Axel Slams Deutschland

View of Flensburg’s skyline from the Restaurant Heimathafen. Photo taken in December 2016. This area as well as at Hafenspitze and along Schiffbrücke were all underwater

Record Flooding along the Baltic Sea Coast- Flensburg, Hamburg, Lübeck, Wismar and Rostock among others underwater

Snowfall in most of Germany- heaviest in Saxony and Brandenburg

Pure Chaos on the Roads

Arctic Blast to Follow

FLENSBURG/CHEMNITZ/USEDOM- Much of Germany is cleaning up from a hurricane that broke 10-year old records along the Baltic Sea Coast, while others are bracing for one of the coldest spells in over seven years. That is the theme of the Low Pressure front Axel, as the weather system wreaked havoc through much of Germany yesterday and last night.  High winds combined with storm conditions resulted in water levels along the Baltic Sea coast to rise above the dikes and flood barriers, causing widespread damage. The hardest hit areas were in the Lübeck area as well as areas in Mecklenburg-Pommerania. According to information from NDR and SHZ, high waves overwhelmed dikes in areas, like the island of Usedom, destroying houses and businesses and flooding streets. The historic districts of Wismar and Lübeck were blocked off as many streets and pedestrian paths were underwater. Even Hamburg was not spared from the flooding and damage as much of its market Fischmarkt was underwater. The same applied to Rostock and Kiel, where automobiles were diverted away from their respective business districts. Cars parked along the water were flooded and/or swept away in Flensburg, Kiel and Lübeck while businesses and residents experienced flooding in their basements and ground floors. Flood levels surpassed those set in 2006 and 2002, respectively- an eye-opener to many who had expected less.  To see how bad the situation was, here are some samples:

More information can be found here:

http://www.shz.de/regionales/schleswig-holstein/panorama/gesperrte-strassen-volle-keller-sturmflut-2017-hinterlaesst-schaeden-an-der-ostseekueste-id15756981.html

http://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/Schwerste-Ostsee-Sturmflut-seit-2006-trifft-Norden,wetter2644.html

The storm front has also affected much of Germany with up to a foot of snow (30 cm) to be seen in the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) in Saxony, Thuringian Forest and the mountain regions in Bavaria. Low-plain areas also received some snow, but with that, ice and the result of numerous accidents. Over 200 accidents were reported in Saxony, according to the Free Press in Chemnitz, including many in Chemnitz and Freiberg as well as along the Motorway 4.  Like along the Baltic Sea coast, high winds in places like the Harz Mountains in Saxony-Anhalt and the Fichtel Mountains in Bavaria resulted in blowing snow and fallen trees. Here are some samples of the events in that region:

 

More information:

http://www.mdr.de/nachrichten/vermischtes/schneesturm-mittelgebirge-100.html

http://www.freiepresse.de/NACHRICHTEN/TOP-THEMA/Sachsen-Weiter-Behinderungen-durch-Schnee-und-Glaette-artikel9802250.php

While the storm front Axel will leave Germany by Friday, the system will bring another component many in Germany are preparing for: icy-cold temperatures. With temperatures going down to as far as -25°C, many places in Germany will experience cold weather in this fashion for the first time since early 2012, with records expected to be broken. After four winters with above-normal temperatures and some tropical Christmases, Old Man Winter is making a comeback with a vengeance, and right after the holiday season is over. That is unless you celebrate Epiphany, like in Bavaria and parts of Saxony-Anhalt. Then tomorrow will be a treat for children and families starved of white holidays. 🙂

Germany at 25: Civil Courage

The German Order of Merit Cross (Bundesverdienstkreuz) awarded to Vaclav Havel in 2007. Photo taken by the Národní museum in Prague. Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:German_order_merit_with_special_sash.jpg

Civil Courage: derived from the Latin word civilis and the French word courage and meaning the courage of the people to do something what is deemed right. In German, it is known as Zivilcourage and has been one of the most talked about topics in the past two decades. Politicians, civic leaders and organizations in civil society have called upon Germans to show civil courage and help others when help is needed. But why is that when civil courage is a natural trait you see in other countries, including the US?

