Lake Crystal, Minnesota. May 7th, 2014. A 58-year old woman was travelling home in a thunder storm after a long day in the massage business, taking care of customers located away from her office in Fairmont. She was heading westbound on a major highway connecting Mankato with Windom and was just passing Lake Crystal when the scare of her life happened! Lightning struck her SUV, a Chevy Blazer, disabling the vehicle and with it, the automatic lock system set in the lock position! As she called for help on her mobile phone, lightning struck again, setting the vehicle on fire!! She was trapped and tried frantically to set herself free! At the same time, a police officer and a driver nearby, saw the blaze and ran as quickly as possible to the burning car, with the officer breaking the window on the passenger side and both men pulling her out of the car! And just in time too, as the vehicle exploded just as they were getting to the squad car! A video of the event can be found here:
While the driver survived with only scratches and bruises, the vehicle was a total loss, but it lead to some questions, which included the main one: How could this happened and could this have been avoided?
In Germany, such an incident is very rare to find, namely because of its tough regulations for the vehicles. In particular, the TÜV. Known as the Technischer Überwachungsverein, this organization was founded in 1866 in Mannheim under the name Gesellschaft zur Ueberwachung und Versicherung von Dampfkesseln (or The Association for the Inspection and Safety of Steam Engines and Boilers) in response to the numerous steam engine explosions in what is now Bavaria, Thuringia and the Ruhr Area in North Rhine-Westphalia. Its success in five years time in reducing the number of accidents prompted the conversion from a private organization to a state-run entity in 1871, the same year Germany was established, with several key members like Walther Kyssing overseeing the organization. Starting with 43 TÜVs, the numbers have been reduced through consolidation to five: TÜV South, TÜV North, TÜV Thuringia, TÜV Rhineland and TÜV Saarland, with one located in Turkey, France and Austria.
TÜV has regulations for all engines and appliances to ensure that they work properly and the consumers are not harmed with potental defaults. This also applies with automobiles as well, as federal and European laws require that all cars are inspected accordingly so that they are operating according to regulations.
“It applies to automatic locks in cars,” says Vicenzo Luca, Head of Corporate Communications at TÜV South, located in Munich. The agency is the largest in Germany, with 19,000 employees and serving Bavaria and Baden-Wurttemberg. “While automatic locks are allowed in Europe, they are inspected to ensure they function properly.” One has to be careful with the role of TÜV for they are not the ones with the regulations outright. “The law-giving authority is the European Commission and in Germany the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA) in Flensburg, and not the TÜV organisiations,” Luca states in an interview with the Files. This leads to the question of how TÜV works in today’s Germany. If asked how TÜV works, using the South organization as an example, it would be explained like this, according to the interviewee:
“TÜV SÜD is a global technical services company made up of the INDUSTRY, MOBILITY and CERTIFICATION Segments. Its service portfolio comprises the areas of testing, inspection, auditing, certification and training. TÜV SÜD brings people, technology and the environment together – ensuring lasting, sustainable results and adding value.
Founded in 1866 as a steam boiler inspection association, TÜV SÜD has evolved into a global, future-oriented enterprise. Over 22,000 staff continually improve technology, systems and expertise at over 800 locations in over 50 countries. By increasing safety and certainty, they add economic value, strengthening the competitiveness of their clients throughout the world.
In the INDUSTRY Segment, TÜV SÜD’s suite of services spans support for the safe and reliable operation of industrial plants, services for infrastructure and the real-estate industry and the testing of rolling stock, signalling systems and rail infrastructure. In the MOBILITY Segment, TÜV SÜD’s experts carry out periodict technical inspection of vehicles and emission tests and support automotive manufacturers in the design, development and international approval of new models and components. The CERTIFICATION Segment covers services aimed at ensuring the marketability of consumer, medical and industrial products and the certification of processes and management systems across all industries.”
In other words, no certificate is a no-go. When owning a car in Germany, “…..German law regulates that cars have to be inspected the first time after 36 months after initial registration, added Luca. “The Subsequent inspections are every 24 months.”
After the first three years, the car has to be inspected- afterwards, every two years. If there is a reason behind the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with their cars, it is not only because they should look nice, it is because they should function and given the TÜV approval according to law. But apart from locks, the TÜV inspects the following car parts:
- Exhaust system
- Lighting/electrical systems
- Pedals, seats, seat belts
- Electronic safety systems
During the inspection, when flaws are discovered in the car, car owners are required to fix these flaws or risk losing the vehicle altogether while paying hefty fines. According to Luca, ” Flaws have to be fixed within a four-weeks-time and then the car has to be re-inspected. The fine for driving without valid inspection varies by the time the inspection is overdue. From 2 to 4 months, 40 Euro. From 4 to 8 months, 60 Euro. More than 8 months 75 Euro. If the car is a serious danger for road safety, the police can withdraw it immediately from circulation.”
If looking at the cars on America’s freeways today, looking at the appearance of them alone, three out of four would be removed from the highway, for having bumbers attached to the car via duct tape or black-colored exhaust fumes from the tail pipe are not allowed. Owners of half of the remaining 25% of the cars would be forced to fix the cars or face fines and comfiscation by the police. This leads to the question of how important it is to have the cars inspected. According to Luca, it is important to have the cars inspected through TÜV because, “The third-party-inspection adds substantial value to road-safety in Germany, as conflicts of interest are avoided. As the inspecting organisations do not draw any financial benefit from a possible reparation of a car, the owner can rely on a neutral judgement. On the other hand garage owners can proove to critical car owners that a reparation is required.” Yet, while regulations are universal in Europe, each state has its own set of inspections that fulfill the guidelines. “Within the EC periodical technical inspections are part of the road safety program, says Luca. “The inspections and the periods vary from state to state, but basically the have the same goal.”
TÜV regulations apply for all vehicles with a cubic capacity of more than 50 ccm, meaning trucks, trekkers, motorcycles and trailers, according to Luca. Yet no inspection guidelines apply for bicycles, although from the author’s point of view, it would not hurt as some of the components, including gears, bike chains and lighting should work properly if bikers commute on a daily basis, like the author does. But perhaps in a few years, a TÜV guideline will be enforced and the bike shops will profit from new customers needing their bikes inspected and fixed to fulfill guidelines. A similar guideline already exists in Switzerland, together with a vignette, insurance to protect the bikes from damage or theft.
