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  • Originally published 03/25/2014

    Germany asks: is it OK to laugh at Hitler?

    The Führer found himself reborn in the 21st century in a 2012 comic novel by Timur Vermes, which sold 1.4m copies in Germany. Its success suggests Germans now look at their former leader in the same way as the rest of the world does.

  • Originally published 11/05/2013

    Rethinking German Pacifism

    Has Europe’s strongest nation really chosen to become the world’s biggest Switzerland?

  • Originally published 08/20/2013

    Berlin Denies Rift with UK over WWI Centenary

    The German government has denied British media reports that it tried to influence the tone of Britain's planned ceremonies to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. A spokesman has confirmed Germany sent an envoy to London to discuss the plans, though.The German Foreign Ministry on Monday denied allegations that it was attempting to influence Britain's plans to commemorate the 2014 centenary of the outbreak of World War I.A spokesman for the ministry confirmed reports that it had sent an envoy to London in early August to discuss the centenary ceremonies. But he added: "There was no intervention of any kind in how our friends and partners intend to shape their commemoration of World War I."The Daily Telegraph reported on Sunday that the visit by Andreas Meitzner, a German diplomat tasked with coordinating European commemoration plans for the centenary, was prompted by German concerns that the ceremonies might have an excessively "declamatory tone," placing more emphasis on victory rather than reconciliation....

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Namibia scraps German place names

    Until recently, Namibia's history as a German colony was emblazoned across its map. Now the government has decided to replace the names of several municipalities with those of a more indigenous origin. But not everyone is happy about the move.Like much of Africa, the Caprivi Region of Namibia has long carried the imprint of European colonialism. Once in the possession of Germany, many streets, towns and regions carry German names. There are Schultzes and Meinerts among the locals, and German is the mother tongue for a local minority.But now, nearly a century after the end of German colonial rule, the Namibian government has decided to replace many of these German names with those of a more indigenous lineage.Caprivi is now Zambezi, after the river that runs through the region. A tropical strip of land that juts off from the country's northeast corner, it was named by the Germans after Count Leo von Caprivi, a Franco-German War veteran who succeeded Otto von Bismark as chancellor of imperial Germany....

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    Badger digs up medieval treasure in Germany

    A badger helped discover the tombs of two medieval lords in Germany in what archaeologists are hailing as a significant find. The 12th century burial site contains a sword, bronze bowls, an ornate belt buckle and skeletal remains that tell stories of a violent life. A badger in Germany deserves a reward for making a significant archaeological discovery: the medieval tombs of two Slavic lords buried with an array of intriguing artefacts.The striped animal, perfectly equipped for digging with its short legs, had made its underground home on a farm in the town of Stolpe in Brandenburg, some 75 kilometers northeast of Berlin....

  • Originally published 08/15/2013

    German towns struggle with honorary citizen Adolf Hitler

    They tend to be names that few have ever heard of, places like Bassum, Helsa, Nittendorf-Etterzhausen or Nortorf. But periodically such small towns in Germany find their way into the headlines due to a peculiar characteristic they share: They are, or were until recently, on the list of communities that never withdrew honorary citizenship from Adolf Hitler once the Third Reich came crashing down in 1945.Now, a new town has recently become the focus of unwanted attention as a result of its antiquated honorary citizenship rolls. Goslar, the hometown of Social Democratic Party head Sigmar Gabriel, is currently planning to finally revoke the honor it bestowed on the Führer back in the 1930s.But should it? Gabriel, surprisingly, thinks the answer to that question should be no. In comments made recently, the center-left political leader said: "It is an attempt to whitewash something that can't be whitewashed," he said. He added that he used to be in favor of removing Hitler from the honorary rolls, but that his views have changed. "Today, I think it is almost wrong to do that."...

  • Originally published 08/02/2013

    German boy finds mummy in attic

    Last week 10-year-old Alexander Kettler was playing in the attic of his grandmother's house in the northern German state of Lower Saxony when he came upon three mysterious cases in a cluttered corner. Neither his grandmother nor his father, a local dentist named Lutz Wolfgang Kettler, knew what was inside. So they hauled the dust-covered cases out of the attic, pried them open and peered inside with amazement."There was a huge sarcophagus and inside a mummy," said Lutz Wolfgang Kettler. "Then we opened the other cases and found an earthenware Egyptian death mask and a Canopic Jar," he added, referring to a container in which the ancient Egyptians kept the entrails of the deceased who had been mummified.As to the question of how the 1.6-meter (5.2-foot) mummy could have gotten to the small town of Diepholz, Kettler can only speculate. His father, who passed away 12 years ago, went traveling through North Africa in the 1950s, but spoke very little of his travels. "He was of the older generation who experienced a lot in the war and didn't really talk about anything. I do seem to remember him mentioning having been to the city of Derna in Libya," says Kettler. Had Kettler's father purchased the sarcophagus on his trip, it would have been possible for him to ship it to Diepholz via Bremerhaven....