Especially when it comes to the problem with right-winged extremists has civil courage been heavily discussed for reasons of fear: fear that the laws in the books may be used against them, but also fear of retaliation on the part of people involved wanting to help them. It also presents a conflict of interest between instinct- knowing that there is someone there to help- and the protection of privacy and one’s own private sphere, as mentioned by Prof. Veronika  Brandstätter of the University of Zurich in an interview with the German newspaper Der Spiegel. According to the professor of psychology, specializing in motivation psychology, Civil Courage is a question of value in terms of democracy and humanity, examining the issues of solidarity, tolerance and the readiness to help.  In other words, how far can you go to help someone? What resources are at your disposal and whether additional help is necessary in some cases. While he points out rescuing someone trapped on thin ice as one of the obvious signs where one stops his activities immediately to help, the issue involving right-wing extremism has been an ongoing theme since 1990, which seems to have climbed to the top three in terms of problems Germany is facing at present- refugees and the widening of social classes are the other two, with the Volkswagon scandal not far behind.

Examining the situation 25 years ago, especially in the eastern half of Germany, there were only very few traces of solidarity towards those in need for two reasons:

  1. The traumatic effects of National Socialism in the 1930s and 40s, counting the devastation Germany faced in World War II, combined with Germany being a battlefield during the Cold War as Communism and Capitalism locked horns along the East-West borders including Berlin.  Here, we had two major poles: those who still believed in the German race and those who were afraid of being arrested by one of the two Superpowers. For the former, a classic example of how right-winged nationalism was strong was the riots in Rostock in 1992, where residents and neo-Nazis attacked apartments occupied by Vietnamese immigrants, setting them on fire and chasing the occupants away. The Police were poorly equipped to handle the protests. Further attacks on foreigners followed where bystanders stepped aside to avoid any confrontation by the extremists who dubbed them as helpers.

For the latter, it had to do with the sphere of influence the two superpowers had on the divided Germany: the US for the western half and the Soviet Union for the eastern half. Both were of the opinion that Germany should be rebuilt and grow but on a controlled basis, for fearing of another rise in power. This resulted in the post-war generations growing up being influenced by two different powers that reshaped their way of thinking. It did not mean that the country of free-thinkers was a puppet. It meant that in order for the country to achieve its independence, the Germans had to abide by the regulations from the outside, which disappeared bit by bit as the country bought itself back its independence, only to have that achieved with German Reunification in 1990. And even then, the people growing up during the Cold War era had the extra caution mentality, where help is only given when it is deemed safe to do so.

The second reason behind the lack of solidarity is the mentality of letting the people “swim in cold water” and fend for themselves. This meant that there was an expectation that people coming to Germany (or at least a region in Germany) were to have learned the language, customs and way of life, and there was no need to assist them, even if asked. Even the idea of saying “Schönen Tag wünsche ich Ihnen/Dir!” (Have a nice day) 15 years ago seemed preposterous in the eyes of many who prefer to concentrate on their own affairs and not that of others. Again, this applies to the older generations who may had never dealt with situations with refugees and foreign residents as we are working with today. When first arriving in 1999, the first negative impression per se was the customer service in many stores and offices, where the atmosphere was either monotonous, unfriendly or both. The exception was at the university and offices that deal with foreign students.

Let’s fast forward to the present, and how Germany has cleaned its image a great deal. The meaning of civil courage has become a household name in the country for three major reasons:

  1. People and organizations are being recognized for their services of helping those in need, regardless of circumstances and what background they have. Every year the Bundesverdienstkreuz (Cross of Merit) is given out to outstanding people for their extraordinary service, regardless of which level (local, state or national). First introduced in 1951 by German President Theodor Heuss, there are eight different classes awarded pending on the degree of service. Even cities have introduced their own awards to people for their service to the community. While this had gone almost unnoticed before 1990, it has taken center stage since then, especially as politicians have strongly encouraged people to show solidarity and help the people who are in need, including the current German president Joachim Gaucke in his televised speeches.

