Tribute to John Nash and the Game Theory

This genre of the week starts off with a quote: Sometimes the brightest minds happen to be the craziest, and even the craziest people are the ones that make the difference in our society. The genre also is a tribute to a fallen warrior, whose economic theory developed in college, reshaped the way we handle our affairs on the political, social and economic front.

John Forbes Nash, Jr. was a world-renowned mathmetician, economist and professor, whose theory of equilibrium, developed in 1950 and serving as a counterpart to the works written by Antoine Augustin Cournot in 1838, earned him international fame. He won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, the Neumann Theory Prize in 1978 and the Abel Prize this year. In a nutshell, the theory states:

A Nash equilibrium exists if and only if  no player in a game or negotiation can do better by unilaterally changing his or her strategy. That means if the player does not change his strategy because his competitors have their stretagies etched in stone, then there is an equilibrium, for it implies that the strategies serve as the best response. If the player does change the strategy in an attempt to gain an advantage, then there is no equilibrium. This theory, as seen in the video, is based on the question: “Knowing the strategies of the other players, and treating the strategies of the other players as set in stone, can I benefit by changing my strategy?”

This scene comes from the film A Beautiful Mind, based on the book written by Silvia Nasar in 1998 and produced as a film by Universal Pictures in 2001, starring Russell Crowe. Both the book as well as the film focused on two key themes that dominated Nash’s life. One was the Game Theory, which he developed further after it was published in 1950, while holding teaching positions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Rand Corporation and lastly, Princeton University.

Yet the second aspect dealt with a very dark part of life, which doctors and scientists are still researching on in hopes to find treatment and even a cure: schizophrenia. He was first diagnosed with the disease in 1959, he spent the next decade in and out of hospitals, going through treatments before leaving the hospital to live a quiet life with the love of his life, Alicia. He had been married to her prior to being diagnosed, later divorced, but in the end, remarried in 2001, going through the worst of times before starting a long recovery that resulted in his schizophrenia being controlled and not interfering with his normal life. In the end, as depicted in the book and film,  Nash returned to his career as a teacher and mathmetician. While there were some discreptancies in the film, especially with regards to the scene with the use of medication to treat schizophrenia, Nash mentioned that he never took medication except during his stay in the hospital. It was only after he was released from the hospital for good in 1970 that he never took medication again. Although not noted in the film or book, he and Alicia eventually became advocates of mental health, especially after their son was diagnosed with the same disease. Over the years, they travelled around New Jersey and the region, talking to government officials and health care agencies to promote mental health care and help those affected by mental illness to carry on their normal lives instead of being institutionalized.

Nash’s life can be summed up into one sentence: He was the man whose rational thinking, mathematical genius and creative talents led him to conquering the power of oligarchy, delusion and ignorance. He had been locked up both literally and in his head, but found a way to escape, leaving a mark for people in both the fields of economics and social sciences on one hand, but also medicine on the other, to read about, research further on, and continue on with his work. For those who have yet to read the book or see the film, it is highly recommended, for they both cover the aforementioned fields in detail, while looking at and paying tribute to the man who will forever be one of the faces of math and science.

John Nash and his wife of 60 years, Alicia, were killed in an automobile accident on 23rd May. They had originally returned from Oslo, where he had received the Abel Prize and were heading home in a taxi when the accident happened. Neither of them wore a seatbelt and were thrown from the car. John (aged 86) and Alicia (aged 82) leave behind their son, John Jr. The passing was untimely, and they will be missed by those who knew him, from those in West Windsor Township, to those at Princeton, to Russell Crowe (who paid tribute to him upon hearing the tragedy) and the millions of others who considered Nash a hero.

Including the author, whose Genre of the Week, A Beautiful Mind, includes a homage to the man who left a mark for others to follow, despite going through the darkness of life before coming out into the light.

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Flensburg: 23 May, 1945

German Naval Academy in Flensburg: Once part of the last Nazi stronghold in 1945

German Naval Academy in Flensburg: Once part of the last Nazi stronghold in 1945

Flensburg: 23 May, 1945. The war in the European theater was officially over. Hitler and Goebbels, along with many of his followers were dead. After signing the agreement of unconditional surrender of the German armies in northwestern Europe to British Field General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery near Hamburg on May 4th and Nazi Colonel General Alfred Jodl agreed to unconditional surrender to US General Dwight Eisenhower three days later at Rheims (France), millions of Europeans celebrated V-E Day, as Nazi Germany became no more.

Or was it?

On this day, 70 years ago, the last pocket of the Nazi government surrendered to British forces stationed in Flensburg, Germany. Jack Churcher had installed his post in the southern part of the city center at Norderhofendem 1, and British troops had taken control of the northernmost city in Germany. In comparison to other cities, Flensburg sustained minimal damage, and much of the city’s population was well-fed and dressed. They were for the most part aware that the war was coming to an end, and according to historian, Gerhard Paul in an interview with the SHZ Newspaper Group, “It was a matter of time before this absurd came to an end.” With the British troops entering Flensburg, the Nazi era had come to an end.

All except for the suburb of Mürwik, located on the eastern end of the harbor.

