Winter Genre: Der große Schnee (The Big Snow)

There are several literary pieces and documentaries that focus on aspects of the Great Storm of 1978/79, and the catastrophic winter that followed, which brought the northern half of West Germany and all of East Germany to a complete standstill. The majority of the pieces have focused on the hardest hit areas of Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein- in particular, the areas of Kiel and Flensburg.

Der Große Schnee (in English: The Big Snow), written by Helmuth Sethe of the Husumer Nachrichten (Husum News, part of shz, Inc.) focuses on both the Great Storm that started right before the New Year, plus the winter that followed, which included the winter storm on 13 February- a month and a half later. All of them affecting Schleswig-Holstein, but with a focus on the North Sea coastal area (Dithmarschen and greater Husum), as well as the cities of Flensburg and Kiel and the surrounding areas. It was originally written after the winter storm in February that same year, but has been edited and republished multiple times, with the last edition having been released in 2011.

There are several photos and stories that were in connection with the great winter disaster and were graphic in detail- with reports of people and animals both freezing to death while being snowed in, collapsed roofs because of the thickness of the snow, capsized boats and people treading through icy waters along flooded streets of coastal cities. Yet there were some glaring facts that are worth mentioning about this storm according to the writer. Here are the top five worth mentioning:

  1. Power outages- Many towns and villages were without power because of downed power lines due to ice. But no area was as bad as the districts of Schleswig-Flensburg and Nordfriesland. There, as many as 111 villages were without electricity for days, many of them were cut off from the rest of the world. Many had to make due with cutting up wood and creating fireplaces to keep warm.
  2. Stranded vacationers- Many vacationers were returning from Scandanavia when they were greeted by barricades at the German/Danish borders in Krusau and Ellund. Reason: The storm forced an executive order by the West German and state governments to shut down all traffic (rail and vehicular) on the German side. Traffic jams of more than 10 kilometers on the Danish side, plus stranded drivers seeking shelter were the result.
  3. Field Landing- When the state prime minister Gerhard Stoltenberg was finally informed of the current weather situation in Schleswig-Holstein (he and his family were on vacation at that time), he did not realize how bad it was until his helicopter had to land in a nearby field and he had to go by truck and sleigh to visit the hard hit regions. Reason: The snow had drifted in at the airports and with drifts as high as 6 meters, it was impossible for any aircraft to land even.
  4. The Sleigh as Transportation- With no possibilities with the car, many people had to make do with sleds, sleighs and even skis. It was not a rarity to watch people cross-country ski in the countryside during this time as the snow was thick enough to warrant it. Sleds were not only used for downhill fun, but also for shopping. It was a site to watch people pull their groceries home on an open sled.
  5. Flensburg as Little Venice- The storms produced a series of high tides (up to four meters) which flooded much of the city center and Roter Strasse, as well as everything along the Fjorde. Many people had to use boats to get by. These tides left another mess though- erosion, especially along the areas near Wassersleben near the Bridge of Friendship at the border.

There are many more examples to mention in the book, yet these five came to mind when reading this book myself. There have been countless other winter storms afterwards that crippled the region and brought with it high snow drifts, ice and flooding, including the last big snow storm in Flensburg in early 2018. But none was as glaring and captivating as the one from 40 years ago, especially when reading the accounts written by the editor. The book did bring back some memories of snow storms that I dealt with as a child growing up in Minnesota and a snowstorm of similar proportions happened shortly after this one, which left a big drift of a meter to the door of our house on a lake. Yet for those who lived through this harsh winter in northern Germany of 40 years ago, this book will bring back some memories of how one survived one of the worst of all time. So read it, share your stories, ask others about it. You’ll be amazed at the stories they will share about this event.

You can also watch some of the documentaries that were from the last entry by clicking here.




From the Attic: Blizzard 1978/79


December 28th of 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the Blizzard that brought the World to a total standstill. It also marked the start of the Long Winter, whose combination of blizzards and high tides created havoc in both sides of Germany. Both of which have broken records and have remained in the top ten ever since.

