The decline of spoken German

I said: "Several German TV announcers cannot speak clearly. The classical theater was the source of modern German, originally Bühnensprache, theater speech. Actors were trained to speak clearly. Now German is murdered almost as badly as English". Christopher Jones agrees: "Sad but true. The language of Goethe and Schiller has been decimated by rock-o-pop, kanaken-deutsch (there is even a dictionary of this patois that combines German and Turkish) rap and so on. It is true there was no other country in Europe with such a rich theater heritage as Germany. And its actors were in a class unto themselves: Gustaf Gründgens (who invented the Mephisto character with the black and white mask and the recently passed Will Quadflieg who was Faust. Austria conserves the Burgtheatre in Vienna where greats from Germany and Austria receive a sort of lifetime membership in the form of a ring. We should not forget that the theatre is one of the building blocks of our civilization since ancient Greece. There is an weird atmosphere to the theatre that any electronic or celluloid based media cannot match -- whether its the three strokes on the stage in France or a small rural classical stage in Germany, there is something magical about the stage. My wife who is a trained "Germanistikerin" in Leipzig (which used to include the study of such languages as Gothic) says there is no hope for Bühnendeutsch -- it is gone with the wind. A crime against civilization, but I am not so pessimistic: as Mephisto says, "Du bliebst immer was du bist." "

RH: TV and the movies are the villains. TV announcers are often pretty young women with no speech training. If they spoke well they would probably be regarded as affected by hoi polloi. The theater stresses speech, but when TV or the movies take up a story it is mostly reduced it to light and noise effects. I mentioned a Mexican film about Zapata. I would have liked a lucid account of his life. However, it was mostly fighting between the peasants and the army, with guns blazing and roaring and people being killed in battle or executed.

End of military cooperation with the U.S.

German Defense Minister Peter Struck said that Germany would stop guarding US military bases in the country at the end of 2004 and would not contribute forces to a NATO force in Iraq. Struck told the Welt am Sonntag weekly that the government wanted to "put an end to the German army's protection of American installations by the end of
the year". The German Defense Ministry said the arrangements for ending the guard service were still under negotiation, and that talks had been going on since the beginning of 2004. US installations in Germany were established when the country came under Allied occupation after World War II, and stayed for the duration of the Cold War, when US forces were stationed along the "Iron Curtain" against the Warsaw Pact's armies in the east. The
US army still has about 70'000 troops in Germany, but has said it may move up to half of them to new bases in Romania or Bulgaria. This redeployment will be part of a major realignment of US forces across the globe, with the Pentagon aiming to establish small, low-maintenance bases that could quickly be brought to full operability if required. Some 2'500 soldiers of Germany's Bundeswehr have protected US installations since the beginning of
2003, when a large part of the US contingent was sent to take part in the invasion of Iraq. Struck excluded the possibility that Germany would participate in any future NATO force in Iraq. Struck said he considered it "highly uncertain" whether NATO would be asked for support, and when. "Whatever the case, Germany will not take part in it. The army will only provide special aircraft to transport wounded if this proves necessary" (ISN, 5/4/04).

Nelly Sachs

The eulogistic bio of Jewish Nobel laureate writer Nelly Sachs elicited this response from Christopher Jones: "While Israeli kill, blow up homes, and continue to oppress the Palestinians, the piece on Nelly Sachs is an outright provocation! Why didn't this illustrious Nobel laureate write about the suffering of the people the Israelis threw out of their homes? Why do Americans always associate anything "German" with the Nazis? Why not the Holy Roman Empire, German Nation or the Kaiserreich? Always the damn Nazis! I will tell you why: it could upset that very special morality for Jews that was set up after the war by the Soviet loving idiots who won it. If I were Jewish I would join with the German people and rebel against casting thousands of years of German and Jewish history into 12 very unhappy and awful years". RH: Christopher has a point in that people are interested in the present and recent history of enemy countries, but not in their long history. We are flooded with information about the war in Iraq, but few are interested in its long and at times glorious history.

This bio by John Gehl of the German-born Jewish poet and dramatist Nelly Sachs (1891-1970) is a case study of what happened to a Jewish intellectual in Nazi Germany. She shared the 1966 Nobel Prize for literature with the Israeli writer Shmuel Yosef Agnon. Sachs wrote mainly about the persecution and genocidal oppression endured by the Jewish people for hundreds of years. In the words of the Nobel judges, Sachs was praised for her "outstanding lyrical and dramatic writing, which interprets Israel's destiny with touching strength". In accepting the prize, Sachs commented that her fellow laureate, Agnon, represented Israel, whereas "I represent the tragedy of the Jewish people."

Sachs was born and educated in Berlin. Her father was a prosperous manufacturer, and she grew up in the fashionable Tiergarten section of Berlin. She began writing verse at age 17, mostly romantic and conventional poems that were published in newspapers. When the Nazis came to power, she turned to the study of ancient Jewish writings to strengthen herself against the growing climate of anti-Semitism. In 1940 she learned that she was to be sent to a forced labor camp. Fortunately she was able to escape to Sweden thanks to the help she received from the Swedish novelist Selma Lagerlöf. Lagerlöf had been her pen pal and elicited the support of the Swedish royal family on her behalf. While living in Sweden, Sachs shared a one-room apartment with her mother. She learned Swedish, and occupied her time translating German poetry into Swedish.

