Category Archives: German News

Germany loses first place in global popularity

Since 2008, the BBC has been conducting a poll to see which countries are viewed the most positively. In the last 4 years, Germany has repeatedly topped the charts. This year however, Japan beat it out by a few percentage points. The change probably reflects the controversies that Germany has been involved in since last year, its insistence on austerity measures certainly included. But who can say in an anonymous poll like this? Much of the decreased approval seemed to come from other Western countries, which makes sense when you think about it. Approval from Spain dropped 14% and disapproval rose by 15%, which probably has to do with the cucumber scare from earlier last year. Whatever the sociopolitical reasons behind it, Germany is still very beloved. Only Pakistan viewed it more negatively than positively. As a matter of fact, only Canada was seen less negatively. It’s economy was cited as its biggest contribution to the world and its most positive influence. Its foreign policy was seen as its next biggest contribution, which also makes sense because of Germany’s overwhelmingly peaceful stance worldwide.

The poll itself is pretty interesting and is worth a look. The whole thing can be found here.

“Was gesagt werden muss” by Günter Grass

On April 4th Nobel laureate Günter Grass, and all around king of modern German literature, published what he implied to be his last poem online to Süddeutsche Zeitung at first and later to Der Spiegel. The poem, called “Was gesagt werden muss” or “What Must be Said”, created a firestorm of controversy. But, it being a critique of Israel that was a predictable outcome. Israel is at the center of seemingly endless scandals and is one of the most talked about countries on the planet. Among these hotly debated topics are its recent threats to attack Iran and its speculated nuclear arsenal. In “Was gesagt werden muss” both of themes come together to show what one possible outcome is, if Israel and Iran do go to war. Grass has always been an advocate of anti-militarism, so it’s no surprise that he would pen this. However, even baring in mind the controversial nature of this topic, this will probably be known as his most misunderstood work.

Multiple news stories ran on it, but some completely misrepresented the poem, or failed to analyze it in any meaningful way. This was due partly to language barrier issues (at least in the English speaking world). There are a number of translations out there for it already, so this is hardly excusable. There was a cursory one put out there at first by Heather Horn in the Atlantic. There is also one by Breon Mitchell at the Guardian, which seems to be the most cited. Then Joseph Kuggelmass put a far better and less literal one on his blog. And, Michael Keefer and Nica Mintz had put out the best translation in my opinion on Pulse Media, which makes no sacrifice of meaning and keeps in large part the poetics and feel of the original. However they do add in a few things not found in the original.

I’m putting out a translation here, as well, worded specifically to keep the emotions of urgency intact and to make the political aims of the poem clear. It will be followed by the original German poem for comparison. Enjoy!

“What Must Be Said” by Günter Grass, translated by Adlerchen

Why am I silent, concealing for too long
What is obvious and practised in war games,
where at its end, we as survivers
are only footnoots at most?

It is this supposed right for a preemptive strike,
that was co-opted by one of the arrogant,
who is leading others to orginized cheering
for an attack that could wipe out the Iranian people,
because the building of an atomic bomb
is suspected in their domain.

But why do I forbide myself to name
that other country,
in which for years – even though kept secret –
they have had a growing and usable nuclear arsenal,
beyond control,
because no inspection can be obtained?

I find the universal concealment of these facts,
which my own silence was accessory to,
as damned lies and force
that, in plain view, bring punishment
and disregard to one at the same time.
The verdict of “antisemitism” is familiar.

But now, my country,
which has its own crimes
that are without compare,
with which time and time again it is confronted over,
that again in sheer comercialism,
even though nimble lips have declared it to be just atonement,
we should supply an additional submarine to Israel,
that’s specifically admitted specialty
is the delivery of all-destroying nuclear warheads
to where the exsistance of even a single atomic bomb is unknown.
But when fear is proof,
I say what must be said.

But why have I kept silent for this long?
Because I felt that my past,
which is mared with am unremovable stain,
forbade me from mention of this absolute fact
about the land of Israel,
Of which I am connected to
and wish to remain so.

Why do I say this only now,
so aged and with my last ink?
The nuclear might of Israel endangers
the already fragile peace of the world.
Because, what must be said
could already be too late tomorrow.
Also because we – as Germans, burdoned enough already –
could become suppliers of a crime
that is forseeable. Which is why our complicity
would not be erasable
through any of the usual excuses.

And I confess: I’m silent no longer
because I’m sick of the hypocracy of the West.
Furthermore, it is hoped that it will
free many others from silence,
challenge the cause of the known danger,
renounce violance,
and equally to insist on
an unhindered and perminent control
of the israeli aresenal
and the iranian nuclear power plants
by an international agency
which the governments of both countries will agree to.

