Niklas Blows Through Germany

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High Winds Causes Downed Trees, Hinders Train Services, Causes Damages to Buildings

Bikers being blown off by high winds, high waves causing local flooding and damages, flying carousels, and trains eating fallen trees pretty much sums up a day in total chaos throughout Germany and central Europe yesterday, as the storm Niklas blew through the region, with winds gusting up to 190 km/ph or 100 mph. Many downed trees and flying debris caused damage to overhead powerlines on rail lines, thus bringing rail service to a standstill in many parts of the countries. In Bavaria, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, rail service was suspended completely, forcing many trains to stop at the nearest train stations and personnel to provide lodging possibilities for tens of thousands of stranded commuters. In Lower Saxony, one regional train was unable to stop in time to avoid a falling tree. In many cities, such as Munich and Berlin, light rail (S-bahn) services were halted. High winds also caused many semis and even cars to flip over on German autobahns, causing many to be closed for long periods of time. Flights in and out of Frankfurt and other cities were cancelled due to high winds. Even some festivals, like the annual city market in Flensburg, were called off due to flying debris and high waves.  Snow was reported in the northern half of Germany, in places like Rostock and Hamburg. The storm is believed to be one of the worst in recent history, comparing it to the storm Kyril, which devastated many parts of Europe in February 2007. There, high winds and torrential rainfall caused extensive damage, power outages in entire cities, like Magdeburg (in Saxony-Anhalt), and the first-ever shut down of rail service and highways on a federal level.

While the winds have now subsided a bit today, Easter here in Germany and parts of Europe is not looking good for any children wanting to hunt for Easter eggs. Snow, rain and winds are expected through the weekend, thus creating the possibility of a white Easter for the third time in four years. Better get the Bing Crosby song out for Easter Sunday, because “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christ- ma; Oh wait! Ea-ster!” 😉

Wishing you safe travels and make the best of Easter despite Old Man Winter’s attempt to try and ruin it!

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The Flensburg Files has compiled a list of links taking you to the galleries, where you can see the damage done by Niklas. The sources are below:

http://www.shz.de/schleswig-holstein/panorama/sturm-ueber-deutschland-orkan-niklas-in-bildern-id9357301.html

http://www.dw.de/germanys-storm-niklas-one-of-the-biggest-in-years/g-18351411?maca=en-Facebook-dwde

http://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/Niklas-zieht-ab-Zuege-fahren-wieder,sturm1526.html

http://www.br.de/nachrichten/unwetter-sturm-bayern-niklas-100.html

 

 

 

Germany into Darkness

Total Eclipse shadows the entire state, as 80% of the moon covers sun. 100% covers extreme Western Europe and the North Atlantic.

BERLIN/ERFURT/COLOGNE- As many as 70% of the German population or 50 million took advantage of the gorgeous weather and, armed with their cameras, smart phones and specialized sunglasses, photographed the sun as the moon covered up to 80% of it, putting the country into partial darkness. Despite worries that the eclipse could wreak havoc on the electirical power systems because Germany is mostly dependent on solar energy, it was reported that there were no problems and everything was running well as if nothing happened. The eclipse occurred at 10:42am Berlin time, almost an hour after the process started, and ended shortly after 12noon. The area where people could get the best view of the eclipse was in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony. However, people in other German states had an opportunity to see the moon cover 70-75% of the sun.

This included the city of Erfurt in central Thuringia, where the moon covered up to 75% of the sun, making it resemble on the one hand, the moon at first quarter mode, but on the other hand a full moon. In other words, there was the brightest first quarter on record, if one looks at it from an astronomer’s point of view.  The clear weather made it difficult to purchase specialized sunglasses, which you can wear to look up to the sun at the time of the eclipse, for many drug stores, pharmacists, glasses dealerships and optometrists ran out of stock up to two days prior to the event. This was the exact opposite of the last partial solar eclipse that occurred in 2005. There, rainy weather hindered any chances of viewing this rare event, thus dropping sales for these eye protectors dramatically.

While I was unable to purchase this pair of sunglasses, I did find one to use with an optometrist, whose shop was located at Erfurt’s city center, Anger- located between city hall and the train station. Although the pair was for lending and sharing purposes, I took the opportunity to wear them, while at the same time, cover the lens of the Pentax camera I had in my possession in an attempt to get a close-up look at the eclipse. Normally you are not supposed to get a direct shot at the eclipse for two reasons:

  1. The photo would turn out the same as it were without the eclipse- beautiful sunny skies just a little dimmer and
  2. Most importantly, looking directly at the sun at the time of the eclipse is very dangerous, for the rays could cause irreparable damage to the cornea, thus causing damage or even blindness.

As a tip one can get a selfie of the eclipse with the back towards the sun or simply leave it and have a look at the eclipse through TV and internet. However, even though I did get some shots of the places in Erfurt at the time of the eclipse (not to worry, I did this with my eyes looking down), I experimented by placing the specialized sunglasses over the lens of the camera, then zoomed in manually as far as it could go.

The result:

Photo taken in Erfurt at Anger just minutes before its peak

Photo taken in Erfurt at Anger just minutes before its peak

 

Unless you have had many years of experience in photography as I have had (I’ve been photographing since I was 11 years old), and you are daring enough to do this, this author does not recommend doing this- at least not without supervision. In order to get a shot like this, you need a special lens equivalent to what I used in order to get a shot like this. All other options are useless, for they would end up like the pic below- at the peak of the eclipse:

Erfurt Cathedral (Erfurter Dom) at the peak of the eclipse without the glasses. Not to worry, the author stared down while taking this shot.

Erfurt Cathedral (Erfurter Dom) at the peak of the eclipse without the glasses. Not to worry, the author stared down while taking this shot.