On 28th December, 1978, a combination of a low pressure system from the Mediterranean Sea, which brought moisture and mild temperatures, and a high pressure system from Scandinavia, which featured frigid temperatures, collided over the Baltic Sea, unleashing what was considered at that time “The Blizzard of the Century!” Winds of up to 160 kph, combined with snow drifts of up to 7 meters (20 feet) and high tides that were half the height, literally brought everything to a standstill beginning on December 28th, 1978 and ending on January 3rd, 1979. An average of 70 centimeters of snow fell in most of the affected regions while 30 centimeters of thick ice were reported! The entire northern half of West Germany and all of East Germany were affected- from Flensburg and Hamburg to Brunswick and Cologne; Rostock and Neu Brandenburg to Leipzig and Erfurt. All were affected. The island of Rügen was cut off from the rest of the world for days until help arrived. Snow blocked transport of coal from the Lausitz region to the burning plants, thus bringing blackouts in electricity to wide areas in East Germany. And motorways were littered with stranded cars from Frankfurt/Main all the way to the Danish border near Flensburg and beyond.  Hundreds of people lost their lives in that storm.

This blizzard was just the beginning of the winter that crippled everything in Germany, for another round of snow and ice of similar proportions fell later on February 18/19, 1979. The total amount of snow that fell during the entire period was over 100 centimeters, double the amount the region receives per year.

And while the government was late in response to the New Year storms and have since improved on providing emergencies in cases like these (and the numbers have increased over the last 10 years), many documentaries have been produced to describe the events in detail from eyewitness accounts. Three of which have been dug out of the attic for you to have a look, to see how powerful the storm really was. It still ranks as one of the ten worst winter storms on record since 1949.  The first documentary looks at what happened in West Germany. The second is how the storm affected the eastern half. The third one looks at the storm from a photographer’s perspective, as he did a series of aerial photos of the regions of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg after the first storm hit the region. Both West German-states, combined with the coastal areas of Mecklenburg-Pommerania (and especially the islands of Usedom and Rügen) were the hardest hit regions by this New Year’s storm.

So sit back, have some hot cocoa and popcorn ready and be prepared to watch how 1979 entered both Germanys with a lot of ice and snow. Enjoy! 🙂

Documentary 1:

Documentary 2:

Documentary 3:

Documentary 4:

And to point out, the photos presented here were from the Winter storms that pummeled Europe and the US in 2010/11, which was half as bad as what happened here. Nevertheless, especially in the top picture, you can imagine the height and thickness of the snow drifts that left many land regions looking like those under water. Just to point this out. 🙂



Twas the Night Before Christmas in Pittsburghese- Pittsburgh Dad

While another Christmas has come and gone, one cannot resist the highlights that this holiday season has left us, not just in terms of gifts and concerts, but also some parodies and things to laugh with.

This Christmas genre features a mix of Christmas, culture and American football, all in Pittsburgh in the USA.

Based on the work by Clement C. Moore, here is Twas the Night before Christmas, Pittsburgh style, presented by Pittsburgh Dad, Curt Wooten and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. If you love the Steelers and Pittsburgh, you’ll love the city’s dear old Dad.

Love and Friendship in the face of Hate- A FleFi Christmas Address

Luke 6:35-38 New International Version (NIV)
But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The year 2018 can best be summed up as the following: “In the face of hate, greed and power, one cannot afford to live it alone. One needs to reach out to those who deserve the power of friendship and love because of actions that warrant it.”
A few months back, I had written a piece on the power of forgiveness based on some personal experiences that were encountered which led to my belief that not everything is as bad as we have been seeing lately. That piece you can read here.