Only then can one help
the Israelis and Palestinians.
And even more, all the people, who live side by side as enemies
in this region occupied by madness.
And finnaly, to help us too.

“Was gesagt werden muss” von Günter Grass

Warum schweige ich, verschweige zu lange,
was offensichtlich ist und in Planspielen
geübt wurde, an deren Ende als Überlebende
wir allenfalls Fußnoten sind.

Es ist das behauptete Recht auf den Erstschlag,
der das von einem Maulhelden unterjochte
und zum organisierten Jubel gelenkte
iranische Volk auslöschen könnte,
weil in dessen Machtbereich der Bau
einer Atombombe vermutet wird.

Doch warum untersage ich mir,
jenes andere Land beim Namen zu nennen,
in dem seit Jahren – wenn auch geheimgehalten –
ein wachsend nukleares Potential verfügbar
aber außer Kontrolle, weil keiner Prüfung
zugänglich ist?

Das allgemeine Verschweigen dieses Tatbestandes,
dem sich mein Schweigen untergeordnet hat,
empfinde ich als belastende Lüge
und Zwang, der Strafe in Aussicht stellt,
sobald er mißachtet wird;
das Verdikt “Antisemitismus” ist geläufig.

Jetzt aber, weil aus meinem Land,
das von ureigenen Verbrechen,
die ohne Vergleich sind,
Mal um Mal eingeholt und zur Rede gestellt wird,
wiederum und rein geschäftsmäßig, wenn auch
mit flinker Lippe als Wiedergutmachung deklariert,
ein weiteres U-Boot nach Israel
geliefert werden soll, dessen Spezialität
darin besteht, allesvernichtende Sprengköpfe
dorthin lenken zu können, wo die Existenz
einer einzigen Atombombe unbewiesen ist,
doch als Befürchtung von Beweiskraft sein will,
sage ich, was gesagt werden muß.

Warum aber schwieg ich bislang?
Weil ich meinte, meine Herkunft,
die von nie zu tilgendem Makel behaftet ist,
verbiete, diese Tatsache als ausgesprochene Wahrheit
dem Land Israel, dem ich verbunden bin
und bleiben will, zuzumuten.

Warum sage ich jetzt erst,
gealtert und mit letzter Tinte:
Die Atommacht Israel gefährdet
den ohnehin brüchigen Weltfrieden?
Weil gesagt werden muß,
was schon morgen zu spät sein könnte;
auch weil wir – als Deutsche belastet genug –
Zulieferer eines Verbrechens werden könnten,
das voraussehbar ist, weshalb unsere Mitschuld
durch keine der üblichen Ausreden
zu tilgen wäre.

Und zugegeben: ich schweige nicht mehr,
weil ich der Heuchelei des Westens
überdrüssig bin; zudem ist zu hoffen,
es mögen sich viele vom Schweigen befreien,
den Verursacher der erkennbaren Gefahr
zum Verzicht auf Gewalt auffordern und
gleichfalls darauf bestehen,
daß eine unbehinderte und permanente Kontrolle
des israelischen atomaren Potentials
und der iranischen Atomanlagen
durch eine internationale Instanz
von den Regierungen beider Länder zugelassen wird.

Nur so ist allen, den Israelis und Palästinensern,
mehr noch, allen Menschen, die in dieser
vom Wahn okkupierten Region
dicht bei dicht verfeindet leben
und letztlich auch uns zu helfen.

Free tertiary education returns to Germany

Medical students at the University of Leipzig

Germany has a rich and innovative tradition in the field of education, with such highlights as the implementation of the first public and compulsory education system in the 18th century under Prussian rule, to the first modern university embodied by the Humboldt University of Berlin, which served as a model for universities all across Europe.

Until recently, their tertiary education systems were free to the public, with no tuition fees. That changed in 2005, when the German constitutional court ruled that they had the right to charge tuition fees. Of the 16 German states, 7 choose to implement fees. These were light in comparison to other countries, however, and tertiary education in these states was still largely subsidized by the government. But, things have changed again and German universities are returning to their free statuses. Only Bavaria and Lower Saxony plan on continuing implementing any kind of tuition system whatsoever. It’s becoming apparent that tuition is only a temporary fad and will shortly die out completely. Germany’s 2 million university students have the Social Democratic Party to thank for leading the charge in not only Hamburg, but, in Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia as well.

