Friday, February 21, 2020

Burning Beethoven

is the title of a book by Erik Kirschbaum, alumni of Freiburg's university, years1982/83. The book describes the eradication of German culture in the United States during the First World War. A German translation is available with the more dramatic title, Geteert - gefedert - gelyncht (Tarred - feathered - lynched. The persecution of German immigrants in the USA during the First World War. A forgotten chapter of American history.)

Erik, a descendant of a German-American family, is a native of New York City. He has been based as a correspondent for the Reuters international news agency in Berlin since 1993. He has also worked for the Los Angeles Times, and several prominent European newspapers since 1989. He became widely known for his book Rocking the Wall, Bruce Springsteen: The Berlin Concert That Changed the World.

Prof. Jörn Leonhardt introducing the talk
Last Tuesday Erik gave a talk about his new book at Freiburg's university. The presentation was introduced by Professor Jörn Leonhard, a leading expert of modern European history and author of the bestseller Die Büchse der Pandora, Geschichte des Ersten Weltkriegs (Pandora's Box, A History of the First World War).

Erik Kirschbaum making his argument
In 1914 the population of the United States was about 100 million, of which 8 million were German immigrants. Many regions of the United States were home to a flourishing, vibrant German culture. German Gesangvereine (choral societies) Turnvereine (gymnastic clubs), and breweries with adjacent beer halls thrived in the so-called German triangle between Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. In this context, I learned that in the second half of the 19th-century, initiatives for prohibition led by pietistic Protestants, though successful on a local or state level, failed on the federal level because German and Irish population groups were strongly opposed.

At the outbreak of the war - Brittania ruled the waves - the British cut all the cables between Germany and the United States. So the prerogative of information from the old world was with the British.

During the first two years of the war, the success of this biased information remained limited, and many Americans stayed committed to isolationism. President Woodrow Wilson actually won the reelection in 1916 using the slogan, "He kept us out of the war." However, the content of the so-called Zimmermann telegram addressed to the German ambassador in Mexico, Heinrich von Eckardt, changed it all.

In the dispatch, the German government proposed military and financial support to Mexico for a quid pro quo attack on the United States. In exchange, Mexico would be free to annex "lost territory in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona." This information served as fresh evidence of German aggression. Coupled with the resumed unconditional German submarine attacks, it finally turned the U.S. government in favor of entering the war.

With this, a fury of anti-German hysteria swept the country. The German language was eradicated from schools, churches, and newspapers. Their number, once 488, diminished dramatically, and those surviving had their texts to be translated into English out of fear of spying. German books were burned. A cleansing of the American language produced new words. Sauerkraut became liberty cabbage, dachshunds were renamed liberty pups, and even German measles got the attribute liberty (measles). Didn't we have freedom fries when France and Germany refused to participate in the second Iraqi war?

Suddenly even other foreign languages spoken in the States, e.g. Norwegian, not only became suspicious but were regarded as unpatriotic. Is this one of the reasons that teaching of foreign languages in the States still has such a low priority? How does Pete Buttigieg's unamerican multilingualism compromise his chance of winning the Democrat nomination?

Following the entry of the United States in the war, some German aliens falsely suspected of being spies of the Reich were hanged by mobs, many more German-Americans were attacked, discriminated against, or even sent to internment camps as the flyer announcing Erik's talk informed. The author actually knows of fourteen persons belonging to the German community who were regarded as spies, mistreated by the mob, and finally hanged.

Near the end of the war, an article in the Los Angeles Times even attacked German music as barbaric, a good reason that Erik Kirschbaum chose the alliterated title Burning Beethoven for his book.

P.S.: At the end of the war, there were strong aspirations to make the temporary Wartime Prohibition Act of 1918 the law of the land since the opposition by a "German" population no longer existed. In fact, the U.S. Senat proposed prohibition as the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. As Wikipedia knows," Upon being approved by a 36th state on January 16, 1919, the amendment was ratified as a part of the Constitution. By the terms of the amendment, the country went dry one year later, on January 17, 1920."

Is the fact that the U.S. became dry in 1920 and had to remain abstinent until February 20, 1933, part of the German Kriegsschuld (the guilt of war)?

Saturday, February 15, 2020


or a witness of the darkest time in German history.

In 2005 the United Nations declared 27 January International Holocaust Remembrance Day, commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz

In addition to the official commemoration at Freiburg, the Jewish community scheduled a particularly moving event at the auditorium of the New Synagogue on 2 February, the following Sunday.

