Sunday, August 30, 2020


Entrance to the Berlin subway station Mohrenstraße.
Der Mohr hat seine Schuldigkeit getan, Der Mohr kann gehen” has become a German dictum. As many well known sayings it was Schiller who wrote the lines in his drama Die Verschwörung des Fiesco zu Genua (Fiesco's Conspiracy at Genoa) in 1782.

Originally the Moors (Mauren) were the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta during the Middle Ages. In German up to modern times, the English form, written Mohr and pronounced somewhat like more, was used for people of dark skin, and not so much the N-word.

Schiller's statement, "The moor has done his duty the moor can go," only has a subtle racist touch. It frequently happens in life that when a person has done his/her job - in case of Fiesco's moor a contract killing - he/she is no longer needed. He/she may not only leave but is not thanked, sometimes degraded, or even fired. This is why this citation from a rarely played drama remains popular in Germany.

The racist attitude is different in Heinrich Hoffmann's famous cartoon of 1844 "Der Struwwelpeter."  The psychiatrist dramatically denounces racism in "The Story of the Black Boys."

When three white boys tease a dark-skinned boy, Saint Nicholas becomes upset. Here is Mark Twain's translation: 

He call'd out in an angry tone,
"Boys, leave the black-a-moor alone!
For if he tries with all his might,
He cannot change from black to white."

To teach those three "racists" a lesson, Saint Nicholas catches them ...

And they may scream, and kick, and call,
But into the ink he dips them all;
Into the inkstand, one, two, three,
Till they are black, as black can be.

On the left-hand side: Counting from Unter den Linden south, the Mohrenstraße is number five.

In Berlin in 1707, a new street was named as the Lutheran pastor Joachim Ernst Berger wrote in his history of then-new suburb Friedrichstadt: "A Eodem [1707] im Ausgang besagten Monaths [May], bekahmen die Gaßen, dem publico zum besten, ihre Nahmen." (In 1707, at the end of the aforementioned month [May], the streets were named for the benefit of the people.) The 5th street name listed is "Mohrenstraße". 

During the recent violent antiracist demonstrations in the States, ripples of the mighty wave reached the shores of the Wannsee* and were heard in nearby Berlin.
*Where in a villa in 1943 high Nazi officials in a conference decided on the Endlösung.

Adding the tüttel gives Carrot Street.
Berlin people started to erase "racist Mohrenstraße" in various ways.

Eventually, in the course of the debate on racism, the district council of Berlin-Mitte decided at the request of the Greens and the Social Democrats to rename the street to Anton-Wilhelm-Amo-Straße. The Berlin Postkolonial Association welcomed the decision "as an internationally visible sign against racism in public space and as an overdue tribute to an outstanding personality of African origin in Germany".

Anton Wilhelm Amo was the first well-known jurist and philosopher of African origin in Germany. Born around 1700 in what is now Ghana, Amo was abducted from Africa as a small child by the Dutch East India Company in the early 18th century, was brought to Europe, and "given away" to Duke Anton Ulrich zu Braunschweig und Lüneburg and his son. The Hofmohr (Moore of the court) learned several languages, studied law and philosophy, and received his doctorate in Halle in 1729, defending his disputation on the "Rights of Black People in Europe". Later he taught at the famous Prussian universities of Halle and Jena, but in Wittenberg too. After a racist smear campaign, he returned to his homeland around 1747.

The renaming of the street with the name of an outstanding black academic is a genius idea for it keeps the memory of the old name Mohrenstraße latently alive.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Pretty Potsdam

In 2012 Germany celebrated the Year of the Beer Garden and the 300th birthday of Frederick the Great. 

In August 2012 Red Baron was in Potsdam visiting an exhibition called Friederisiko stressing the Alte Fritz's hazardous attitudes as a warmonger.

This visit was part of a cultural tour of the Prussian town southwest of Berlin with its beautiful parks, castles, and historical buildíngs.

