From the Attic: Berlin 1945

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Brandenburg Gate- behind the gate stood the Berlin Wall until 9 November 1989

From time to time, the Flensburg Files will introduce you to some video clips of Germany in the past. Some of them have been digitally remastered to resemble its original appearance in color. And there will be some that are in connection with certain current events and/or stories that will come in the Files. The reason behind this is twofold. The first is because we’ve been discovering old film with events that happened between 50 and 90 years ago that until now, had been stuck in the attic. Whenever a grandfather or grandmother passes on, the next of kin happens to find them while sorting through their belongings. Upon watching the hidden films, they find a bit more facts about what had happened in their lives that they (mostly unknowingly) had contributed to history. This is especially true with German history for two world wars plus the infamous Cold War had almost wiped away relicts of history that had been at least a century old, because of air raids and bombings, forced demolitions based on dictator’s orders, and in some cases, the need to erase the past and move forward without even going back to tell it.  By discovering such artefacts, we can piece together how Germany was like in the past to better understand where they came from.  Secondly, thanks to digital technology, one can remaster the found films and photos to have them available online for future use, especially in the classroom.  While reenactments and museums can provide you with some examples of certain times and how they lived, they are not as genuine as the films and photos taken by those who had lived throgh it and told the families about it.

And with that we will look at Berlin after World War II had ended.  Here we have two film clips, comparing the German capital between May, just after the war had ended, and July, where the reconstruction of the city was in full gear. Knowing the the war had virtually halted all aspects of life, these people continued on with life as if nothing happened except their main task was to rebuild and start over. These people had suffered greatly because of the Third Reich. Many women had lost their male partners; their children,  their fathers, for they either had been killed or taken prisoner. The end result was the influx of immigrants from Turkey and all points to the east; many of whom have been living in Germany ever since. Their role, combined with the role of the women as the sole breadwinner and mother would eventually remake Germany into what it is today- a country where people of gender and background can work for a living, live in peaceful co-existence and be open to multi-culture and change.

And so, with that in mind, have a look at the two clips and compare. What was similar and what was different between the two? We know that in less than 4 years time, Berlin would be the capital of East Germany with the West German capital being in Bonn. And furthermore, 10-15 years was needed at least to convert Berlin into what it was before the bombings. But what else is different? Have a look and think about it. 🙂

Berlin- May 14, 1945:

Berlin- July 1945:

 

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Osterfreude 1818 by Luise Hensel

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To commemorate this early Easter, I felt it would be appropriate to present you this poem, written 200 years ago by German poet Luise Hensel which talks about the joys of Easter and how it erases the pain, guilt and sins away. This is a religious poem that is devoted to Christ and how he gave his life to others so they can understand the beauty of it. The poem is in German and can be interpreted in many ways. But in honor of Christ and in the name of love peace, ….

Heil allen kranken Herzen!
Und Trost in Kampf und Schmerzen
Und lichte Glaubenskerzen
In Zweifel und in Nacht!
O ja! für alle Wunden
Hat sich ein Balsam funden;
Wer sollte nicht gesunden,
Dem so das Leben lacht?

Komm, Thomas, her und siehe,
Dass jeder Zweifel fliehe,
Und fall’ auf deine Kniee
Und tauche deine Hand
In Seines Herzens Wunde,
Und laut, mit frohem Munde,
Gib aller Welt die Kunde,
Dass lebend Er erstand. –

Dein Zweifel lehrt uns fassen
Den Glauben und verlassen
Die Grübelei und hassen
Des Zweifels Dornensaat.
Drum Mut den bangen Herzen
Und Trost in allen Schmerzen
Und lichte Glaubenskerzen
Auf dunkelm Erdenpfad! –
Hallelujah!

Link to the poem: http://www.gedichte-fuer-alle-faelle.de/allegedichte/gedicht_1941.html 

And to the author’s biography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luise_Hensel

Happy Easter everyone! 🙂

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Living in a World they didn’t make, by Janet Jackson

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Our next Genre of the Week focuses on gun violence and takes us back to 1989. It was at that time that one of the members of the Jackson family released a powerful album containing songs that focused on social aspects. Janet Jackson started her career with the rest of her siblings in 1973, yet went solo in 1986 with her first solo album (and third overall), Control.  Her breakthrough came with Rhythm Nation 1814, which was released in 1989 and won six platinums, garnered 12 million Dollars in sales and made it all the way to number 1. on the Bilboard charts in the US. It was the first album where songs reached number 1 in the Top 40 Charts for three straight years, and it was the first where seven songs made it to the Top 100.  It is considered one of the most iconic pop music albums in history, with a mixture of rhythm and dance but also some slow dances. The album focused not only on themes of love and dance, but also social issues, which included drug use, domestic dispute, violence,…..

and guns.

While Janet managed to get seven songs into the Top 100, this song deserves to win the Flensburg Files Genre of the Week, even if the song was produced almost 30 years ago. Entitled Living in the World They Didn’t Make, Janet takes us to a school where memories are left over after a shooting incident that happens on school grounds. Children playing on the playground- gone. Teachers helping other- gone. Neighborhoods and families- shattered. All of these ring a bell to the problem with gun violence and the school shootings that have plagued the US as of late. While some have refused to talk about it, when looking at the March on Washington that happened on 24th of March, the theme of gun laws, school violence and issues that have led to people taking it out with the guns have been brought forward to those who want to see change and will not rest until it happens, regardless of who is representing each state in Congress and is running the country at the White House.

