Just a Little Common Sense

For a life based on reason, ethics, literature and art.

Posts Tagged ‘Germany

Memories – Of My Father

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Going through a box of old stuff, my brother recently unearthed some really interesting stuff: An A4-sized sheet of paper with photographs glued to the front, and a text written by our late father on the back. The photographs date from roughly 1930 to about 1990 and depict my father’s father at various stages of his life. All of them are pictures neither of us had seen before. The text on the backside is entitled “Memories – Of my father” and was written by our dad on the day our grandfather died.
Reading it, for the first time in my life I realized that I know next to nothing about my grandfather. We’ve always been a rather atomic family. Relatives tend to live rather far away and contact tends to be maintained loosely. We did visit my grandparents when we were kids, but not too often, and almost never for more than a single day at a time. My grandfather died when I was 7 years old, and until then I had mostly stayed out of his room, which he only left for meals.
To a seven-year-old, he was an intimidating figure – a grumpy old man sitting in a dark and dusty room, tied to strange and noisy machines that seemed to serve the purpose of doing his breathing for him. This is what he looked like then, and how I remember him:
Paul Schaub

I never spared this man much thought – he simply didn’t play any significant role at any point in my life. Still, reading my father’s recapitulation of his life had me choking down tears. I’m not sure whether that’s due to the depressing facts of my grandfather’s life, or a reaction to the sadness of my father’s voice speaking from the old text. One way or the other, the summary of my granddad’s life is a story worth reading, so here it is:

Memories – Of my father Left: My Grandfather

Born on October 4th, 1921 in a well-off family, he spent a childhood that, according to his own account, was “happy”. With his brother he noshed on raisins and marzipan in his uncle’s Bread-factory, and was allowed to ride along in his beloved grandpa’s (the 7th German to own a Penny Farthing bycicle) Ford “Model T”.

The beginning of his adolescence concurred with the beginning of the Nazi-reign in Germany. Convinced as well as indoctrinated by the new ideology, he volunteered to serve at the warfront at the age of eighteen.

Chaperoned throughout his teenage-years by the HJ (Hitler Youth), he spent his youth in the trenches of a horrible war, and returned “home” in 1946 as a young man from russian war captivity – One bullet in his stomach, the lung penetrated by another, leg injuries, Frostbite, “Russian Periodontitis”, Malaria – without teeth of his own and plexiglass-implants below his knees instead of real bones. A physical wreck at the tender age of 25.

An iron will to persist, cheerfulness and humor (later also alcohol), were the sanctuaries that allowed him to forget his lack of physical ability.

Whether office parties at the post-war-employer’s, rounds of Doppelkopf (a card game) or simply with friends at a bar – with his blunt or sharp remarks, superficial or subtle jokes, his flat crudities or his fiery esprit he always was at the center of any social gathering. Somebody who made people laugh – and made them forget the surrounding debris and its causes, push it to the back of their minds at least temporarily.

He, himself a master of suppression, was considered a humorist, a blithe spirit, the life of every party – and liked that role. Nobody could or wanted to see his suffering, which he wouldn’t allow to surface for even a moment.

A new job, marriage, the birth of his son – the highlights of the fifties.

He lived without regard for his infirmity – which he put out of his mind, but which still existed. Whenever he spoke of scars or injuries, it was like he wasn’t talking about himself, but about entirely abstract objects.

But the suppression of reality did not enable him to endure the permanent burden of a life in the workforce. In his early forties he was as often certified sick as present at the workplace, and was signed unfit for work (or, as he called it, “broken”) before the age of fifty.

1975 his physician predicted that he’d have perhaps two, maximally three years left to live. 1978 he moved to the countryside in good spirits, hoping to be able to catch his breath in the fresh air and for an improvement of his condition. But nothing did improve.

His ailments didn’t get worse, either, but the chronic presence of his condition and the continuing, for him always surprising experience of his physical limitations increasingly wore him down.