When I was in Berlin over the last weekend, I took the S-Bahn from Berlin Hauptbahnhof to Potsdam Hauptbahnhof the latter being the city's main but not the central station.

Straight ahead the rebuilt Stadtschloss, to the right the dome of  St. Nikolai church
Stepping out of the station building I had to cross a bridge over the Havel River to reach the rebuilt Stadtschloss (city palace) that now houses the parliament of the State of Brandenburg.

St. Nikolai church
Behind the city castle around the Ater Markt (old market), there are a couple of shiny buildings.

Potsdam Museum for Art & History and to the left Café Central

Museum Barberini

All of these places except for the church were closed but the court of the Stadtschloss was open to the public.

The northern part of the Alter Markt was in the planning for a historical reconstruction.

They also plan to rebuild Postdam's synagogue destroyed on November 9, 1938, during the Reichskristallnacht.

On my way to the center, I passed the Neuer Markt with the Waage (scales) now transformed into a restaurant.

Heading for Brandenburger Straße, I admired the beautifully refurbished buildings on Wilhelm-Staab-Straße.

I rested at Bäckerei und Konditorei (bakery and confectionary) Fahland on Brandenburger Straße for a pot of coffee and a piece of Leipziger Mohnkuchen (poppy-seed cake) and had visitors, not only wasps. 

I met a new kind of bird. It looked like a crow although in Freiburg crows are always entirely black, so they are called Schwarze Rabenkrähe (black raven crow). In Potsdam, crows are gray and black. 

They are called Nebelkrähen (fog crows) and were picking up crumbs around my outdoor table that somebody before had left behind.

Further explanations I found in Wikipedia where  I learned when looking at the map that Potsdam is at the border where Hooded and Carrion crows meet but do not mate.

Later walking between Brandenburg Gate and Nauener Gate, I had chanterelles sautées for lunch again sitting outside.

On my way back to Berlin, I passed Wannsee station. The name printed in this old font made me shiver.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Corona Revisited

The virus is still with us, so “revisit “is a big word, but the other day a reader with whom I had an animated lunch in a beer garden remarked that I had recently been quiet about Corona in my blogs.

Well, I still keep myself informed, but its bizarre behavior greatly perturbs our knowledge about the Coronavirus. It seems that it has lost some of its aggressivity, although infections surge in most countries (in Germany from an all-time low of 250 cases in a day on June 15 to above 2000 on August 23). One scientist even suggested that Corona’s symptoms will soon degrade to a simple sniffle for the virus likes the noses so much and finds it exhausting to climb down to the lungs.

The fact is that presently younger people having a milder disease progression are more frequently infected than the old, while the latter were harder hit at the beginning of the pandemic. It is also true that older people generally take hygiene precautions more seriously than the young so their infection rate should become lower.

In Germany, in daily life, the AHA-rules are promoted and must be observed. AHA stands for Abstand (distance), hand washing, and Alltagsmasken (simple everyday mouth-nose-covers). In fact, I wash my hands more frequently than before Corona using a liquid soap branded Sagrotan® that should kill germs and viruses effectively. On the other hand, I detest disinfectants and, in particular, pure alcohol on my hands.

I carry an FPP2 mouth-nose-cover when it is obligatory (in shops and public transport) or whenever I am in crowded places. This is true for Freiburg’s open-air Minster market.

I also belong to the ten percent of those wearing a mask at Kieser’s muscle training. At their premises, they keep all windows wide open (for how long still in the year?). Many attendants thoroughly disinfect the machines before using them; others wear gloves. I prefer to wash my hands meticulously after the exercise even if the man behind me has to wait in line for me to finish my double murmuring of “Happy Birthday. “

It is quite clear that with CoV-Sars-2, the Virenlast (viral load) is an essential factor for catching Covid-19. When infected people produce droplet-aerosol mixtures in a confined space by speaking loudly, shouting, singing, or performing heavy physical work, the risk of infection is significant. Air conditioning systems without a sufficient addition of fresh air will distribute these viral-loaded mixtures slightly horizontally. Rooms that cannot be adequately ventilated are not suitable for massive crowds of people. Extended exposures to wabernde Wolken (billowing clouds) of viral-loaded aerosols present the worst-case scenario.