With more vehicles on the road than 10 years ago, the importance of inspections is increasing not only for the safety of the driver but of others on the road as well. And while such an inspection is costly, it will benefit the driver and the car. Especially when the driver wants to avoid an incident like it happened in Lake Crystal last year. While it is unknown who is at fault for the technical defect which almost took the life of the driver, it is almost certain that with inspections like what is being done with TÜV, chances of such a freak incident will decrease. This was the mentality that Germans had when creating the inspection organization for steam engines and boilers 140 years ago, and it is the mentality that exists today, which justifies high quality products, especially when it comes to cars, a prized good for a German household. <3
The author would like to thank Vicenzo Luca for his help and photos for this article.
WEIMAR- In your opinion, do you think we are living in a society that is utopian? Does democracy and utopia co-exist, or is it dystopian or even an illusion? How does our environment affect our society and the way it is run? How many forms of topia exist or were invented? These were the questions that were addressed at this year’s Weimar Rendezvous. Every year since 2009, an average of over 1000 people, including students, intellects and interested people have attended the four-day event, consisting of presentations, podium discussions, films, exhibits and music festivals with a focus on a theme that is politically and historically relevant to today’s society. This year’s event looks at the topic on “Utopia,” where presenters (consisting of historians, professors, politicians and members of civil society organizations) took a look at this topic, how it was developed and how it plays a role in our current society. This year’s event was overshadowed by the terrorist attacks in Paris (see the article in the Files by clicking here), but it did not stop visitors from listening to the topics and integrating the events in France into the theme of the weekend.
The Weimar Rendezvous was established in 2009, based on a similar event that has been taking place annually since 1998 in the French town of Blois. As Weimar is not only the place of multiculture and various forms of architecture (including Bauhaus), but it is the platform where democracy and literature came into frutition and blossomed. Goethe and Schiller met in the city and some of the works were based on their stay in Weimar. The Weimar Republic (1919-1933) was conceived in Weimar. Many greats of fine arts stayed in Weimar and used their experience as a platform for their careers. And with the Rendezvous, Weimar has been the platform for history and politics, as many current topics, laden with theory, science, architecture and especially history, have attracted many intellects, teachers, professors and students, in addition to others interested in history. Weimar is part of the Weimarer Dreiecks, where most of the themes are focused on the three European countries: Germany, Poland and France.
As a teacher of English, social studies and history, the Weimar Rendezvous is an excellent place to gather information on and deepen the topics of interest, thus providing some ideas for the next class session. Especially for the topic on utopia versus dystopia, for the latter was completed in 9th grade social studies class, where the group watched the film “In Time,” which depicts dystopia in the future tense. Here we compared dystopia with utopia in a theoretical sense, then compared them with how they were used in reality, using the examples of democracy and dictatorships that existed in history, and garnering some ideas to create the main idea of the meaning of democracy vs. dictatorship. Little do we realize is that utopia and its various forms have their roots dating back to the 1500s. Over the next 300 years, the concept branched out in several directions like a tree, each one shaping the way society is running in both a positive as well as a negative sense. Traces of the -topia can be seen today, as they have played a role in shaping our country and how their relationship with other countries. This includes the role of religion and the environment, two hot topics discussed during the Sunday sessions, as well as the African-American movement and its history and development in the United States from 1865 to the present.
Some highlights of the event from the author’s perspective include the following:
- According to the podium discussion on the history of Utopia, we found that Thomas Morus produced a book bearing the title in 1516. With his envision of utopia, which was a perfectionistic society with equality and uniformity, this was the seed that was planted which later bloomed into a tree with various forms of (u)topia.
- In another podium discussion on religion and utopia, the word apocalypse and its argumentive definitions, was used by the founders of the Churches to describe the replacement of a corrupt society in biblical proportions in favor of a utopian society. It was stressed more so by Martin Luther when he introduced his demands for reforms in the 1500s and later by his followers.
- During a podium discussion on the environment, there came a consensus by the speakers, when asked about the role of the media in influencing society’s thinking, which was as long as the public believes that the United States has less sunlight than Germany, as stated by Fox News, a staunch opponent of solar energy, no change will happen until it is too late.
- In a podium discussion on Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, never seen before photos of Rosa Park’s arrest and jail custody for sitting in the white zone of a transit bus, King’s speech and many Nazi propaganda posters against Barack Obama were displayed with a clear-cut message: America is (and will never be) ready for a non-Caucasian President, especially in light of the racial profiling and violence dominating the American landscape.
- In an evening podium discussion on architecture and utopia, the concept of modern architecture and futurama originated from the 1930s but was advanced further in the 1950s in Europe.
A book with a summary of the speeches from this year’s event will be published in the near future. However, highlights and photos of the events can be found in the Weimar Rendezvous website, which you can click here for more information on the event. A facebook page with photos of the event, courtesy of Juliane Fox Schwabenbauer, can be found here. The Files also has photos of the events the author attended, which you will find here.
A separate article on how to teach dystopia in the classroom is in the making and will be posted in the Files’ WordPress internet site.
I am not sure how to start this column entry off as I needed some time to think about what to write about. But being a Methodist who also has a background in other religions in Christianity (mainly Lutheran and Catholic, the latter of which I was baptised at the age of 3 months) and learning some lessons from a devote Christian I met a few months ago, I figure I would start off with a quote from the Bible from the book of James.
James 4:11-12: 11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.[a] The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?
The topic I am referring to in this article: politics in social network- in particular, Facebook. And even further, the events in France and refugees. When I joined Facebook in 2010, I did it with the main intention of reconnecting with friends and colleagues whom I lost connections since leaving the United States for my adventure in Germany, while at the same time, establish new friendship with people I met while in Germany, as well as those who have similar interests as I so and those whose interesting life stories have led us to connecting. And this in addition to connecting with family members.
Fast forwarding to the present, and despite being reconnected with people, who I would put into eleven different categories (including people from five different alma maters, two high schools, the bridgehunting community, close friends, expatriates and family), I have realized that social networking does have worms in them which can destroy connections and friendships. In particular, when it comes to politics.