  • Originally published 07/31/2013

    Germany still burying Eastern Front dead from WWII

    Germany will open its last big war cemetery in Russia on Saturday, marking the culmination of a huge effort to recover Wehrmacht soldiers killed on its Eastern Front in World War II.By the end of this year, the German war graves commission will have found and reburied a total of 800,000 soldiers in Eastern Europe and Russia since 1992, when the former Eastern bloc countries began helping Germany retrieve the remains of missing soldiers following the end of the Cold War.On Saturday, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière will hold a speech at the inauguration of the new war cemetery at the town of Dukhovschina, near the city of Smolensk in western Russia.....

  • Originally published 07/30/2013

    'An anxious continent': Walter Laqueur on Europe's decline

    British-American historian Walter Laqueur experienced the demise of the old Europe and the rise of the new. In a SPIEGEL interview, he shares his gloomy forecast for a European Union gripped by debt crisis. SPIEGEL: Mr. Laqueur, you experienced Europe and the Europeans in the best and the worst of times. Historical hot spots and the stations of your personal biography were closely and sometimes dramatically intertwined. Which conclusions have you reached today, at the advanced age of 92?Laqueur: I became a historian of the postwar era in Europe, but the Europe I knew no longer exists. My book "Out of the Ruins of Europe," published in 1970, ended with an optimistic assessment of the future. Later, in 2008, "The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent" was published. I returned to the subject in my latest book, "After the Fall: The End of the European Dream and the Decline of a Continent." The sequence of titles probably says it all.SPIEGEL: The last two, at any rate, sound as if the demise of the Western world were imminent.

  • Originally published 07/29/2013

    German magazine "Der Landser" criticized over historical views

    FRANKFURT — The Waffen-SS is widely seen as one of the main perpetrators of the Holocaust, but not in the pages of Der Landser, a weekly German pulp magazine.In one recent issue, members of the feared World War II military unit were portrayed as just a bunch of good-natured soldiers doing their jobs and, between battles, sharing rounds of local plonk with Greek villagers grateful to have been invaded. “We conquered them, and they’re still a friendly folk,” remarked one member of the squad, which belonged to Hitler’s personal bodyguard.

  • Originally published 07/20/2013

    Weber State's Susan Matt teaches Germans how to smile

    OGDEN — “There are only two kinds of people who smile all the time: fools and Americans.”“It’s a great, old Russian saying,” said Susan Matt, Weber State University history department chairwoman and professor. “Americans tend to seem happy all the time, even if they are not, underneath.”Matt just returned from an Organization of American Historians fellowship that took her to Germany to teach a university course about emotions in United States history. And although most of her students at the University of Tübingen were fluent in English, Matt did encounter the occasional cultural divide.“I would say something and pause for a laugh, and there would be deafening silence,” Matt recalled with a laugh. “I would realize that a joke didn’t translate. So I suggested someone write a paper on American humor, and the differences between German and American humor.”...

  • Originally published 07/16/2013

    Luther pamphlets swiped from museum

    Three elaborately printed pamphlets containing writings by church reformer Martin Luther have been stolen from a small museum in Eisenach. Historians say the theft of the leaflets, worth about 60,000 euros, is a blow to Europe's cultural memory.Church authorities and historians in Germany have reacted with shock to the news that three original printed pamphlets containing writings by Martin Luther were stolen from a museum in Eisenach, Germany, last Friday.A member of staff at the Lutherhaus museum in Eisenach noticed that the 16th-century papers were missing from a glass case at 2 p.m. last Friday afternoon.Even though the pamphlets are printed, they are unique because they contain hand-written notes by contemporaries of Luther....