There, a small area in the suburb, extending for six kilometers and including the Naval Academy, was still under de facto Nazi control. Admiral Karl Dönitz had assumed power as the German president after Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels committed suicide on 30 April- 1 May, 1945.  Realizing that the war was lost, he and his remaining government officials fled the oncoming Soviet troops to Flensburg to set up a government there. The goal was to get as many fleeing German troops out of Berlin and out of reach of the Soviet troops and eventually broker terms of surrender to the western allies of the US, Britain and France. Originally they wanted to defend what was left of Nazi Germany, but they lacked the manpower and the ammunition for the efforts. After securing the agreements, it was a matter of time before the enclavement would be revealed, and the rest of the Nazi regime would surrender. Yet how they held out for so long until this date, the 23rd remains a mystery. Yet, as seen in the film produced by Pathé, soldiers of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, were in for a surprise when they found out not only how many people were holed up in Mürwik but who held out until the very end:

This leads to two main questions that are worth discussing:

  1. Why did Dönitz and his government wait for so long until they were discovered by British troops and were arrested? Could they not have surrendered to Churcher?

  2. As Dönitz claimed to have power in Germany, even after the agreements were signed and the war ended, would it not have made sense to declare 23 May as V-E Day and the end of Nazi Germany instead of May 8th?

Perhaps these questions will be speculated for a long time and may never be answered, but for Albert Speer, the architect of Hitler’s who received 20 years of prison time, “Flensburg was considered only the stage for the Third Reich, but nothing more than that.”  But why the town of Flensburg, of all the places Dönitz could have chosen? Was it an escape route for him and his people to flee the country through Denmark and the seas? Were there that many people sympathizing with the Third Reich, even though numbers indicate much lower support? Was it because of the navy, the rum, the beer? We may never know….

Today, Flensburg is a thriving city with many multi-cultural aspects. It still has the largest number of Danish people living there, along with many from other countries, even some from the US, Britain and Russia. The Naval Academy is still in business, and the city prides itself with its handball team, rum, beer, and other northern delecacies. But this 70-year old scar still remains, even if the city survived almost entirely unscathed by the war.  Time always has a way of healing, yet memories still remain, even on this day, when Dönitz and his men were arrested for their crimes, of holding the city (and in particular, one of the suburbs) hostage despite the war being over, and were brought to justice. This, in my eyes, was the real end of the European theater of World War II, and with that, a chapter in history we must never repeat again, period.

 

Note: Check out this documentary on the Flensburg Fiasco in German, as reported by SHZ, here. It was the last of the series written on the 70th anniversary of the End of World War II. A guide to earlier articles you find on the SHZ web, here.

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Germany Quiz Nr. 5: What to Know about Mecklenburg-Pommerania (Germ.: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern)

The Baltic Sea Coast at Zinnowitz at sundown. Photo taken in 2011

The Baltic Sea Coast at Zinnowitz at sundown. Photo taken in 2011

Mecklenburg-Pommerania- a hidden jewel in Germany. Many people consider the northeasternmost state, which borders Poland to the east, Brandenburg to the south as well as Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein to the west, to be desolate, with many dying villages, abandoned industries, and fewer but older people. It is understandable for thanks to the pre-1990 industry disappearing combined with the constant emigration of people ages 30 and younger, the state, with 1.6 million inhabitants, has the sparsest population per square kilometer (69 inhabitants per square kilometer) and the second lowest population in all of Germany. This does not count the three German City-States of Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin.

But Mecklenburg-Pommerania does have one shining light, which attracts people to this region more than in other regions along the Baltic and North Seas. Apart from its shipping, tourism is the primary industry for the state, as the state has led the country in terms of visits and lodging. In 2012, the state set a record for the number of tourists in the season, which starts in April and ends in October, counting the shoulder months.  What makes Meck-Pomm so attractive is for starters:

  1. The state has three national parks, making it the state with the most number in Germany.

  2. Two of the cities, Stralsund and Wismar, are World Heritage Sites

  3. Two of the largest islands in Germany are in this state.

  4. The state has the longest coastal area of all of Germany, with over 2000 km of coast line.

  5. Thanks to the glaciers, Meck-Pomm has one of the flattest landscapes in Germany with hills and cliff areas located in Rügen and in the vicinity of Rostock.

There are many other factors that make Meck-Pomm a popular attraction for tourists and therefore, the Files has a rather unique Germany Quiz, designed to give you an incentive to visit the places to be mentioned below. The quiz consists of the Matrix portion, where you can choose one or more cities to answer the questions. Here, you might want to consider looking at the cities and other places first before answering the questions to not only avoid any frustration but provide you with some ideas of where to go for your next vacation. The second and third parts are much shorter, with the latter dealing with Plattdeutsch, Lower German that is spoken in Meck-Pomm.

As the quiz is long and somewhat challenging, you should allow yourself some time to answer the questions. Therefore the answers will come on the 31st of May in the Files. This will allow plenty of time to test your knowledge with your friends and family.

So without further ado, let’s plan your trip to Meck-Pomm, shall we?  :-)

MATRIX:

MV Cities

1. What is the capital of Mecklenburg-Pommerania?

2. What is the largest city in Meck-Pomm?

3. Which of the places in the matrix are islands?

4. Which of the places in the matrix is a lake?

5. Name two cities whose respective universities are among the oldest in Europe.

5a. Which other cities have colleges?