When Donald Trump took over as President on 20th January, 2017, it marked the beginning of the era of self-righteousness, the era where in order to become successful, one has to become a total asshole and think selfishly. The more narccist you are, the more people will follow you and engage in acts of hatred because according to you, it is ok. More bomb threats, more shootings, more degradations both in person as well as in the social media, more scrutiny in the face of political ideals and views, and more discriminations and in some cases, rounding people up to be transported to detention camps. These were the ingredients of the American Reich, taking every page, every sentence and every word out of another book entitled “Mein Kampf” by Adolf Hitler. Bomb threats against news networks like CNN were never seen 10 years ago but exist today. Alienating people because of different views like we have now, were nonexistent five years ago. And infoprying, bootleg conversations to share the problems the country has was as foreign a word in 2016, as it was “fake news.”
It made me wonder if even the concept of a true friend exist, especially as we see more people who leave their loved ones behind to either pursue their own interests that will bound to fail in the end or follow the leader who will bring them to failure.
With that question, I can answer that one with a resounding yes. While the true meaning of a friend has changed over time, it does have some characteristics that bring people together in the face of hatred and selfishness that we are seeing on an hourly basis. One doesn’t need a political affiliation, religious background, materialistic items, fame and even clothing worn in order to be a friend. Interests have little value. And just because a person is on facebook and in your network doesn’t necessarily mean that person is your friend. A true friend would do the following for you:
1. Respect your rights and opinions by listening and not prying into your own affairs
2. Share stories and experiences with you and have some constructive conversations that last for hours on end, and enjoying it in the end
3. Offering a hand for help in finding peace and bringing stability in a person’s life, no matter how big or small the situation is
4. Work together for a common cause, putting aside differences, pasts that are worth forgetting, and other clichés that can potentially be negative
5. Apologize for all wrong-doing and forgive the other.
6. In the event of a long absence, pick up where it was left off and lastly,
7. When given the chance, let the friendship grow and be stronger.

Many of us do not understand why the US is isolating its friends and neighbors, let alone why people follow Trump and his policies, even though we’re seeing the same happen in places like Turkey, Poland and Brazil. It is just as logical as people in Germany, France and other countries trying to follow the far-right politicians who are corrupt and have no basis to stand on. However, political and religious affiliations are just as meaningless in a friendship as incidents, such as affairs, divorces, people losing their jobs (and sometimes their homes), and other miniscule incidents. What is important is having some common values and ways to make things better.

The concept of Global Ethics, written and preached by theologist Hans Küng, explains this concept in detail, showing the reader that people of different backgrounds in religion, politics, socio-economics, and other forms of status quo do not play a role in cooperating to solve problems on a global scale.
When looking at the current situation, we seem to have veered away from this concept when we need it the most. The environment is falling apart, people are emigrating away from areas no longer arable, many forms of flora and fauna are disappearing from the landscape and we ignore the problem as if they are non-existent.

We just don’t get it!
We just don’t get the fact that our own actions are destroying everything that holds dearly to our heart.
We just don’t get the fact that we are destroying families, relationships and even friends that way.
We just don’t get it!

Yet when looking back at 2018, if there is one lesson to learn from two years of Trump, it is this: there is a way to turn it around. There is a way to reach out for forgiveness and help. There is a way to mend ties with the friends you want to keep. There is a way to start again and make it right.
There is hope in the face of hate, and we’re starting to see this bit by bit.
We have developed a sense of conscious where the scourge of greed, materialism and singling out people needs to stop and we need to start thinking about the people that matter the most. We need to think about the other guy instead of ourselves. If we did harm to the other guy, we reach out to help and for forgiveness. After all, we may learn from the other guy and forge a friendship from this. It doesn’t start at the top in our governments; it starts at the very bottom of the food chain, meaning ourselves.
I had three different experiences this year that support this argument: 1. A bully from high school stepped forward to apologize for his actions, even though it was 25 years ago. 2. A former colleague from college who reached out to me for her actions after a fallout that occurred three years ago. And 3. Two friends from college reunited with my wife and me after a fallout from eight years ago over an incident that sparked a huge argument and then a cessation of communication. In all three instances, the three parties acknowledged that their actions were unjust, and in all three instances they found that by cutting off ties without listening and even finding a solution was more harmful than the conflict themselves. The beauty behind all three incidents was that we found a way to forgive each other and have a long, constructive and very pleasing conversation, one of which lasted into the wee hours of the morning. From each one I learned that we had more in common than we thought before and that we could (re-)forge a friendship if we wanted to. In two of the three cases it was easy, in the other one that one will take a while to do. But in the end we realized that we cannot know the person just by the cover and actions, but by learning his/her past for there is good in every aspect, each one useful for a friendship, one that is needed in times like this.
This can only happen when we ignore those who instill hate and lies, even our leaders, like Trump, Erdogan and others who practice hate and discrimination, and embrace the love of others regardless of background. A country is not a country without a network of friends and family that runs it democratically and in a way that other friends and family can benefit from it. And even in times of conflict, we still find ways to keep our common values in tact and put aside our differences. In times like these, we cannot afford to have our own personal vendettas get in the way of progressivism. Otherwise we will not have much of a planet to live on. What we saw in the Congressional elections in 2018 or in my three examples is a start. We have a lot to do to put an end to this carnage and tackle the issues that we have.

