A Walk Down Memory Lane

Or Stalinallee, if your prefer.

Egon Krenz

Inexplicably, East Germany’s last communist boss thinks that the night the Berlin Wall came down (almost thirty years ago) “was the worst night of my life.

Happily for him, it is also something that he “wouldn’t want to experience ever again” because, well, he won’t.

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BMW: Bring Me West

German engineering at its best.

Talk about a mother of invention…

In 1963, a man named Klaus-Günter Jacobi decided to help his best friend escape East Berlin and before being forced to report for duty in the East German army. To do so, he decided to modify his BMW Isetta to be able to hide a body.

Now, if you’re not especially familiar with the Isetta, it’s a tiny bubble car with a motorcycle engine at the back and barely enough room for two people to sit in the bench seat behind the front opening door. Space is at a premium, but Jacobi — who had trained as a mechanic — found that there was a dead space behind his seat and next to the Isetta’s tiny engine that could be used to smuggle a person.

The Small Escape

It’s Called Paranoia

Why is Germany a blank spot on Google’s Street View? See above.

Paranoia

There are good historical reasons why Germans are suspicious of surveillance — but is Google as bad as Gestapo or Stasi?

It’s to do with Germans’ curious sense of privacy: they’d rather flaunt their private parts than their personal data…

While public nudity is a big no-no in the United States for example, Germany has a long tradition with what is known as FKK – short for Freikörperkultur, or “Free Body Culture.” Certain beaches and areas of city parks are dedicated to nude sunbathing, and even Nacktwanderung (“nude rambling”) is a thing.

On the other hand, Germans are extremely possessive of their personal data — and are shocked by the readiness with which Americans (and others) share their names, addresses, friends’ lists, and purchase histories online.

According to research presented in the Harvard Business Review, the average German is willing to pay as much as $184 to protect their personal health data. For the average Brit, the privacy of that information is only worth $59. For Americans and Chinese, that value declines to single-digit figures.

King Kong Was Already Taken

King and Kong were, I mean.

Hong Kong

Berlin throws shade at China by voting to name panda cubs ‘Hong’ and ‘Kong’ – One of Berlin’s leading papers, Der Tagesspiegel, asked its readers to come up with name suggestions for the cubs, born Aug. 31 at the Berlin Zoo.

The cubs and their parents, Meng Meng, 6, and Jiao Qing, 9, belong to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, a Chinese research center. The Berlin Zoo pays $1 million a year to house the popular bears.

Others in the newspaper poll also suggested naming the cubs “Joshua Wong Chi-fung” and “Agnes Chow Ting” after two prominent Hong Kong democracy activists.

Sheesh. Berlin residents certainly give Hong Kong more consideration than their government leaders do. But, then again, Berliners know how important it is to show solidarity “with a city fighting for survival.”

Germans Too Busy Killing Hitler To Help Allies

It’s another German oddity kinda thang. And one of my personal favorites.

Hitler

Germans hide from responsibility today by routinely ritualizing  how they hid from responsibility in the past. And don’t kid yourself. They are perfectly aware of what they are doing.

Germany will not join US naval mission in Strait of Hormuz – Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany will not be taking part in a US-led mission to secure oil tanker ships sailing near Iran. The US ambassador in Berlin slammed the decision, saying Germany has responsibilities.

“Hardly any other country is as dependent on the freedom of international shipping as export champions Germany.”

Where’s The Pork?

German oddity 415. The pig is big here. Germans have more pig and sow idioms then wurst varieties – and that’s a whole lot. They also seem to think that any phrase or saying can be improved just by adding the words pig or sow to it, thus making said phrase or saying saugut (sow good or damned fine).

Pork

So what about this German oddity in the news today? After a German day care center in Leipzig decided not to offer pork on its meal plan anymore (gee, I wonder why?) threats started coming in. The police have now decided to guard the place.

And after BILD decided to report about the day care center’s decision the hashtag #Schweinefleisch (pork) reached the number one spot in Germany.

Polizeischutz für Kita ohne Schweinefleisch in Leipzig.

And You Thought Paying Back Your Student Loan Was A Bitch

And I’m sure it was but…

Debt

Germany’s World War I Debt Was So Crushing It Took 92 Years to Pay Off – After the Treaty of Versailles called for punishing reparations, economic collapse and another world war thwarted Germany’s ability to pay…

The Allies exacted reparations for World War II, too. They weren’t paid in actual money, but through industrial dismantling, the removal of intellectual property and forced labor for millions of German POWs. After the surrender, Germany was divided into four occupation zones, and in 1949 the country was split in two. Economic recovery, much less reparations payments, seemed unlikely.

