Saturday, September 26, 2020


This report on my visit to the Fuggerei finishes my trilogy of blogs about my trip to Augburg.

In 1521, Jakob Fugger, the Younger, later called the Rich, founded the social housing complex nowadays called Fuggerei for needy citizens of Augsburg. The annual rent for an apartment still amounts to the nominal value of one Rhenish guilder, currently about one dollar. Residents must be of the Catholic faith and say three prayers a day (the Lord's Prayer, Hail Mary, and the Nicene Creed) for the defunct Fugger clan. 

Corona-appropriate separation:
One door leads to the ground, the other to the upper floor apartment.
By 1523, 52 houses had been built.

The main alley
Currently, about 150 people live in the 140 apartments of the 67 two-story houses. 

The hardest thing the inhabitants must tolerate are the many daily tourists visiting the Fuggerei. 

The city square with the fountain.
In the back one tower of Augsburg's city hall
 and the Perlach Tower peak out.
The Fuggerei, an ensemble with eight alleys, is a city within the city with its own church with city walls and seven gates closed during the night. Inscriptions and stones with the lily coats of arms of the Fuggers remind of the founder's family.

In the park area within the Fuggerei ... 

... there is a bust of the founder Jakob Fugger.

A museum gives the visitor some insight into how people lived in the olden days: 

The kitchen

The living. Note the service-hatch to the kitchen.
The bedroom
The Fuggerei is the oldest social settlement in the world; however, it is not only the age but also the continuity of the Fuggerei that is unique. It is still only financed by the foundation, and its conception is regarded as exemplary today.

Today the Fuggerei also is an architectural model. but what was groundbreaking 500 years ago: Jakob Fugger did not regard the residents as beggars, but instead helped them back on their feet again.

The old sundial was destroyed during the war, but the new carries the same request to the inhabitants of the Fuggerei, "Nütze die Zeit (Use your time)." The founder was conservative but far ahead of his time too. 

 After the guided tour of one hour, I felt hungry and thirsty. At the entrance to the Fuggerei the Schänke offered all that I needed. 

Augusta wheat beer, Weißwurst with sweet mustard, and a Bretzen
Apologies to all my Bavarian readers. I know it is an act of sacrilege to eat a Weißwurst after noon. A Bavarian veal sausage shall never hear the lunchtime bells.

Sunday, September 20, 2020


The spirit of the shacks is the tenor of a booklet with the title: Die Entwicklung des Hamburger Schulwesens nach dem 2. Weltkrieg am Beispiel der wissenschaftlichen Oberschule Poppenbüttel 1944-1955 (On the development of Hamburg's school system after World War II, taking as an example, the Poppenbüttel scientific high school 1944-1955).

This summer, a big event was planned at my Oberschule in Poppenbüttel - now called Gymnasium Oberalster (GOA) - to celebrate its 75th anniversary. My brother who graduated from the GOA seven years later wanted to come too, but Corona killed it all.

Instead, he sent me the booklet about the founding years of our school, a publication I had not been aware of. It turned out to be a fascinating reading since I started the Oberschule für Jungen and Mädchen in Poppenbüttel (High School for Boys and Girls) in the suburb of Hamburg in fall 1946.

The history of this school is somewhat complicated, for it started already on September 11, 1944, during the Third Reich as "Langemarck*-Schule, Oberschule für Jungen und Mädel. "Note Mädel instead of Mädchen, both are diminutive forms of Magd, in the Middle Ages and the Bible the name for a young, virgin woman. Mädel is the folkish-national diminutive, frowned upon today.
*Read about the Langemarck myth below

Following Germany`s defeat in May 1945 the school was refounded on October 3, 1945 as „Wissenschaftliche Oberschule für Jungen und Mädchen in Poppenbüttel.“

In 1946 my high school consisted of a wooden shack with two classrooms heated by wood-fired round iron stoves. To feed them, we students were welcome to contribute a log of firewood or a briquet during the cold winter of 1946/47. Although the stove was glowing red hot, the poorly insulated wooden shack - called Baracke in German - remained cold. We were writing on our pieces of paper  - we had no notebooks - with gloved hands.