What we need are three Cs that are useful, even if they take time:
Courage- Each of us has the ability to say STOP!
Chance- Each of us deserve a chance to do something for the good of the other.
Consistency- Each of us need to be persistent and learn that what we put in will be received in the end.
And for a friendship, we need this chance to let it grow. Only then will our planet have a chance to grow again.

The Flensburg Files and sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles would like to wish you and yours the very best this holiday season. Merry Christmas, and a great start into 2019. 🙂

Some additional Christmas market items will be coming to round off a rather busy but exciting 2018 Christmas Market Tour and Tidbits! But for now, time to celebrate with family and friends, just like you should as well! ❤

FlFi Christmas 2018

Christmas Genre: There is No Rose of Such Virtue


Another Christmas favorite that is worth looking at for researching its history and for listening is one that is one of the oldest on record. It is also a piece that has been rewritten many times but varied in melodic form.

There is No Rose is an old musical piece that celebrates the birth of Christ but in a form of a resurrection of life. It was first presented in 1420, at the time when the Renaissance was starting to take its form; the population was regenerating after the era of the Bubonic Plague wiped out half the population on the European continent, and with that, the era of peace was upon the population. Furthermore, the Renaissance ushered in the age of modernity and the revival of philosophy, religion and even music. The Carol was reportedly written by Trinity College in Manchester as one of thirteen carols, less than a century before the great Reformation under Martin Luther. While we don’t know who wrote this nor what the motive behind the work is about, the words written were in Middle English, appearing in four verses as follows:


There is no rose of sych vertu
As is the rose that bare Jesu,
Alleluia.For in this rose contained was
Heaven and earth in lytle space,
Res miranda.By that rose we may well see
That He is God in persons three,
Pares forma.
The angels sungen the shepherds to:
Gloria in excelsis Deo,
Gaudeamus.Leave we all this wearldly mirth,
And follow we this joyful birth,
Transeamus.Alleluia, res miranda,
Pares forma, gaudeamus,

Several composers have tried to interpret the piece in their own melodic terms. One of the most well-known composers was Benjamin Britten, who in 1942 wrote the piece in F-major with a climax in A-major in Gloria in Excelsis Deo. This was part of the Ceremony of Carols series that was sung by the Children’s Choir. The piece is below:

Another composer, who based his work on Britten, John Joubert, modernized the piece in 1954, where in A-flat major, the work begins with the soprano and alto sections, backed up by the tenor and bass sections later on in the piece. The piece does produce an emotion where the person listening to it, has a feeling of attachment to Baby Jesus. The piece is below:

Like in the Joubert text, this next piece, composed by Joel Martinson, is an accapella piece that is widely used at Christmas concerts. Unlike the Joubert piece, the Martinson piece features a more modern but balanced form where each section plays a key role, especially when switching chords between E-major and C-flat major:

The Martinson piece is used mainly for chamber choirs and has somewhat of a silent ending to each section. However, when looking at the next version by Philip Stopford, written in G-minor, it presents a feeling of the rise of the new age, with the birth of Jesus, and the word spreads in echos for miles on end:

The soprano section in this piece represents the angel sending the most important message to the people of Jesus’ arrival. After using several previous works for the Christmas concerts, Dr. René Clausen produced his own version of There is No Rose in 2007, which featured a combination of voice and orchestra. Here the piece produces a balance in unison  between the two groups, while staying in major chord, starting with G-major:

But not all pieces necessarily have to be produced in chorus form. Some of the variants can include a soloist with background music throughout the entire piece. In the case like this example by the singer Sting, sometimes some pop music can bring a twist into this traditional piece:

One can go on forever looking at other musical variants of this piece, but one can conclude that no matter how the music is put together, the lyrics have remained the same and has had the same message just like over 600 years ago: To deliver the message of the birth of Jesus Christ to the rest of the world. And His role would reshape the way we think of religion even to this day: To bring love to all, regardless of background and region.