The second reason behind the importance of civil courage is the rise of the next generations (those born from 1970 onwards) and their awareness of problems on the global front. These people usually have university degrees, speak at least two foreign languages, have travelled to foreign countries, encountered people from different cultures and are more aware of the problems Germany is facing in comparison with other countries in the world than the baby boomers, many of whom fought for their rights on their own soil and not in a foreign country. The more experiences they gathered and the more aware of the situation they are, the more likely they will help others out, especially those wanting to settle down in Germany for an uncertain period of time.

And finally, the people in Germany have become more aware of the problems facing them as far as domestic issues and immigration are concerned. This is caused in part due to the information they receive in the news as well as the experience they have gathered and shared with others. Even if certain stereotypes of those in need (especially the refugees and immigrants) are held by some based on rumors, having experienced it on hand or through others sometimes helps them reshape the way of thinking and reconsider their actions towards others in a positive manner.

It still does not mean that the country is perfect. There are still attacks on foreigners, especially in light of the large influx of refugees from Syria, and parts of Africa. Refugees and immigrants are looking for new homes and a new life. The gap between rich and poor is widening, especially when it comes to children who live in poverty. And we still have problems with pollution and other environmental issues. But we are seeing the gravity of the situation, and we have more people ready and willing to help, regardless of what the consequences are and how they are recognized in the end for their work. In the 15+ years living here, one can find this variable that is recognizable and much appreciated: openness and kindness. There was not much there at first when I came, but one will find it often nowadays, no matter where a person goes. And this is something that does not go unnoticed while traveling through or living in Germany.

frage für das forum

To finish this article, here is an exercise designed to test your knowledge about how civil courage should be implemented. Look at the situations below and ask yourself what you would do in a situation. Remember, what you do for action may be different for others and can lead to a discussion.

  1. You drive on the motorway and see a person seeking a ride to the nearest petrol station. This is just after passing a car with a flat.
  2. There is a family of refugees entering your community with nothing except what they wear, no money and little knowledge of the language. They are looking for a place to live and work.
  3. A friend prepares a party for another friend visiting from another country but is overwhelmed and needs some help.
  4. Two people fight over how they should work together on a project with one wanting to work alone and another wanting to work together.
  5. You see a group of neo-Nazis harassing someone from Africa, spitting on them and pushing them around, while riding a tram.
  6. You’re at a dance with some friends only to find someone sitting in the corner, all alone.
  7. While jogging, you encounter a dog who has lost his owner and follows you around. The animal carries a tag.
  8. A woman at work receives unwanted attention by someone with interest and does not seem to leave her alone.
  9. You break off contact with a colleague because of a fallout only to meet the person again in a different work setting months later.
  10. You witness an accident involving a car and a bike while biking to a party.

Note: Feel free to comment to any of the situations above by placing your comments below or in the Fles’ facebook pages.  🙂

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Germany Quiz Nr. 5: The Answers to the Questions on Mecklenburg Pommerania

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

And now the answers to the Germany Quiz on Mecklenburg-Pommerania. There are many reasons why the state is so special to Germans. It is the state where many people growing up before and after 1990 went to for their vacation, both while growing up as well as while having families. For many foreigners and expatriates, it is a jewel where nature and history go hand in hand. Much of the state was not affected by World War II and the bombings that devastated much of Germany. And lastly, as you will see in the answer sheet to this quiz, there are many places to visit if you have not been there yet.  So without further ado, lets look at the reasons why we should visit the northeastern most state in the Bundesrepublik, shall we?

MATRIX:

MV Cities

1. What is the capital of Mecklenburg-Pommerania?      ANS: Schwerin

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

3. Which of the places in the matrix are islands?     ANS: Usedom and Rügen

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

5. Name two cities whose respective universities are among the oldest in Europe.   ANS: Rostock and Greifswald   FAQ: The University of Rostock was founded in 1419, while the university in Greifswald was established 37 years later. 

5a. Which other cities have colleges?   ANS: Güstrow, Schwerin, Stralsund, Neubrandenburg and Wismar

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?

ANS: Stettin, Swinemünde, Pyritz, Bütow, Rummelsberg and Greifenberg

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

ANS: Vineta  (Note: A separate article is in the works…..)