  • Originally published 07/06/2013

    Mystery of the forest swastikas

    Over 20 years ago, a landscaper in eastern Germany discovered a formation of trees in a forest in the shape of a swastika. Since then, a number of other forest swastikas have been found in Germany and beyond, but the mystery of their origins persist.Blame it on the larches. Brandenburg native Günter Reschke was the first one to notice their unique formation, according to a 2002 article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. To be more precise, however, it was the new intern at Reschke's landscaping company, Ökoland Dederow, who discovered the trees in 1992 as he was completing a typically thankless intern task: searching aerial photographs for irrigation lines.Instead, he found a small group of 140 larches standing in the middle of dense forest, surrounded by hundreds of other trees. But there was a crucial difference: all the others were pine trees. The larches, unlike the pines, changed color in the fall, first to yellow, then brown. And when they were seen from a certain height, it wasn't difficult to recognize the pattern they formed. It was quite striking, in fact....

  • Originally published 06/26/2013

    Giles MacDonogh: What Happened to Europe?

    Giles MacDonogh is the author of several books on European history, including “After the Reich.” He is currently working on “Hitler’s Germany: A Social History of the Third Reich.”It all looked like a pretty good idea in 1951: A world war had come to an end only six years earlier and a cold one followed in its wake. Old enemies were about to become new friends.The first step was barter. Instead of milking the defeated nation’s resources — the ancient way of war — they could be shared: You have coal, we have steel; we’ll swap. This fair trade was at the heart of the Treaty of Paris, the beginning of the European Coal and Steel Community, the seed that became the mighty European Union....It has now been 68 years since the end of World War II, and in Western and Central Europe at least, peace has reigned for the longest period in modern history — trouncing the calm that ran from Waterloo to the Crimean War by nearly two decades.It would be a pity to forget a century of good, hard work or the 60 years we have spent burying our differences and throw it all away at the toss of a coin.

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Jens F. Laurson and George Pieler: Trying To Make History In Berlin, Obama Fed The Germans Platitudes

    Jens F. Laurson and George Pieler are contributors to Forbes.He didn’t call himself a jelly doughnut (neither did JFK actually, but let’s ignore that), but President Obama fell right into the I-must-make-history trap in his Brandenburg Gate speech. The problem is that the relevant history already has been made, as the President pointed out himself. Mr. Obama rightly lauded the determination of Germans to achieve their human aspirations as the reason the Wall no longer stands, but he confused the lessons of the postwar German recovery and the Cold War itself.It is interesting that President Obama thought it important that he spoke from the eastern side of the plaza, and emphasized the efforts of East Germans to break through the wall. Well, yes, they were the ones confined by it. But all Germans were punished for the continuing western presence in Berlin through severe restrictions on movements east-west, and by forced separation of families, friends, and colleagues.

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Remembering Bremen, the first-ever school shooting

    On Friday, June 20, 1913, 100 years ago, death arrived at the Marienschule school in Bremen, Germany. What happened that day wasn't just any old murder -- it was the first documented mass school shooting in history.It was shortly before 11 a.m., as teacher Maria Pohl lined her students up in two lines to leave the school building for recess. As the girls began to move, a man stormed up the stairs and opened fire. His name was Heinz Jacob Friedrich Ernst Schmidt, a 29-year-old unemployed teacher who had only lived in the city since December of the previous year.Panic broke out as Schmidt continued to fire his gun. Two girls were shot dead. A third fell and broke her neck as she tried to climb over a stair railing to escape. A few other girls retreated back into the classroom, where they were pursued by the killer. The five- and six-year old girls begged for their lives: "Uncle, please don't shoot us!"...

  • Originally published 06/21/2013

    Germany recalls 1953 anti-Soviet revolt

    BERLIN — The German president recalls it as an electrifying moment. One of Berlin’s most resplendent avenues is named simply the “Street of June 17” in remembrance. But the heady, short-lived uprising by hundreds of thousands of East Germans 60 years ago on Monday has never lived in history as the more famous anti-Communist revolts that followed — in Hungary and Poland in 1956, in Prague in 1968 and in Poland again in 1980-81.Joachim Gauck, the first Easterner to be president of the reunited Germany, was 13 at the time, living in the Baltic port of Rostock, he told Parliament in a quietly emotional speech on Friday. “But I remember very clearly the sense of euphoria that the dockworkers were on strike,” Mr. Gauck said. “I was sure that something new was under way.”It took 36 more years before East Germans rose up en masse again, and the Berlin Wall fell. And now, almost 24 years after that, Mr. Gauck sits in Bellevue Palace, and Angela Merkel, another Easterner, in the Chancellery. So commemorations of the 60th anniversary were infused not just by Germans’ penchant for marking round dates but also by a sense of putting the 1953 uprising on more of a pedestal....