The continuous intake of drugs and the accompanying side effects lead to an increasing loss of physical balance, which in turn was medicated with even more drugs (with side effects of their own). Even though he made fun of that essentially ridiculous loop with unbroken (gallows-) humor; the captivity in this vicious circle too exhausted a large amount of his strength.

Today, on February 10th, 1995, his strength is finally drained.

Written by Phil

May 16, 2011 at 22:46

Posted in Germany, Life

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Nazis Got Bitchslapped

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It’s the most uplifting news-story I’ve read in a while. The magazine Focus online reports that the German town of Riese, Saxony, changed the name of one of its streets. Allow me to explain why this event bears any significance at all: They changed it from “Mannheimer Straße” to “Geschwister Scholl Straße” (engl.: Siblings Scholl Street). For those who are not familiar with the latter name: Sophie and Hans Scholl were famous figures of the resistance-group Weiße Rose (White Rose) during the 1940ies and were executed in 1943 by the Nazi regime.
You’re probably still wondering. Some germans changed the name of a street to honour some prominent figures of the Resistance… so what?
And here comes the punchline: Housed in that street is the publishing house Verlag Deutsche Stimme (engl.: German Voice Publishing) and a good few other right-wing-extremist addresses such as the local quarters of the German Nationalist Party, NPD. All of them will have to print the names of some of the most well-known resistance-fighters onto their cards and letter-heads from now on. The only two who voted against the change of name were the two delegates from the NPD.

Fucking Priceless.

A Few Words On Hitchens and Wulff

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It’s a dark day. First, there is a new President of Germany: Christian Wulff. The Humanist Press Agency hpd aptly called him a “Wulff in a Sheep’s Guise”. As I reported before, he’s a religious nutbag in complete denial of the fact that his country is to more than 30% non-religious, and one of the worst conservaties this country has to offer.
So not only do we now have one of the most delusional presidents in the history of this country, the vote is also likely to produce serious instability within the ruling coalition.

The other piece of bad news is that Christopher Hitchens is appearently suffering from esophageal cancer. There is not too much information on this – Hitchens is keeping a private matter private. What he offers us is but a very brief statement :

I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice.

I have lost a family member to cancer. It is an ugly disease, and not an end that I’d wish for anyone. I hope for the very best for Mr. Hitchens – so the world may enjoy his great wit, common sense and eloquence a little longer.

Written by Phil

July 2, 2010 at 17:19

Germanys Foreign Minister: FHM’s #2 Unsexiest Woman 2010

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Guido Westerwelle

Schwesterwelle: Makes a Very Unsexy Woman

Meet Guido Westerwelle. He is Germany’s current minister of foreign affairs, the sate’s chief air-head, and general moron. I was delighted to find out that he almost won the title of this years unsexiest woman, an annual prize which is awarded by the men’s lifestyle magazine FHM. He is not the first male to be placed on that list, but he’s the first to get so close to the top of it.

This is not the first time Westerwelle has been target of ridicule due to his rather female demeanour – He has been given the nickname ‘Schwesterwelle’ (“Sisterwelle”) long before his official coming out in 2004.
Don’t get me wrong; I know very well it is a cheap shot to vote a gay man onto the list of the 100 unsexiest woman, but he deserves the ridicule. Not because he’s gay, not because of his pathetically squeaky voice, not because his demeanour. No, he deserves ridicule because he’s a moron that maintains but the weakest of links to reality. Read the rest of this entry »

Germanys Next President: A Religious Nut in Any Case

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It’s a nightmare. Germanys last President, Horst Köhler, resigned on May 31st. The reason were some controversial comments he made regarding the deployment of the Bundeswehr troups in Afghanistan that caused a lot of criticism from multiple sides. You can read the full story here.

The question of success is yet unsolved. Elections will be held on June 30. The people don’t have any say as the position is appointed by the current government. The role of the Bundespräsident is mainly ceremonial, as most of the political power lies with the chancellor of the state, currently the conservative Angela Merkel. Yet, the president has a high media profile and thus great influence. He gets to comment on anything he likes, and is always taken pretty seriously. This is why I was shocked to learn about the likely candidates to fill in the position.