A few days ago, I had put a post on my timeline expressing my opposition to the petition made by 32 US Governors to President Barack Obama to put a halt to the immigration of refugees from Syria and Iraq, despite their lands being destroyed by ISIS terrorists, and in response to the terrorists attacks in Paris and Beirut that killed ca. 200 people and injured many more. The responses to the posts were outrageous. The respondants showed disrepect towards the President, calling him a dictator even though the US Government system consists of Congress (which passes the bills), Executive (where the President signs the bill into law) and Judicial (where the Supreme Court can determine its constitutionality) Branches. But what more alarming was a comment by one respondant saying the following to a German in this conversation, who supported the refugees living in Europe and the US: “If it hadn’t been for us Americans, you (…..) would be speaking Russian!” (I think you can fit any degrading comment depicting a German in here)
You can imagine the author’s reaction in response to the comment, analogizing it with a scene from The Big Lebowski:
If there is a word of advice regarding posting potential controversial topics on Facebook, it would be this: Do NOT mess with a stranger in the Alps. Your enounter will determine your life’s destiny.
This incident opened my eyes to reality in ways that were not opened before- not even during the days of George W. Bush. It went beyond the insult made on my family and friends here in Germany and into an area most sensitive to the human body, mind and soul- our freedom of expression, our freedom to state our opinion and respect the opinions of others. We were taught the US Constitution in school and I learned about the German Basic Law while living here, both of which feature the right to free speech. Before social networking came about and became an important commodity in our lives, we would enjoy conversations in person where our opinions mattered and we learned from each other. Even when Bush ran the country to the ground during his reign, we kept ourselves civilized and respected each other and our rights.
What has happened to it? With the introduction of social network, we have been getting bombarded by information deemed biased, containing half-lies and leading us to hatred. Whenever we post our own opinions towards topics like refugees or provide questions for the forum, we are received with hate comments even from strangers. Even the information from neutral sources is played down as absurd. And instead of a good chat with a friend far away, we get thrown out of his/her network for expressing our opinions because it does not conform with his/her opinion. It is like with the Miranda Law in the US: Anything you say can and will be used against you, except in this case, we cannot state anything without causing a fight and below-the-belt comments like what I witnessed. Sadly, other people have experienced worse and have even started reconsidering plans to spend Christmas with them.
What in God’s name have we become? Have we lost our sense of reasoning and sensitivity towards others? Has (at least this latest round of) politics really destroyed the fabric of friendship and family? When will this hatred on social network finally stop?
The same devout Christian from Saxony once forewarned me that I was posting too much and that my political opinions will eventually cause dischord which cannot be reversed. Unfortunately, her revelations were right, but with the latest debate on refugees in the US and Europe, it has affected us all, not just myself. Several people have even reconsidered closing down their Facebook accounts because being on there is like walking through a Wal-Mart store filled with trailer trash people purging the store, destroying items in their path without even paying for them. But as I have many in my network I keep in touch with, it does not make sense. The only solution is to take a few steps back, spend less time with the social network and cease posting political comments and engaging in political discussions. And kick out those who try to start one in my timeline.
Sometimes being away from this junk can serve as a signal for people to think about their actions, to learn to respect the opinions of others and become civilized towards each other. As the statement at the beginning shows, I respect the opinions of others. I want others to respect mine too. Listening to others helps a person grow, too. A little word of advice before posting the next political comment for discussion on your timeline or that of others.
P.S. to that person who advised me to cut back on my posting, in case you read this, I will take that advice in hope to find a bit of peace in light of all the problems we have in the world. In other words, I owe you for this. 😉
This article goes out to the people in Paris and Beirut and the families and friends of those who were killed in the terrorist attacks of 13 Noveber, 2015, showing solidarity, love and courage in the face of the unknown evil that cannot be won unless we get to the root of the problem. The attacks happened just as the article on Civil Courage was published, and despite the question of coincidence, both this and that article should be read to get a better scope of what is going on in our society today.
There are two important variables in life where we cannot escape, even if we tried: death and taxation. We’re all are going to die, and we are all obliged to pay our taxes to the state to keep the system and government running.
After Paris, we now have a new constant variable: war. We live in a war every day, whether it is a classical war or a domestic war, whether we face bullies in school, backlash for murder or terrorists who try to take away our right to live in society, whether it is a war on poverty and the environmental pollution, or war against ISIS and the Taliban and their satellites. No matter how we make peace, together with when and with whom, the next war is around the corner.
But do we care about it and do something about it? Absolutely not.
We live in a world of naivety, where we try to make the difference between good and evil, spend billions of dollars in military hardware and personnel to fight the evil that we claim to see, but in all reality we do not, bomb countries and destroy lives in an attempt to destroy the terrorists, persecute those who are fleeing their homelands beset by violence for a better place. We tried that with Afghanistan and Iraq to topple the dictatorships ruling the country and harboring the terrorists. Yet what happened? Our mission, once touted by George W. Bush as being accomplished, is anything but that. The countries we bombed are still in shambles. Their people are still suffering from poverty and repression from corruptive regimes. And lastly, the terrorist regimes are sprawling, engulfing countries in their grasps.
And what have we done about this? We’ve converted our country from a democracy to a pseudo-democracy, where Big Brother is watching us, through internet, surveillance and other forms of spying to ensure that we are believed to be living in a utopian society- or any type of topian society where what we say or do may be used against us. We shift our focus away from the universal problems affecting us- global warming and the devastating effects on many regions of the world, poverty and social inequality, the degradation of our domestic programs- and focus on problems irrelevant to today’s real problems: defaming a dentist killing a lion, watching a TV show of Cops versus Afros, debating about Steve Jobs’ last words, and listening on the radio about the debate of how long Chloe Cardashian’s boyfriend will stay with her while pregnant before he leaves her and she seeks coalesce with her sister, Kim. This is in addition to our lives being watched by machines, focusing on how big of aetheists or “Jesus freaks” we are, plus exploiting things that we are private to us. In other words, we have become a selfish society where every man is for himself but only under the loop of Big Brother, living in a topian society that is fictitious and far away from the reality that we have turned our back on- and the people who need our help badly.
The bombings of Paris is a clear sign that we are still at war. The grim reality is this war is perpetual, never-ending, closing in on apocalyptic. Our ignorance to the people in need, their homelands no longer liveable because of the disastrous effects of global warming combined with warfare sparked by the war on terrorism, has come at a price that is exorbitant, where the next generations will never be able to pay it off. We are fighting a war that we cannot win because our policies, strategies and technologies are not enough to win it. But at the same time, the war cannot be lost because our enemies (the terrorists) are suffering from the same problems we are facing- their warfare strategies and technologies are not sufficient enough to destroy our modern society. We are at a stalemate, where no matter how many lives we lose on both sides, the war is not winnable. We can tackle the problems by sending tens of thousands of troops to the ISIS regions in Syria and Iraq to eradicate the groups once and for all, introduce Israeli-style security measures at all public events, reinforce surveillance to match that of George Orwell’s 1984 or the film, In Time, and integrate refugees into our culture. We can take measures to reverse the effects of global warming, even. However this will not solve the problem of the war that we are in.