  • Originally published 06/13/2013

    Prussian palace in Berlin rises from the ashes

    What would Kaiser Bill say? Nearly a century after marching into a world war that ended in defeat and Wilhelm II’s abdication, Germany has begun rebuilding the Prussian palace in Berlin vacated in 1918 and demolished in 1950.German president Joachim Gauck yesterday laid the foundation stone for the palace 2.0, dubbed the Humboldt Forum and planned as a museum for non-European art. Berlin’s original palace expanded over the centuries, reflecting the rise of the ruling Hohenzollern family and Prussia. Like Prussia, however, the ruined palace vanished after the war – dynamited by East Berlin as an unwelcome symbol of German imperialism. They used the site as a parade ground and later for its own parliament complex, the Palace of the Republic.Following German unification a decade of debate over the site ended with a 2002 Bundestag vote to demolish the East German structure and rebuild the Prussian palace....

  • Originally published 06/12/2013

    Germans accuse U.S. of Stasi tactics

    (Reuters) - German outrage over a U.S. Internet spying program has broken out ahead of a visit by Barack Obama, with ministers demanding the president provide a full explanation when he lands in Berlin next week and one official likening the tactics to those of the East German Stasi.German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman has said she will raise the issue with Obama in talks next Wednesday, potentially casting a cloud over a visit that was designed to celebrate U.S.-German ties on the 50th anniversary John F. Kennedy's famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech.Government surveillance is an extremely sensitive topic in Germany, where memories of the dreaded Stasi secret police and its extensive network of informants are still fresh in the minds of many citizens....

  • Originally published 06/10/2013

    Maria Miller: we won't be judgemental about causes of WWI

    Official plans to commemorate 100 years since the First World War will let people make up their own minds about who was to blame for the conflict, Maria Miller has said.Maria Miller said the Government would not take a judgemental position on the cause of WWI, as this is the job of historians.Her comments come amid accusations from campaigners that the Government is being too anxious to avoid appearing patriotic and triumphalist for fear of upsetting the Germans.Historians have criticised the current plans for failing fully to recognise the achievement of British forces and skipping over their biggest victories in an effort to emphasise the futility and carnage of the war....

  • Originally published 06/06/2013

    Politics slow archaeologists in Turkey

    It used to be easy for foreign archaeology teams to get excavation permits in Turkey. This year, though, dozens of scientists are still waiting for government permission even though the dig season has begun. Some suspect that politics and nationalism are in play.On the surface, the mood is buoyant at the annual archaeology conference in southern Turkey. Eager academics, more than a few of them clad in khaki vests and breathable pants, engage in animated conversation as they network and discuss their pet projects. Outside, a warm sun is shining.But looks are deceiving. For many of those present, the future is filled with uncertainty. The Turkish government in Ankara has still not granted annual permits to many of the excavations that the careers of the scientists present depend on. And there is concern that the reason for the delay has much more to do with the state of Turkey's relations with the West than with the merits of the projects in question....

  • Originally published 05/31/2013

    WWI Christmas truce less peaceful than thought

    It was a fleeting moment of friendship across the battlelines which now stands as testament to the unwavering spirit of human kinship that not even savage warfare could extinguish.But newly discovered letters sent from the trenches of the Western Front have cast new light on the famous Christmas Day truce of 1914, when the guns of First World War fell silent and sworn enemies put hostilities aside to play a game of football.The previously unpublished letters sent by Major John Hawksley, of the Royal Field Artillery, to his sister Muriel at her home in Coatham Mundeville, near Darlington, show that not everyone on the frontline agreed with the unofficial ceasefire....

  • Originally published 05/29/2013

    Jewish fund, Germany agree on aid for Nazi victims

    BERLIN (AP) -- A fund for Jewish victims of Nazi crimes says it has reached an agreement with the German government for Berlin to provide some $1 billion in homecare for victims.A spokeswoman for the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany said Tuesday that about 56,000 survivors in about 46 different countries will receive financial support under the agreement for a four-year-period from 2014-2017.Hillary Kessler-Godin, speaking by phone from the fund's New York office, said the amount of financial aid for each person will depend on individual needs and circumstances....