I feel sorry for the young generation. It is evident that Red Baron doesn’t miss crowded pop concerts or soccer games, but I am somewhat worried about the fall and winter season hesitating to eat in restaurants or have one beer or two with friends in ill-ventilated but cozy pubs and bars. How many of those places will survive in 2021?

While the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is mainly transmitted by the uptake of droplets and aerosols to the mouth, nose, and throat, contaminated hands as a means of transport when touching the nose, mouth, or eyes with or without gloves are of minor importance. 

Many shops now offer hand disinfectant dispensers. I avoid them. Washing the hands at the end of a shopping tour is sufficient. 

Other studies further showed that smear infections through contact with contaminated objects play an even more subordinate role in the spread of Covid-19. The Robert-Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s epidemic watch, does not recommend routine surface disinfection in private and public areas. Appropriate cleaning is the procedure of choice.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the protective effect of mouth-nose-covers was played down by virologists. Still, since the beginning of June the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been advising people to wear face masks. The RKI too now recommends that the public wear a mouth and nose cover “in certain situations in public places”, i.e., public transport, shops, or in confined or congested areas.

At the same time, however, the UN organization warned that masks could even increase the risk of disease if people touched them with dirty hands, thus contaminating them. In this context, Red Baron does not believe in self-infection. If the mouth-nose-cover of an infected person is loaded with exhaled Coronaviruses, they will mostly stay where they are and, above all, they will not multiply within the mask and re-infect the wearer. 

RKI’s caveat: “mouth-nose-covers could be an additional element in reducing the speed of propagation of Covid-19 in the population - but only if distance (at least 1.5 meters) from other people, rules for coughing and sneezing and good hand hygiene are still observed”.

Furthermore, according to experts, only special fine particle masks, also known as filtering facepieces (FFP), are suitable for protecting the wearer against infection by droplets from infected people with some reliability. They consist entirely or partially of non-replaceable filter material and reduce infectious aerosols in the inhaled air.

Red Baron’s FFP2 mouth-nose-cover. I bought a dozen on the Internet
and made some friends happy, handing them out to them.
FFP masks are available in three different classes differing in their permeability. All three types are considered to be at least more effective than the commercially available Alltagsmasken (standard everyday face masks). The higher the class, the better they should protect. The permeability, also called leakage, must not exceed ten percent for FFP2 and only two percent for FFP3 masks.

When I was in Potsdam the other day, I saw a Corona Extra on the pavement. Already Heinrich von Kleist had the Prince of Homburg shout: “In Staub mit allen Feinden Brandenburgs! (Into the dust the enemies of Brandenburg!)”.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Perpetual Diet of Regensburg

In the previous blog, I mentioned that my reason for traveling to Munich was a trip to Regensburg or, more specifically, a visit to the Immerwährender Reichstag.

In the Middle Ages, Imperial Diets (Reichstage) were the way how the Holy Roman Empire was governed. The German emperor met with his secular and spiritual princes in various towns of the Reich on a sometimes yearly basis, so in Freiburg in 1498.

Regensburg's train station is located somewhat outside the city. On my way to the Donau River, I walked through a beautiful park.

At the start, a modern obelisk caught my eye. On its back, Thurn und Taxis was engraved, a name that means everything in Regensburg.

This noble family had held the German Postregal (regal postal service) for centuries. The monument stands on the property of Fürstin (Princess) in power, Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. The dynasty lives downtown in the monastery St. Emmeran that they transformed into a castle. Nowadays, the building is a museum displaying the rich heritage of the former postmasters of the Empire.

Beautiful photo of the old stone bridge and the cathedral (©Doktent/Wikipedia)
On my way to the river, I visited the Gothic cathedral.

At the side entrance, the typical antisemitic sculpture of the Middle Ages.  Read more.

The choir and the high altar in a pure classical Gothic style.