As a water supply, we had one water pump with a handle and as toilets, two outhouse pit latrines, one for the girls and one for the boys, the excrements flowing downhill into the Alster River below.

On the other hands, the Barracke was beautifully located on the steep bank above the upper Alster River, although reaching the school on foot or by bike, was a challenge at times.

In those days, Northern Germany was not yet bedeviled by a draught but notorious for its cold and continuous rain called Hamburger Schmuddelwetter (dirty or foul weather). My chemistry teacher, a lost poet, wrote:

Von oben klatscht herab der Regen,
die Pfützen stehen auf den Wegen,
der Heegbarg wandelt sich behende
in urwäldliches Sumpfgelände.
Durch diesen Schlammsumpf musst du zieh’n,
ruft dich dein Dienst zur Schule hin.

*The rhymes are better in the German text
From above claps down the rain, 
the puddles standing on the path,
the Heegbarg* changes fast
into primeval swamp terrain. 
Through this muddy swamp, you must pull,
the duty calls you to your school.
*Name of the unpaved path to the school

One classmate, my friend Gerd, contributed the following lines to the booklet, "I don't remember the misery of our situation, and that was because we didn't feel miserable. We didn't feel any different than others. That was the familiar feeling of life at that time, and when we heard our parents rave about how beautiful it had been before the war, it didn't matter to us. For us, cold and hunger were the normal states of life."

Subsequently, the late Gerd called the spell that makes us still come together for our yearly class reunions, the Barackengeist.

More Baracken were added in later years.
And here follows the first paragraph of a letter another classmate wrote in 1955, one year after our Abitur (graduation), his/her? memory not yet transfigured by time, "When I think of my school days, the first thing that comes to my mind are the early post-war years, when we sat in the cold Baracken or huddled around the soup buckets when we all had nothing and were, therefore, all equal. At that time, a community spirit developed that could still be felt even in the upper classes, when the social differences had long since reappeared and when we were already sitting at the freshly painted tables of the new school building. After the war, comradeship, consideration of, and adaptation to the neighbor were not only manners but necessities of life."

In those hunger days, hot school lunches were a necessity for all students and teachers. On January 23, 1946, the New Hamburg Press wrote, "On five days a week students and teachers will be served a thick hot soup, as there are soy soup, pea soup, bean soup, and cabbage stew. On the other two days, milk soups of all kinds will be handed out, i.e., oat flakes or noodles in milk and chocolate soup."

After the buckets filled with hot soup had been unloaded from a truck at the road bridge over the Alster River we, the students, who sometimes had to wait for an extended period of time for the delivery, carried the containers the 600 m distance up from the Alster valley to the school.

We brought our pots from home - often the fathers' mess tin - and during the breaks crowded around the buckets with growling stomachs. Once we had received our half-liter of soup, we gobbled it down as quickly as possible because the motto was: "First come, first served." If there was anything left in the soup container, the first and fastest got the coveted seconds.

At Christmas, we sometimes received rations packs the American armed forces had discarded. These packs not only contained chocolate but often also canned peanuts we had never seen before and - surprisingly for students - portions of Nescafé powder in aluminum foils.

And here follows the second paragraph of the letter my former classmate wrote in 1955. "At that time after the war, we also learned that even with the simplest, most primitive means something can be achieved if the will and love for the cause are there. This probably also connected us students with the teachers, for we knew how tenaciously and persistently they wrested every piece of gymnastics equipment or physics apparatus and every map of the Hamburg school authorities and how they negotiated with them about the construction of a new school building."

The new building actually moved the school from Poppenbüttel to the neighboring suburb Sasel so that the name high school for boys and girls in Poppenbüttel was no longer correct. The final name of the school became Gymnasium Oberalster (GOA), honoring its previous location on the banks of the upper Alster River.


