>Es Lebe Der 1. Mai


 Every May 1st at around noon, the Leftists get out their banners and march through the center of town. They’re peaceful enough, lots of families; the police presence assures no violence (I have never witnessed any myself, not even animosity from onlookers. Mostly a bland curiosity, maybe. It’s a different story in larger cities, but then it always is.)

 This banner (which appears to be a new model, the old one had a yellow background)) still leaves me shaking my head. How can you march for socialism, democracy, peace, and against violence, racism and discrimination, alongside a banner with a portrait of Lenin, Stalin and Mao?

>The Face Of Ötzi


Anybody need a new avatar?*
A new special exhibit opens today at the South Tirol Museum of Archaeology, in Bolzano (Italy), in honor of Ötzi’s reemergence out of the ice, 20 years ago. One of the highlights is supposed to be a new facial reconstruction of the ice man, using the very latest forensic techniques.

Information here

*He’s already got a Facebook page, natürlich.

>Hilde Zach 1942-2011


The former mayor of Innsbruck was a special kind of politician. First, she loved Innsbruck (it was said that the city was her “only child”). In her eight years in office, I never heard a single bad word said about her.  Second — and here I speak from first-hand experience — she supported the performing arts like no other. She was in the audience, sometimes in the front row, at countless theater and concert performances. You looked out over the stage lights and saw that hairdo, and you knew the mayor was in the house.

A story I heard years ago about her commitment to the city’s cultural life, from those who were there:

The orchestra was about to perform a Bruckner symphony  for a special season-opening concert in the cathedral. The seats were all taken,  and security were either not permitted or not in the mood to let any more people in. Frau Zach arrived at the last minute, as usual, and asked a group of musicians why they were standing outside. When they explained that they were not allowed to enter, the mayor disappeared into the cathedral, and reappeared a few minutes later, saying “Da ist Platz genug drinnen, alle eini!” (There’s room enough, everybody in!) She simply went right over the security personnel’s heads and pushed us all inside!

Frau Zach battled cancer for years, and last March, when the future no longer looked manageable, she stepped down and handed the reins to her deputy mayor.
Her funeral will be held on Friday afternoon. She picked out her requiem music in advance, requesting the Haydn Mass In Time Of War, and a beautiful choral arrangement of Mahler’s Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen the Reinberger Abendlied which she’d heard a few years before at a chamber choir concert (in which I took part.) I will be there on Friday, deeply honored to be able to sing for her again, one last time.

h/t to Günther Hajostek, who remembers that Bruckner concert.

>More Traces Of The Anschluss

>Creepy news from the region. A field of graves containing the remains of approximately 220 people was discovered in the course of a construction project at the hospital in Hall in Tirol. It is suspected that at least some of the dead were victims of the NS euthanasia policy. It has been determined that the bodies were interred between 1942 and 1945.

Construction plans were immediately halted and plans made to exhume and try to identify the bodies. According to local historian Horst Schreiber (an excellent author of many in-depth books about the region during the Nazi era), plans had been submitted for a euthanasia program involving lethal injection, but was rejected by the Nazi authorities (for whatever reason). It has been long suspected, however, that hundreds of patients were simply starved to death in Hall.

In the Anschluss years, at least 3000 people from Tirol and Vorarlberg were reported as carrying hereditary diseases — by doctors and other caregivers, who were legally bound to report them. At least 400 were forcibly sterilized; over 700 from Tirol, including children, were deported to Schloss Hartheim near Linz, a main area of euthanasia activity where thousands of people were gassed. Records were kept top-secret and death certificated were falsified, the families of the deceased given false information about the fate of their loved ones.

Exhumation of the graves will begin in March.

Wikipedia entry on “T4”
Article in Der Standard (de)

>Fun With The Language

>New York Times op-ed columnist Frank Rich writes about Sarah Palin this week, and in doing so has coined the perfect word to describe her new reality show, and in turn the perfect word to describe the image she presents to the world:

Palin fires a couple of Annie Oakley-style shots before we’re even out of the opening credits. The whole package is a calculated paean to her down-home, self-reliant frontiersiness — an extravagant high-def remake of Bush’s photo ops clearing brush at his “ranch” in Crawford, which in turn were an homage to Ronald Reagan’s old horseback photo ops in his lush cowpoke digs in Santa Barbara.