  • Originally published 05/15/2013

    German dialect in Texas is one of a kind

    The first German settlers arrived in Texas over 150 years ago and successfully passed on their native language throughout the generations - until now.German was the main language used in schools, churches and businesses around the hill country between Austin and San Antonio. But two world wars and the resulting drop in the standing of German meant that the fifth and sixth generation of immigrants did not pass it on to their children....Hans Boas, a linguistic and German professor at the University of Texas, has made it his mission to record as many speakers of German in the Lone Star State as he can before the last generation of Texas Germans passes away.Mr Boas has recorded 800 hours of interviews with over 400 German descendants in Texas and archived them at the Texas German Dialect Project. He says the dialect, created from various regional German origins and a mix of English, is one of a kind....

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    Malte Herwig's new book reveals Germany's postwar Nazi coverup

    For the last seven years, the German journalist Malte Herwig, a reporter at Suddeutsche Zeitung magazine, has arduously, conscientiously tackled the challenge of researching and writing a book about the postwar German government’s “double game,” as he calls it. In Die Flakhelfer (DeutscheVerlags-Anstalt), which comes out in Germany on Monday, he reveals that, for half a century, the German leadership sought to suppress the names of prominent citizens who were Nazi Party members in the Second World War while pretending to seek them, and while simultaneously pursuing the soul-searching process of coming to terms with Germany’s grievous Second World War history—a process Germans call Vergangenheitsbewältigung. Herwig finds this behavior troubling. In New York this week he explained the genesis of his book.

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    New German plaque for downed Dambuster bomber

    Of all the commemorations marking this month’s 70th anniversary of the Second World War’s most famous bombing raid, it is perhaps the most poignant.A new plaque has been unveiled in a German field where one of the Dambuster bombers crashed, with the loss of all seven men on-board.The memorial has been installed by a local historian who located the crash site as part of his research into the fate of the aircraft, AJ-E....

  • Originally published 05/09/2013

    German warning to Hungary over rise of anti-Semitism

    Guido Westerwelle today (MON) added Germany's voice to mounting concerns over extreme nationalism in Hungary and EU criticism that Prime Minister Viktor Orban's strong government is eroding the checks and balances common to European democracies."We have questions and we have some doubts," Mr Westerwelle told Bild newspaper before addressing a meeting of the World Jewish Congress in Budapest."The European Commission and the Council of Europe have not concealed their criticism of the Hungarian government. It must now be spoken about openly and honestly."...

  • Originally published 05/07/2013

    Thomas Rogers: German War Guilt: The Miniseries

    Thomas Rogers is a writer living in Berlin.One hour into "Our Mothers, Our Fathers" ("Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter"), the hit new German miniseries about World War II, a group of German soldiers is trapped in front of a Russian minefield. Among them are two of the series' protagonists, Friedhelm and Wilhelm, brothers from Berlin with strong jaws and very precise haircuts. Friedhelm is a bookish, sympathetic Berliner who has thus far been reluctant to kill anyone while his heroic older brother, Wilhelm, is the group's admired leader. But now they face a problem: How to get themselves to the Russian line?Unexpectedly, Friedhelm has a suggestion: force some Russian farmers, whom they've recently detained, to walk in front of them. A few minutes later, the first Russian hits a mine, setting off an explosion of mud and blood. Friedhelm stares on, unmoved.

  • Originally published 05/06/2013

    German outpost born of racism in 1887 blends into Paraguay

    NUEVA GERMANIA, Paraguay — The year was 1887 when two of the best-known German anti-Semites of the time put down stakes here in Paraguay’s remote jungle with 14 German families screened for their racial purity.The team of Bernhard Förster and his wife, Elisabeth, the sister of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, had an ambitious plan: nothing less than the establishment of a colony from which an advance contingent of Aryans could forge a claim to the entire South American continent.But the continent had other plans for this new Fatherland....