6. Prior to 1945, Pommerania was considered one of the states belonging to first the Prussian kingdom and later the German Empire. The eastern half was given to Poland through the usage of the Oder-Neisse border implemented by the Soviets in 1946 and respected by Helmut Kohl in 1990 at the time of German Reunification. There are six former German cities that belong to the Polish part of  Pommerania. Which ones are they?

7. Which town (mythical, according to sources) sank to the bottom of the Baltic Sea because of a major tide?

8. The Störtebeker Festival, the largest and most popular open-air action festival in Germany, can be found on which island?

9. The Ozeanum, a large maritime museum that also engages in marine reasearch, can be found in this city?

10. A museum, devoted to the works of Caspar David Friedrich, can be found in which city?

11. Which two  towns on Usedom Island are known for its mass tourism? Hint: One are located close to the Polish border.

12. The _______________, Germany’s lone narrow-gauge railroad, can be found on this island?

13. Which two places in Meck-Pomm can you experience the Slavic way of life? (Note: The Slavic tribes settled in the eastern part of Germany between the 9th and 12th Centuries before being driven away by Germanic tribes).

14. Mecklenburg Pommerania is the only state in Germany (and one of only a handful of states left in the world) that has all three types of movable bridges left standing (Swing Bridge, Vertical Lift, and Bascule). Where are they located? (Hint: please click on the highlighted links to know more about what they are and what they look like)

15. Which town in Meck-Pomm once had the longest multiple span bridge in Germany, with 20+ spans? (Today, only eight of these spans exist along the River Elbe)

16. One of the major attractions that is a must-see is one of the largest submarines ever built in Germany. This exhibit and museum is located in this city?

17. The Mecklenburg Festival, which is devoted to classic music, can be found in this city?

18. The Swedish Festival, which commemorates the conquest of the Swedes in the 1700s, can be found in which city?

19.  The widest beach in Germany (measured as 3 km from the sea to land) can be found in the area of this city? Hint: You can see the teapot lighthouse as well as one of the oldest active lighthouses along the Baltic Sea in Germany.

20. You can enjoy a fish sandwich and cheer for your favorite soccer Bundesliga team in this city?  (Also identify name of the soccer team).

Zinnowitz.

Herringsdorf.

MIX:

1. How many castles does Mecklenburg-Pommerania have? Can you name at least three of them? 

2. Schwerin is located in the area known as the Seven Seas. True or False?

3. Which cities in Meck-Pomm have zoos and other animal parks and can you name at least one of them?

4. Rote Grütze is the German version of Jello and is the main desert in Meck-Pomm. True or False?

5. The main delicacy in Meck-Pomm is fish.  True or False?

6. The main fruit in the state, with which you can make juice or marmalade is….

a. Strawberry    b. Sandorn      c. Peach       d. Wildberries       e. Gooseberry

CAN YOU SPEAK PLATTDEUTSCH?  Guess which word is Plattdeutsch, the local language of Meck-Pomm and other parts of northern Germany. An English equivalent is provided.

1. Frau (EN: Lady/Woman)

a. Fräulein            b. Fru                c. Frilein          d. Free

2. Zeit (EN: Time)

a. Tied                  b. tiid                c. tea               d. tut

3. Haus (EN: House)

a. Houd                b. Hiess          c. Hus              d. Hoose

4. Freund (-in) (EN: Partner)

a. Uhiesscher      b. Macker       c. Freon           d. Froin

Blackheaded Seagull, typical bird to be found along the coast of Mecklenburg-Pommerania.

Blackheaded Seagull, typical bird to be found along the coast of Mecklenburg-Pommerania.

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Germany Quiz Nr. 4: The Answers to the Questions about Lower Saxony

Can you guess what this building is? It's located in Brunswick in Lower Saxony. Photo taken in February 2015

There was a request by one of the readers asking for just some interesting facts about Germany and some of the states instead of the Q & A that has been posted to date. My response is by taking the Q & A away, it will take the art out of finding out the most interesting facts about states, like this one: Lower Saxony.   😉   Admittedly there is so much to write about that even some questions had to be left out of this Quiz on Germany. But admittedly, the questions are a challenge and for those wanting the answers to the facts about this rather populous northern German state and their people, here they are below. Please note, the highlighted names contains links with additional information for you to click on and look at:

:-)

Variety Pack Questions:

  1. Eight German States and the Baltic Sea border Lower Saxony, making it the most bordered state in Germany. True of False?

False. Counting the enclavement of Bremen, Lower Saxony is bordered by NINE states (Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Pommerania, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, Hesse, Bremen, and North-Rhine Westphalia), plus the NORTH Sea. It also shares a border with The Netherlands to the west. Now that’s a LOT of states. 

2a. Lower Saxony was officially established after World War II in 1946 and consisted of the mergers of four former kingdoms. Name two of the four kingdoms.  Hanover, Schaumburg-Lippe, Brunswick and Oldenburg

2b. Of the four kingdoms, which one was the largest? Hanover  

Note: It was suggested that a state of Hanover was created through the British Zone, but inspite of debates and protests, all four of the former kingdoms merged to become the state and was subsequentially renamed Lower Saxony. Today the names exists but as part of the 38 districts that exist in the state.