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

ANS: Rügen

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

ANS: Stralsund

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

ANS: Greifswald

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

ANS: Ahlbeck and Heringsdorf. Ahlbeck is at the Polish Border and is known for its border shops. Wild card is Trassenheide, but it is located on the western end of the island. 

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

ANS1: Rasender Roland   ANS2: Rügen

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).

ANS: Arkona and Neustrelitz

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)

ANS: 

The Peenebrücke in Wolgast, built in 2000 and nicknamed the Blue Wonder, is a single leaf bascule bridge that serves rail and road traffic between the main land and the island of Usedom. It replaced a draw bridge that was destroyed in World War II.

The Hubbrücke at Karnin was built in 1908 and featured a vertical lift main span and several through truss spans. The bridge was substantially damaged in World War II resulting in all but the vertical lift span to be removed by the 1960s. That remaining span still exists today and is considered a historic monument. Plans are in the making to revive the rail line which also goes to Usedom from Ducherow. This includes either restoring or replacing the bridge.

The Hubbrücke at Plaue is another vertical lift bridge that is in service. Built in 1916, this bridge, which features a deck plate girder span, can rise to 1.86 meters above the street, making it the highest functioning vertical lift bridge in the state. Prior to its construction in 1916, a double leaf bascule bridge once existed.

The Wieck Bridge in Greifswald, built in 1887, is one of the oldest functioning double leaf bascule bridges in Germany and the oldest in Mecklenburg Pommerania

Meiningen Swing Bridge, built in 1912, is located in Bresewitz. It is the lone functioning swing bridge in the state and features several Warren pony truss approach spans, a polygonal Warren through truss span and a swing span resembling a cantilever Warren through truss span.

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)

ANS: Dömitz.  The Dömitz Bridge spanned the Elbe River and was once owned by the German Railways. Five of the spans were either damaged or destroyed in World War II.  During the Cold War, in an attempt to halt any attempts of escaping to the west, the East German government tore down their half of the remaining spans leaving the western half under jurisdiction of Lower Saxony, which preserved it as a historical monument. The remains of the bridge is now privately owned. 

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?

ANS: Sassnitz

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

ANS: Schwerin (as its main location), yet other concerts take place in churches and castles throughout the state.

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

ANS: Wismar.  

FAQ: The city was taken by the Swedish kingdom twice: 1632 and held until 1648 and through the war with the Danish Kingdom in 1712. The kingdom held control of the city until 1903, when it was returned to the German empire. 

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.

ANS: Rostock- specifically in Warnemünde.

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).  ANS: Rostock and the team: FC Hansa Rostock

Zinnowitz.
Herringsdorf.

MIX:

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

ANS: You won’t believe this but: nearly 2000 castles, palaces and manors exist in the state. There are too many to name, but one can find palaces in Rostock, Wismar, Schwerin, Greifswald, Neustrelitz, Neubrandenburg and the Island of Rügen

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

ANS: True. Seven lakes can be found in and around Schwerin, three of which surround Schwerin Castle, a popular tourist attraction and the place where the state government carries out their daily duties.

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

ANS: There are plenty of possibilities to visit the animals at zoos in Stralsund (3x), Schwerin, Neustrelitz, Rostock and Wismar.

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

ANS: False.

FAQ:Jello is an American form of gelatin that is wobbly when made. You don’t find that in Rote Grütze as it features fruit pudding (that is NOT wobbly) coated in vanilla creme. 

5. The main delicacy in Meck-Pomm is fish.  True or False?   ANS: If someone says FALSE, then he doesn’t know the state. 😉   FISH is the flagship of the state’s delicacy- regardless of type and how they are fried, smoked, or cooked. Answer is TRUE!

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.   NOTE: Answers are in bold and italicized print

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. Huus              d. Hoose

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

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

To close things off with this quiz, I would like to finish the quiz with a song sung in low German (Plattdeutsch) entitled Mein Heimat. Sung near Warnemünde near Rostock, the a group of sailors provide you with an example of how Platdeutsch is spoken. You can find the lyrics here. Enjoy! 🙂

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. 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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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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