 "West of Langemarck (a place in Belgian Flanders), young regiments, chanting 'Deutschland, Deutschland über alles*,' stormed against the first line of enemy positions and took them. About 2000 men of French line infantry and 6 machine guns were captured," the Supreme Army Command (OHL) announced on November 11, 1914, the day after the battle. It was fake news for "above all," these young men didn't sing. 
*Germany, Germany, above all

 In its communiqué, the supreme command had concealed the fact that more than 2000 German soldiers had died in the defensive fire of the French and British during the attack. The OHL tried to reinterpret the militarily senseless operation into a glorious victory. 

 Langemarck developed into one of the most popular German myths in the first half of the 20th century. Students destined to academic careers had stormed together with "common" soldiers in the front line against the enemy. The reckless burning of so many young people was glorified as the "sacrifice of German youth." The attack was praised as a heroic act and a symbol of an alleged German "Volksgemeinschaft." 

 No wonder that the National Socialists gladly made use of this story and appropriated it for their own purposes like naming a school in Poppenbüttel Langemarck.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Confirmed in Augsburg

I am writing about Berthold Brecht who was born in Augsburg on Auf dem Rain 7 and baptized and confirmed Lutheran in Barfüßerkirche nearby.

On my walk to Augsburg's highlight, the Fuggerei, I passed a commemorative plaque showing a pine cone, Augsburg's coat of arms. It is a tribute to the Romans who took the seeds to their base camp Augusta in Raetia...

US-troops entering destroyed Augsburg in 1945
... and to the American Forces liberating Augsburg from the Nazi regime on April 28, 1945.

In passing, I also admired the Alte Metzig (old slaughterhouse) of 1609 proving that butchers have never been poor people.


Like Augsburg's cathedral,
the Barfüßerkirche is surrounded by profane buildings.
The discalced monks of the Franciscans came to Augsburg in 1221 and built their first Barfüßerkirche 23 years later. The barefooted monks made the teachings of the Reformation known among the craftsmen and ordinary people. Their reading master Johann Schilling was extremely popular among ordinary people because of his courageous demands for social justice.

When Augsburg became protestant, the monastery was dissolved, the Franciscans left Augsburg in 1526. In 1536 the Barfüßerkirche became Augsburg's first protestant parish church.

You enter the church walking through a densely planted court ...

... obeying the Corona rules. 

Inside the building, the walls are covered with oil paintings.

The coronation of the Winter King, Frederick V of the Palatinate at Prague painted by an unknown artist found all my attention for this provocation of the Habsburgs started the Thirty Years War. Read more about the history in German.

While I was in the church, a lady entered timidly and asked whether she may take a photo of the Christkind. I had nothing to allow but took a shot too. The Christ Child blessing dating from 1632, was sculptured by Georg Petel. 

Berthold Brecht

Primary-school pupil Berthold Brecht
On my way out through the cloisters, I noted a photo and some text.

Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht was baptized on March 20, 1898, at the Barfüßerkirche. On March 29, 1912, he there was confirmed. A childhood friend remembers, "Berthold obviously took confirmation classes quite seriously. He was able to recite the Bible texts to be learned by heart with ease."

In 1928, a few weeks after the sensation of the Threepenny Opera, which had made Brecht the darling of Berlin's Kurfürstendamm, he was asked about his favorite reading. He answered; "You probably will laugh, the Bible."

The Brechthaus on Auf dem Rain 7 is just around the corner. So I paid tribute to the 20th century  master of the German language.

When entering the exhibition on my left; yes, he did it again. Ottmar Hörl's sculpture this time of Berthold. Here are others previously mentioned Richard Wagner, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Karl Marx, Martin Luther, and Ampelmännchen.

The Red Saloon

Following the violent supression of the uprising in East Germany on June 17, 1953, Brecht broke with the Communist regime writing the following poem:

                The solution
After the uprising of the 17th of June
The Secretary of the Writers' Union
Had leaflets distributed on Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could only win it back
By increased work quotas. Would it not in that case be simpler
for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Magic Moments of German Theater

Mr. Puntila and his Man Matti, First performance in Zürich 1948.

Mother Courage in Berlin 1949

Life of Galileo at the Brecht Theater in Berlin in 1957

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Augusta Vindelicum

Today this Roman settlement is called Augsburg, a city with a rich historical heritage. 