  1. Put the following cities in order based on population from largest to smallest:

Oldenburg    Brunswick (Braunschweig)   Stade    Wolfsburg    Hannover   Lüneburg   Uelzen   Emden  Osnabrück

ANS:  1. Hanover (518,386); 2. Brunswick (247,227); 3. Oldenburg (159,610); 4. Osnabrück (156,315); 5. Wolfsburg (122,457); 6. Lüneburg (73,581) 7. Emden (49,790); 8. Stade (45,317); 9. Uelzen (33,269)

  1. Lower Saxony is ranked SECOND in size behind Bavaria and FOURTH in population behind Bavaria, North Rhine Westphalia and Hesse, but is the state that is the most dense population of Germany.  True or False (just the points in cursive and bold print)

Lower Saxony is ranked fourth in population behind Bavaria, NRW and BADEN-WURTTEMBERG (ans. for 1st part is false)

But the state is the most densely populated in all of Germany. (True)

  1. Which rivers flow through and/or in Lower Saxony? Name three of them.

ANS: Elbe, Oker, Ems, Weser, Aller, Seeve, Aue, and others

  1. Braunkohl is a German vegetable that is well known in Lower Saxony and can be served with a local sausage. True or false?

TRUE: Never mistake this term with Braunkohle (brown coal) that you can find in the Ruhr River region and near Zittau in the Black Triangle Region. Both this rare cabbage type and the local (curry) sausage are a tasty combination.

  1. At Steinhuder Lake,located west of Osnabrück, you will find eels. True or false?

FALSE: True there is a Steinhuder Lake and the eels are easy to find (and delicious when eating them), BUT the lake is northwest of Hanover. 

  1. Das Alte Land, located in the vicinity of the Elbe River north and west of Hamburg is Germany’s fruit garden. Name three fruits that grow there annually.  Apples, Pears, Cherries, Berries, and other fruits. 

Multiple Choice:  Choose the correct city to answer the questions.

  1. Which city is home of one of the three automobile manufacturers in Germany. Choose the city and fill in the blank regarding the car brand. (Hint: Fahrvergnügend is still the most popular car brand in the world.)

a. Wilhelmshaven          b. Wolfsburg         c. Celle       d. Lüneburg      e. Hannover

The car brand?  If you don’t know the car brand VOLKSWAGEN, Das Auto, then there’s something seriously wrong with you. 😉 

  1. Which city in Lower Saxony does not have a college or university?  How many colleges and universities does the state have?  ANS HERE: 26; six of them are in Hanover.

a. Hildesheim     b. Göttingen     c. Hannover    d. Cuxhaven     e. Emden

f. Vechta      g. Bremervörde

  1. In this town (A), you can try a drink with a spoon (B), but don’t forget to say your blessings first. 😉

A:

a. Bad Zwischenahn          b. Bad Brahmburg      c. Leer        d. Norden

e. Bad Oldesloe     f. Brunswick

B:

a. Braunschweiger Mumme      b. Löffeltee      c. Ammerländer Löffeltrunk

d. Angler Muck     e. Toter Bruder

LINK: AMMERLÄNDER LÖFFELTRUNK

  1. Which city in Lower Saxony is not located in the Harz Mountains? (!: There are two different answers)

a. Goslar           b. Clausthal        c. Wenigerode        d. Osterode      e. Salzgitter       f. Braunlage

  1. Which city does not have a premier league sports team?

a. Buxtehude     b. Hannover      c. Brunswick      d. Emden       e. Oldenburg

  1. The New York Lions in the German American Football League is actually located in which city?

a. Hannover     b. Bremen        c. Brunswick       d. Göttingen     e. Celle

  1. Germany has the only true transporter bridge in left the country. It is located in Lower Saxony in which community?

a. Ostende      b. Hannover     c. Wilhelmshaven     d. Stade     e. Brunswick

LINK: TRANSPORTER BRIDGE AT OSTENDE

  1. The only combination cantilever-suspension-swing bridge left in Germany (and perhaps on European soil) is located in Lower Saxony. Where exactly is this bridge?

a. Göttingen    b. Wilhelmshaven    c. Lauenburg    d. Stadland   e. Hannover         f. Wattenscheid

LINK: WILHELMSHAVEN SWING BRIDGE

  1. Which town in Lower Saxony will you most likely find in the US?

a. Emden    b. Bergen     c. Hanover     d. Oldenburg    e. Berne    f. Uelzen

FACT: There are 19 towns in the US that carry the name Hanover, as well as 23 townships. The largest of them is Hanover, New Hampshire, where the state university is located. That one has 11,800 inhabitants.

Celebrities and Birth Places: Determine whether these statements are true or false. If false, correct the statements

  1. Maria Furtwängler, an actress who plays Charlotte Lindholm in the Tatort-Hannover series originates from Hanover.

ANS: False. She was born in Munich and belongs to one of the most powerful dynasties that still exist in Germany today. 

  1. Heiner Brand, head coach of the German National Handball Team, was born and raised in Brunswick.

ANS: False. Brand was born in Gummersbach in North Rhine Westphalia. He is the only German handball player and coach to have won the World Championship both as a player (1978) and a coach (2007). He was coach of the German National Handball Team from 1997 until his resignation in 2011, taking the team all the way to the World Cup Championship in 2007.

  1. In the film the Inglorious Bastards by Quentin Tarrantino, there were no German actors/actresses.

ANS: It would not be typical of the well-cultured producer and director to not have native-born German actors/actresses in a film, whose setting was in Nazi Germany. At least 25 people, including Daniel Brühl and Til Schweiger were casted alongside Brad Pitt in this film. This included Diane Kruger, who was born in Hildesheim (near Hanover) and played Bridget von Hammersmark in the film. A well-thought film produced by a well-known name, but the answer to this question is clearly FALSE!