 

Whether a pic like this can be done like this with a special lens is doubtful for you may not get the picture you need. Admittedly though, it is worth experimenting, but if and only if the next opportunity arises, which for a solar eclipse like this one, it is rare. For many of us, this is perhaps the last time we will ever see one like this as the next one to come to Germany will be in 66 years. A partial eclipse in Germany will come again in 2022.  However the next total eclipse to reach the US will be in two years’ time. So for those who are hunting for the next solar eclipse (and I’m sure there are groups out there who are crazy about solar eclipses), mark this on your calendar at least, even though one may come beforehand.

But even not, for many like yours truly, this experience was once in a lifetime, which has now been crossed off our bucket list.

Author’s Note:

The Flensburg Files has an album on the solar eclipse in Germany through facebook, which you can click here to view. The Files’ is accepting photos taken by other photographers- amateur and profis alike- to be added to the album. If you have a photo or two to contribute, please send it to Jason Smith either through facebook or via e-mail at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. Please cite your name and the place where the photo(s) took place. The purpose of the album is for other viewers to see. Thank you for your help in this matter.

 

Highlights of the solar eclipse are also available through the following sources:

MDR Info (Video of the Solar Eclipse) in D: http://www.mdr.de/nachrichten/video260046_zc-e9a9d57e_zs-6c4417e7.html

Deutsche Welle (Highlights of the Solar Eclipse) in EN: http://www.dw.de/cloudy-skies-obscure-solar-eclipse-in-much-of-europe/a-18330146

MDR Info (Gallery of the Solar Eclipse in Germany) in D: http://www.mdr.de/galerie/mdr/thumbnails.php?album=73

Tagesschau (Information and pictures of the Solar Eclipse) in D: http://www.tagesschau.de/sonnenfinsternis-165.html 

 

 

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Hamburg in 2024!

Hamburg Central Station will be a bit more crowded than normal, should it win the bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games. Photo taken in 2011

Hamburg Central Station will be a bit more crowded than normal, should it win the bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games. Photo taken in 2011

 

German Olympic Committee Recommends Hamburg over Berlin as Host for 2024 Summer Olympic Games- Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Pommerania and Lower Saxony to Benefit from the Games

 

FRANKFURT (MAIN)- It came down to two of the five major German metropolises to host the 2024 Olympic Games- Berlin or Hamburg. Both of them in the northern half of the country. The German capital last hosted it in 1936, less than three years before World War II broke out. Being the third time it would have hosted the Games, it has the 1936 stadium, various sporting complexes and various lakes. Hamburg is an up and coming city. The second largest city has a dense and advanced infrastructure, is modernized and environmentally friendly and has direct access to the Baltic Sea through neighboring Schleswig-Holstein.

Therefore, it came as no surprise that the German Olympic Committee at a meeting in Frankfurt (Main) last night has recommended the candidate for the 2024 games goes to (drumroll, please…..)

Hamburg!

There are many reasons why the hanseatic city deserves the bid over the German capital. Hamburg has become a tourist appeal in the last 10+ years thanks to the efforts of modernizing the city to meet the demands of the population, while at the same time, bring the city and its history and culture to the forefront. Much of which you will find in the video clips below, and the Files will feature the city as the next candidate for Germany’s 25th anniversary quiz to be presented on the 24th of March. It was the host of the 2013 German Floral Show (Bundesgartenschau) with one of the largest suburbs, Wilhelmsburg being the pet for the International Building Exhibition, which ended in 2013. Once relying on coal and nuclear power, the city has embraced various forms of renewable energy, through wind, hydro and geothermal. The city prides itself on its sports teams in soccer, handball and basketball, to name a few. Plus with its sound infrastructure, one can reach the Baltic Sea in no less than 45 minutes and the North Sea in less than an hour.

The plan of the city to host the 2024 Games is easy: make it small and simple. A Olympic complex on the island of Kleinen Grasbrook that is to be a sports complex afterwards. Grasbrook was once an industrial complex. Basketball, soccer and handball would be played in the northern cities of Bremen, Cuxhaven, Travemünde, Rostock, Kiel and Flensburg, just to name a few. Boating and yachting either in Travemünde or Kiel. For Kiel, it would be blessing as it had last hosted this event in 1972. For the northern German states of Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Pommerania and Lower Saxony, helping to shoulder the burden of the events (and the costs) Hamburg will have to face will make the northern region a very attractive place during the Summer Games. Speaking from the point of view of the expat looking in, the northern half of the country prides itself on it sporting events that do not require hills and mountains, but on courts and nets or in the water. So having Hamburg as the candidate for the Games is no surprise for it has what the athletes need and then some. When spending time in the region, one will want to come back again and again, because of the people, the culture, the landscape, the landscape, and lastly, the mentality where simplicity and friendliness trumps all the complications an even bigger city has, let alone all the extravaganzas that many hosts have overdone in the previous Olympics, like in Athens or Peking.

However, despite the recommendations, all is not set in stone for Hamburg. An extraordinary meeting takes place on March 21st, where the German Olympic Committee board members are expected to confirm Hamburg’s nomination. Hamburg will be competing with Boston for the rights to host the Games, with the decision to be made in Lima, Peru in 2017. Should the International Olympics Committee vote in favor of the German City-State, it will be Hamburg’s very first time, and one where many athletes, politicians and the majority of the population in the city and the affected northern states believe that the city deserves, given its pride in sports and its recent developments in their favor.

