Willy Brandt – no moral ambiguity

I talked about German politicians with a British friend of mine today. We agreed that Germans are usually not drawn towards charismatic politicians and definitely not to loud, screaming ones (we made rather bad experiences with that kind). My friend said: “I think Germans want their politicians to be unobtrusive and just get their job done” and I agree. We don’t consider showy people to be efficient. There is another kind of politician we don’t accept – a morally ambiguous one. The only thing worse than a morally ambiguous one would be a morally despicable one. You know, the kind that plays down right-wing terror groups. Or one who sympathizes with them or is backed by them.

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“Do you want patriotism with that?” – “No, thanks.”

Some weeks ago, at the beginning of the European Cup, I was in Leipzig visiting my friend Susanne. We had dinner in an Italian cafe and noticed how it suddenly filled up with many Italians. Ah yes, the game Italy vs Belgium would start in a few minutes and there was a giant screen on a wall of the cafe. The Italians were in a great mood and eagerly followed the events on the TV screen. The teams entered the stadion and the Italian hymn began. Not only did the players sing along, but the people in the cafe went along as well, very loud and very enthusiastically. I said to Susanne, “It’s a pity we Germans never do that,” and she replied, “Well….with our history….”

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Mein Leipzig lob ich mir – My Leipzig’s dear to me

Leipzig is an exceptionally beautiful city, one that never fails to delight me. It has the cozy prettiness of Gohlis, the effortless elegance of the Waldstraßenviertel, the bustling but pleasantly non-hectic center city and a wealth of marvellous cafés and restaurants. In addition the people are of a hearty cordiality. If you haven’t been to Leipzig yet, go there.

Leipzig also is steeped in history. If you want to understand German culture on a deeper level, this is the place to go. (In case you stop reading here because you’re not interested in history: go to Leipzig anyway! It has much more to offer than history.) Continue reading “Mein Leipzig lob ich mir – My Leipzig’s dear to me”

November 9 in Germany


November 9 is a difficult day. On the one hand it’s a day of joy because East Germany opened its borders on November 9 – the wall came down, as we say, and as far as I’m concerned that’s the best thing ever to happen in this country. On the other hand, it was also one of the darkest days in Germany, when the disgusting nationwide progrom against the Jews took place in 1938. And those are not the only historic events taking place in Germany on November 9. Let us travel back…

November 9, 1848 – Revolution!

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October 3 – German Reunification

I remember how I spent October 3, 1990. It was the first time that this day was a holiday – the actual day of the reunification of East and West Germany. There was a Mass at church, to celebrate this reunification after forty-five years of separation. The church was crowded – usually it only was that well-attended on Christmas. The mood was cheerful. A young woman in front of the me carried a little child in her arms. Once in a while the child turned around to stare at me with large eyes. I smiled at it, I wanted to smile at the whole world on that day.

In the afternoon, the typical rattling of a Trabi could be heard even before the small East German car turned into our street. The Trabi – officially called Trabant – makes a unique sound that everybody who grew up in East Germany or was there a few times will recognize. Our relatives from Gera in East Germany had arrived for a visit – the West and East parts of our family united on this special day.

Just one year before, such a visit would have been impossible. While West Germans could travel to East Germany (after undergoing a lot of paperwork), East Germans could only come to West Germany if they were over 65 or if they got a permit to attend a special family event there.

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