  1. Gerhard Schröder, the successor of Chancellor Angela Merkel, was born in Mecklenburg-Pommerania but grew up in Lower Saxony.

ANS: False. He was born and raised in Lower Saxony and even started his career in politics during his university days in Göttingen, thus paving a path to chancellorship, which he ruled Germany from 1998 until his landslide defeat in early elections in 2005, into the hands of the country’s current chancellor, Angela Merkel.

  1. Herbert Grönemeyer calls Göttingen home. No wonder because he was born there.

ANS: True. Yet he was born there because his mother brought him into the world through a specialist in a very unusual way (read more here). He however was raised in Bochum in North Rhine Westphalia.

  1. The band The Scorpions was established in Hanover with the lead singer originating from there.

ANS: True. Klause Meine originated from Hanover. Together with Rudolf Schenker (who was born in Hildesheim), the band was founded in Hanover. It is the longest running band in Germany and second longest in the world behind the Rolling Stones, having been in business for over 50 years.

  1. The Creator of English for Runaways originally came from Emden.

ANS: False. Heinz Heygen was born in Frankfurt/Main.

  1.  Chris Barrie, a Hannoverer  who starred in the Tomb Raider movie, grew up in Northern Ireland.

ANS: True

  1. Prince Ernst Augustus of Hanover was born in Hanover.

ANS: It is logical that the Prince, who is married to Princess Caroline of Monaco, and has his residence in Hanover, must be naturally-born Hannoverer. Hence, True. :-)

BONUS QUESTION: Can you guess what that building in Brunswick is?

The building is the site of the Tauch Center, located across the Oker River from the campus of the Technical University. When it was built and other details is unknown, but you are free to add some information in the comment section if you wish to do that.

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Now accepting Mystery Buildings and Places

IMGP0450It is a sight that many people do not want to see in their backyard: A derelict building like the one in the picture above near their backyard because it is an eyesore and a hazard. Yet such buildings and places like this one have a character of its own- a history that is unknown to the public, but when researched thoroughly, is unique and a valuable asset to the community. We’re seeing many historic buildings like this one being abandoned and eventually demolished without knowing more about them, let alone looking at options of restoring them. In the case of places of historic interest in Germany, much of the records were destroyed during World War II and in the case of the eastern half of the country (where the former German Democratic Republic or East Germany existed), they were either altered or destroyed by the Communist government, thus leaving oral histories as the lone source. But where are these sources and how can we bring these sites to light, attracting many to visit them, even restoring them if needed?

In response to a successful story on the Prora near Binz in Mecklenburg-Pommerania and a large demand for more stories of these mystery places, The Flensburg Files is now starting a page on Mystery Places in Germany, which you will find on the Files’ website, and is therefore accepting any inquiries of places of unique value but in need of the necessary information to solve their mysteries. This includes former factories, railroad stations, parks, apartment complexes, and even remnants of old motorways (just to name a few that are acceptable. The page will run parallel to the Mystery Bridge page provided by sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles (which you can view here). That means, the mystery building article will be posted in the Files and forwarded to various sources who might be able to help. Follow-ups will be posted, and all information will be placed in the Files’ Mystery Places page for readers to look at.

If you have something historic that you want to know more about, please send the information to Jason Smith at the Files. The e-mail address is flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. The Files is on facebook and you can also contact him through that channel. Please note all mystery bridge inquiries will be posted in the Chronicles, which is also on facebook and like the Files, you can like to follow.

 

Keeping this in mind, let’s have a look at the next mystery place, this time in a small community of Halle (Saale) in Saxony-Anhalt. While this city has prided itself on George Friedrich Händel, well-restored architecture, many historic bridges, a small but unique Christmas Market, a green and diverse zoo, and rows of parks along the Saale River, it also has some buildings and historic places worth inquiring about, even if they are abandoned like this building. Located south of the city center next to the Saale River between the Hafenbahn and Genzer Bridges, this building resembles a covered railroad turntable, used to redirect trains that terminated here at the starting point of the Hafenbahn. Yet the building seems a bit too small for that function, for steam locomotives were huge during the 1800s, the time the Hafenbahn existed- approximately 100-150 feet long (33-50 meters) and about 15-20feet wide (5-6 meters). It does however make sense, given its proximity to the Hafenbahn Bridge, which was once used as a railroad bridge before it became a pedestrian crossing.  The question is, if this was a turntable house, when was it built and how often did trains use this facility? If it was not that facility, what was the function of the building? Judging by the roof being gone, it was most likely damaged severely in World War II and was never used again afterwards. But then again, could the Communist government afford to leave buildings like this, as it is, abandoned all the way up to the present?

What do you think? Your comments, ideas and information will help a great deal towards solving this mystery….

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Wolfsburg vs. Dortmund in the German Cup Finals

SPORTSFLYER:

May the spectacular season in the German Bundesliga become even more spectacular. A little more than a week after Jürgen Klopp, the face of the German soccer team Borussia Dortmund announced his resignation effective at the end  of this season, another rather interesting development happened in the German Cup semifinals (DFB Pokal), and this time, it occurred at a very unlikely place.