Chairwomen Irina Katz of Freiburg's Jewish Community
explains the microphone to Christoph Heubner.
Paul Sobol is sitting on the left, the interpreter in the middle.
They had invited a passeur de mémoire, Paul Sobol, a keeper of memory. As a survivor of Auschwitz, he spoke about his life before, during and after in his French mother tongue. Mrs. Katz wrote, "There were between 220-250 people in the New Synagogue. There have never been so many people since the opening of the synagogue in 1987. Important: There were many young people - pupils and students."

While Mrs. Katz wanted to start the event,
a man approached presenting some gifts to Paul.
Paul Sobol was born in Paris on 26 June 1926 of working-class Jewish parents who had immigrated from Poland to France. In 1928 his father, being a tanner, took the family to Brussels, so young Paul got his schooling in Belgium and assimilanted easily with the Belgian population. Following the German occupation, Jews had to register and were forced to wear the Star of David. The family went underground.

Stolperstein placed in front of the house
 where Paul was arrested
On 13 June 1944, the hideout was denounced to the Gestapo, and the family arrested. They were part of the last convoy deported from Belgium in the direction of Auschwitz. Paul remembers, "There were about a hundred people crammed into one railroad car. We didn't know how long the trip would take. Finally, we had to stay in the wagon for six days. By the time they opened the doors, only 20 or 25 people had survived in my wagon."

At the infamous ramp at Auschwitz the family was selektiert (separated), "You know, I didn't get to hug my mother goodbye." She was murdered in the gas chambers immediately upon arrival.

At the camp, Paul and his father worked as carpenters. When in 1944, the Red Army was approaching, Paul was forced on a Todesmarsch heading west. Finally, following many more life-threatening situations, at the age of 19 and alone, Paul was released on 1 May 1945 by the US-Army.

His parents and his younger brother never came back.

It wasn't until many years later that Paul wrote a book of testimony: Je me souviens d'Auschwitz (I remember Auschwitz).

Friday, February 14, 2020

Sacred | Profane

In 2017 Red Baron blogged about an exposition of wood cuttings by Hans Baldung Grien at Freiburg's House of Graphics Collections. Currently a great show named Heilig | Unheilig of this outstanding German Renaissance artist is taking place at the Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. The exhibition comprises Baldung's entire spectrum of devotional paintings, imposing altarpieces, erotic witches, and sensual nudes. Therefore the title of the show, "sacred | profane", is appropriate.

Starting in 1503, Hans Baldung Grien learned the trade at the atelier of Albrecht Dürer in Nuremberg. At that time, many men were called John, so some art historians claim that Hans, because he loved the color green so much, got the byname Grien distinguishing him from his colleagues in Dürer's workshop.

Self-Portrait (1502)
Here is Hans's early self-portrait showing him as a self-confident young man.

The Adoration of the Kings (around 1506)

"The stained glass is from the Löffelholz Window at the Nuremberg parish church Saint Lorenz. Here Baldung worked together with the important Nuremberg workshop of Veit Hirschvogel, the Elder, whereby he probably not only provided the design but was also involved in the execution of the work himself. Magnificent details such as the ermine-trimmed cloak and the kneeling king's hat, the goldsmith's objects serving as gifts, as well as the colorful dawn making the sky glow are worth a special mention."

The Holy Family in the Room with Five Angels (around 1507)
St. Joseph, not being Jesus's bodily father, is an embarrassing figure for the teaching Church. Medieval paintings of the Holy Family frequently show the carpenter as a small, unimportant, and hidden figure sometimes placed in a corner. In Baldung's Holy Family, Joseph dominates the painting.

"Baldung probably created this devotional picture towards the end of his Nuremberg years. The richly detailed interior offering a view of a river landscape is based on Dutch models. An angel presents Child Jesus with a pear, symbol for overcoming the original sin. Mary's thoughtful expression is explained by the knowledge of the suffering her son is about to endure. The box in the foreground, reminiscent of a sarcophagus, could also be a hint."

Being a well-known artist by 1512, Baldung moved to Freiburg and later in 1519 to Strasborrg.

Hans painted himself on the right on his altarpiece, proudly wearing a red beret.
Yesterday Red Baron listened to a talk by Dr. Eva Maria Breisig at the mason's lodge of the Minster.

©Pogo Engel/Wikipedia
The Freiburg Minster Church enshrines Hans's most frivolous altarpiece showing Christ half-naked in his red cape crowning his mother as the Heavenly Queen.