  • Originally published 05/01/2013

    Archaeology strains German-Turkish relations

    An argument between Germany and Turkey about ancient treasures is escalating. Turkey wants its treasures back, but German archaeologists say Turkish sites are being exploited for tourism.Archaeology often has a lot to do with politics - the current argument between Germany and Turkey is a prime example. Hermann Parzinger, head of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, last December accused Turkey of displaying "almost chauvinistic behavior." In reply, the Turkish culture minister Ömer Celik told German news magazine "Der Spiegel" that he demanded an apology, and he asked for five ancient objects to be returned that are currently shown in museums in Berlin. He claims they were taken out of Turkey illegally. Parzinger rejects any accusations of illegality for three of these objects: In December 2012, he said that the torso of the Fisherman of Aphrodisias, the sarcophagus from the Haci Ibrahim Veli tomb and a 13th-century prayer niche were all acquired legally.

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Greek claims for wartime compensation justified, says German historian

    Greece's demands for wartime reparations from Germany – particularly in regard to loans – are justified, a German historian who has lectured in Greece for 30 years has said.Hagen Fleischer, professor emeritus of history at the University of Athens, told Deutsche Welle, Germany's international broadcaster, that he is convinced that the issue of reparations is not yet settled 68 years after the end of the Second World War.Last week, Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said that international justice – and not comments by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble – would determine whether Greece is entitled to war reparations which, according to reports, could run to €162bn....

  • Originally published 04/01/2013

    Cologne Archeological Dig Revives Ancient Jewish Heritage

    After long being sidelined for Roman excavations, an archaeological dig in western Germany has unearthed myriad traces of daily life in one of Europe's oldest and largest Jewish communities. From ceramic dishes and tools to toys, animal bones and jewelry, some 250,000 artifacts have so far shed light on various periods in 2,000 years of the city of Cologne's history, the AFP news agency reported....

  • Originally published 03/28/2013

    Jewish Museum asks questions about living history

    "Do Jews have big noses?", "Are they particularly business savvy?", "Can you make jokes about the Holocaust?", "Is 'Jew' a curse word?"Seconds after visitors have stepped through the sliding doors and into the exhibition space at Berlin's Jewish Museum, they are confronted by these and other often equally disquieting questions, beamed onto the floor in front of them.They were collected from comments in the 800 visitors' books the museum has compiled since it opened in 2001, and whittled down to 32 of the most frequently asked, to form the backbone of its latest show, The Whole Truth – What You've Always Wanted to Know About Jews (but might have been too afraid to ask, the title could have added)....

  • Originally published 03/26/2013

    Iain Martin: Margaret Thatcher Had a Point about Germany

    Iain Martin is one of Britain's leading political commentators. A former editor of The Scotsman and deputy editor of The Sunday Telegraph, he's currently writing a book about the financial crisis....In Graham Stewart's superb history of Britain in the 1980s (Bang!), he captures the sense of outrage when Margaret Thatcher expressed grave reservations about the reunification of Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall....When Charles Powell, Thatcher's private secretary, summoned a group of leading historians to Chequers, on 24 March 1990, to discuss the implications of reunification, the news leaked. Powell had prepared a paper for the occasion which summarised the German national characteristics as "angst, aggressiveness, assertiveness, bullying, egotism, inferiority complex (and) sentimentality." The historians were generally appalled. In her public and private utterances the Iron Lady, a creature of the Cold War, seemed incapable of adapting to historic changed circumstances. Many Tory MPs were horrified that their leader and her inner circle seemed so out of step with mainstream continental opinion....

  • Originally published 03/25/2013

    Linking past and present in Nuremberg

    “This will be easy to see,” said Annelise, our guide, flipping off the lights in the chilly sandstone beer cellar that had been converted to an air-raid shelter during World War II. A small plaque on the wall glowed with electric-lime phosphorescence. It was, she told us, an emergency exit sign for the 50,000 civilians who had fled — two to a square meter — to these cellars-cum-bunkers during Allied firebombings.The sign was a small but poignant reminder of how hundreds of years of beer brewing in Nuremberg — a city that was 90 percent destroyed during the war — linked past and present.Just over an hour by direct train from Munich, Nuremberg (population 510,000) is Bavaria’s often-overlooked second city. Of course, the locals say Bavaria has little to do with the place; a greater allegiance is owed to the smaller administrative district of Middle Franconia, which has its own dialect, history and cuisine. Not to mention beer....

