Tuesday, February 25, 2020


Charles James, president of the Madison-Freiburg Sister City Committee and professor emeritus of German language and culture at the University of Madison, Wisconsin, sent me a video link.

The video tries to answer the question of whether John F. Kennedy meant that he was a jelly-filled doughnut when in 1960, he said in his famous Berlin speech, "Ich bin ein Berliner!".

By the way, Berliners, the people living in Berlin, call their jelly-filled doughnuts Pfannkuchen (pancakes?).

Watch the video and judge for yourself.

Let us rather exercise the case with the word Freiburger. When I say I am a Freiburger then this is not true because I wasn't born in Freiburg, I didn't go to school there, and I moved to the city only after my retirement.

If I were born in Freiburg, I would always claim, "Ich bin Freiburger" for saying, "Ich bin ein Freiburger" would stress the point that I'm am a Freiburger and not, e.g., a Hamburger. Actually, I am neither because I wasn't born in Hamburg, although I went to school in the Hanseatic city for nine long years.

So if you are from Hamburg and not a Quiddje* like me, you would always claim, "Ich bin Hamburger" because saying, "ein Hamburger" is indeed likely to be misunderstood.
*as genuine Hamburgers call non-Hamburgers

Now, what about Freiburgers? This year is Freiburg's 900th anniversary, so let us look into a fundamental document of 1218 where the following is written about Freiburg's founding father, "Conradus Friburcum in Brisgaw construxit ac libertate donavit ...... Henrico imperatore confirmante et cunctis principibus corone Romani imperii qui aderant consentientibus (Conrad built Freiburg and gave freedom to the settlement ... this was confirmed by Emperor Heinrich, and all crowned heads of the Roman Empire agreed). This rather late statement insisting on the emperor's legalization is fundamental because, in 1120, Duke Conrad had founded Freiburg somewhat autocratically.

Be it as it may, the salient word here is freedom (Freiheit) that is part of the name of Freiburg that has become a hallmark. I would stress the syllable "free" in Freiburg, although in addition to the hallmark, we now find a trademark when eating FreiBurgers in Freiburg.

Watch Red Baron taking the photo.
The makers of these delicious burgers, not prefabricated but freshly prepared while U wait, were careful distinguishing between der Freiburger and derfreiBurger.

Advertizing in bad Denglish all over Germany
Keep in mind a FreiBurger is not a free burger but somewhat more expensive than the usual stuff. The quality of a FreiBurger is worth any additional Eurocent.

Monday, February 24, 2020

My Fair Voice

Once in awhile, roving theater groups performing musicals come to Freiburg's Konzerthaus. These groups travel and play all over Germany and in major cities. While they open in Hamburg, they next play Berlin, then on to Munich, lots of laughs in Munich, their next jump is Cologne ... then Karlsruhe. then Freiburg* for Freiburg is a negligible quantity.
*spoofing the lyrics of Cole Porter's musical Kiss Me Kate

On January Red Baron saw My Fair Lady ... in German. In my opinion, this is the best musical ever written. The ensemble came along with its small band conducted by a lady. All the lyrics were sung in German. Mind you, it wasn't just a simple translation, but the texts were re-written and tailored in the dialect spoken in Berlin.

Eliza Doolittle has difficulties pronouncing words like rain correctly, and in German, Elisa's "ü" umlauts don't sound as they should in high German. Here is the dialogue between Eliza/Elisa and Professor Henry Higgins:

"Don't say, "Rine," say "Rain".!

"The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain."

"By George, she's got it
By George, she's got it
Now, once again, where does it rain?"

"On the plain, on the plain

"And where's that soggy plain?"

"In Spain, in Spain."

"The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain
The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain."

"In Hartford, Hereford, and Hampshire,
Hurricanes hardly happen."
"Sag nicht "I," sag "Ü.""

"Es grünt so grün wenn Spaniens Blüten blühen!"

"Bei Gott, jetzt hat sie's!
Bei Gott, jetzt hat sie's!
Noch einmal: wann ergrünt das Grün?"

"Wenn die Blüten erblühn!"

"Und was macht dann das Grün?"