And if Hamburg wins and does a great job in hosting the games, it would not be surprising if it becomes the main go-to city for future Games, surpassing Berlin or even Munich (at least as far as the Summer Games are concerned), not just because of its attractiveness and its simplicity in planning its events, but because of its access to areas where people pride themselves in their own sporting events. And with that, the Files is throwing its support to Hamburg in hopes that the decision in 2017 falls in their favor. Best of luck and let’s bring the torch to Hollen Nord, shall we? 😀

Some reasons why one should visit Hamburg can be found here:

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Reminder: You still have one week to finish Germany’s first quiz on the northernmost German state of Schleswig-Holstein. To get access to the quiz, click here. The answers will come on March 24th, the same day as the quiz on Hamburg will be presented. 

25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Wall Highlights

BERLIN; ERFURT-  More than 2.5 million people (or 70% of the city’s population) converged on Berlin over the weekend to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall. The biggest highlight of the event was on Sunday, where over a million people were on hand during the course of the day and evening as speeches were held to honor those who risked their lives escaping from East to West Berlin, as well as the hundreds of thousands of people who pressured the East German government to open the borders- the demand that Guenter Schabowski, the spokesman for East Germany’s Central Committee granted on 9 November, 1989.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel and many prominent politicians spoke at the ceremony at the Bernauer Strasse Memorial. She was greeted by Michail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union whose policies of non-intervention and openness led to countries like East Germany to overthrow their communist leaders and break away from the communist bloc. He spoke at the symposium in front of Brandenburg Gate. Concerts took place throughout the evening by many singers and music groups. Among those performing at the Brandenburg Gate were former East German singer Udo Lindenburg, British pop star Peter Gabriel and German techno artist Paul Kalkbrenner. The events culminated with the releasing of 8,000 balloons along the former border dividing East and West Berlin. The led-lit balloons were established along the border where the Berlin Wall once stood, indicating where and how the wall had divided Berliners for 28 years.

Some highlights of the 25th Anniversary events can be seen in the videos below. Readers wanting to know more about the Wall and the celebrations of its downfall can be seen in the Flensburg Files’ facebook page (click here for direct access). There you can find videos, photos and articles in both German and English of the events. Like to follow as the Files will provide some articles and interesting facts pertaining to the events leading to the reunification of Germany.

The Releasing of the Balloons

Paul Kalkbrenner at Brandenburg Gate

Michail Gorbachev at the Celebrations

 

 

But Berlin was not the only place where the 25th anniversary celebrations took place. Many places along the former East and West German borders, from Lübeck to Marienhof to Modlareuth to Hof commemorated the symbolic event of 9 November 1989 in various ways. Some brief examples can be seen below:

HOF:  As many as 250 East German automobiles, among them the Trabant and the Wartburg, and their owners and passengers made a pilgrimage from Plauen in Saxony to Hof in Bavaria. There, people had an opportunity to reenact history of the event, where residents on the western side greeted those on the eastern side with sweets, champaign and the like. In order for the reenactment to be played in full, organizers reconstructed make-shift borders and inspection buildings resembling those that had existed before being torn down shortly after the borders opened. Hundreds of people took part in the event and had an opportunity to see the display of the cars typical for East Germany but are becoming a rare breed. A video of the event is below for you to look at.

Fast fact: Trabant produced its cars in Zwickau in western Saxony. The company closed in 1997. Wartburg produced its cars in Eisenach in western Thuringia. It was bought by Opel after the border opened and is still in business today.

Trabi Caravan from Plauen to Hof

 

MODLAREUTH: A caravan of Trabants and some local celebrations in the village of 60 people commemorated the opening of the border. Located on the border to Thuringia and Bavaria, Modlareuth was divided by the border as East German soldiers forced many residents to move to higher ground, while they tore down houses along the creek that flows through the village to erect the barbed-wire fence and border towers. For 28 years, this village became known as Little Berlin because of the Wall. Yet despite still being divided in terms of jurisdiction, the people consider Modlareuth one home and one village. Celebrations commemorating the opening of the gate included a tour of a portion of the border and control tower, which was given to the German-German Museum and has been preserved for visitors to see.

 

VACHA:  State ministers Christine Lieberknecht (Thuringia) and Volker Bouffier (Hesse) were at the Vacha Bridge, spanning the Werra River between the Thuringian village and Philipsthal in Hesse, laying a wreath at the center of the span and honoring those who tried to flee to the western part of Germany during the Cold War. Severely damaged and impassable because of World War II, the bridge was closed to all people when the borders were put up in 1961 and remained so until 1989. The bridge was later rebuilt. “November 9th was a lucky day,” said Lieberknecht in her speech to hundreds of people at the bridge. “The strive for freedom and democracy defeated socialism and a state-controlled economy.” More on the speech here.

 

For those who could not attend any of the events, there were plenty of opportunities to watch the events on TV, let alone the facts about the East-West Border and the Berlin Wall. This included the children’s TV series “Die Sendung mit der Maus,” which featured a special on the border between then and right now, based on the travels of one of the moderators. A link is available for you to watch and listen to the stories behind the border crossings chosen for the trip:

Summer Tour along the Former East-West Border with the Maus:

http://spezial.wdrmaus.de/sommerreise-2014

 

The rest of the programs can be found in the Flensburg Files’ facebook page. There you can access the programs in either language and learn about the Fall of the Wall and the celebrations that followed then as well as yesterday.

 

From the Berlin Wall to German Reunification: 9 November 1989

 

One of the former borders separating East and West Germany at Lauenstein (Bavaria). Photo taken in 2010

25 years ago, there were two Germanys- the German Democratic Republic (better known to many as East Germany) and the Federal Republic of Germany (better known as West Germany). It was a Germany that for 44 years was the chessboard for international conflict between two heavyweights- the United States on the western side and the Soviet Union on the eastern side. It was a Germany that should have been a whole country, but wasn’t  because of the Berlin Wall (erected in 1961) and the weapons that were stationed on both sides, waiting to be used. It was the divided Germany that tore families and friendships apart. And for a long time, it was a divided Germany whose citizens were restrained from reuniting with family members and friends on the opposite end. It would have remained that way- until 9 November 1989.