One of my favorite saints: Albertus Magnus.

Eventually, I arrived at the river but at the height of the modern bridge where the Museum of Bavarian History is located.

A quick lunch at the museum's restaurant; King Ludwig's dark beer sharpened my eyesight and opened my brain for Bavaria's history.

In fact, the entrance hall to the museum is dominated by the Bavarian lion holding a Maß Bier (one liter of beer). Here are some highlights of the exhibition.

Bavaria became a kingdom by Napoleon's grace.

Slim and pale Maximilian, born in Munich in 1811, had to pick up the pieces his father Ludwig had left behind in the revolutionary year 1848 when he abdicated frustrated. His 36-year-old son Maximilian soon lamented: "The crown has brought me nothing but thorns, and since I have worn it, I have not been happy with my life". Having studied in Göttingen, Berlin, and Munich, he would have preferred to become a professor.

But then Maximilian started to reform his Bavarian kingdom with his motto: I want peace with my people and the chambers (of the Bavarian parliament).

The most interesting object on display is the Kaiserbrief.

It was the Bavarian king who played the central role in the foundation of the Second German Empire in 1871, for he was the primus inter pares of the German princes. For the unity of the German tribes, Ludwig II had always advocated a Greater German solution, including Austria. Besides, after the war of 1866, Bavaria had fought and lost at Austria's side; the kingdom had to pay Prussia reparations of 60 million gold guilders.

So everything depended on winning Ludwig for German unification under Prussian leadership. The "Kini" had disrupted the Bavarian state finances and privately tried to obtain money from all possible sources, such as a loan of 20 million guilders from the Prince of Thurn und Taxis. It was also said that he had asked the Austrian emperor, the kings of Belgium and Sweden, even the (Turkish) Sultan and the Shah of Persia for money.

Model of Neuschwanstein on display at the exhibition.
The fairy-tale castle was built from "Prussian" money.
Bismarck well knew how to lure Ludwig II into the boat, with money, with lots of money that the privately highly indebted fairy-tale king could spend on his castles and opera houses without control by the Bavarian parliament.

Eventually, the chancellor sent ambassador Holnstein to Munich with a letter he had drafted himself, asking Ludwig to take over the text and sign it. In fact, blinded by 6 million private gold guilders, the "Kini" copied Bismarck's draft like a pupil with small insignificant changes. The Kaiserbrief reads in the final part:

I have therefore turned to the German Princes with the proposal that they should join me in suggesting to His dignified Majesty that the exercise of the presidential rights of the Federation should be combined with the title of the German emperor. As soon as His dignified Majesty and the Allied Princes have communicated their will to me, I will instruct my government to take the further steps to achieve the corresponding agreements.

With the assurance of the highest esteem and friendship,
Your Royal Majesty
friendly cousin, brother
and nephew
d. November 30, 1870

The Andechser Romadour cheese is even more famous than the beer.
Bavarian history is not complete without its cultural jewels always combined with beer brewing.

The end of the Second World War saw the American Forces as occupants of a Munich in ruins.

It is a BMW ... of 1955
Even BMW had to start from scratch with small gear after the war.

On my way to the premises of the Perpetual Diet in the Altes Rathaus (old town hall), I passed the Old Stone Bridge with its Brückenturm (bridge gate).

The area was crowded, and people were enjoying themselves boating on the Donau River.

Disappointing Spartan interior of the meeting room
In 1648 the first Reichstag after the Thirty Years Wae was convened in Regensburg. At this Reichstag, details of the provisions of the peace treaty were discussed and passed and a further convocation of the Diet was decided for 1663. It met on January 20, to discuss the danger posed by the Turks on the eastern border of the Empire (again!). This Imperial Diet was not finished in the same year but turned into an everlasting Diet, although it had not been planned in advance as such.

The adjacent council chambers where committees met were somewhat better equipped.
Following the transformation of the Reichstag into a Perpetual Imperial Diet, the princes were hardly present themselves, but were represented by so-called Komitialgesandte (committee ambassadors) - thus the Diet became a Congress of Envoys. The emperor himself was represented by Imperial Principal Commissioners, who, from 1748 onwards, belonged to the Thurn und Taxis family.