And Hans placed the following signature:
 John Baldung, called Grien, originating from Gmünd, created it with the help of God and by his own strength.
The altarpiece, finished on 12 June 1512, was not on exhibition at Karlsruhe but could be explored in an informative slide show.

Mother of God with the Sleeping Child (1514)
During his time at Freiburg, Baldung employed a whole team of painters, but the Madonna with the red background hanging in Freiburg's Augustinermuseum clearly carries his master's signature.

"Maria and the Child are set off from the abstract bright red background in a very plastic and precisely modeled way. Both the unusual red background and the death-like sleep of the Child go back to early Christian models. A cryptic dating of the painting has led to various interpretations. Recent infrared photographs show a Gothic four, which would indicate that this painting was created in Baldung's Freiburg period."

One of Freiburg's patrons, St. Lambert, with the city's coat of arms,
i.e., St. George's cross, painted on the glass around 1513
The inscription reads "A Happy New Year to the Canons " (1514)
Baldung's 1514 New Year's greetings to Freiburg's clergymen, who likely appreciated the drawing showing three entangled witches.

When the Reformation was established at Strasbourg, the commissions for paintings with religious motives dried up, and many an artist ended in misery. Not so Hans the Grien. He delivered not only Madonnas but witches too.

Two Witches (1523)
"In his extravagant panel, Baldung stylizes the witches as the epitome of seductive female power. His theme is the sensual, even provocative staging of naked bodies. This is especially true of the left figure. The ominous threat that lies in this seduction is announced in the yellow-poisonous conflagration in the sky. Just like the dragon in the glass bottle, the color of the sky is likely to refer to the terrible spread of syphilis during those years."

Mary with Child and parrots (1533)
Soon some of Hans's male clients interpreted his paintings of Madonnas as lascivious Eves instead.

Mary, the Child, and an angel (1539)
But Baldung was critical with those lewd old rich white men too.

An unequal couple (around 1527)
"The different embodiments of the figures emphasizes their inequality even more. The half nakedness of the lady's breasts and her unchaste sideways glance suggest that she is a courtesan. Her left arm, which disappears in the direction of her partner's lap, also supports such an assumption."

As always, money is involved in those deals.

Another unequal couple (1528)
"Here the usual humorous tone for depictions of odd couples has given way to sober thoughtfulness. The pale, possibly pregnant woman is not a cunning seductress but stares sadly into space. Is the money in her lap the payment of the vital old man who has "bought" a young wife? This small painting interprets the old theme in a completely new way with high sensitivity and art of representation."

Birth of Christ (1539)
"Mary and Joseph are artistically staged in front of a dark background. The light that illuminates the persons emanates from the Christ Child, who is supported by two angels with magnificent wings made of bird feathers. Mary bends down to the Child with her arms humbly folded. Baldung's ideal of beauty can be clearly seen on her face: A reserved, gentle smile, full lips, and a smooth face surrounded by long, wavy hair. Joseph shows - like the Christ Child - a serious, almost grim face. He holds the opened Old Testament as a reference to the fulfillment of the Messiah's coming, prophesied by the prophets."

Joseph looks somehow suspicious. Has he realized that the new-born Child in front of him is not his son?

The Bewitched Groom (around 1534)
"This famous woodcut has experienced numerous interpretations. Some emphasize the biographical component, as the monogram and the unicorn coat of arms refer to the artist himself. The bearded face could be that of Baldung. The horse and the witch take up essential topics of Baldung's work."

"It is also possible that reference is made to a popular legend of the time. It tells of a robber baron who made a pact with the devil. When he hid from the devil in the disguise of a groom, he was killed by a horse. If the reclining figure is not dead, the strange scene may arise from his dreams, but what does Baldung's person have to do with it? The mysteriousness of the scene is the exceptional quality of the woodcut, which is still fascinating today."

Self-portrait at the age of 49 years (woodcut, 1534?)
"This drawing used to be regarded as an independent work by Baldung, but today it is mostly considered a copy of a lost original from 1534. In fact, compared to authentic works, it seems somewhat schematic and lifeless. Nevertheless, it reveals much about Baldung's self-image. The artist appears as a well-to-do citizen with a pleated shirt, slit beret, and fashionably trimmed beard. Characteristic for Baldung is the view from the corner of the eye - particularly striking here - in a self-portrait."

While the name Dürer dominated the art scene in Germany around 1500, Hans Baldung Grien definitely is on a par artistically.