This Sunday, all of Germany will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and throughout the rest of the year and well into next year, celebrations commemorating the Revolution of 1989 and German Reunification of 1990 will take place, giving residents and tourists in Germany and Europe a chance to learn more about how 1989 set the stage for the end of the Cold War, the reestablishment of one Germany and the establishment of a New World Order for international politics both in Europe and beyond.  The hottest spot for the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Fall of the Wall will take place in Berlin, and here’s why:

A row of lights have been erected along the border of what used to be the Berlin Wall, which had surrounded the western part of Berlin for 28 years until its fall in 1989. These lights (encased in balloons) will line the borders and will be released into the skies on the evening of November 9th with millions of people including prominent people on hand.  In addition, information pavillions will be available at the former key crossings, such as Checkpoint Charlie, East Side Gallery,  Potsdamer Platz and Brandenburg Gate to provide visitors with a chance to learn about the history of the Wall. A pair of concerts will take place both at Brandenburg Gate and the Philoharmonie Hall that evening, and a permanent exhibit will be commemorated at the Bernauer Strasse former border crossing. More on the events can be found here.  

In addition, four museums in Berlin and six museums located along the former East and West German borders will be open for with exhibits commemorating the opening of the borders. This includes Checkpoint Bravo and Marienfelde in Berlin as well as museums in Mödlareuth, Point Alpha, Eichsfeld and Kühlungsborn. More information here

In Leipzig, two photo exhibits looking at the peaceful revolution of 1989 and the disarmament of the East German State Secret Police (Stasi) are taking place between now and December, The former can be found  at the Deutsches Photomuseum in Markkleeberg through 28 December (more here) while the latter will be on display until 31 December at the former Stasi Building at Dittrichring 24 in Leipzig (see here for details) Leipzig was the starting point of the Revolution of 1989, which saw its largest showing on October 9th, triggering the downfall of Erich Honecker and setting off the sequence that culminated with the fall of the Wall.

You can also find more information on other events and places of interested in connection with 1989 here: http://www.germany.info/fallofthewall

 

Between now and 3 October of next year, the Flensburg Files will look at the factors that led to east and west becoming a whole Germany. There are many reasons that made Germany is what it is today, most of which will be mentioned here. This will include some Q&A with people who contributed to the remaking Germany, as well as some items that are typical of today’s Germany in comparison with what it was before 1989. Some books and other works will be featured here.  If you have some items that are typical of Germany and would like to see posted here, let the author know at: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com.  The Files also welcomes photos of the November 9th events as well as places along the former border for people to look at and/or guess at where they are located.

It has been 25 years since the Revolution, and a lot has changed over time. But the events of 9 November and the factors leading to German Reunification are events that one must never forget, regardless if one lives here in Germany or elsewhere. This leads to the  final question for the forum:

Look at the pictures below:  Where do you think it was located? Hint: Lauenstein in Bavaria is one of the villages where the border once stood. But what was the purpose of the house and the memorial in the form of a wave? You can place your answers in the comment section.

State Reforms: How Many German States Should We Have?

Priwall Beach, located west of the former East and West German border at Travemunde. Photo taken in October 2013

Since 3rd October, 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany has been in existence, featuring the states of the former West Germany and those of East Germany (or better known as the German Democratic Republic). This includes the largest state, Bavaria, which is as big as the entire state of Iowa but is also the richest of the 16 states. We also have Baden-Wurttemberg and Hesse, two of the most populous states and known as the hot spots for jobs. Then we have the former East German States of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Brandenburg, and Mecklenburg-Pommerania. And lastly, we have the city-states of Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin, the third of which is the nation’s capital. Then we have Saarland, one of the poorest states in the union and the source of the recent proposal brought forth by Minister Annagret Kramp-Karrenbauer. Her proposal: to reduce the number of states to six to eight instead of the original 16 states. The source: The Solidarity Pact, which runs out in less than five years.

To summarize: the Solidarity Pact, signed into law in 1990, required that the rich states, namely in case, Bavaria, Hesse and Baden-Wurttemberg to provide financial support to the other German states, to ensure that the states can be provided with enough capital to survive and avoid a financial disaster, similar to what we saw with the Great Crisis six years ago in the US and the EU. Yet Hesse and Bavaria do not want to carry the burden of these states anymore and with Saarland having the highest debt of any state in Germany, it is not surprising that Kramp-Karrenbauer is proposing such measures, one that is deemed radical and absurd among conservatives, especially in Bavaria, but given the trend in the European Union with states giving up more of their autonomy for a rather transparent one, it is not a surprise. This is especially given the attempts of states to cooperate together to consolidate their resources.

Let’s look at the former East Germany, for example. Since 2004, consolidation in the private sector as well as cooperation within public sector has been under development. This includes the merger of the health care insurance provider AOK in Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, as well as cooperation and consolidation attempts among academic institutions at the universities in these three states. Furthermore, cooperation between Berlin and the state of Brandenburg in the private and public sectors have resulted in ideas and ways to integrate the capital into Brandenburg. Even a referendum was put up to a vote, which was rejected by Berliners and Brandenburgers alike.  In both examples, it is clear that because of the substantial demographic changes that have been witnessed since German Reunification in 1990, combined with poor job market possibilities that the long-term goal is to consolidate the states into one entity. That means Berlin would belong to Brandenburg and thus lose its city-state status, yet it would still be the national and state capital, a double-task that is not welcomed by many in both areas. As for the other states, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia would become Mitteldeutschland, with either Leipzig or Dresden being the capital and the other “former” state capitals becoming the seats of the districts. This concept is also not welcomed by many in these regions because of the potential to lose thousands of jobs in the consolidation process, combined with the closing of several institutions in the public sector. Attempts have already been tried with the university system in these three states, which were met with protests in the tens of thousands.