What can help alleviate the pain is showing solidarity to the victims and their families, reach out to those in need, offer peace to our enemies and find out what they want and compare it to what we want. In other words, we can only afford to collaborate, find universal solutions to the problems causing this constant warfare, and find a peaceful co-existence, for anything else beyond that- increased security and surveillance, exclusion of people of other backgrounds, more military action and other forms of radical thinking- we have already exhausted our resources for them, and it would be a waste of time and money to reinvent the wheel.
While we cannot return to business as usual, we cannot afford to take measures deemed radical, especially in a war that we cannot win on both sides. But solidarity and collaboration may be the first steps in the right direction. Everything else that happens afterwards depends on how both sides can profit from the talks….
As a way of showing solidarity and the need for a peaceful co-existence in the time of crisis and war, the Flensburg Files and its sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will each present their logos representing the colors of France. This will remain in effect for the rest of 2015. The Files features the French flag as a replacement of its famous sailboat avatar with a green background representing the need for peace and solutions to the universal problems that we can no longer afford to ignore. While the battle against the terrorists is one of these problems, larger ones, such as rebuilding the regions torn by war and beset by terrorists, tackling global warming and the impacts on all aspects, and evening out the gap between rich and poor have yet to be tackled from all aspects of society.
Civil Courage: derived from the Latin word civilis and the French word courage and meaning the courage of the people to do something what is deemed right. In German, it is known as Zivilcourage and has been one of the most talked about topics in the past two decades. Politicians, civic leaders and organizations in civil society have called upon Germans to show civil courage and help others when help is needed. But why is that when civil courage is a natural trait you see in other countries, including the US?
Especially when it comes to the problem with right-winged extremists has civil courage been heavily discussed for reasons of fear: fear that the laws in the books may be used against them, but also fear of retaliation on the part of people involved wanting to help them. It also presents a conflict of interest between instinct- knowing that there is someone there to help- and the protection of privacy and one’s own private sphere, as mentioned by Prof. Veronika Brandstätter of the University of Zurich in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel. According to the professor of psychology, specializing in motivation psychology, Civil Courage is a question of value in terms of democracy and humanity, examining the issues of solidarity, tolerance and the readiness to help. In other words, how far can you go to help someone? What resources are at your disposal and whether additional help is necessary in some cases. While he points out rescuing someone trapped on thin ice as one of the obvious signs where one stops his activities immediately to help, the issue involving right-wing extremism has been an ongoing theme since 1990, which seems to have climbed to the top three in terms of problems Germany is facing at present- refugees and the widening of social classes are the other two, with the Volkswagon scandal not far behind.
Examining the situation 25 years ago, especially in the eastern half of Germany, there were only very few traces of solidarity towards those in need for two reasons:
- The traumatic effects of National Socialism in the 1930s and 40s, counting the devastation Germany faced in World War II, combined with Germany being a battlefield during the Cold War as Communism and Capitalism locked horns along the East-West borders including Berlin. Here, we had two major poles: those who still believed in the German race and those who were afraid of being arrested by one of the two Superpowers. For the former, a classic example of how right-winged nationalism was strong was the riots in Rostock in 1992, where residents and neo-Nazis attacked apartments occupied by Vietnamese immigrants, setting them on fire and chasing the occupants away. The Police were poorly equipped to handle the protests. Further attacks on foreigners followed where bystanders stepped aside to avoid any confrontation by the extremists who dubbed them as helpers.
For the latter, it had to do with the sphere of influence the two superpowers had on the divided Germany: the US for the western half and the Soviet Union for the eastern half. Both were of the opinion that Germany should be rebuilt and grow but on a controlled basis, for fearing of another rise in power. This resulted in the post-war generations growing up being influenced by two different powers that reshaped their way of thinking. It did not mean that the country of free-thinkers was a puppet. It meant that in order for the country to achieve its independence, the Germans had to abide by the regulations from the outside, which disappeared bit by bit as the country bought itself back its independence, only to have that achieved with German Reunification in 1990. And even then, the people growing up during the Cold War era had the extra caution mentality, where help is only given when it is deemed safe to do so.
The second reason behind the lack of solidarity is the mentality of letting the people “swim in cold water” and fend for themselves. This meant that there was an expectation that people coming to Germany (or at least a region in Germany) were to have learned the language, customs and way of life, and there was no need to assist them, even if asked. Even the idea of saying “Schönen Tag wünsche ich Ihnen/Dir!” (Have a nice day) 15 years ago seemed preposterous in the eyes of many who prefer to concentrate on their own affairs and not that of others. Again, this applies to the older generations who may had never dealt with situations with refugees and foreign residents as we are working with today. When first arriving in 1999, the first negative impression per se was the customer service in many stores and offices, where the atmosphere was either monotonous, unfriendly or both. The exception was at the university and offices that deal with foreign students.
Let’s fast forward to the present, and how Germany has cleaned its image a great deal. The meaning of civil courage has become a household name in the country for three major reasons:
- People and organizations are being recognized for their services of helping those in need, regardless of circumstances and what background they have. Every year the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Cross of Merit) is given out to outstanding people for their extraordinary service, regardless of which level (local, state or national). First introduced in 1951 by German President Theodor Heuss, there are eight different classes awarded pending on the degree of service. Even cities have introduced their own awards to people for their service to the community. While this had gone almost unnoticed before 1990, it has taken center stage since then, especially as politicians have strongly encouraged people to show solidarity and help the people who are in need, including the current German president Joachim Gaucke in his televised speeches.
The second reason behind the importance of civil courage is the rise of the next generations (those born from 1970 onwards) and their awareness of problems on the global front. These people usually have university degrees, speak at least two foreign languages, have travelled to foreign countries, encountered people from different cultures and are more aware of the problems Germany is facing in comparison with other countries in the world than the baby boomers, many of whom fought for their rights on their own soil and not in a foreign country. The more experiences they gathered and the more aware of the situation they are, the more likely they will help others out, especially those wanting to settle down in Germany for an uncertain period of time.