"Es grünt so grün!"

"Es grünt so grün wenn Spaniens Blüten blühen!
Es grünt so grün wenn Spaniens Blüten blühen!"

"Ich sehe Krähen in der Nähe -
Rehe noch eher näher!"

London's Eliza is dropping her "Hs" in Hartford, Hereford, and Hampshire, while Berlin's Elisa doesn't clearly distinguish the "e" and the "ä" so she sees crows nearby but deer still nearer.

The German lyrics translated into English, become, "It turns so green when Spain's blossoms bloom." This silly German text containing the word Spain is necessary because in the musical Higgins and Eliza celebrate their success dancing the Pasodoble, she "could have danced all night and still have begged for more."

The ensemble getting well-deserved applause.
Back to the roots. I studied Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion and couldn't find the turning point of the musical in the stage play. The scene dealing with the pronunciation was part of the film version of Pygmalion in 1938, and there is no hint of whether Bernard Shaw had been annoyed by this addition.

On the other hand, the author was bitterly opposed to a Higgins-Eliza Happy End. He had deliberately left the end open, but the public asked for more.

For a musical, a Happy End is a must, but the authors were rather tactful. In the final scene, Eliza enters Higgins's house finding a lovesick professor brooding in his armchair. Henry had just admitted, "I've grown accustomed to her look, accustomed to her voice, accustomed to her face."

On entering the room, Eliza announces, "I washed my face and hands before I come, I did." Higgins's reaction is a triumphant smile, uttering, "Where the devil are my slippers, Eliza?"

Curtain? For the latest production of My Fair Lady on Broadway in 2018, the producer "has decided that, in the enlightened #MeToo age, we cannot have Eliza return to being a doormat. So here, Higgins utters the final line pugnaciously, in Eliza's face; she stares back at him silently, then gazes off toward the audience — and walks out.."

Yesterday Red Baron saw another musical at Freiburg’s Konzerthaus called That’s Life. It is based on the life of Frankie boy or as they later called him the Voice.

This musical had its World Premiere in Berlin on January 7. Actually, they opened in Berlin, and next played Erfurt ...

In Freiburg, the musical started with the Sinatra hit “Come fly with me,” followed by Cole Porter’s “I’ve got you under my skin” sung by Tam Ward. The Scotsman wrote about himself, ”I have previously worked at the Royal National Theatre in London doing Cyrano De Bergerac and The False Servant. I did Hair at The Old Vic and Cabaret at the Lyric Shaftsbury Avenue in The West End. I have recently finished playing the lead role of Frank Sinatra in The Rat Pack Live From Las Vegas.”

Tam was the revelation of the evening, for if you closed your eyes, you listened to the Voice, articulation, phrasing, and timbre were just right.

In his self-description, Tam mentions that he speaks several accents, Irish, Cockney, Scottish, and New York. On stage, he sang in American, but he also spoke English throughout the musical. The fact that the other characters spoke German did not disturb at all but instead added a certain charm to the whole presentation.

We had "All" and not "nothing at all" about Sinatra’s first wife Nancy Barbato, his affair with Ava Gardner, and the desire of an old man for twenty-year-old Mia Farrow.

The Rat Pack in action on stage in Berlin (©ZDF)
Frank started his carrier with the orchestra of Harry James, moved on to Tommy Dorsey, and sang with Benny Goodman. Neither were forgotten his involvement with the Mafia, his "High Hopes" for Jack Kennedy, and his appearance with the Rat Pack (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr.) at Las Vegas.

The curtain in Freiburg.
Note Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. in the line.
Same order during the curtain in Dresden (©mdr)
Tam Ward singing "New York, New York" in Berlin (©rbb)
The musical ended with the oldie "My Way," but we spectators asked for more, and so Tam added the love song about the city that never sleeps.

Red Baron regards That’s Life being a great success. He likes the idea of stringing together 25 Sinatra hits accompanied by a live orchestra that excellently followed through all the musical styles.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Burning Beethoven

is the title of a book by Erik Kirschbaum, alumni of Freiburg's university, years 1982/83. 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 in the States 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.