But the problems do not lie just in the Berlin-Brandenburg area, let alone the Mitteldeutschland area. The attractiveness of the states of Bavaria, Baden-Wurrtemberg and Hesse has resulted in a shift in population and businesses to these regions from areas in northern and eastern Germany, thus causing a strain in the social resources available in both areas. Northern states are battling high unemployment and social problems, whereas southern states are struggling to keep up the demand for housing.  While the Solidarity Pact has had its advantages, especially in the eastern part of Germany, where cities like Halle (Saale), Leipzig, Dresden, Erfurt and Berlin have undergone a major transformation from becoming run-down Communist cities to modern cities with historic nostalgia (reliving the days before Hitler took power and brought Germany to a blazing inferno known as World War II), there is still work to be done in terms of dealing with problems of unemployment, influx of immigration and the struggles to accommodate people, attracting jobs for all and improving education standards in school as well as in the university. The solidarity pact was a good project, but with states on both sides of the former Cold War border struggling to relieve the burden of debt and social problems, Kramp-Karrenbauer’s plan just might be that remedy Germany really needs. With less autonomy because of its interwoven policies of the European Union, there is really no need for all 16 states to function individually, receiving money from the rich states in order to survive.

This leads to the question of how to consolidate the German states. As it would be absurd to give up its city-state status, Berlin should remain an individual entity, receiving its funding from all the German states, but being ruled by the federal government- not the city government itself. It has been done in Washington, DC, as well as Monaco and Singapore. Losing its city-state status would be as preposterous as Washington becoming part of either Maryland or Virginia. James Madison and his forefathers would rise from their graves and make sure that proposal would never happen. So, as Germans would say it: “Finger weg vom Berlin!” As for Hamburg and Bremen, their financial and social woes have put a strain on their resources in general. Hence a merger with another German state would be both inevitable and beneficial.

But how to consolidate the other states is very difficult because the financial resources lie in the south and west of Germany. Henceforth it is impossible to anchor the rich states with the poor ones, with the possible exceptions of Bavaria merging with Saxony and Thuringia, Hesse merging with North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony and Baden Wurttemberg merging with Saarland and Rhineland Palatinate.  That would still leave the problem with Schleswig-Holstein, the three German city-states, and the remaining states that had once been part of East Germany because no financial beneficiaries would be found to govern the region. Therefore anchoring the rich with the poor is out of the question.  Also out of the question would be the old historic borders, where we have one large state of Saxony (instead of Upper, Lower and Anhalt Saxony), Thuringia becomes part of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia takes over Rhineland Palatinate and Saarland, and Baden Wurrtemberg takes Hesse. Financially, the equilibrium would point clearly to the fourth region proposed here, thus putting the others at a mere disadvantage.  Ideally would be to combine geography and finances so that the equilibrium is firmly established and everyone would benefit from it. That means, instead of having 16 states, one could see three giant German states and Berlin having its own district.  While this proposal would be even more radical than that of Kramp-Karrenbauer’s, given the current situation in Germany, this alignment may be inevitable as financial and domestic problems as a result of lack of resources come to a head in 20 years at the most.

Here’s one of the proposal that should be considered:

Süddeutschland: Consisting of Bavaria, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Brandenburg. Capital would have to be in the central part of the new state, such as Erfurt, Leipzig or Nuremberg. Munich would have its own city-state status.

Norddeutschland: Consisting of Hesse, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Pommerania, Hamburg and Bremen. Capital should be located in Hamburg, Hannover or Lübeck. Frankfurt would keep its financial headquarters in tact.

Westdeutschland: Consisting of Baden-Wurttemberg the states along the Rhine, including Saarland. Capital would be in Cologne. Stuttgart would be one of the district capitals along with Mannheim/Ludwigshafen, Freiburg im Breisgau, Coblence and Saarbrücken.

One can go with Kramp-Karrenbauer’s proposal of 6-8 states, but it should be noted that if two states consolidate, one should be the stronger one supporting the weaker one(s) but as long as the resources are pooled and the people will benefit from the merger. The last option would be to abolish all 16 states and have one Germany which has control over the entire country. This may be too communistic for the taste of many people, and some people may compare this to the period of the Third Reich. But with Germany being more and more part of the European Union, that option may also be brought onto the table in German Parliament.

But to sum up, the idea of having less German states is the most viable option in order for the German states to remain healthy. Kramp-Karrenbauer’s idea may sound absurd, but it may become inevitable as Germany becomes more integrated into the EU, which may be more of a blessing than a curse. The question is how to redraw the bounderies. What do you think? Should Germany be reduced in half? Perhaps in three giant states? How would you redraw the boundaries of the Bundesrepublik? Share your thoughts here as well as in the Files’ facebook pages and help Kramp-Karrenbauer push her agenda to the politicians in Berlin keeping in mind the risks and benefits the proposals may bring.

