03/05/2005

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 03.05.2005

"Do all you can to prevent France from betraying progress!" This is the message German intellectuals call out in an open letter to their French colleagues, printed today in the SZ and yesterday in the French paper Le Monde. "Europe needs courage. Without courage there is no survival. Not for France. Not for Germany. Not for Poland." The signatories include singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann, Nobel Prize winning writer Günter Grass, philosopher Jürgen Habermas, author Klaus Harpprecht and Gesine Schwan, the recent SDP candidate for the German presidency.

Sociologist Ulrich Beck opposes what he calls neo-nationalism: the idea that democracy is only possible on a national level, and so not practicable in Europe, as Ralf Dahrendorf has suggested in his claim "the more EU, the less democracy", for example. "Europe needs critique, without doubt. But not blind, nostalgic critique, based on grand delusions. We need a critical theory of Europeanisation, one that is both radically new and yet which stands firmly in the tradition of European thought and politics. Such a theory must address the idea that common solutions are more fruitful than unilateral actions on the part of nations. The 'Europe of differences' does not represent a danger. It will renew, transform and open up the nations and states of Europe to the global era. Such a Europe may even become a beacon of freedom in a turbulent world."

Holger Liebs still wants to wait and see if in fact there is more to the 'Leipzig Label' than "rising prices for oil on canvas". Nonetheless, he is positive about the new home of many Leipzig galleries in the 'Baumwollspinnerei' (cotton spinnery – more here) in the Plagwitz district. "Gallerist Gerd Harry Lybke, who represents many of the young internationally renowned painting stars from the local academy, has now relocated from the centre of town to the once desolate industrial site. And five other Leipzig galleries came with him." However, the rough and ready look of the place did give Liebs cause for thought. "Everywhere you look the plaster is falling from the walls, the original rusty beams from 1884 stand like rickety skeletons in the halls, some windows are still broken. And on the roof of Hall 14, chives are growing."


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 03.05.2005

The building of the Goethe Institute, Germany's cultural institute, was attacked and set on fire last Friday in the Togolese capital of Lomé. Hans Christoph Buch writes that the attack was no spontaneous outburst of fury, "but the attempt of a politically bankrupt regime to redirect the people's anger at the international community, and to turn neutral mediators into scapegoats for the regime's mistakes." Buch interprets the events as the symptom of a rampant "Somalisation" in the region: "A dictatorial regime cedes power, but rather than bringing the people democracy, the desire, chaos and anarchy spread. As opposed to the festive utopia of 1968, we are seeing a war of all against all, in which only the strongest survive. Old accounts are settled, and forgotten ethnic conflicts once more inflamed so that the civil war is degenerating into a tribal war. Yet the resulting hatred is not a direct expression of the people's mood. Powerful warlords artificially stir it up beforehand."


Der Tagesspiegel, 03.05.2005


One week before the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is inaugurated in Berlin on the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, Christina Tilmann looks at other memorial sites in Germany and throughout the world. "In 1947, the Polish parliament decided that the ruins of the concentration camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau should 'be preserved for ever as a memorial to the sufferings of the Polish and other peoples.' Other camps also became memorials. In Majdanek, Victor Tolkin and Janusz Dembek made a huge monument through which the gas chambers and crematorium can be seen. In Treblinka, visitors cross reproduced railroad ties before coming onto an expanse of 17,000 granite stones, which stand in a circle around a monument built by Franciszek and Adam Haupt, dedicated to the Jews of Warsaw." Tilmann comments that the horrors of the time are often best conveyed by smaller monuments: "The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, or the Otto Weidt workshop for the blind, where Inge Deutschkron survived. Platform 17 in Berlin's Grunewald district, where the deportation trains left for the east.... Or the signs in the 'Bavarian Quarter' in Schöneberg district, in remembrance of the systematic disenfranchisement of the Jews in Berlin."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 03.05.2005

Sixty years after
the end of the Second World War, Harry Nutt writes that one still discovers life stories in Germany that completely "defy historic clarity". He takes the example of Eliah Goldberg, the SS man who took on the identity of a Jewish merchant after the war (his story was filmed by Dani Levy), the "liberal Germanist Hans Schwerte, who was first exposed in 1995 as Hans Schneider, the SS Storm Trooper in 'Ahnenerbe'" and Eleke Scherwitz, presumably of Baltic Jewish origin, who made a career with the SS and directed the Lenta camp outside Riga. Anita Kugler dedicated a detailed biography to him. "The clear contours of the National Socialist power structures begin to blur on the edges of Eastern Europe. At no point is Schweritz a representative of the 'Generation of the Unbound', as historian Michael Wildt calls the leadership corps of the RSHA (Reich Central Security Office) in his portrait of National Socialist power. As the director of Lenta, where luxury goods for the SS officers were produced, Schweitz hired Jewish craftsmen and tried to protect them for as long as possible from the horrors of the camp." Nonetheless Scherwitz remains "despite all the details which Kugler illuminates, contradictory and puzzling". Not even his real name has been ascertained.


Die Welt, 03.05.2005

Wolf Lepenies describes the notions of Germany's future that prevailed after 1945. Henry Morgenthau argued for a complete de-industrialisation of the country. "The German emigrants in the USA had different views of the Morgenthau Plan. Hannah Arendt said that allowing the Allies to scrupulously exercise 'natural selection' would amount to a victory of National Socialist ideology. Albert Einstein was in favour of the de-industrialisation of Germany, for starters. He considered the decrease in the population of Germany to be just punishment for its systematic de-population of large parts of Europe.. 'I can't think of much to say against it,' wrote Thomas Mann to Einstein." There were further ideas. "When Germany gambled away its freedom with the National Socialists and morally decimated their country with the Holocaust, Thomas Mann recalled Goethe's words that the Germans like the Jews, must be scattered throughout the world .... In 1945, he wished for the final de-politicisation of Germany." Long before the German nation was born (1871), Goethe was wary of its possible formation. He commented to Chancellor von Müller in 1808, "Germany is nothing while each individual German is a lot. But most Germans think the opposite. Germans must be scattered and planted throughout the world, like the Jews, in order that the goodness they embody contribute to the well-being of the nations." (The original can be found in Goethe's Gedenkausgabe, Bd. XXII: Goethes Gespräche, 1. Teil., Zürich 1949, S. 527 – ed.)


Die Tageszeitung, 03.05.2005

"Our jokes aren't tasteless; fascism was." Robin Alexander takes in a new generation of young comedians in Tel Aviv who see no point in respecting the Holocaust taboo. "This becomes clear very quickly watching the weekly program 'Pini Agadol' (literally: 'The big penis'). In it, Adolf Hitler sings a duet with Anne Frank ('Evil dictator, good friend of our show') to the tune of the Sonny and Cher hit 'I Got You, Babe'. There is a review of the Jewish restaurant Chez Mengele ('very expensive, typically Jewish'). Such content would land its makers on the index in the USA or in jail in Germany. In Israel, the country of the victims, it makes them a cult hit." The subtle jokes of the weak minority are out, says comedian Gil Kopatch. "We're not at all afraid, we're straight ahead, loud, even aggressive: 'We don't make fun of the people who irritate us with fine plays on words,' says Kopatch. 'We kick them hard in the ass'."

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