Zensursula von der Leyen

The first days after the resignation, the conservative candidate was Ursula von der Leyen, who carries the telling nickname of “Zensursula”, a mix word blending the German word for censorship, “Zensur”, and her given name, “Ursula”. She earned that name: She started off a huge controversy about internet censorship, proposing to block sites that contain child pornography with “virtual stop signs”. And we all know what stop signs mean – you stop, make sure nobody’s around, then you move on. She didn’t propose to take the sites down and to persecute those who run them, she just wanted to empower state forces to monitor traffic and collect data about anybody. Not having to justify suspicions, not actually justifying themselves at all. She also made headlines by stating that child pornography is legal in India.
Another great move she made was screaming for a childrens book to be put on the index, because it was “endangering the youth”, “inciting hatred” and just generally horrible. Probably written by the devil himself. You get the idea.
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Stop the Executions! An Open Letter From Iranian Mothers

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COLOGNE, Germany. A group of Iranian mothers aims to spread the message of Daye Saltaneh – the mother of Farzad Kamangar, who was executed by the Islamic regime two weeks ago. The group plans to protest in front of the state parliament, asking the government to support their cause.

The Mother of Farzad

Daye Saltaneh, mother of one of the executed prisoners.

Dear fellow freedom-loving citizens!

More than two weeks have passed since the executions of the political prisoners Farzad Kamangar, Shirin Alam Huli, Ali Heidarian, Mehdi Eslamian and Farhad Wakili Rad. Executions of complete arbitrariness, without even informing the prisoners families or lawyers beforehand. Executions on charges that were, according to the families’ lawyers, absurd and untrue. Farzad Karmangar, a teacher and journalist, was the nineteenth Karmangar family member to be executed by the Islamic regime of Iran.

In Frankfurt/Main Farzads family conducted a memorial celebration in honour of the five executed prisoners. During the event, a letter from Farzads mother was read, mirroring the suffering of a woman who has just lost her child. The tears and the silence of the audience honoured Daye Saltaneh whose wish it is that other mothers are spared the same fate; who thinks of other prisoners who are about to be executed, and who appeals to us to stand up and fight for the release of those in captivity. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

May 28, 2010 at 16:18

Germany: Victims of Abuse Speak Up

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GERMANY. A group of former inhabitants of Christian foster homes and schools are speaking up about the many cases of physical and mental abuse they had to endure. The group, whose official internet presentation can be found under jetzt-reden-wir.org (roughly: “now it’s our turn to talk”, website in german only) recieved support from a range of secular organizations, such as the Giordano Bruno Foundation, the IBKA and the Humanist Association of Germany. Düsseldorf resident and artist Jaques Tilly contributed a three-meter-figure of a viciously grinning nun, sporting a crucifix in one hand and a stick in the other, with a lettering on the chest that reads “Nie Wieder!” (Never Again!)

The Abusive Nun

The first demonstration took place on April 15th in Berlin, and recieved large attention from the media, even beyond the borders of Germany. The “Heimkinder” (Foster Kids) protested against the preliminary report of the government’s “Round Table on Foster Home Education”, presented in January 2010, that simply ignored the main issues: The systematic violation of human rights and the abuse of home-children as forced labour.
Among other things such as apologies and compensation, they demanded access to their files, which they are still denied today.

On May 13th, the group protested in Munich. Occasion was the Ecumenical Chruch Day, on which the different confessions of Christianity celebrated Ascension Day. Part of the Christian celebration in Munich was a procession through the city; The “Heimkinder” followed, carrying their banners, the nun, and informing on-lookers by speaking to them, handing out flyers (pdf, german only), and a megaphone.

Note: Pictures of the demonstrations will be added as soon as I recieve permission to use the files.

Written by Phil

May 15, 2010 at 08:20

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