Guessing Quiz Answers: Architectural History

Schoneman Park Bridge in Luverne, Minnesota. One of many bridges built by the Hewett Family. This lone Waddell truss bridge was built in 1908 by William S. Hewett

                                             Co-produced with Sister Column, The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles

A few months ago, the Flensburg Files and sister column the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles produced a two-article series on architectural and infrastructural history and their place in the educational curriculum, which included a Guessing Quiz for people to try out. While you can still try the quiz (click here), here are the answers you should have:

 

1.  In the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, structures made of iron melted like lava, which contributed to the destruction of hundreds of buildings made of iron and wood.  True or False?  False. Most of the houses and buildings that had existed prior to the fire were made of wood and iron. Iron had a low melting temperature which contributed to thousands of buildings to collapse in the heat of the blazing inferno that killed over 300 residents. Ironically, the city’s water tower survived the Great Fire, but the 100-foot tall structure was made of stone. It still remains today as the lone structure that had survived the fire

 

2. The Chicago School of Architecture was developed shortly after the Great Fire featuring which architects? Name three and how they contributed to architecture.  There were over a dozen well-known architects from this school, including William LeBaron Jenney (who invented the skyscraper), Louis Sullivan (who spearheaded the modernist architecture) and Frank Lloyd Wright (who invented the prairie home). A link with more architects and their contributions can be found here

3. Who created the first automobile in the world: Ransom Olds, Carl Benz or Henry Ford?

Carl Benz was the first person who created the first automobile in 1885; Ransom Olds created the first automobile dependent on gasoline in 1896; Henry Ford was the first to create the assembly line plant to create their automobile in masses in 1908. 

4. The Diesel Motor was created in ______ and is named after this German inventor?

The diesel motor was invented by Rudolf Diesel in 1893

 

5. List the following canals that were built between 1871 and 1915 in chronological order.

Panama Canal      Dortmund-Ems Canal    Danube Canal    Erie Canal   Elbe-Lübeck Canal   Baltic-North Sea Canal                            Berlin-Havelland Canal

Baltic-North Sea Canal (1887-95); Elbe-Lübeck Canal (1895- 1921); Dortmund-Ems Canal (1899); Panama Canal (1914); Erie Canal- new (1908-18); The Danube and Berlin Canals were built in the 1950s

 

6. Prairie Homes consisted of 1-2 story homes made of geometric shapes resembling circles and triangles.  True or False? Who invented the Prairie Homes (Hint: he was part of the Chicago School of Architecture).

False, rectangular and cube-shaped architecture were the features of the Prairie Homes invented by Frank Lloyd Wright.

 

7. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1878, yet Berlin received its first set of electrical lighting in this year?

Berlin received its first electrical lighting in 1884

 

8.  Which of the following bridge engineers did NOT immigrate to the US?

Seth Hewett, Lawrence Johnson, Gustav Lindenthal, John Roebling, Friedrich Voss, Wendel Bollmann

Seth Hewett and the rest of the Hewett family were born in Minnesota. William Hewett originated from Maine.

 

9. The Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders emerged in the 1890s and later became a counterpart to the American Bridge Company conglomerate after the consolidation of _____ bridge builders in 1901. This School featured which family of bridge builders?

Hewett, Johnson, Bayne, Jones                      The Hewett Clan,  Alexander Bayne, Commodore Jones and Lawrence Johnson made up the Minneapolis School of Bridge Building, where over a dozen bridge building firms were located in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Hewett, Fink, King, Bayne

Voss, King, Jones, Humboldt

Hewett, Maillard, Lindenthal, Steinmann

 

10. The Rendsburg High Bridge was the first bridge in the world that used the loop trestly approach. True or False? If false, when and where was the first loop trestle approach used? (See video here)

 False. The Hastings Spiral Bridge in Hastings, Minnesota, built in 1895 by the Wisconsin Bridge and Iron Works Company was the first structure that introduced the pigtail approach, located on the Hastings side. The bridge was replaced by Big Blue in 1951, which in turn was dismantled after Big Red opened last year.  

 

It is hoped that an extended version of the Guessing Quiz would be available for use in the classroom. That plan is still in the works and will be made available through an external source in the near future. Once it’s finished and posted, you will be informed here in the Files as well as in the Chronicles. Stay tuned.

  and

Newsflyer: 11 June, 2014

Unknown photographer. Used in connection with article found here: http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/lwx/lightning/va-lightning.htm Public Domain

Giant Storm Causes Widespread Damage throughout Germany.  World Cup in Brazil in Full Gear.  Hamburg SV Handball Team Finished?

Getting off the train this morning at Erfurt Central Station in central Thuringia, passengers received a shock of their lives, as the sounds of thunder and lightning made the state capital sound like warfare going on. Pick any war in the last 20 years and it was reenacted by mother nature. And this in addition to heavy rains that flooded streets and brought the vehicular infrastructure to a complete standstill for a time.  But this was the overture to the series of storms that occurred over the course of two days, ending today, which is comparable to Hurricane Kyrill in February 2007, and caused severe damage throughout all of Germany. More on that and a pair of sports-related items in the Files’ Newsflyer.

Video of the Storm

Kyrillian-sized storm cripples Germany:

Local Flooding in Cologne, Rostock and Berlin. Downed trees in the Ruhr River area, northern Hesse and Saxony-Anhalt. Train services suspended. Power outages everywhere. This was a familiar sign when Kyrill brought all of Germany to a complete standstill in 2007. Yet with the storm system sweeping through Germany yesterday and today, it brought back memories of the event. Sweltering heat gave way to golfball-sized hail, high winds and torrential downpour that caused critical damage to many cities throughout Germany. Fallen trees and flooding caused several raillines to suspend services, including the hardest hit area, the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the German railways suspended all services statewide yesterday for the fourth time since 2007. Officials there are predicting services to return to normal by the weekend. Stations in Essen, Dusseldorf and Cologne were cut off from the rest of the rail network. Raillines between Berlin, Hamburg and places to the north and west were either closed down or rerouted. Over 100,000 travelers were stranded or had to find alternatives, which didn’t fare better with motorways being blocked due to downed trees and other objects.  Damage is estimated to be more than $135 million. News sources are predicting a clean-up effort taking up to more than a week to complete; this includes restoring the infrastructure affected by the storm. More information and photos can be found here.

Hamburger SV Handball Team to Fold?