And finally, the people in Germany have become more aware of the problems facing them as far as domestic issues and immigration are concerned. This is caused in part due to the information they receive in the news as well as the experience they have gathered and shared with others. Even if certain stereotypes of those in need (especially the refugees and immigrants) are held by some based on rumors, having experienced it on hand or through others sometimes helps them reshape the way of thinking and reconsider their actions towards others in a positive manner.
It still does not mean that the country is perfect. There are still attacks on foreigners, especially in light of the large influx of refugees from Syria, and parts of Africa. Refugees and immigrants are looking for new homes and a new life. The gap between rich and poor is widening, especially when it comes to children who live in poverty. And we still have problems with pollution and other environmental issues. But we are seeing the gravity of the situation, and we have more people ready and willing to help, regardless of what the consequences are and how they are recognized in the end for their work. In the 15+ years living here, one can find this variable that is recognizable and much appreciated: openness and kindness. There was not much there at first when I came, but one will find it often nowadays, no matter where a person goes. And this is something that does not go unnoticed while traveling through or living in Germany.
To finish this article, here is an exercise designed to test your knowledge about how civil courage should be implemented. Look at the situations below and ask yourself what you would do in a situation. Remember, what you do for action may be different for others and can lead to a discussion.
- You drive on the motorway and see a person seeking a ride to the nearest petrol station. This is just after passing a car with a flat.
- There is a family of refugees entering your community with nothing except what they wear, no money and little knowledge of the language. They are looking for a place to live and work.
- A friend prepares a party for another friend visiting from another country but is overwhelmed and needs some help.
- Two people fight over how they should work together on a project with one wanting to work alone and another wanting to work together.
- You see a group of neo-Nazis harassing someone from Africa, spitting on them and pushing them around, while riding a tram.
- You’re at a dance with some friends only to find someone sitting in the corner, all alone.
- While jogging, you encounter a dog who has lost his owner and follows you around. The animal carries a tag.
- A woman at work receives unwanted attention by someone with interest and does not seem to leave her alone.
- You break off contact with a colleague because of a fallout only to meet the person again in a different work setting months later.
- You witness an accident involving a car and a bike while biking to a party.
Note: Feel free to comment to any of the situations above by placing your comments below or in the Fles’ facebook pages.
Former German Chancellor handled the RAF Affair and the NATO Double-Pact during his regime (1974-1982) dead at 96.
HAMBURG- Helmut Schmidt, whose political career lasted for over 60 years both in and outside government and left a positive image for Germany in terms of international and domestic policies has died. Schmidt passed away this afternoon at a hospital in Hamburg after complications from a surgery in September to remove a blood clot. He was 96 years old. Schmidt was a member of the German Social Democratic Party from 1946 until 1982, which included his roles as Minister of Defense (1969-1972), as well as Minister of Economics and later Finance (1972-1974), all under Chancellor Willi Brandt. When he resign amid an espionage scandal in 1974, Schmidt took power as German Chancellor and ruled the country with a coalition featuring his party and the Free Liberals. Schmidt became the only Chancellor to lose his office through a Vote of No Confidence on 1 October, 1982, thus ushering in the era of Helmut Kohl of the Christian Democratic Party. The reason was the FDP’s alliance with the CDU, which made Schmidt a lame duck. Kohl still holds the record of being the longest reigning Chancellor, ruling for 16 years until 1998. During his time in power, Schmidt championed the strengthening and expansion of politics on the European level, including the introduction of a European currency (which was eventually introduced in 1999 and replaced the German Mark in 2002), as well as fostered domestic spending to help the unemployed, expand health insurance, and pass health and safety laws. He put an end to the reign of terror caused by the group Red Army Faction, and his policies involving the Cold War, led to the NATO Double-Track Policy, where mid-range missiles were stationed in West Germany, causing protests in many cities. Schmidt was loved and hated by many within and outside Germany because of his policies and his comments on certain events, especially on the international front. However, after he stepped down in 1982, Schmidt became an avid writer and editor, having been co-publisher of the German newspaper Die Zeit and authored several books, mainly focusing on politics and his memoirs about his time in Bonn and Hamburg. However, there are a few more facts that we don’t know about Schmidt. And therefore, we have the:
- Upon his death, Helmut Schmidt became the oldest living former chancellor, having outlived Konrad Adenauer by five years. Adenauer died in 1967 at the age of 91. He has also outlived the oldest former US Presidents, Gerald Ford (1972-76) and Ronald Reagan (1981-88), both of whom lived to be 93 years old. They died in 2006 and 2004, respectively.
- During the Great Flood of 1962, which hammered Hamburg and the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Schmidt, who was Hamburg’s senator, initiated moves by taking charge of the Federal Police and the Germany Army and directed them to the flooded areas, rescuing people stranded on top of houses and providing aid where needed. This overstepped boundaries and led to a change in the German Constitution which forbade the use of federal forces unless deemed a necessity. The flooding and natural disasters were added as a necessity in 1968.
- Schmidt was an avid pianist, having recorded music for several composers from the 1980s on.
- Schmidt was an avid smoker, having smoked heavily, both privately as well as in public and especially on TV shows. This was his signature for his character which was carried all the way to the end, despite controversies involving him violating smoking bans.
- Schmidt was the automatic go-to guy to talk to when asked about several political themes, both on the German as well as the international fronts. This included his views on the environment, whose opposition to shutting down nuclear power plants and his comment on global warming being hysterically overheated stirred a lot of controversies, but conceded that a population explosion is the biggest threat to mankind because of the potential exhaustion of resources. He was on many talk shows, having been interviewed in German and English.
- He was the focus of a Loriot caricature in the 1970s, when he was at his height of popularity amid several scandals and incidents affecting Germany.
- Schmidt’s interest in politics came during his experience serving the Army during the Third Reich and witnessing a trial that was considered biased and brutal, as the Nazis ordered the execution of conspirators responsible for trying to assassinate Adolf Hitler, including Claus von Stauffenberg, whose streets in many cities were later named in his honor.
Helmut Schmidt, despite the controversies and the opposition from others, was considered the elder statesman with open arms. Whenever he was asked about certain political current events, he was quick to provide some food for thought, something for people to think about and discuss, something for politicians to think about before enacting or vetoing any measures being debated first in Bonn and later in Berlin. Schmidt was considered the face of Germany in the 1970s but is really the face of European politics and international affairs, for his policies and advocacy for a more European model of politics, while ensuring that countries are able to keep their sovereignty and maintain a democratic regime in tact. Cooperation was for him the key to a peaceful environment, something that was anything but that during the Cold War, but was later carried out when relations between the United States and the Soviet Union warmed up and eventually, when the two divided Germanys became one in 1990. Schmidt made and maintained ties with many politicians, many of them are still alive today. But despite warnings of smoking being unhealthy, Schmidt was unphased by it, for smoking was still for the intellectuals, and he provided that no matter where he went or who he talked with. Schmidt will be missed for his character and his guidance in international affairs, especially now, when we have bigger issues affecting Germany and we have to go on without him, or at least with the lessons he gave us.