So sit back and enjoy the pieces that are presented here and think about the role of Jesus in your lives and how he made a difference, especially as we celebrate his birthday, known today as Christmas. ❤ After all we have a lot to be thankful for because of Him. 🙂

FlFi Christmas 2018

Christmas Genre: Silent Night


There are countless numbers of Christmas songs that have been with us for a long time; some religious while others deal with Santa Claus and Winter Wonderland. Yet one of the most popular songs sung at Christmas time is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. That song deals with the birth of Jesus Christ and the symbol of peace that He brings to the people.  The song we’re talking about is Silent Night.

Known in German as “Stille Nacht,” this song was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber in 1818. The lyrics to the song was originally written by Joseph Mohr that same year.

The song was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach river in present-day Austria. A young priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had come to Oberndorf the year before. He had written the lyrics of the song “Stille Nacht” in 1816 at Mariapfarr, the hometown of his father in the Salzburg Lungau region, where Joseph had worked as a co-adjutor.

The melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf. Before Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the Christmas Eve mass. It is unknown what inspired Mohr to write the lyrics, or what prompted him to create a new carol. But what we do know is when the song was completed, the melody and the lyrics sounded like in the example that was performed by a choir group in Dresden:


German lyrics:

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Halleluja,
Tönt es laut von fern und nah:
Christ, der Retter ist da!
Christ, der Retter ist da!

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Gottes Sohn, o wie lacht
Lieb’ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da uns schlägt die rettende Stund’.
Christ, in deiner Geburt!
Christ, in deiner Geburt!

Over the years, the song has been translated into 140 languages. It was first translated into English in 1859 by John Freeman Young of the Trinity Church in New York City, and his translated version has been used ever since. However, variations in other languages, such as the example above in French, have shown a slight difference in both the lyrics translated as well as the melody.

The song was even performed without the use of lyrics, be it by an orchestra, brass band, keyboard, or a combination of one of the two. The excerpt below, performed by the American music group Mannheim Steamroller, consists of a combination of keyboard, bells and strings. This became one of the most popular pieces that was ever produced by the group in its 43+ years of existence……

And here is the example of the English version of Silent Night in its version written by Young. Many colleges, including Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, have used this song every year as one of the key cornerstones of their own Christmas concerts. How they do it depends on the conductor, but in this case presented below, the piece features the college choirs and the orchestra…..

English Lyrics:

Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night, holy night,
Shepherds quake at the sight;
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born,
Christ the Savior is born!

Silent night, holy night,
Son of God, love’s pure light;
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

Silent Night has garnered a lot of success and popularity over the years that it was even used in film, the latest having been released in 2014. It was officially nominated as an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. Yet two caveats have appeared lately which have caused a stir of some sorts. The first is that the song itself was credited to Gruber’s name even though part of the credit should have been given to Mohr because of the lyrics. The second is despite its universal usage, a newer German original and English translation was introduced by Bettina Klein in 1998, under commission of the Austrian Silent Night Museum in Salzburg. The new work was mostly the same except with some phrases that replaced the older English with the more modern. This has created some concern from groups wishing to keep the original.

Nonetheless, Silent Night has been played at any type of Christmas festival, big and small over the years and has become the symbol of Christmas but in connection with its religious meaning, which is the birth of Jesus and the coming of peace and good tidings that went along with that. There’s no Christmas without this song being played or performed, and no matter how it is presented, the song brings a lot of emotion out of the people; it is a powerful song that has us reflecting on the importance of Christ in our lives and the joy of Christmas that we bring to others.

And with that joy, we can all sleep in heavenly peace, even 200 years later. 🙂


The Files would like to congratulate Gruber and Mohr for their work, post humous. 200 years and many languages later, we still consider the piece a work of art representing the true meaning of Christmas.  Zum Wohl und Gott segne Sie! ❤ 🙂

FlFi Christmas 2018