By then, West Germany owed 30 billion Deutschmarks to 70 different countries, according to Deutsche Welle’s Andreas Becker, and was in desperate need of cash. But an unexpected ray of hope broke through when West Germany’s president, Konrad Adenauer, struck a deal with a variety of western nations in 1953. The London Debt Conference canceled half of Germany’s debt and extended payment deadlines. And because West Germany was required to pay only when it had a trade surplus, the agreement gave breathing room for economic expansion.

Soon, West Germany, bolstered by Marshall Plan aid and relieved of most of its reparations burden, was Europe’s fastest-growing economy. This “economic miracle” helped stabilize the economy, and the new plan used the potential of reparations payments to encourage countries to trade with West Germany.

Still, it took decades for Germany to pay off the rest of its reparations debt. At the London Conference, West Germany argued it shouldn’t be responsible for all of the debt the old Germany had incurred during World War I, and the parties agreed that part of its back interest wouldn’t become due until Germany reunified. Once that happened, Germany slowly chipped away at the last bit of debt. It made its last debt payment on October 3, 2010—the 20th anniversary of German reunification.

History Really Does Repeat Itself

The German navy does this regularly, I guess. Commit suicide, I mean.

Suicide

So I suppose you could call the one going on presently a ritual suicide, albeit slower than those of the past (look what’s been going on with the Bundeswehr for the past thirty or forty years or so and you’ll get my drift).

One hundred years ago, the German High Seas Fleet committed suicide. On June 21, 1919, the crews of seventy-four German warships attempted to scuttle their vessels in order to prevent the Allies from taking them. Over the course of a few hours, fifty-two modern warships sank. In the modern history of naval combat, there has never been an event as devastating as the self-destruction of the German fleet at Scapa Flow. The scuttling immediately became legendary, closing one chapter of German naval history and opening another…

Indeed, the Germans had prepped the ships for scuttling over the previous several months, removing doors and taking other steps to reduce watertight integrity. They waited for motive and opportunity. As the Paris Peace Conference dragged on, both the French and the Italians had made claims upon the fleet. As the deadline for signing the treaty approached, both the Germans and the British made their preparations, the latter to seize the ships and the former to scuttle them.

On June 21, a comedy of errors ensued. The signing of the treaty was postponed two days, although it is unclear how aware the German sailors were made of this fact. The British commander decided that the fabulous early summer weather offered a great opportunity for practice, and the bulk of the Grand Fleet left Scapa Flow for maneuvers on the morning of June 21. Only a few patrol and utility ships remained.

Admiral Ludwig von Reuter gave the order for scuttling, and every German ship obeyed. The British didn’t notice until around noon, when the battleship Friederich der Grosse began to list noticeably. At this point, the rest of the fleet raised the Imperial German Naval ensign, which the British had officially forbidden. At that point, the scuttling became a race between the water and the Royal Navy. The Grand Fleet, notified by radio of the sinking, began to return immediately. The few Royal Navy ships in attendance picked up survivors, but were unable to save very many of the sinking ships.

Let’s Celebrate

Having democracy shoved down our throats!

Constitution

You’ve come a long way, Germany. In those few short years (70) you have now become the Lehrmeister (schoolmaster) in all things democratic. Or at least you sure do come over that way. We couldn’t have done it without you. Or vice versa. Or whatever.

This month, a united democratic Germany marks the 70th anniversary of its constitution: the Grundgesetz, or Basic Law. The lengthy document—one version of the English text runs 135 printed pages—was composed under Allied supervision in 1948 and 1949. The final text was completed May 8, 1949; approved by the British, French, and U.S. occupying authorities on May 12, 1949; and entered into effect May 23, 1949. Its first article begins, “Human dignity shall be inviolable. To respect and protect it shall be the duty of all state authority.”

“Why don’t you sing Deutschland uber alles?”

German Of The Day: Rosinenbomber

That means raisin bomber. Or candy bomber, if you prefer.

Raisin Bomber

Dignitaries from around the world have gathered in Berlin to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of the Berlin airlift.

The Soviet Union entirely blockaded the western parts of the German capital in June 1948, when the country and the city were divided into US, UK, French and Soviet occupation sectors after World War Two.

“I did not ask permission.” – Gen. Lucius D. Clay, the U.S. commander in Berlin who started the airlift without clearance from Washington.