Schmidt is survived by his daughter, Susanne, who has followed his father’s footsteps by working for Bloomberg Television, but is preceded in death by his wife Hannelore “Loki”, who died in 2010, and his infant son. Leb wohl Herr Schmidt und vielen Dank für Ihre Beiträge und Mithilfe. Gott segnet Sie.
Helmut Schmidt Highlights:
Author’s Note: This article is a two-in-one deal. It’s an article in connection with Germany’s 25th anniversary, but it’s also in connection with the Files’ five years and how this column came into being. Enjoy!
While living in Germany, one will see a unique feature that has been talked about at the dinner table: institutions, laws and agreements named after German cities. We are not talking about institutions like breweries, whose headquarters are found at their places of origin, like the Flensburger, the Berliner Weisse, the Köstritzer, the Saalfelder and the like. That topic is saved for a rainy day, unless you want to know more about German beer (in that case, there’s an article for you right here). And what is also typical are the newspapers named after cities- these are also common everywhere and heceforth will be left out here.
What is meant by institutions are the banks and insurance companies that were founded in the place or origin, and with some exceptions to the rule, still exist today. Many of these financial institutions had their roots to the time of Bismarck’s regime beginning in 1871, the time when Germany was first founded as a country. Part of that had to do with Bismarck’s introduction of the social welfare and health care systems, where every citizen was required to have insurance in case of an accident. With that came the dawn of the insurance (More on that later). The Dresdner Bank was one of these examples. Founded in 1872 Karl Freiherr von Kaskel and based in Dresden, the bank became one of largest banks in Germany and eastern Europe, surviving two World Wars and the Cold War before it folded into the Commerzbank in 2009. There is also the insurance group Alte Leipziger, located an hour west of the city in Leipzig, which provides insurance coverage, especially for burn-out syndrome and other psychological disorders. One will find such (financial institutions) in many big cities, such as Munich, Stuttgart, Hannover and Frankfurt, just to name a few.
City laws and agreements are even more unique in Germany. While in the Anglo-Saxon countries have conferences and agreements on a larger scale in terms of international relations (such as the Washington Conference of 1922, the Bonn Agreement on Afghanistan in 2001 and the Frankfurt Documents in 1948), what is meant by agreements are the creation of domestic laws and systems that people in Germany have to abide by, which were signed and enacted at the place of origin. In some cases, like the Flensburg Point System, there is even an office that specializes in this type of law. As seen in the point system, the Kraftfahrtbundesamt (the office of vehicular registration) in Flensburg is responsible for giving drivers points for violations on the road. Other agreements known to exist include:
_The Düsseldorfer Tabelle: Founded in 1962 based on a controversial ruling and its subsequent appeal, the table determines how much child support a partner has to provide at the time of the divorce. It is classified based on the amount of money that person has to pay per month until the child is 25 years of age.
_Frankfurter Tabelle: This table is used to determine how much money a traveller should receive as a refund for lack of accomodations. This is determined by another table created in Kempten. The Würzburger Tabelle has a similar scheme but for boat cruises.
These are just a handful of agreements and laws that exist, which leads us to this activity:
Identify which city has its own law and agreement that was enacted in its place of origin and describe briefly what it is and how it works. That you can do in the comment section, links are welcomed regardless of language.
Origin of the Files:
Keeping German cities in mind, the next question that many readers, family members, friends and colleagues have been asking me is: Why Flensburg and not Frankfurt? As Piggeldy and Frederick would say: Nichts leichter als das (Easy as this):
I visited Flensburg for the first time in May 2010, as I needed to get away from everything that had been going on in my life that was unwelcomed. Just to put it bluntly and leaving it there. I had heard of the city and its proud heritage from a pair of people who either come from there or have lived there for many years. One was a former student colleague from my days as a teacher in Bayreuth, another was my best friend and his girlfriend from my days in Thuringia. I had heard about the point system before that and the beer. But upon setting foot on Flensburg soil, and exploring the city and visiting the people, it became the city worth visiting (along with the surrounding region), because of its natural surroundings, its landscape, and especially its history, tied together with that of Germany, Denmark and on the international scene. Some articles have been written about it, other themes have yet to make the column (and will soon enough).
While my main profession is an English teacher (and I’ve been doing this for 15 years), my second profession is a writer, who has been contributing works not only to this one but also to other newspapers. One day, in response to a letter I had written to a local newspaper demanding that my hometown in Minnesota set an example of what Flensburg is doing with its historic architecture by saving the former high school building, a friend and former high school classmate of mine recommended me to the areavoices website, where I can write about my experiences as a Minnesotan living in Germany, providing some photos and food for thought. She works at the Forum Communications Company based in Fargo, North Dakota but has newspaper offices throughout the Midwest, including Worthington (Minnesota), Mitchell (South Dakota), and those throughout North Dakota in Grand Forks, Jamestown and Williston, just to name a few.
After some thought about her offer, why not?
Together with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, the Flensburg Files made its debut in October 2010. The origin of the Files came from my will to keep the German tradition alive: my visit in Flensburg, using the German city name for the title, and the files- there is a file for every document submitted in a form of article, photos, interviews and the life. Besides, one can do a whole lot with the letter F, as you can see in the logos below.
Five years laters, the Files is running strong. Not only does the column provide some topics pertaining to German-American themes and places to visit (Christmas markets included), but it has extended to include more on culture, education (esp. for those wanting to learn English and are non natives), current events and some food for thought on the part of the author. It now has a wordpress website, which has attracted almost a thousand subscribers (and counting) plus unknown numbers of frequent visitors to the Files’ facebook pages and twitter. In other words, it has gotten bigger, attracting a large audience from all aspects of the world. Plans are in the making in the future to include a couple more social networks and provide a few more series beyond 2015, but the Files will remain the same, an online column that provides readers with an insight of German-American themes, even if it means going behind the scenes, as the author has done already.