She’s not really a frontier woman, she’s “frontier-sy”, and as you can see from her political predecessors, it definitely has its appeal in America. Palin, like Bush II and Reagan, works the masses with her image as one of the “just plain folks” (which she most certainly is not) who don’t care too much for that high-fallutin’ fancy-pants higher education.

There’s been lots written over the years about the “dumbing down of America”; I haven’t read too much on the subject* but suspect it springs from a mistrust of “educated folks” that started perhaps in the beginning of the last century already. It’s something that I don’t see much here in Europe, not in this quantity, not as part of the fabric of the popular culture. There is no fitting translation of the English words “nerd” or “geek”; I hear “Eierkopf” — egghead — once in a while but there doesn’t seem to be any massive stigma in being an intellectual (not that I’d know for sure, not being able to call myself one**.) This might be because European intellectuals suffered their own actual pogroms in the past, as they never did in America. There is also the term “Fachidiot” which is, I’m guessing, someone who knows all about one subject and nothing else.

* Charles Pierce’s “Idiot America” is good, but doesn’t get down to why it’s been like this for so long in America, and not so in other countries (in my unlearned opinion.)

** And anyway I feel that for the most part I am treated well here, but any treatment, either preferential or discriminatory, that one receives would have to be viewed through several lenses — gender, age, foreignness, looks, German proficiency perhaps above all — before intellect was even considered. I think.

>Beer You Won’t See Stateside

>The Beer That Dare Not Speak Its Name — at least, if it ever gets imported to the US.

This news is from a month ago, but I’d missed it. A couple of German marketing executives have won the right to use the name “Fucking Hell” for a not-yet-existent beer — referring to the Austrian town of Fucking (yes, there is one) and to the German word for light ale, “Hell”. (Hell is an adjective meaning light or bright. The German word for Hell, the place, is Die Hölle.)
There are some issues — there is no brewery in the town of Fucking, and the mayor is not altogether pleased (people keep stealing his town’s signs for souvenirs.) A complaint was filed that the phrase is “upsetting, accusatory and derogatory”, but the EU Trademark office rejected the complaint, saying that

Fucking Hell” was an “an interjection used to express a deprecation, but it does not indicate against whom the deprecation is directed,” the Office added. “Nor can it be considered as reprehensible to use existing place names in a targeted manner (as a reference to the place), merely because this may have an ambiguous meaning in other languages.

According to the article in Der Spiegel, the brand should be on the shelves by the end of the summer. I’ll keep my eyes open for it.

>”A Massacre… Would Have Been More Humane”

>ARD, Germany’s “first” national television station, aired an extraordinary documentary last night about the Armenian Genocide. It mixed rare photos and film footage with “clips” of “interviews” — using well-known German actors portraying contemporary witnesses, their lines from those witnesses’ actual reports. The figures included American diplomats and journalists abroad as well as Germans, Swiss, and other Europeans working in Turkey at the time. The actors, all delivering respectfully understated performances, give you the impression that you’re watching actually memories coming to the fore.
The details of the atrocities, culled from collections of reports in the German Archives, are overwhelming in their multitude. The western foreign representatives don’t come off very well either, the implication being that looking away in disapproval was no less than complicity (which is an old story, and probably a very human one, as these things — the crimes and the looking on — are still going on today, aren’t they?)
The documentary makes clear that the Nazis picked up a few things about extermination from the Turk’s actions, like putting deportees into cattle cars (and making them pay for their fares), inventing conspiracy plots in order to brand an entire people “traitors”, executing their own soldiers who did not show enough “mercilessness”, and sending their victims off to some unknown fate with vague words of “resettlement” (death marches into the Syrian steppes), making government seizure of “abandoned property” legal. Hitler’s own word’s, “Who speaks today of the Armenian extermination?”, makes it clear how easy they thought they’d have it, treating their own “undesirables” in the same way (and, later, much worse, when they realized that they could.)
The documentary also discusses how the German government assisted in the flight of the leaders responsible for the genocide, with Grand Vizier Mehmed Talat (Talat Pasha) ending up living comfortably in Berlin until his assassination in 1921. Buried in Berlin, his body was exhumed in 1943 and transferred, with full pomp and ceremony, to Istanbul.
Interestingly, the Turkish courts-martial of 1919-1920 brought death sentences (in absentia) for those responsible, specifically mentioning the Armenian deportations. The new question is why, today, so many Turks experience rage and indignation at the mere mention of the word “genocide”. It’s not universal, of course. After the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink by a Turkish nationalist, over a hundred thousand people marched on Istanbul, carrying signs that read “We Are All Armenian”. Dink’s murderer was following the nationalist line, that even speaking of what happened then is an insult to Turkishness. It would be interesting to know how they got that far away from being able to look at things objectively.

