Wilhelm in the white uniform of a cuirassier is the undisputed star of the Berlin society. On him are based all the hopes of a necessary liberalization of the Prussian state of authority. And the prince surrounds himself with liberals: Opposite stand two co-founders of the Progressive Party, Berlin's mayor and President of the Reichstag Max von Forckenbeck, and in the red robe of the dean of the medical faculty the physician Rudolf Virchow, whose political leitmotif is freedom paired with its daughters: education and prosperity.

Between the Crown Prince and Virchow stands the physiologist and physicist Hermann von Helmholtz, President of the Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt. Finally, von Werner pays respects to his famous colleague Adolph Menzel - also liberal-minded - showing the little man entering the White Hall at the City Castle through the door.

Back to Adolph Menzel.

Adolph Menzel by Reinhold Begas 1875
Adolph Menzel 1850/51: Flute concert by Frederick the Great at Sanssouci
Menzel's best-known painting of 1850/52 is the Flute Concert of Frederick the Great at Sanssouci. The venue is the concert hall in Sanssouci Castle. King Frederick II is in the center. On the left behind him sitting on the sofa as the guest of honor, his sister, Margravine Wilhelmine von Bayreuth. To her left is the other sister of the king, Princess Amalie, later becoming the Abbess of Quedlinburg.

The standing gentlemen from left to right are Baron Jakob Friedrich von Bielfeld, Opera Director Gustav Adolph von Gotter, President of the Academy of Sciences Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, mathematician and physicist, as well as Kapellmeister Carl Heinrich Graun. Sitting behind the king are court lady Countess Sophie Caroline von Camas and Frederick‘s boyhood friend, Isaak Franz Egmont Chevalier de Chasôt.

The musicians are: On the harpsichord Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach; standing right to him Concertmaster Franz Benda. On the right edge of the painting, Johann Joachim Quantz, Frederick's flute teacher.

Adolph Menzel 1844: Rear building and backyard.
Nobody knew in 1844 when Menzel painted a precursor of the Berlin wall that he would become the painter of Prussia's glory.

Adolph Menzel 1848: Round table of Frederick the Great at Sanssouci
The Old National Gallery only has a colored sketch of another famous Menzel painting: Friedrichs Tischrunde in Sansouci.

In all those wars Frederick had waged 180,000 Prussians had died. The Treaty of Hubertusburg in 1763 ended the Third Silesian War. It was called a peace of exhaustion confirmed by the king himself when he wrote, "Our fame in wars is magnificent to look at from afar; but whoever is a witness, in which misery this fame is acquired, under which physical deprivations and efforts in heat and cold, in hunger, dirt, and nakedness, he learns to judge celebrity quite differently.

This is a late insight after 16 bloody battles fought but now Frederick started to act according to the maxims of his Political Testament, "It is the duty of every good citizen to serve his fatherland, to remember that he is not alone in the world for himself, but that he must work for the good of the society in which nature has placed him. I have tried to fulfill this duty according to my weak forces and insights."

Adolph Menzel 1849: A petition Frederick's subjects dare to present during the king's morning ride.
Frederick took up his anti-machiavellian ideas that a ruling prince is the first servant of his state and has the task of making his people happy. He worked like a man possessed on the "retablissment" and on the improvement of the life of his subjects. He also indulged in magnificent buildings such as the New Palace in Potsdam, begun in the year of the peace treaty of 1763 and completed in 1769.

Adolph Menzel 1852: The Jewish cemetery in Prag.
Here is a strange painting. It looks as if Menzel had experimented with cubism.

Adolph Menzel 1857:
The encounter of Frederick II and Emperor Joseph II at Neisse in 1769 (Sketch)
Another famous Menzel painting shows the reconciliation between Prussia and Austria.

Adolph Menzel 1857:
The encounter of Frederick II and Emperor Joseph II at Neisse in 1769
There is a marked difference between the colored sketch and the final painting. The encounter between the young Kaiser Joseph II and aging Frederick is warmer, more intimate in the finished work. In 1857 Menzel did not know that nine years later the two German dynasties would fight a fraternal war for supremacy.

Adolph Menzel 1857: Handshake between the Duke of Wellington and Blücher
after the battle of Belle-Alliance (Waterloo)
In the same year, Menzel also finished a painting of Prussian glory that you saw already.

Adolph Menzel 1871:
The departure of King Wilhelm I from Berlin on 31 Juli 1870 to meet his army.
Finally, as an old man, Menzel adulated the victory over archenemy France in 1871.