This leads to the last question: Why Flensburg and not other cities in Germany? We have too many institutions, laws and agreements going by the names of Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg, just to name a few. Plus using names of other small cities are possible but they don’t provide the kick to a top-notch column like this one. One could rename it like the Husum Herald, St.Pauli Sentinal, Münster Morning News, Nuremberg Newsflyer, Glauchau (Daily) Globe (here, the people in Worthington would have a say in that), Leipzig Local (again same as Glauchau as that group exists), Weimar World News, etc. But nothing can top what the Flensburg Files can offer for title. And sometimes using something local and building off of what the city offers for rum, beer, handball and its point system, in addition to its beaches, landscape and especially its heritage can give a city like Flensburg a boost, like it has in the five years it has been in business, with many more years to come.
To close this article here’s a word of advice for those wanting to start an online column like this one, or a career as a journalist. Because our world is full of lies and corruption, there is one variable that is constant, which is the truth. The truth is the most important commodity a person has to deal with. This includes being true to yourself and your future. If you are sure that you want to uncover the truth and expose it, then do it. People may laugh at you at first, and you may face failure for the first few months or even years, but in the end, if you are true to your heart, you will win the hearts and minds of true friends who will stay with you to ensure that you stay to your course to become a successful writer. It takes likes of patience, passion, perseverence and persistence- the 4 Ps. Once followed, and once you receive accolades and respect for you as a true writer, then you will reach your destiny and beyond. Aim high and let the heavens do the rest.
And now, back to the writing……
But not before thanking Kari Lucin at the Grand Forks Herald and Tracy Briggs Jensen at the Fargo Forum, as well as my Flensburger student colleague, my pocket of friends living in Flensburg, my best friend and his partner (and kid) (whose names I will not mention but you know who you are), as well as all my supporters both here in Germany as well as across the big pond in the US for what you’ve done to make the Files a classy online column. What would the Files be like without the likes of you for your ideas, suggestions and many times, leading discussions? We may never know (and don’t want to know.) 😉
In connection with the Files’ five year anniversary and as a counterpart to another set of awards presented by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, this year marks the first time where we feature Flensburg’s Top Five. Between now and January 6th, you can submit your entries in the following five categories: Best Places to Visit, Best Photo, Best Writing Piece, Best Architectural Folly and Best Sports Folly. More information on how to submit your entry can be found here. In addition, the Files will feature its Top Five of the articles written since the column’s launch, as well as the top five Christmas markets visited by the author, which, together with the five categories, will be voted on in January this year. The winners will be announced on January 30, 2016 on the Files. To enter your condidate(s), please use the contact form and submit your entries before January 6, 2016:
Here are some entries that have been submitted so far:
BEST SPORT FOLLIES-
Muffed Punt: It is bad enough to have the ball be snapped over the head of a punter in American football, let alone in a losing game. But in the final seconds of the Michigan vs. Michigan State football game, the punter realized that it can be much worse when leading by a few points only to lose the game to the opponent. More here.
Blocked Field Goal: Not far behind and not as drammatic as the muffed punt in Michigan is the blocked field goal by Georgia Tech, which was supposed to lose to Florida State, but in the final seconds, pulled off a David vs. Goliath feat. Watch this clip.
Kickers slip and lose: In the 2015 Semi-finals of the German Cup (DFB Pokal), Bayern Munich, heavily favored to win against Borussia Dortmund, was supposed to win the match handily. Yet, they did not and were eliminated because of this.
BEST ARCHITECTURAL FOLLIES-
Berlin-Brandenburg: Touted as the second largest airport in Germany, the airport was supposed to open in 2007 and cost $4 billion. The cost has just doubled and it is planned for the ariport to be open by 2020. Why? More here as there are enough problems to give every single Berliner the biggest migrane headeache of the century.
Fehmarn Tunnel and Freeway: Another thorn in the side of Germany is the planned freeway through the island of Fehmarn in Schleswig-Holstein, featuring a tunnel connecting Puttgarden and Rodby and two bridges to replace the Fehmarn Bridge on the south end. This has been met with resounding protest despite government officials ignoring the negative effects of the freeway. More here.
BEST WRITING PIECE (t denotes throwback):
More to come. Looking forward to your entries in the respective categories!
Tuesday night right after a seminar at the university: the students are exhausted after you (as the teacher) unload some knowledge onto them to digest and think about. This includes the homework for the next session. You have another seminar to teach from 6:00 to 8:00 in the evening, but are very hungry. Then you learned from a colleague from Halle (Westphalen), who is new to the university that there is a fast-food potato wedge food stop, located between the building where you taught and another building where you are supposed to have your class in a half hour. You decide to try it out, only to find that there is a big line in front of the food stop.
Now why would a crowd hound a food joint, despite having a sign in Old German resembling this:
Any ideas what that means, readers?
Anyway, you have a look at the menu only to find that the potato is the centerpiece and is very popular, especially if you either combine it with a curry wurst or put sauce on it, as seen in the menu below:
The potato wedge is not the key theme of this article in the series but is only part of an even bigger topic, the potato (a.k.a. in D: Kartoffel), and its many ways to consume them! 😀 Together with pork (and its forms of bratwurst, Kasseler, and schnitzel), the potato is the most popular food that is eaten in Germany. Originating from Bolivia and Peru, the vegetable made its way to Europe beginning in the 16th century after the conquest of Hernando Cortes and Francisco Coronado, both of Spain, who brought the vegetable over for cultivation. The potato was responsible for the stability and growth of the population in Europe over the next three centuries. And with that, the cooks and chefs found many ways of creating a dish using this most important commodity- first in the castle, then later in the house or dugout. No matter how the spud (as Americans would nickname it) was cooked and made, one can never go wrong with the potato.
Germany has three different types of potatoes that exist in the supermarkets today, along with another relative of the family, the sweet potato (Süßkartoffel), which also originated from the Americas. Each of the types has its different uses. The Mehligkochend can be found in blue-labeled bags and has a high concentration of starch- good for French fries, potato wedges and mashed potatoes. The vorwiegend Festkochend feature potatoes with a medium amount of starch and can maintain its shape while cooking. Found in a red-tagged bag, they are excellent for baked potatoes but also for potato wedges. And lastly, the Festkochend, found in a green-tagged bag, has a low starch count, but the texture is firm enough to be used for a stew, salad, or even boiled potatoes (Pellkartoffeln). Although potatoes are grown in Germany, some are imported from other countries in Europe as well as Israel and therefore, are required to have labels on them, showing the type and the country of origin.