Once deemed as the one of the powerhouses of German handball, especially after winning the Champions League Title last year, the handball team from Hamburg’s days as a Premere League team may be numbered. Faced with a 2.7 million Euro deficit (ca. $4.4 million), no president since the resignation of Andreas Rudolph in May and with that, the team’s main sponsor withdrawing its financial support, the team was denied entrance to the first and second leagues. Its last attempt to save face and be allowed to play next season in the Premere League is to overturn the decision by the German Handball League through the arbitration panel. The decision should take place on Wednesday. Should the panel uphold the decision or Hamburg withdraw its appeal, the team will be forced to play in the Regional League (3rd League) in the next season. In addition, the team will not be allowed to participate in the European Cup in the next season, despite finishing fourth in the standings. Melsungen would replace the spot left vacant. And lastly, the team will most likely file for bankruptcy, which could lead to the club being liquidated, should no one step in with money to help them. Such a free fall would be catastrophic, as Hamburg has competed well against the likes of the 2014 Season and German Cup champions, THW Kiel, as well as Berlin, Rhine-Neckar Lions, and the 2014 Champions League winners, SG Flensburg-Handewitt. More information can be found here.

World Cup begins tomorrow

Germany and the US are two of 32 teams that will go head-to head with the competitors beginning tomorrow. The 2014 FIFA World Cup will take place in Brazil at 12 several locations, with the Championship to take place on July 13th in Rio de Janeiro. For the first time since 1930, all the teams winning a World Cup will participate in the competition (Argentina, England, France, Italy, Spain, Uruguay, and Germany).  Spain is the returning champion, having edged the Netherlands in the 2010 Cup. This is the fifth time the Cup is taking place in South America, which has been won by teams from that continent the last four times. That means Brazil is the heavy favorites to take the Cup. More interesting is the pool play, in particular, Group G, where the US and Germany are in. They are scheduled to meet on 26 June in Recife. The stakes are high for the head coaches of both teams, who are both looking for their first World Cup title. Jurgen Klinnsmann is being criticized for the American team being Europeanized, which could be his downfall if his team does not make it. Joachim Loewe is hoping that winning the title will improve his chances of a contract extension before 2016. With both teams hobbling with players banged up from regular season competition, it will be interesting to see how the match will turn out, let alone, who will go far in the Cup. More on the Cup to come in the Files. If you want to know more about the tournament, click here for details.

Guessing Quiz: Industrial History and Infrastructure

Rendsburg High Bridge in Rendsburg, Germany. Spanning the Baltic-North Sea Canal. Photo taken in April 2011

This is a joint article with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles in connection with the article on Pocket Guide to Industrial History and Infrastructure between 1871 and 1914. For more information on this teaching experience, please click here for details. The Guessing Quiz is in connection with the article.

 

To close off the topic on Industrialization and Infrastructure in Germany and the USA, I decided to provide you with the Files’ Fact-Finder Guessing Quiz Questions for you to research and find answers. The answers will come after May Day in the Files.

 

1.  In the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, structures made of iron melted like lava, which contributed to the destruction of hundreds of buildings made of iron and wood.  True or False?

2. The Chicago School of Architecture was developed shortly after the Great Fire featuring which architects? Name three and how they contributed to architecture.

3. Who created the first automobile in the world: Ransom Olds, Carl Benz or Henry Ford?

4. The Diesel Motor was created in ______ and is named after this German inventor?

5. List the following canals that were built between 1871 and 1915 in chronological order.

Panama Canal      Dortmund-Ems Canal    Danube Canal    Erie Canal   Elbe-Lübeck Canal   Baltic-North Sea Canal                            Berlin-Havelland Canal

 

6. Prairie Homes consisted of 1-2 story homes made of geometric shapes resembling circles and triangles.  True or False? Who invented the Prairie Homes (Hint: he was part of the Chicago School of Architecture).

 

7. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1878, yet Berlin received its first set of electrical lighting in this year?

 

8.  Which of the following bridge engineers did NOT immigrate to the US?

Seth Hewett, Lawrence Johnson, Gustav Lindenthal, John Roebling, Friedrich Voss, Wendel Bollmann

 

9. The Minneapolis School of Bridge Builders emerged in the 1890s and later became a counterpart to the American Bridge Company conglomerate after the consolidation of _____ bridge builders in 1901. This School featured which family of bridge builders?

Hewett, Johnson, Bayne, Jones

Hewett, Fink, King, Bayne

Voss, King, Jones, Humboldt

Hewett, Maillard, Lindenthal, Steinmann

 

10. The Rendsburg High Bridge was the first bridge in the world that used the loop trestly approach. True or False? If false, when and where was the first loop trestle approach used? (See video here)

 

Happy Guessing! :-)

 

 

In School in Germany: Immigration

Here’s a question for all teachers in the German school system and social studies/ history  teachers in the American schools:  How much do you teach your pupils about the history of immigrants- in particular, German immigrants?  How do you approach this topic in terms of teaching method, focusing on a time period in history as well as garnering interest in the topic? And lastly, how much information do/can you provide to your group?

As you recalled a couple articles ago, I presented you with some questions about this particular topic for you to answer, to challenge yourself and learn a couple new items that you have never heard about before.  But this article is about German immigration in general and how important it is that this topic is integrated into the learning curriculum.

Many years ago, I visited Ellis Island, during my 1.5 week stay in New York City, to learn more about this topic and how Germans represented one of the majorities of the population that moved to the new world. Part of this had to do with the fact that my mother’s family is primarily German, originating from Schleswig-Holstein (and in particular, Stein near Kiel, according to genealogy research). Also important was the fact that prior to my trip, I had discovered,  in my parents’ garage, a trunk and on it, the maiden name of my mom’s ancestors that had immigrated to the United States in 1898 and eventually settled down on a farm south of Ellsworth, at  the Minnesota-Iowa border. This sparked my interest in knowing more about how Germans immigrated to the US, the reasons behind their strive towards something new and how they survived over there (and are still prospering today).