>Death Of A Tormann

>Robert Enke, goalie for Hannover 96 and for the German national team, took his life Monday evening by throwing himself in front of a train. He was 32.

Enke, it was revealed, had suffered from depression for years. He had first sought help in 2003, then in 2006 his 2-year-old daughter Lara died from a heart condition. Those who knew him well thought that he was doing OK. But as he sank further into despair and anxiety, he kept his suffering hidden, even from his wife.

Germany’s football players and fans are in shock, and grieving. The national team’s upcoming game with Chile has been cancelled, a memorial gathering in Hannover drew 35,000 fans.

Memorial services will be held in Hannover on Sunday, and in Jena, Enke’s hometown.

>Have You Heard Of Herta Müller?

>Neither had I. She has been awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature.
More significantly, neither had the beau, who is knows a lot about European literature. Wikipedia, in its entry on Müller, says that prior to the award, Müller was little-known outside Germany and even there was known only among a minority of intellectuals and literary critics.
Her writings look like they would fit right in with the other books on my shelves, many of which deal with people trying to remain alive and human under communism, nazism, or any other repressive regime. I plan to pick up a copy of Atemschaukel (the English title, when it comes out, will be Everything I Possess I Carry With Me) pretty soon.
It’s also a welcome story within a larger topic which gets a lot of criticism just for being a topic — the post-war deportation of ethnic Germans from eastern European lands, force-marched either westward into Germany (those that made it alive were the lucky ones) or to Soviet gulags, as was the case with Müller’s own mother.
I am reminded of Gregor Himmelfarb, whose book about his post-war experiences shares similarities with Müller’s latest protagonist, Leo Auberg. Himmelfarb was born in the state of Mecklenburg, Germany, and grew up in the ethnic-German region Siebenbürgen, in Romania. When Germans in Romania were required to obtain Aryan identity cards, Himmelfarb learned for the first time that his Russian father was Jewish. Managing to survive the war, he then faced new difficulties for being the son of a factory-owning “exploitative capitalist”, and above all for being “German”. The Israeli immigration services weren’t much help, as they considered him “not Jewish” (he was finally able to emigrate in 1952.)
Every group of people is made up of individuals, all with their own stories. And, as Herta Müller shows, there are so many unheard stories out there worth learning.

>FKK Jesus

>Weird local news of the week: This article turned up in the headlines at the U.S. version of Google News. Assuming that there must be a local discussion going on, I searched the German-language google sites as well as the local papers but found very little. Funny how it ended up over on the U.S. site, then. Do you think there are people who trawl the nets looking for anything that might remotely resemble a sex scandal?

INNSBRUCK, Austria (AP) – An anti-pornography activist wants officials in the Alpine city of Innsbruck to take down a large crucifix bearing a sculpture of a naked Jesus Christ.

Martin Humer, who gained notoriety last year after he painted part of a statue of a nude Mozart and stuck feathers on it, is pressuring authorities to remove the crucifix from a public square where it has been displayed for 20 years, public broadcaster ORF reported Thursday.

Humer, an 82-year-old former photographer, said he and about 100 supporters were organizing a protest for Friday.

Mayor Hilde Zach dismissed the fuss and said she would refuse to remove the crucifix, insisting it is a work of art and is in no way pornographic.

Here’s a photo of the crucifix so you can see it for yourself. Not only is this Jesus naked, he’s appears to be completely sexless as well.
I like Frau Zach. She’s not only a big supporter of the arts, she actually comes to concerts and theater performances on a regular basis. Local musician friends have told me that several of them were waiting outside a classical concert venue, ticketless, when the Mayor arrived. Learning that they had no tickets and that the concert was sold out, she went in and arranged standing room for them. She’s OK in my book.