Following my trips to Erfurt and Regensburg, I visited Augsburg for its importance during the Reformation.

Augustus, the man who started it all on a fountain at Augsburg's Rathausplatz
The name Augusta represents the female form of Augustus, in honor of Emperor Augustus*, under whose reign in 15 B.C. the conquest of the province Raetia took place. A military camp was the nucleus of the later city Augusta Vindelicum referring to the Celtic tribe of the Vindelicans. Under Emperor Trajan (98-117 AD), the place was elevated to the status of the capital of the Roman province of Raetia.
*You surely remember: And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.

Later an Ottonian cathedral that was rebuilt in Gothic style stood at the site of the Roman settlement.

Near the cathedral, excavations show the layout of the church St. John (on the plan in pink) built in 960 during the reign of Bishop Ulrich.

Roman findings are exposed outdoors, showing farmers and merchants.

Augsburg's Gothic cathedral is somewhat defigured by the many attached buildings.

The Gothic high choir from the inside

In front of the cathedral, statues of Augsburg's patron saints in late antiquity, and the early Middle Ages decorate a fountain.

Afra of Augsburg (right, † 304), allegedly the first Bavarian martyr burned to death near Augsburg because of her Christian faith,

Bishop Simpert (left, c. 750-807), a nephew of Charlemagne, who in 778 made him bishop of Augsburg. Simpert consolidated and strengthened the jurisdiction of his bishopric, and

Bishop Ulrich of Augsburg (890-973), fighting on horseback the Hungarian invasion, was the first saint to be officially canonized by the Church.

In 1275 the Carmelites founded their monastery in Augsburg, and in 1321 the brothers began building the Annakirche. Note the coat of arms of the Fuggers, the lily.

Walking up to the entrance, I noticed a commemorative plaque. It is the first time that I saw names of soldiers fallen or missed in action* during the Napoleon wars.
*Forever lost in the immensity of Russia

You enter the church, passing the impressive Goldschmiedekapelle (chapel of the goldsmiths) and ...

... admire inside St. Anna church the Fugger chapel with an unorthodox presentation of Jesus's deposition from the cross. Luther's rose proves that St. Anna is a Lutheran church.

The cloisters of St Anna with all those tombs are called the stone chronicle of the Imperial City of Augsburg.

A Fugger buried in 1519, 
two years after Luther had published his 95 Theses in distant Wittenberg.

Resurrection. Christ explodes out of his tomb.

Augustin Müller, a legal advisor in Augsburg only became 50 years and 13 days.
He died 1556 on the day following December 9.
The letter V is often used instead of the U but I never have seen an umlaut on a V.

Repent day and night

Mephisto states in Goethe's Faust: "The church has a big stomach."

Indeed the inscription reads: Der Herr hat befohlen Zue geben Goldt und Silber Zue seinem Heiligthumb, solches anZunemen von Jedermann der es williglich gibt. Davon Zubesßern waß Baufällig am Hausße des Herrn ist. Daß soll mir angenehmb sein, und will meine Ehre erZeigen spricht der Herr (The LORD has commanded to give gold and silver to his sanctuary and to accept it from anyone who willingly gives it. To improve what is dilapidated in the house of the Lord. This shall be pleasant to me and will show my honor says the Lord GOD.)

For the thirteenth Sunday after Trinitatis, the open page of the bible showed the story of  Cain and Abel presenting the wrathful and punitive God of the Old Testament.

Augusta around 1500. Note the nave of the cathedral on the left,
the Perlach Tower slightly out of axis, and the water tower on the right.

1518 Luther's Interrogation

Martin Luther used the Carmelite monastery as a hostel and base for two weeks when he was at the Reichstag in 1518 to be interrogated by the papal legate Cardinal Thomas de Vio of Gaeta (Cajetan).

It was the last Reichstag the ailing Emperor Maximilian I attended. He wanted to ensure his succession in suggesting his grandson Charles, a proposal the electoral princes did not like.

