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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

German reading

German newspaper stands offer a profusion of titles – with the various regional titles reflecting perspectives not available in centralised England and France. The (weekly) Die Zeit is the country’s most weighty publication – in more senses than one (!). I had enjoyed last month the glimpse one of its articles had given us of ex-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt’s long love affair with painting - not least those of the German Expressionists. Schmidt is now a still active 94 year-old whose trademark cigarette was on display in a recent television interview here. He was not only German Chancellor 1974-82 but also publisher of the Hamburg-based paper for a couple of decades after he left the Chancellory. And I am now reading with interest the account of this rich life of his – Unser Schmidt written by Theo Sommer.
He will doubtless be reading with his usual critical eye the latest fat issue of Die Zeit whose special magazine today focuses on questions such as What is the good life?

From the profusion of titles, I’ve developed a taste for the much thinner and leftist daily - Die Tageszeitung whose sentence construction is less convoluted than the heavies such as Der Spiegel which I have now deserted for the easier Stern. Although Bavaria is a stronghold of the right, Die Suddeutsche Zeitung is an attractively packaged  left-leaning daily with interesting content. Franfurte Allgemeine Zeitung is a rather boring conservative paper - and the Cologne titles are very superficial.

Der Spiegel's English edition continues to be part of my daily reading - its latest offers first a take on some of the construction scandals which are filling the columns of German papers; then a rare insight into war-time Berlin -
The diary of Brigitte Eicke, a Berlin teenager in World War II, is an account of cinema visits, first kisses, hairdos and dressmaking, along with a brief, untroubled reference to disappearing Jews. Recently published, it highlights the public indifference that paved the road to Auschwitz.
Hers is a perspective seldom glimpsed in Germany's World War II literature, a field in which the female voice took a while to be heard.
In the 1950s and '60s, the focus was more on memories of battle and the male experience," says Arnulf Scriba, who coordinates a project at the German Historical Museum called "Collective Memory," an archive of personal testimonies. "The school had been bombed when we arrived this morning. Waltraud, Melitta and I went back to Gisela's and danced to gramophone records." (1 Feb 1944)
Young girls are made of stern stuff. In December 1942, while Allied bombs rained on Berlin and Nazi troops fought for control of Stalingrad, 15-year-old Brigitte Eicke began keeping a diary. For the next three years, the young office apprentice wrote in it every single day.
Now published in German as "Backfisch im Bombenkrieg" -- backfisch being an old-fashioned term for a girl on the cusp of womanhood -- it adds a new perspective to Germany's World War II experience and shows not only how mundane war can become but also how the majority of Germans were able to turn a blind eye to Nazi brutality.
Until relatively recently, accounts of Germans' own wartime suffering were considered something of a taboo, their own trauma eclipsed by the horror of the Holocaust. But now that the wartime generation is dying, every slice of first-hand social history has inherent value.
Another story focuses on the German Constitutional Court's current consideration of the legality of  the ECB bond buying program known as Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT). 
The program, announced last autumn, envisions the ECB buying unlimited quantities of sovereign bonds from ailing euro-zone member states to hold down their borrowing costs. To date, the ECB has not made any bond purchases, but the mere announcement that it might has proven enough to calm the markets and provide European leaders with some to seek agreement on longer-term measures to solve the crisis.
Even opponents of the program have acknowledged its success. The OMT "has been the most successful measure taken in saving the euro thus far," says Dietrich Murswiek, who represents co-claimant Peter Gauweiler, a member of parliament with Bavaria's Christian Social Union.
But despite its success, the OMT program is illegal, say the plaintiffs. "State financing, whether direct or indirect, is not allowed for the ECB," says one of their attorneys, Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider. And his complaint is far from fanciful -- it is difficult not to see the OMT program as state financing. In essence, the court is being asked to de
cide whether economic pragmatism trumps a strict interpretation of the law.
Open Europe has a blog on the issue

The painting is one of Hans Purrmann's - a glorious colourist I have just come across who was strongly influenced by Matisse - and whose paintings were banned by the Nazis.

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