Apart from the potato wedges, one can create a variety of dishes with the potato, although the recipes vary from region to region and based on family tradition. This includes the potato salad, which goes excellent with every meat dish provided in Germany, period. While I enjoy the family recipe handed down to me by my late grandmother, where we have potatoes with radishes, peppers, corn and mayonaise, many Germans prefer potato salad with a combination of pickles (gehrkins), red cabbage, bacon and onions. A little dash of vinegar (Essig) and you have a world champion side dish. Also common is the Kartoffelpuffer. It is the pancake version of the tater-tots, which can be served with sour creme and apple sauce. Like in the States, the mashed potatoes is a common side dish here in Germany, best served with onions and with a meat product, especially liver. And one can never go wrong with broiled (roasted) potatoes, especially if you live in Schleswig-Holstein, where roasted potatoes with bacon and onions go great with either Sauerfleisch or fish. Boiled potatoes can replace the typical cold plate (with bread) and can be eaten with whatever fixing you like, except for fresh produce. 😉 Hotdish, green eggs and red spuds, beef stew with potties and what not, if you can think it, you can cook it. If someone from Mecklenburg-Pommerania created and patented the McPom (Big Mac with Kartoffelpulver as the bun), it would not be surprising, except it’s doubtful McDonald’s would credit that person for the invention. There is always something behind that smile of Ronald McDonald that turns a person off….
Going back to the teacher example, the fried potato wedges with homemade remoulade and honey-lemon mayonaise is typical for the region of Thuringia, together with Kartoffelpuffer and the potato restaurants (think Kartoffelhaus in Jena). But the teacher didn’t care about it. He has tried it before and has been a regular customer of the fast food stop for over a couple years. The spuds are good and filling. And they are a perfect substitute to the typical Big Mac, fries and Coke, as they are typical for an American fast food restaurant. But in either case, the wedges are one of the typical potato entrées one can find in Germany. But unlike the family recipes at home, the different potato entrées vary by region in Germany, which means one should try a different local specialty when visiting the regions, whether they are in Schleswig-Holstein, Thuringia, Bavaria or even Baden Württemberg. Each one has its own specialty…..
…and in this case, together with a cup of coffee needed before the next class, a different taste! Mmmmmm……. lecker!
Check out the guide to various potato recipes by clicking here.
The next Genre of the Week is also a tribute to a man whose life as well as the lives of East and West Germans alike and those of Europe forever. Günter Schabowski was a long-time journalist, who was the chief editor the East German newspaper Neues Deutschland (New Germany) and later co-founder of the weekly newspaper, Heimat Nachrichten, based in Rotenberg/Fulda. Schabowski, who died on 1 November, 2015 after a long illness in a nursing home in Berlin, was a member of the Socialist Party SED from 1952 until its dissolution as part of the German Reunification process in 1990, of which he was member of the Volkskammer from 1981 until its end, and he was the governmental spokesperson for the East German Politbüro after the removal of SED leader and dictator, Erich Honecker in October, 1989. Once feared by many, by the likes of Christa Wolf (who was a writer and critic), Schabowski’s rounded character was revealed when he and members of the Politbüro executed the putsch to remove Honecker and replace him with Egon Krenz. However, his peak of fame came with this press conference on the eve of the Fall of the Wall in 1989:
The announcement of the opening of the Berlin Wall and the borders separating East and West Germany led to many East Germans to flock to the borders and many West Germans to embrace them.
And the rest was history.
But how about looking at it from the point of view of the border guards who had patrolled the Wall and the borders prior to November 9th, 1989? Maybe a bit of satire to go along with that?
This is where this film comes in: Bornholmer Strasse, a German film produced last year in commemoration of the event that is going on 26 years. The plot of the story is the border patrolmen guarding the border crossing at Bornholmer Strasse, at the site of the Bösebrücke, separating East and West Berlin, whose lives had been anything but spectacular until the events culminating to November 9th, where thousands of people stormed the crossings after hearing of Schabowski’s announcement of the opening of the borders. After much resistance because of misunderstandings between them, the media, and the SED, the patrolmen gave the green light, thus marking the beginning of the end of their lives, which was depicted at the beginning of the film, and whose display can be found at the GDR Museum in Berlin on Karl-Liebknecht Strasse 1. Here’s a trailer to the film:
The one caveat in this film was the fact that it was filmed at the Swinemünde Bridge near the train station Berlin Gesundbrunnen instead of at the actual site, but part of that has to do with the memorials that had been in place and the increase in traffic since the border’s opening. For more on the crossings, check out the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles’ guide to the crossings along the former Berlin Wall, here.
The producers of the film did a great job of keeping to the realities of the events, for the film depicts the confusion that not only the members of the SED had, but also the border guards and the people lining up just to see the other side of Berlin. It showed that once Honecker had been removed, it was a matter of time before the calls for democracy and the Wall to come down were heeded.
It is unknown whether Schabowski’s announcement to the media that the borders were going to open was accidental or intentional. But given his later renouncement of the SED and admittance of guilt of his involvement in the prevention of people from fleeing to the West (the latter resulted in a lighter sentence of only a year in prison), it seemed that he too realized that the changes were going to come eventually, either peacefully or by force. Already Mikhail Gorbachev allowed the countries in the eastern block to go their own way and announced that the Soviets were not going to be involved. Poland and Hungary had removed their dictators and opened their borders to the West. Realizing that Honecker was becoming an obstructionist who lived in his shell outside reality, Schabowski and others removed him from power peacefully. He eventually left Germany for Chile, where he died in 1994. The pressure was growing on Schabowski to open the gates. It was just a matter of time before he pulled the trigger- and this willfully.
Despite him being one of the worst politicians of the SED, he made good on his promise to unite East and West, even if the announcement was misunderstood as many scholars have mentioned. Sometimes when there is nothing left, the only solution is make the move and go on with life, leaving the past behind for a greener future. Because of him, we have a united Germany, and a united Europe. And looking at it from an East German’s perspective, we say Thanks! Looking at it from an author’s point of view, being an outsider from rural Minnesota, we say this: normally, bad guys should not be getting tributes like this, unless their merits warranted it. Schindler and Schabowski right now are probably sharing their experiences and embracing each other for their actions in saving lives of thousands in the face of repressive regimes even as this tribute and genre is being posted. And here I say, Vielen Dank und Gott segnet Sie.