At the terrasse of the James Simon Gallery.
People look down on to the left branch of the river Spree.
The restaurant is inside the building behind the windows.
So much history called for a meal and a drink. The personnel of the restaurant at the James Samuel Galery was not run in yet. Although the waiting time was long, the food was not too bad.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Walking in Berlin

On the last day of his recent visit to Berlin, Red Baron visited Kieser Training at Berlin-Mitte.

Nobel Prize winner Robert Koch
Their premises are located near the Charité, the famous hospital where giants of medicine including Rudolph Virchow, Emil von Behring, Robert Koch, Paul Ehrlich, and Ferdinand Sauerbruch practiced.

The entrance to Kieser Training Berlin-Mitte is somewhat hidden.

The reception in the back has a corporate look.

The narrow lockers were a shock. Only two hangers! My jeans shorts already filled the whole width. What do they do during the winter?

There was little attendance for a Monday morning.

In Freiburg, the training machines are not as tightly positioned.

An exciting addition to machine B1 is foot rollers we do not have in Freiburg.

For lunch, I went to Berlin's Disneyland. To make East Berlin attractive to tourists, the German Democratic Republic constructed an old Berlin quarter around Nicolai Church.

Not many tourists were there at noon, but many eateries invited me for lunch. I chose Bolte's Steakhaus although I was annoyed by the Deppenapostroph in the name that was borrowed from Wilhelm Busch's Max und Moritz.

I did not choose a steak but a specialty of the House: Benser Blutwurst*. The black pudding produced by the famous manufacturer of blutwurst located in Berlin-Neukölln is roasted and served on a slice of apple with a mustard potato mash and onion melt. I downed the sausage with a Berliner Weiße mit Schuss (white beer with a shot of woodruff syrup).
*Note: This traditional dish is not offered on the English menu card.

Here is a painting of Witwe (widow) Bolte seen inside the Steakhaus.

Widow Bolte on her way to the cellar where she keeps her Sauerkraut
Wilhelm Busch rhymed in his comic Max und Moritz:

Daß sie von dem Sauerkohle
Eine Portion sich hole,
Wofür sie besonders schwärmt,
Wenn er wieder aufgewärmt. -

Widow Bolte went for sour
Kraut, which she would devour
Warmed a little on the fire
With exceeding great desire.

Following lunch, I decided to walk along the Spree River in the direction of Humboldt University.

Tourists on boats. The scene looks like Venice. In the background the Berlin cathedral and the Hohenzollern castle under reconstruction as the Humboldt-Forum.

The back facade of the city castle is not reconstructed in its original form.

Following the street, there is on the left the building of our Foreign Ministry and on the right, Karl Friedrich Schinkel's Bauakademie (Building Academy) that "is considered one of the forerunners of modern architecture due to its hithertofore uncommon use of red brick and the relatively streamlined facade of the building" (Wikipedia). To demonstrate the beauty of the building, one corner was reerected in the original masonry. The rest is simulated by painted canvas.

The Schinkel square in front of the Academy is of rare beauty.

The statue of Schinkel is in the middle while that to the left represents Christian Peter Wilhelm Friedrich Beuth called the father of Prussian manufacturing. The one on the right shows Albrecht Conrad Thaer, founder of the science of agriculture.

Looking to the right shows the cupola of the Humboldt-Forum still under construction.

Crossing the Spree River on the Schlossbrücke opens a good view on the Museumsinsel with its new Henri James Simon Forum. Stay tuned for my next blog.

Statue of Alexander von Humboldt in front of Berlin's Humboldt Universität. The University of Havanna dedicated the sculpture to the second discoverer of Cuba in 1939.

In the courtyard of the main university building yet another statue. It represents the physicist Hermann von Helmholtz.

Driving on Unter den Linden with a view on Brandenburg Gate. 
In the back to the left the building of the US embassy.
Being tired, I took the public double-decker bus 100 that is often "abused" by visitors for sightseeing. This famous line runs from Alexanderplatz to Bahnhof Zoo touching most major Berlin sights on its route.

I arrived with the S-Bahn at the Hauptbahnhof (central train station) from where I had a good view of the Reichstag building. To the right the building of the Swiss embassy.

I will end my photostory with an evening view from my hotel with the river Spree in front and the Federal Chancellery (Germany's White House) in the back.