One of the pro-tuition arguments has been the relatively high student-professor rate in German institutions, that being about 53 students per 1 professor. However, the number of professors employed in German universities has increased rapidly in recent years, rendering this point moot. To be specific, according to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, by as much as 8%. Another argument playing to potential budgetary issues has been that longer library hours should be secured. However, this again is another point rendered moot, this time by modern technology. Many institutions now offer their students online versions of their libraries in pdf form, which actually goes to decreasing future library costs. All in all, while there are some legitimate concerns about budgeting in the German university system, such as securing research funding to expand German sciences, these problems can be met just as easily with additional public subsidies. The German government is very cost effective in providing the entire country with a free tertiary education system, getting good results for only €36 billion. Perhaps, a little more investment wouldn’t hurt, as cash strapped students won’t be of much help in this regard, without taking out loans, which was part of the credit bubble that hurt other countries’ economies.

Bavarian school and homes hit by US ammunition

During a recent US army training exercise in Grafenwöhr, Bavaria, stray bullets hit a school and several homes, as reported by the Süddeutche Zeitung and the Local. So far there haven’t been any casualties reported, which is fortunate. The ammunition was from a M2 machine gun mounted to a Humvee using 12.7 millimeter shells. Needless to say, the incident is causing a stir. The Americans are responding to the event with typical platitudes, saying they have begun an “intensive review of security procedures and standards.” and that “It shouldn’t have happened. We take this very seriously.” The mayor of Grafenwöhr is ominously silent. His deputy, Udo Greim, has only said that “I was worried about the city, but fortunately nothing serious happened”.

This isn’t the first time Grafenwöhr’s buildings have been shot at by US soldiers stationed in Germany. 10 years ago an elementary school got hit with a shell. Nor is Grafenwöhr the only place that has had incidents, since the US army keeps soldiers all over Germany. For example, last year a US black hawk helicopter crashed in Hesse near Mannheim. And, it’s hard not to mention the relevance of the Ramstein airshow disaster as well. The truth of it is, is that there’s a history of foreign troops causing problems. Events like these are often used as counterarguments to allowing allied bases in Germany. It’s unlikely that this singular event will finally carry the day for the opposition to US bases in Germany; but, it being the second incident in the same city is certainly going to make the US soldiers’ presence in Bavaria, at least, a lot less popular than it already is.

Germany’s New Energy Plan

Since Germany closed down a number of their nuclear power plants, with the intention of phasing out nuclear power altogether, following the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis, there has been a lot of debate. One of the hot button topics is how to provide energy to Germany’s population without nuclear facilities. Can it even be done, especially in a way that doesn’t compromise Germany’s commitments to reducing green house gases? While the answer to this is not yet known, and their nuclear program will still be functioning into 2022, according to current plans, one solution with a decent amount of potential has been put forward. The German government is currently debating whether to invest in coal power plants.

Why is this a solution with potential you ask. Normally, this would be infeasible, it’s true, since coal is a limited resource that would counteract current efforts to reduce green house gas emissions by 40% by 2020. However, there’s two special factors at work here in Germany’s case. Firstly, the Ruhr District in the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen is rich in coal. It has been an industrial center since the early 19th century when Germany first started their industrial revolution. This fact would mean that while not a renewable resource for the country, it is an extremely abundant and easily obtained one. Also, interestingly, this proposal comes at a time when Germany is planning on closing its coal mines by 2018. If the proposal gets approval, then Germany’s coal industry will flourish, which will further boost their economy. The second factor at play here is that Germany invests heavily into green technologies. According to studies done by Siemens, German cities are greener than their counterparts elsewhere on the European Continent. Just take a look at Frankfurt, it’s green in every sense of the word! In 2006 the Germans broke new ground by creating the first coal power plant that emits no pollution. This is why coal can be promoted without compromising Germany’s commitments to the environment. The Germans already have 32 coal power plants, which are doubtless going to be converted and upgraded accordingly. The Ministry of Economics and Technology and Oliver Krischer of the Green Party have all come out in favor of the idea. They’re determined to make this work. Given this determination and German technical expertise, I have little doubt they will succeed in the matter, if they win the ensuing debates.

So this is the real question, then. Is Germany leading the way for the rest of the world on this issue? Is it full-hearty to switch to coal and abandon nuclear power? More and more countries seem determined to go nuclear every year, and renewable energy is still a work in progress to be sure, even in the countries that make up its best proponents. Perhaps, it’s still a little too early to tell; but, this is a bold plan and fortune favors the bold. Odds are good that future generations will talk of Germany’s green revolution like they talk of its old Industrial Revolution.

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