N.B.: The long texts in italics are translations of accompanying explanations at the Karlsruhe exhibition.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

The 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

On January 27, 1945, the Red Army liberated the extermination camp Auschwitz. On that date, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Freiburg commemorates the victims annually.

This year, the 75th anniversary of the liberation, the infamous day was officially remembered in the presence of heads of states at Yad Vashem in Israel.

In contrast, Freiburg had chosen to commemorate on a low key with two lectures framed by the music of the Freiburg Gescher Choir.

Lord Mayor Martin Horn introduced the commemoration referring to recent anti-Semite incidences in the city. To the applause of the audience, he stressed that racism, hate, and exclusion have no place in Freiburg.

Two little-known facts of Jewish life in Freiburg and it's surroundings before the beginning of National Socialism were presented in two lectures. Julia Böcker talked about Zionist living environments in Freiburg.

Red Baron has written about the quest for a Jewish state before. The first Zionist Congress in Basel on August 31, 1897, adopted a resolution calling for the "creation of a home in Palestine secured under public law for those Jews who cannot or do not want to assimilate elsewhere."

In Freiburg, Zionism was not very popular for Jewish citizens regarded themselves as part of the middle-class society.

They even had Jewish student fraternities.

Many non-Jewish dueling fraternities regarded Jews incapable of giving satisfaction.

The second lecture by Rubin Frankenstein described the Markenhof, an active element of Zionism near Freiburg.

The Markenhof in the back
At the beginning of the 1920ies, young Jewish people gathered at the Markenhof at Kirchzarten, learning agriculture. The Hof (farm) was economically quite successful growing cereals, cultivating fruits, and raising livestock. They even raised pigs - they did not eat - and had the most effective breeding boar in the region.

Harvest at the Markenhof
They prepared themselves for their emigration into the British mandated territory Palestine. There they founded the Kibbutz Beth Sera, one of the nuclei of the future state of Israel.

The building of the Markenhof today
The synagogue annex at the Markenhof
The inside of the former synagogue
A stained glass window of the former synagogue
The exhaust of an air shelter at the Kibbutz  Beth Sera showing the sign reading:
Hier wohnen vergnügt die Markenhofer (This is where the Markenhofers live happily).

At the end of his talk, Rubin Frankenstein asked the mayor of Kirchzarten being present that a commemorative plaque is fixed at the building of the former Markenhof.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Maria Stuart

Yesterday night Red Baron was at Freiburg's municipal theater and saw a highly praised performance of Friedrich Schiller's Maria Stuart.

So today's entry in Jerry Coyne's blog was quite fitting:

1587 – Mary, Queen of Scots, is executed on suspicion of having been involved in the Babington Plot to murder her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I.

Friedrich Schiller, the German poet, was a professor of history at the University of Jena. So it is quite natural that many plots of his plays are based on historical events.

Just remember Wilhelm Tell (William Tell), the drama of the Swiss Liberation from Habsburg rule. Wallenstein (the Wallenstein trilogy), the Bohemian general in the Thirty Year's War, deals with a man at the height of his power torn between ambition and high treason. Die Jungfrau von Orleans (The Maid of Orleans) describes the fight of Jean the teenage girl for French independence from English rule. Don Karlos (Don Carlos) the story of the father-son conflict between the Spanish King Philipp II and son Charles over reasons of state and love for the same woman.

Maria Stuart (Mary Stuart) is the drama of confrontation between two queens and cousins, the Protestant queen of England Elizabeth and the Catholic queen of the Scots Mary. Both claim the English throne, but Schiller complicates the saga further by introducing a non-historical Earl of Leicester. The ladies have lost their heads over this unstable character who is intriguing against Elisabeth writing love letters to Maria. So, in addition, the drama develops from a fight about the throne to a mares bite.

Maria in front of Elisabeth.
Note the two heaps of plates with two chairs for the queens (©Stadttheater Freiburg)
Maria is kept in Elisabeth's custody out of fear that she may plot against her cousin. When by Leicesters's ruse, the two queens meet (unhistorically), Maria eventually explodes, blaming the self-proclaimed virgin queen just being a bastard of her father Henry VIII.

During the break, the male actors worked hard demounting the plates
 on Maria's side, throwing them unto a heap in the back of the scene.
 It symbolizes Maria's end.
Maria's outburst of rage was too much. Elisabeth signs Maria's death warrant in 1587 (see above).