The council chamber for the spiritual princes with seats for the secretaries taking notes
 has an enormous stove for winter times. 
When on July 12, 1806, the Electorate of Mainz, Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden, Hesse-Darmstadt, Nassau, Kleve-Berg, and other principalities founded the Confederation of the Rhine signing the treaty with Napoleon in Paris, they declared their withdrawal from the Empire on August 1. On August 6, Emperor Josef II announced his renunciation of the imperial crown. The First German Reich had ceased to exist, and the Perpetual Diet became history.

Here is a replica of the imperial crown on display at the exhibition in connection with the Perpetual Diet.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Munich Documentation Center ...

... for the History of National Socialism is the long name for a building near Königsplatz displaying documents about Munich's darkest times when the town was called the Hauptstadt der Bewegung (The Capital of the Movement).

Last weekend Red Baron was in Munich from where he made a detour to Regensburg. I never visited Regensburg, although the city has a rich historical past that will be subject to another blog.

When I arrived at Munich's central station by train around lunchtime, my first visit was the nearby Augustiner Biergarten.

Roast pork with the crackling, red cabbage, snd potato dumpling.
Note the list leaving address and telephone number.
Following the Corona rules was disturbing, but I was comforted with a Schweinsbraten and a local dark draft beer. I still remember my years as a student when it was hard to find the Munich dark beer on draft, for in those times, people preferred pale lager.

Following the copious meal, I walked down to Königsplatz and had a surprise. The city had allowed show-people with their funfair rides on Königsplatz to earn some money in times of Corona. Wenn das der Führer wüsste (If the Führer knew that) was an expression during the Nazi area when people noticed and commented abuses of his satraps.

During the Third Reich, the Königsplatz was a "sacred" area. The aerial photo shows the square in 1937. Entering through the classical gate, you still find on your left the Glyptothek (sculpture gallery) and on the right the Antikensammlung (antique collection).

In the back in the direction of the Karolinenplatz with its obelisk, there are two identical impressive buildings. On the left the former Führergebäude now the Music Academy, on the right the past Reichsleitung of the NSDAP (the Reichs management of the Nazi Party) now the State Graphics Collection.

Nazi putsch in Munich on Marienplatz on November 9, 1923.
The riot police shot and killed sixteen National Socialist comrades
when they were marching to Feldherrenhalle (Hall of fame of military commanders)
Besides, there are two low quadratic buildings on the photo of 1937, the Ehrentempel (Honor Temples), housing the sarcophagi of the sixteen Blutzeugen (blood witnesses or martyrs) of the party who had been killed.

Here Hitler is commemorating the putsch of 1923 at the Feldherrenhalle in 1935. Behind the Führer Ernst Röhm, Reichsführer SA. The Social Democrats had blackmailed the putsching National Socialists as being the bootlickers of the industrial barons, i.e., the capitalists.

©Damian Entwistle
The "temples" were destroyed in 1947 by the US Army, but the foundations remained.

The Führer's Building became Munich's Amerikahaus

More funfair. Note the tall white building on the left in the back.
Just south of the "temple" foundations, the city of Munich built its Documentation Center.

Entrance to the Documentation Center
The most impressive objects are on display at the foyer of the Documentation Center.

Book burning in Berlin at Opernplatz on May 10, 1933 (©Bundesarchiv/Georg Pahl).
Covers of books are reproduced of "un-German" authors; books the Nazis had burned. In Freiburg, it did not work for the stakes were rained out twice.

The following book covers are in alphabetical order of the authors. Note that the list is by no means complete.

Bertold Brecht
Lion Feuchtwanger
Kurt Hiller
Erich Kästner
Alfred Kerr
Else Lasker-Schüler
Walter Mehring
Erich Mühsam
Erich Maria Remarque
Joachim Ringelnatz
Kurt Tucholsky
Stefan Zweig