This year’s finals, scheduled for May 30th in Berlin, will not feature returning championship FC Bayern Munich, who had won the title for two straight years. Despite winning its second regular season title early last week- the second year in a row that it happened, its quest for its second straight triple crown (the Champions League Title, the German Cup and the regular season title) ended in a rather unusual manner, in the hands of Jürgen Klopp and the team in black and gold from Dortmund. Bayern, on its  own home turf, lost 3-1 in the shootout, but how it ended can be best described in the video below:

 

The rather comincal errors committed by Bayern Munich is still being talked about in the social media, as many anti-Bayern fans have used two soccer players slipping while kicking the ball as a platform for suggesting high heels and groundskeepers quitting. 😉  But on the flip side, many questions are being fired at Klopp, asking him “Are you sure you really REALLY want to step down?” In either case, Klopp can leave the scene as a winner in the German Cup finals, for his team will face VFL Wolfsburg, which made its game against Armenia Bielefeld in North-Rhine Westphalia look like a walk in a park on a Sunday afternoon, winning 4-0 against the Third League team destined for the Second League in the next season.  Highlights of the game are below:

Wolfsburg has already locked up its place in the Champions League for next season and is currently in a distant second place in the standings in the Bundesliga. While the team in green and white are heavily picked to win the German Cup, do not count out Klopp and Co., for although the regular season was not so spectacular, the team has played the role of Cinderella during this half of the season and may even have a shot of playing the spoiler.

And Jürgen Klopp leaving Dortmund a winner.  We’ll have to see how the results fan out. The Files will provide you with the results of the finals and the highlights. Stay tuned.

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The Abandoned Building on the Island of Rügen

All photos courtesy of Doc Harding

All photos courtesy of Doc Harding

 

Normally the Files would not be focusing on abandoned relicts in Germany, for it is not in the domain. There are enough websites that focus on this topic, regardless of where. This includes Abandoned Iowa, which I’m subscribed to and focuses on abandoned buildings and bridges. Not surprising as I grew up in Iowa and have a love for historic bridges.

Yet this entry takes us to the island of Rügen in the German state of Mecklenburg-Pommerania (in German: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) in northeastern Germany, and this building here. As I was doing research on information for the next Germany quiz on this rather sparsely populated state with lots of flora and fauna, one of the readers brought this item to my attention.

The island itself has a very beautiful setting, with steep chalk cliffs overlooking the Baltic Sea, acres of forest and wildlife habitat, and kilometers of beaches extending (30) kilometers. From Rostock, the state’s largest city, it is approximately 55) km. Yet the island has one eyesore, which is located at Prora. While McPomm (which is the abbreviated form of the state’s name) once belonged to East Germany and the communist state was famous for its construction of block apartments in every city and town with more than 3,000 inhabitants during its existence, the Prora building dates back to the age of the Third Reich, according to local sources.

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Located north of Binz, the Prora Building itself is five kilometers long and has five stories. Its architecture resembles that of the Third Reich and may have been the works of architect Albert Speer, who was in charge of most of the architecture in Germany during the regime of Adolf Hitler. Born in Mannheim in 1905, Speer’s rise to fame came when he was anointed by Hitler to be his architect in 1933. There he was in charge of the construction of modern buildings and redesigning districts in German cities whose aesthetic features were geometric with only design patterns and the symbol of National Socialism as the only decoration. Much of his architecture still exists in Germany today, despite attempts by locals in states like Bavaria (where Hitler began his rise to power in the 1920s), to eradicate the buildings because of their associations with the Third Reich. Speer later became in charge of the artillery division but towards the end of the war, confronted Hitler because of his irrational decision-making in response to Germany losing the war.

Because his role was almost solely an architect and he had very little to do with Hitler’s genocidal machine designed to kill “non-Aryans,” Speer was sentenced to 20 years in prison, in comparison to most of his Nazi colleagues receiving the death penalty. After his release from prison in Spandau, Speer maintained his residence for most of his life in Heidelberg, writing three still controversial novels about his life in the Third Reich and donating most of his royalties to Jewish charities. Shortly before his release in 1966, his son Albert Jr. established an architectural firm in Frankfurt (Main), whose geometrical modern architecture follows a similar pattern of his father’s, minus the decorative features.

And with that, we go back to Prora and the building complex, which has been sitting empty and intact but in a desolate state. Records show that Speer had been involved in a decree to relocate the Jews from their quarters to different areas, and this building may have been the place for placing them there. Yet by the same token, it would also have been a place to house the troops, especially as Germany had a strong Navy at that time. Record will not be able to show that for when World War II commenced in 1939, construction on the building stopped and remained in its original form all the way up to the present. We will never know whether Speer had anything to do with it, who was in charge of building this complex nor what it was used for.

Or will we?

Any ideas regarding the logic behind building this complex that is now considered an eyesore to many people, please place your thoughts and info in the comment section. If you wish to share photos of it, go ahead and do so. Sometimes a visit to the complex helps spurn a few ideas behind the history of this building, let alone a few ideas of what to do with the complex.

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Und Täglich Grüß die Bahn (Groundhog Day with German Railways)

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The lounge of the train station in the town of Zeitz, located in Saxony-Anhalt. Its charm resembles the German Democratic Republic, yet it has seen its better days with peeling wall paper, empty platforms and even the lounge that is empty, with the exception of two people talking about the better days before the Wall fell. Yet despite its emptiness, the trains are still running- ableit privately.