He left behind a melancholy text: Then God bless you, dear Augsburg and all pious citizens within. We had many a cheerful courage while in your city. Now we shall see you no more,
Emperor Maximilian, 1518.

The present view of the Fugger town palace on Maxiximilianstraße
©Gerd Erdmann/Wikipedia
On the fringes of the Imperial Diet, Cajetan and Luther exchanged religious arguments at the Fugger town palace from October 13 to 15, 1518.

Their discussions were no longer about indulgences, but about the freedom of faith for men/women that Brother Martin had experienced in his Wittenberg tower where he recognized that the Christian God is not a God of "justice" but a merciful God and that the content of the Gospel is not the law, but grace. 

For Luther, a church that limits the freedom of the Almighty God's decision through social works and penitential exercises is a church without God.

So he hurled his three solas towards Cajetan with conviction: sola scripture, sola gratia, sola fide, because salvation lies only in the Scriptures, in the grace of God and in faith in Him. The cardinal - the Roman axiom extra ecclesiam non est salus* firmly in the back of his mind - exclaimed horrified: "This means building a new church" that would lose the monopoly of a mediator between God and the individual human being.
*Outside the Church there is no salvation

1530 The Confessio Augustana

Here is today's look at the prince-bishop's residence with the medieval Pfalzturm, where the Reichstag of 1530 took place.

The east portal of the palace in its present form.
The Chancellor of the Electorate of Saxony, Christian Beyer, presented the Augsburg Confession of the Protestants, a detailed account of the Reformation movement, in the Gothic Palatinate Hall of the prince-bishop's residence on June 25, 1530.

Brück reading the Confessio in German in front of Charles V.
Philip Melanchthon had developed the Confessio Augustana as a conciliatory document. It accommodated many of the Catholic standpoints and was aimed at reconciliation. But eventually, the two Catholic Johanns, Eck, and Cochlaeus, appointed by Emperor Charles V as experts, rejected the Augsburg Confession in their Confutatio.

1555 The Augsburg Peace

The nave of Augsburg's cathedral
The Imperial Diet of 1555 was opened in Augsburg's cathedral on September 25. Following a tough struggle, a peace was concluded between the estates of the Confessio Augustana and those of the Old Church. Regrettably, the "reformed" and all those of other faiths were expressly excluded from the Augsburg religious peace.

The obligation of peace concerned the estates, which, according to the principle Ubi unus dominus, ibi una sit religio*, could impose on their subjects one religion to which the exercising publicum religionis then applied.
*Where there is a Lord, there is one religion. It was not until the 17th century that the catchy formulation: Cuius regio, eius religio was heard (He who has the power, decides upon the religion of his subjects)

Followers of the other denomination were only granted the exercitium privatum religionis*. Besides, these people had the beneficium emigrandi, the right to emigrate in cases of moral dilemmas, selling their belongings.
*Domestic devotion or in prayer houses without bells in contrast to public service in churches with bells

1615 High Hopes

The impressive Augsburg city hall
At the beginning of the 17th century, the Augsburgers had high hopes that the Reichstag, tired of traveling, would eventually settle down. A total of 27 Imperial Diets starting in the year 952 up to 1582 were held in the city.

In 1615 the city council decided to build what is now called Der Goldene Saal. The Golden Hall, located on the second floor, forms the core of Augsburg's city hall. Finished in 1520, the Golden Hall covers an area of 552 m² and has a ceiling height of 14 meters.

The Thirty Years War changed it all. Following the Westphalian Peace Treaty in 1648, the Reichstag met for the first time after the war at Regensburg in 1663. When the deliberations between emperor and estates dragged on, they became permanent, Andrew so the Reichstag. Regensburg was in, Augsburg was out.

Corona obliges: Looking out from the windows of the Golden Hall unto the Rathausplatz reveals that the city has opened the space for a pop-up funfair and extended food services with Augustus watching on his fountain.

At the front-face of the city hall, former standards for measuring length are on display. Aren't we lucky that in 1871 united Germany adopted the "French" meter?

And just around the corner, a climate camp where some radical Greens spelled out their maximum demands.