Regretting that she has gone too far, Elisabeth needs some consolation and asks Count Kent, who enters the scene, "Graf Leicester komme her! (Count Leicester come in!)."
Kent's laconic answer, "Der Graf lässt sich entschuldigen. Er ist zu Schiff nach Frankreich (The Earl sends his apologies. He has gone to France by ship)."

Elisabeth shows no emotion.

The curtain.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

New Revelations on Climate Change

It is not me who will present new revelations on climate change. They are instead made by those who still deny that climate change is man-made. Here are a few examples:

Tweet on November 6, 2012.

Mr. Walker, are we really doing the best we can? Let us look at the global temperature rise.

Warnings already in 1988
In 2007 I gave a talk at the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft titled Gaia schlägt zurück. The Revenge of Gaia was the title of a book by James Lovelock. To support my talk, I also used the 2007 Report of the IPCC*, Climate Change: The Physical Science Basis. The following graphic is drawn from there.
*Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

In the 2007 projection of the IPCC, the global temperature rise between 2000 and 2020 would be 0.47 degrees. In that short period, the increase is nearly independent of various scenarios of CO2 emissions assumed by the IPCC. Thirteen years later, we have measured temperature data.

The measured global temperature rise between 2000 and 2020 is 0.48 degrees, so within the margin of error to the projected one. Does this mean there is no problem?

Well, in 2017, there was no place in the world where the measured temperature was not higher than the long-term mean temperature averaged over the years 1880 to  2017.

Mauna Loa on Hawai is not perturbed by civilizing influences
and used as the earth's reference point.
What is most disturbing is the increase in the global CO2 concentration over the years without any sign of leveling off. Where are the sources of greenhouse gases?

Decreasing carbon dioxide emissions in the States and the EU over recent years are more than compensated by fossil fuel burning China and India. Note, in particular, the increase in greenhouse gas emission by international shipping and aviation.

As for Germany, it follows the European trend of a slight decrease in CO2 emissions. In particular, households acquired more energy-efficient machines and LED lighting. Although nuclear power is phased out, energy production became less CO2 prone since inefficient lignite burning power stations were shut down. At the same time, the contribution of wind and solar power to the energy mix increased. Only transport is identified as the Achilles heel with more and more people driving SUVs.

So in Germany, we are far from our goals on CO2 emission. To meet the Paris target figure in 2050, the gradient of the decrease must become steeper.

Deniers of man-made global warming try to find other explanations for the apparent climate change. Here are slides are taken from an ARD presentation on television showing how natural and man-made factors may influence the observed temperature rise:

Observed temperature increase with time vs. solar activity
Influence of the earth's orbital parameter on temperature rise
The influence of volcanic activity
Human-made ozone layer
Smog and aerosols in the atmosphere have a cooling effect.

Greenhouse gases have the most significant effect on temperature rise.
All factors, natural and human-made combined, give a "perfect" fit to the measured data

One of the consequences of temperature rise is the loss of ice at glaciers and the polar regions.

According to the IPCC, the projected sea-level rise due to melting ice varies from 2 mm/year with climate protection measures to 17 mm/year without CPM.

The measured rate of sea-level increase is actually 3.3 mm/year.

Pictures of the "land underwater" doomsday scenario are well known.

Last May in a talk about climate change in south-west Germany Dr. Andreas Becker of the German Weather Service showed the following slides explaining new weather phenomena:

Due to global warming, lower temperature gradients are measured between polar regions and temperate zones.

The summer of 2018
This causes jet stream anomalies that frequently result in stable, stationary weather conditions. So heatwaves and periods of droughts change with steady rain and inundations.

In Germany, for the years 1881 to 2018, the increase in sunshine duration from April to June corresponds to a rise in temperature. For the same period, no long-term deficit in precipitation is observed, although 2018 was a particular year.

Taking the months from April to October 2018, a significant anomaly (circled) is noticed in a combination of the lowest precipitation and the highest temperature in comparison with the years 1881 to 2018.

Here are the hydrological previsions for Germany. The water balance is the difference between precipitations and evaporation. Due to higher evaporation at higher temperatures, the region around the capital of Berlin is likely to become a desert.

People in Freiburg are reminded about the summers becoming hotter. The Menetekel is not written on the wall but painted on a streetcar in the form of colored stripes.

Eventually, all efforts to limit the rise of the global temperature to 1.5 degrees* will fail if the growth of the population continues. Our blue planet is too small for 10 billion people as State Senator Scott Wagner formulated, "We have more people. You know, humans have warm bodies. So is heat coming off?" Yes, it is around 100 watts per person.
*IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C  on October 8, 2018