Two rail lines are owned by two different train companies with no affiliation with the German Railways (Dt.: Die Bahn), one connecting Weissenfels and Zeitz (via Burgerland Bahn) and another between Leipzig and Saalfeld via Gera (via Erfurter Bahn). Private railways, like the buses, are becoming more and more competitive because of their attractiveness and the ability to get passengers to their destinations in a timely manner. With the German Railways striking again, it will become obvious that once an agreement is finally made, they will lose more customers and most likely, more rail lines will become privatized.

As this goes to the press, the train drivers (or engineers) who are operating the trains are on strike for the seventh time. 60% of the long-distance InterCity and ICE trains have slashed their services until Thursday evening, the regional trains by 50%. This is the second time since November that the state-owned rail service is on strike.  The latest strike is starting to resemble the scenes from an American film Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell, which was filmed in 1993. For those who don’t know the plot of the film, the sneak preview below will help you:

The German public TV station NDR, based in Hamburg produced a parody of Groundhog Day in connection with the strike in 2008. While it has been awhile, the latest strike is becoming like the film that has found a place in American culture, used in the classroom to refresh one’s English skills and provide a whiff of what American life is like:

If you want to learn German, this is the place to do it.  😉

The main question lingering everybody right now is: How many more strikes like this will we have before an agreement between the worker’s union GDL and Die Bahn is finally made and sticks like concrete. Will the workers be happy with their new contract, or will we have more strikes? If the latter, we will see more privatized rail lines and buses going through communities in Germany and less of Die Bahn, resulting in (near) empty train stations and platforms like this:

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Think about it……

 

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Germany Quiz 4: What to Know About Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen)

Can you guess what this building is? It's located in Brunswick in Lower Saxony. Photo taken in February 2015

Can you guess what this building is? It’s located in Brunswick in Lower Saxony. Photo taken in February 2015

Saxony- considered one of the largest regions in Germany. Featuring a cluster of former kingdoms extending from the far north in Frisia to the mountains in the far east, the region makes up almost half the land mass in Germany. Yet the region is split up into three different states: Upper Saxony (or just simply Saxony), Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony. This split-up was part of the plan to redesign Germany after World War II with the first two becoming part of East Germany and the third being part of West Germany. They maintained their borders when Germany reunited in 1990 and with that, their unique features.

One of which will be presented in this quiz on Lower Saxony. The state is one of the most populous in the Bundesrepublik and one that prides itself on history, tradition, sports and even its landscape. There is so much to see and do in the state, whose capital is Hannover, but this Quiz will provide you with a starting point as to where to go for visiting and other activities of interest. The rest will have to be taken care of by you as the tourist. 😉

So let’s provide you with a good whiff of what you can find in Lower Saxony. It has been broken down into three parts, but will provide you with a good challenge for yourself and those around you. Good luck! :-)

 

 

Variety Pack Questions:

  1. Eight German States and the Baltic Sea border Lower Saxony, making it the most bordered state in Germany. True of False?

2a. Lower Saxony was officially established after World War II in ________ and consisted of the mergers of four former kingdoms. Name two of the four kingdoms.

2b. Of the four kingdoms, which one was the largest?

  1. Put the following cities in order based on population from largest to smallest:

Oldenburg    Brunswick (Braunschweig)   Stade    Wolfsburg    Hannover   Lüneburg   Uelzen   Emden  Osnabrück

  1. Lower Saxony is ranked ____________ in size behind Bavaria and ____________ in population behind Bavaria, North Rhine Westphalia and Hesse, but is the state that is the most dense population of Germany.  True or False (just the points in cursive and bold print)

  2. Which rivers flow through and/or in Lower Saxony? Name three of them.

  3. Braunkohl is a German vegetable that is well known in Lower Saxony and can be served with a local sausage. True or false?

  4. At Steinhuder Lake,located west of Osnabrück, you will find eels. True or false?

  5. Das Alte Land, located in the vicinity of the Elbe River north and west of Hamburg is Germany’s fruit garden. Name three fruits that grow there annually.

 

 

Multiple Choice:  Choose only one city that has a unique feature.

  1. Which city is home of one of the three automobile manufacturers in Germany. Choose the city and fill in the blank regarding the car brand. (Hint: Fahrvergnügend is still the most popular car brand in the world.)

a. Wilhelmshaven          b. Wolfsburg         c. Celle       d. Lüneburg      e. Hannover

The car brand?  ___________________________

 

 

  1. Which city in Lower Saxony does not have a college or university?  How many colleges and universities does the state have?  ______________

a. Hildesheim     b. Göttingen     c. Hannover    d. Cuxhaven     e. Emden

f. Vechta      g. Bremervörde

 

 

  1. In this town (A), you can try a drink with a spoon (B), but don’t forget to say your blessings first. 😉

A:

a. Bad Zwischenahn          b. Bad Brahmburg      c. Leer        d. Norden

e. Bad Oldesloe     f. Brunswick

B:

a. Braunschweiger Mumme      b. Löffeltee      c. Ammerländer Löffeltrunk

d. Angler Muck     e. Toter Bruder

 

 

  1. Which city in Lower Saxony is not located in the Harz Mountains? (!: There are two different answers)

a. Goslar           b. Clausthal        c. Wenigerode        d. Osterode      e. Salzgitter       f. Braunlage