As early as 1921 Sachs had published a collection of short stories entitled Legends and Tales. Her writing after World War II was focused on the Holocaust and other historical atrocities inflicted on the Jewish people. Her best-known play was, "Eli: A Mystery Play of the Sufferings of Israel" (1950). English translations of many of her poems are contained in
the two collections, O the Chimneys (1967) and The Seeker and Other Poems (1970). The "O the Chimneys" title was taken from the famous poem she wrote in which she envisions Israel's body drifting upward as smoke from the chimneys of Nazi extermination camps.

In 1965, the year before winning the Nobel Prize on her 75th birthday, Sachs had received the German Publishers Peace Prize. She used the occasion to speak in the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness that were frequent
themes in her poetry: "In spite of all the horrors of the past, I believe in you."

See newsscancom/ref=nosim for Nelly Sach's correspondence with the poet Paul Celan.

President elect Horst Köhler

I am glad that Christopher Jones has changed his mind about German president elect Horst Köhler: "As the evening wore on, Köhler certainly improved. I think he was flustered by the faux pas committed by Bundestag president Wolfgang Thierse (SPD) who tried to skip Köhler's acceptance speech and proceed onto the anthem and lunch. At any rate, my impression improved and in fact, we may be in store for more leadership from the highest office that what we are used to. The standing of all politicians regardless of their party affiliation has (rightfully) plummeted in Germany and Köhler recognizes the need for straight talk. Of course, he couldn't say so outright, but my eyes are set upon the latest flipflop in the saga of the Federal finances which are utter shambles. If Hans Eichel (the finance minister) tries to push for more debt and sell the country's gold reserves, Köhler made his feelings quite clear and he might oppose it. Few realise outside of Germany, or Europe for that matter, the importance of the financial problems of Germany and to a lesser degree France. The country that should be the motor of the European economy is bumping along in semi recession with close to five million unemployed (higher if you factor in the ABS program which is nothing more than government pencil sharpening jobs.) Germany reached unparalleled heights of prosperity and now the Germans have been asked to give some of it back. This has been never done before. Köhler could conceivably bring things to a head or push for a grand style compromise to introduce CDU Financial "Wiz" Friedrich Merz's modified flat tax for the country".

I praised the acceptance speech of German president elect Horst Koehler. Christopher was very critical of it. From Greece, Harry Papasotiriou writes: "Christopher Jones seems to equate "telling the truth" with "denouncing Israeli atrocities". It is not clear to me why Israeli policy should be mentioned in the German president's acceptance speach. Doesn't Germany have any other issues of her own? Is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the dominant international issue affecting Germany? Anyway, in Europe Sharon's policy is routinely denounced by politicians and the media alike. No shortage of this "truth" over here. But criticising Sharon's policies is certainly not the same as racist anti-Semitism, which all civilized persons rightly denounce, especially in the light of what happened under Hitler".

The future of Germany

Christopher Jones lived for years in Germany and is married to a German. He despairs of German politicians and proposes as a solution "not a Hitler but somebody else will capitalise on the reigning "doublespeak," so cherished by professional politicians to cover their wheeler dealing. Germany desperately needs a constitutional overhaul. The only questions asked by the press during the vote were, "Shouldn't the people be voting instead of the "Macht Elite"(power elite)?? Germany's constitution was designed to prevent another Führer state from happening again. Exactly what Germany needs now, a little more direction! (No wars of course) In France, if we are honest, it was Le Pen who managed to push Chirac to right. (law and order, immigration, pensions etc.) But Le Pen is no Hitler, he is just a Poujadiste. The debate is increasingly scripted by the extreme right. They reflect what the people feel!!

The Spanish Royal wedding was beautiful but I had mixed feelings. I was happy to see the institution thriving. But outside of Madrid and Astrias of course Letizia will have to work hard: Felipe is popular, she is not. My heart is with Sixto Enrique. Por Díos, La Patria, Fueros y el Rey!"

RH: I WAISly disagree with Christopher. Take Spain first. Sixto Enrique is the Carlist pretender to the throne, the descendent of the Carlist pretenders who in the 19th century fought the Liberal governments in Madrid and lost. ETA terrorists have an important Carlist element in their ideology. I hope they do not trigger another civil war. What evidence does Christopher have that Felipe is popular, Letizia is not? That may be true among his conservative friends, but I have no evidence that this is generally true.

As for Germany, the blanket denunciation of politicians reminds me of the campaign which led to Hitler, whose burning of the Reichstag was an expression of his scorn for politicians. However, the question of the constitution, made in the USA, should be taken seriously. This does not mean that there must be a new constitution, but that amendments may be necessary. Hitler had a plan to abolish the states (länder), reducing each one to a number in a highly unified State. In reaction to this the new constitution gives many rights to the states. It is similar to the states' rights issue in the US. In general, conservatives support decentralization.


Ronald Hilton -