Ellis Island. Both photos taken by boat in 1997

The immigration wave of the Germans started in the 1840s before the Great Revolution of 1848. At that time, much of Europe, which featured the Habsburgs (The Austro-Hungarian Empire), Prussia, Russia and France had their own set of oligarchs who favored the church and the powerful over the common people. With violent clashes over food and poverty, plus the strive to put an end to this type of rule in favor of democracy, many of the immigrants boarded ships bound for the States and after several stops along the way, settled down in regions in today’s Rust Belt (the former steel regions extending from Illinois to Pennsylvania), as well as parts of the Midwest, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota. Much of their traditions, including their food, such as the hamburger and sauerkraut, the German language and its usage in literature and books, and even the villages were named after those from Prussia and Habsburg. Over 400 villages and towns were created with German city names, like Frankfort, Hamburg, Hannover, Berlin, and the like. Even some of the smaller towns in Germany had their names incorporated in the US, such as Flensburg, Schleswig, Lubeck, Kiel, Weimar, Jena and Trier. There was even the city of Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota that was named after Otto von Bismarck, the founding father of Germany, which was established in 1871. German culture prospered until World War I when President Wilson declared war on Germany in 1917 after a telegram was intercepted promising Mexico portions of Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and California if it entered World War I against the US.  For a period of three years, German culture was suppressed in a way that all traditions and even the usage of the language was prohibited.  Literary works by Schiller and Goethe were banned. The hamburger was renamed Liberty Steak; the sauerkraut, Liberty Cabbage. The Germans were perceived as evil in the eyes of many other immigrants, including the Italians, Irishmen and Russians, and conflicts broke out as a result.

After the war was over and the Versailles Treaty was signed, immigration to the US was limited because of the Red Scare- the Communist movement that had plagued Europe and parts of the US since the Bolshevist Revolution of 1917. Germans tried to escape the misery their country was facing, first through the hyperinflation during the Weimar Republic and later with the rise of Adolph Hitler but were faced with limitations both internally as well as externally. It would not be until after the second World War when the gates were reopened wide and many who wanted to leave and had the resources did.

Today, traces of German culture can be found in the US through foreign languages in public schools, the foods which have become somewhat commercialized, like the beer and hamburger, and the communities that still bear the German names. Some festivals can still be found in those communities, like the Oktoberfest in New Ulm in Minnesota.  Yet do we talk much about immigration in the schools?  Sadly, I have to say no.

Why?

We seem to have drifted away from topics like this one because of the strive to streamline education at the expense of the most important ones, like history, culture and politics. Foreign languages have also taken a hit, as schools in the United States are focusing solely on Spanish while leaving the rest behind- something that is angering the neighbors to the north, Canada, where French is the official second language behind English. While business and technology are two important elements needed to get a well-paying job, other aspects, like the ones mentioned, are just as important for they provide students with an insight to other countries and their culture and history.  Looking at it from a historian’s point of view, taking these humanity aspects seriously can enable the student to learn about him/herself and the surroundings and identify him/herself based on their own family history and how it contributed to the history of their countries.
Yet even when we discuss about humanities, like history and culture, in schools, we seem to have left out the meat of the topics for discussion. Reason for that are the limitations with regards to the subjects to be taught for certain grades- both in Germany, as well as in the USA. The time constraints regarding how and when to teach these subjects have forced many teachers to prioritize which subjects are important and which ones should be left out. Unfortunately, those that are left out are usually not taught unless in academia, if at all.

Immigration is one of those aspects that should be brought to the table at an early stage. There are many reasons for this argument, but I will mention only two, as they are the most important in my opinion. The first is immigration is like a bridge, connecting one’s old home with their new home. People who immigrated to other countries collected many impressions and stories to share with their relatives and friends back home. Many of these impressions and stories deal with comparisons between their new home and their old one, as well as suggestions as to how to improve their old region. While some of the immigrants returned to their old homelands, some remained in their new homelands forever, creating families of their own.  In the case of German immigration, it is typical to find many German families settling in clusters in either a community or region. An example of which can be found in an article written in 2010 about New Trier in Minnesota, which you can click here.

The second argument behind teaching immigration in school is because it played a key role in the development of the countries the immigrants originated from and the countries where they eventually settled down.  In the case of Germany, the emigration of Germans from Prussia and Habsburg resulted in the need to reform the countries respectively, unfortunately through the usage of violence, as was seen in the Revolution of 1848. Eventually the situation stabilized with the creation of a German state in 1871, which provided the solidarity and sound structure of a democratic state many people had envisioned two decades before but were realized by Bismarck.  In the case of German immigrants in the US, their  previous experiences before immigrating over, combined with their innovation and thinking has helped shape the US as it is today.  It is not hard to find Germans in America, who had made a difference, whether it was Henry Kissinger’s role as Secretary of State under Nixon and how the US scaled back on its mission of containment and opened their doors to relations with Russia and China, or John Roebling and his design of the wire suspension bridge, a few examples of which still exist today. Kissinger originated from Fürth (north of Nuremberg) in Bavaria, while Roebling emigrated to Pennsylvania from Mühlhausen in Thuringia and established the town of Saxonburg.

How the topic should be taught in the classroom is fully up to the teacher, but some of the small aspects mentioned here will help students know about the importance of immigration, even more so when it is discussed in the classroom in schools in Europe, and in this case, Germany.  This is where the article ends with a small anecdote: Ignore the smallest details and you will ignore the most relevant. Give them something small to think about and it will make a big difference as far as learning is concerned.

And now, some interesting Flensburg Files’ Fast Facts, which you will find in the next article…..

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