 

 

  1. Which city does not have a premier league sports team?

a. Buxtehude     b. Hannover      c. Brunswick      d. Emden       e. Oldenburg

 

 

  1. The New York Lions in the German American Football League is actually located in which city?

a. Hannover     b. Bremen        c. Brunswick       d. Göttingen     e. Celle

 

 

  1. Germany has the only true transporter bridge in left the country. It is located in Lower Saxony in which community?

a. Ostende      b. Hannover     c. Wilhelmshaven     d. Stade     e. Brunswick

 

 

  1. The only combination cantilever-suspension-swing bridge left in Germany (and perhaps on European soil) is located in Lower Saxony. Where exactly is this bridge?

a. Göttingen    b. Wilhelmshaven    c. Lauenburg    d. Stadland   e. Hannover         f. Wattenscheid

 

 

  1. Which town in Lower Saxony will you most likely find in the US?

a. Emden    b. Bergen     c. Hannover     d. Oldenburg    e. Berne    f. Uelzen

 

 

Celebrities and Birth Places: Determine whether these statements are true or false. If false, correct the statements

  1. Maria Furtwängler, an actress who plays Charlotte Lindholm in the Tatort-Hannover series originates from Hannover.

  2. Heiner Brandt, head coach of the German National Handball Team, was born and raised in Brunswick.

  3. In the film the Inglorious Bastards by Quentin Tarrantino, there were no German actors/actresses.

  4. Gerhard Schröder, the successor of Chancellor Angela Merkel, was born in Mecklenburg-Pommerania but grew up in Lower Saxony.

  5. Herbert Grönemeyer calls Göttingen home. No wonder because he was born there.

  6. The band The Scorpions was established in Hannover with the lead singer originating from there.

  7. The Creator of English for Runaways originally came from Emden.

  8.  Chris Barrie, a Hannoverer  who starred in the Tomb Raider movie, grew up in Northern Ireland.

  9. Prince Augustus of Hannover was born in Hannover.

 

 

Viel Spaß beim Quizzen. The answers to the Lower Saxony Quiz will come out on May 5th. At the same time, another quiz on Mecklenburg Pommerania will come out, providing you with just as much of a challenge as this one will give you. Good luck! :-)

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Gandhi’s Letter

This week’s Literature/Genre of the Week takes us back to World War II and many failed attempts to avoid it- in particular, many failed attempts to keep a tyrant from conducting one of (if not the) most heinous crimes against humanities to date.  There are a lot of interesting facts that have appeared recently about Adolf Hitler, who ruled Germany from 1933 until his suicide in 1945. This includes the top 10 from a news source in India (see article here.) He was one of the greatest orators of all time, but one who was obsessed with strategies of how to conquer Europe and the rest of the world. He was the most feared in the eyes of many politicians in other countries, who tried to appease him at any cost, pleading with him not to start the war machine at a time when the majority of the world was in the worst economic depression of all time. Many letters were written to him asking him to reconsider.

This included the one written by a peace activitist.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (known throughout the world as Mahatma Gandhi) was a peace activist who first led a movement to ease restrictions the British Empire had imposed on its colonial state, India, but later led a non-violent movement called “Quit India,” demanding Indian independence from the British Commonwealth and rejecting Indian involvement in World War II, both of which were successful. India obtained its independence in 1947 in spite the violence that accompanied it, setting the stage for the break-up of the empire that occurred in Africa and Asia over the course of 35 years. Known as “The Father of India,” a national holiday in India, combined with the international day of non-violence, takes place every year on October 2nd, Gandhi’s birthday.

Gandhi was known for his non-violence movements and his staunch criticism of World War II, arguing against the use of force to put down the regimes of Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Italy, claiming that if so and through self-sacrifice, the death toll would not have been as high as it was. Although this was met with heavy criticism among western nations and the Jewish community, some of the points made were worth considering for World War II was one of the most destructive wars on record, with up to 75% of the cities destroyed and as many German lives being lost as those from the Holocaust This does not include the loss of life among soldiers outside Germany. The war is still considered by many in Germany a delicate topic to discuss because it eventually reshaped Germany and the rest of the European landscape, veering away from empires and tyrannies and embracing the principles of democracy initiated by the United States as the new superpower and its allies when the war ended in 1945.

Yet Gandhi was also aware of the actions of Hitler and attempted to persuade him to change his mind with a letter he wrote to the dictator, explaining the effects of starting the war in Europe. This was what he wrote, as read by Clarke Peters at the BBC Studios in London:

 

 

Written in 1939, the letter never arrived in Berlin and subsequentially, World War II started with the German invasion of Poland on 2 September, 1939. It lasted until 7 May, 1945 but not before leaving a scar that will never go away, but will always be remembered for years to come. Gandhi never lived to see a new German democratic state and a socialist state, for he was assasinated on 30 January, 1948. West Germany was created out of the regions occupied by the US, Great Britain and France on 23 May, 1949. The German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was formed on 7 October, 1949. It would be another 41 years until Germany was reunited in 1990. Yet the question still remains: what would have happened, had Gandhi’s letter arrived in Berlin and Hitler had a chance to read it? Would he have reconsidered or would he have ignored it? While history scholars will refute over one claim or another, the answer remains the same: we will never know.

 

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