  • Originally published 03/21/2013

    Berlin Won’t Join Effort to Ban Far-Right Party

    BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right government said Wednesday that it would not try to ban a far-right political party deemed “racist, anti-Semitic and revisionist” by domestic intelligence, choosing instead to focus on combating neo-Nazi extremism through other channels.The decision comes as Germany’s main political camps stake out their positions ahead of a general election in September, in which Ms. Merkel is seeking a third term in office. The chancellor’s main rivals, the center-left Social Democrats and the Greens, who control the upper house of Parliament, announced in December that they would seek to have the far-right National Democratic Party, or N.P.D., banned on grounds that it violated the Constitution.

  • Originally published 03/20/2013

    Researchers publish Neanderthal genome

    Researchers in Germany have completed the first high-quality sequencing of a Neanderthal genome.The scientific data gleaned from remains of a Neanderthal toe bone found in a Siberian cave are being made freely available online. The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig said in a statement Tuesday the high quality of the genome meant its scientists were already able to determine which parts of DNA were inherited from its mother and father....

  • Originally published 03/05/2013

    New book traces education of Adolf Hitler

    Historian Othmar Plöckinger argues that Adolf Hilter's time in the military facilitated his transformation into a murderous dictator. His new book traces how in the army Hilter acquired skills and an education that he would put to use during his later rise to power. What does a soldier do after his country has lost a war and he is left with nothing, has no education or vocational training, and no family and no friends? He remains a soldier.On Nov. 21, 1918, 10 days after the armistice, lance corporal Adolf Hitler reported for duty at his regiment's garrison in Munich. He was given free rations, a monthly wage of about 40 Marks and a heated place to sleep, an important concession that winter....

  • Originally published 02/27/2013

    German politician: Reichstag fire should be investigated

    The vice president of Germany’s lower house of parliament, Petra Pau, called for a review into the 1933 fire that destroyed the Reichstag in Berlin which helped clear the way for the Nazi rise to power.A communist Dutchman, Marinus van der Lubbe, was sentenced to death for treason and arson in 1933 for setting fire to the parliament building four weeks after Adolf Hitler became chancellor. Historians still debate whether van der Lubbe acted alone or if the Nazis were involved in the crime.“The Reichstag fire is a stigma of German history,” Pau, a member of the Left Party that’s a successor to former East Germany’s ruling communists, said in a speech in Berlin on Feb. 26. “The Bundestag especially should have a particular interest in this and push for a clarification.”...

  • Originally published 02/11/2013

    New satire unleashes Hitler on modern, multi-cultural Germany

    What would happen if Adolf Hitler woke up in modern-day Berlin to find that it was not occupied by Russian soldiers but instead by a vibrant, multicultural citizenry? This is the premise of the debut novel by German journalist Timur Vermes, Er Ist Wieder Da (He’s Back), which has topped Germany’s best-seller list.Narrated in the first-person by Hitler, the story follows the Führer as he awakens from a 66-year sleep in his bunker beneath Berlin to find an entirely changed Germany. In the celebrity-obsessed modern-day city, everyone assumes the fulminating leader of the Nazi party is a comedian in character — and soon he becomes a celebrity with a guest slot on a Turkish-born comedian’s TV show. His bigoted rants are interpreted as a satirical exposure of prejudice, leading him to decide to start his own political party....

  • Originally published 01/23/2013

    Europe’s odd couple, France and Germany, 50 years later

    BERLIN — France and Germany recently issued a joint postage stamp as part of a yearlong celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Élysée Treaty, the landmark agreement between the two former enemies.The stamp is identical, except for one telling difference. In each country, it bears a picture of a man and woman, side by side, peering through lenses colored in blue-white-red and black-red-gold. But the French stamp costs 80 euro cents, while its German twin sells for only 75.In a year loaded with symbolic gestures and 4,000 commemorative events, including Tuesday’s joint session of Parliament, joint cabinet dinner and a concert, that 5-cent disparity is a reminder that despite the decades of friendship and enormous day-to-day cooperation, significant, often devilish, differences persist.

  • Originally published 01/22/2013

    German Priests Carried Out Sexual Abuse for Years

    BERLIN — A report about child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, based on victim accounts and released by the church this week, showed that priests carefully planned their assaults and frequently abused the same children repeatedly for years.The report, compiled from information collected from victims and other witnesses who called a hot line run by the church from 2010 until the end of last year, includes the ages of the victims, the locations of the assaults and the repercussions they have suffered since. The accounts were provided in 8,500 calls to the hot line; they are not representative of abuse cases over all and cannot be individually verified. The church said the report contained information from 1,824 people, of whom 1,165 described themselves as victims.