Gun violence was the issue upon the song’s release and is still the issue to this day. Listen to the song and ask yourselves, how can we put an end to this madness without having the teacher march around with a machine gun in the classroom.

This Genre of the Week song is for the kids at Parkland who took courageous steps and brought this up front and personal on Capitol Hill. Keep strong, be stronger. Eventually those who resisted will listen or cave in. You will have it your way soon. ❤ 🙂

 

Fl Fi USA

Leipzig Book Convention 2018: No Record but Lots of Suspense

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LEIPZIG-  If there is one theme that would sum up the 2018 Leipzig Book Convention this past weekend, it would be suspense. While members of the committee had expected another record year with a possible 300,000 visitors, that mark was missed by a long shot and for the first time in six years, the number of visitors at this year’s convention had decreased. 271,000 visitors went to the convention that took place from 15th to 18th March, a decrease of 14,000 from last year’s number of 285,000.  But despite the decrease, there was a lot of suspense in this year’s convention, which goes beyond the theme of Romania as the guest country. Here are some examples based on the author’s annual visit together with family members:

Snow and Cold- The decrease in numbers had a lot to do with Old Man Winter’s last grasp. Snow and blowing snow, combined with extreme cold temperatures brought vast parts of central and northern Germany to a near standstill, with parts of Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thuringia taking the brunt of the storm.  Frozen overhead lines and crossing points were additional factors that led to the shut down of the main railway stations in Leipzig and Halle (Saale) and the cancellation of train services spanning seven German states and points to the east. This led to overfilled streetcars and buses to the Messe Convention. Adding traffic jams on the major highways also because of blowing and drifting snow and many who wanted to go to the book convention decided to stay home- at least until the sunniest day of the convention, which was the last day (Sunday). But even then, the one critique point that seems to be the problem in Germany is snow removal, where much of the parking lots were still unplowed when guests arrived on Sunday, undoubtedly the peak of the four-day long convention.

Fighting the Right- Another factor affecting the numbers is the increase in the number and influence of the far-right media. Several publishing companies producing such propaganda in newspapers and books were present, mostly in Hall 3. This included Compact and Neue Stimmen, a pair of most prominent magazines that have ties with the far right groups including the Pegida, National Party (NPD) and Alternative for Germany (AfD), the third of which is currently in the German Federal Parliament as an opposition to the newly created Grand Coalition with the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats.  Especially on Friday and Saturdays clashes broke out between the far right and far left, resulting in police involvement and arrests. As they wanted to avoid massive conflicts like it happened at the 2017 Book Convention in Frankfurt/Main, it was met with partial success for despite measures to prevent violent outbreaks, the far right, with its anti-democratic and anti-European policies kept many away because of their strive to commit strife. On the flip side, several prominent authors who have written about right-wing terrorism and its threat to democracy were on hand. One of them, Norwegian author Åsne Seierstad, won the European book prize for her work on Anders Breivik, a far-right terrorist who killed 77 people in two separate attacks in 2011. People like Seierstad believe that right-wing extremism has been on the rise since then, including her home country.

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Peaceful Co-existence- While the snowstorm and the far-right made waves in the media, one aspect that was seldom touched was religion. In Hall 3 there was a section where Christianity and Islam were in peaceful co-existence of each other. At least four booths with publications and newspapers on Islam and another seven on Christianity were found clumped together with people gathering to both sides of the aisle. Interesting was how the two religions attracted the people. On the side of Islam, people came in droves because of their interest in the religion and the literature that pertained to it. This is disregarding how it was written- which was either German or Arabic with a couple English examples.  This included the Islam Newspaper in German, which judging by my observations, has a lot of culture and history, but go along the mentality of the Native Americans as described by historian Dee Brown: “We are still here.” Why? Because of attempts to suppress their culture by the domination of Christianity and the western way of life, one can see that Islam still exists and the impression is that they are open to anyone wishing to learn at least a bit of the religion. There had been fears that the religion would dominate the European landscape. That is not true. The people of Islam wish to have a sort of peaceful co-existence that has not existed for a long time, for many since the time before the Arab Spring of 2011 which led to millions fleeing the war-torn areas. On the other side, Christianity was presented in a marketing fashion. While on the way to the main entrance of the convention, we were greeted by hippie-style Christians who gave us a free coupon to one of the booths that was giving away books dealing with stories involving Christ, philosophy and the existence of God. Another booth was continuing the Martin Luther celebrations of 500 years ago by illustrating the printing press used to produce the 500 Theses written by Luther. And then there was Christianity in the form of music and schools that offer both. Target language was both German and English and they attracted a fair number of people. Yet despite the moderate increase of younger people joining Christ, the numbers have decreased on a global scale thanks to corruption, sex abuse scandals and attempts to associate Christianity with far-right figures, such as US President Trump. One can see the desperate attempts to convince people to join by giving away books upon leaving the Buch Messe- and seeing tons being discarded in garbage cans in the parking lot. It does appear that if Christianity was to regain its original form, it may need to separate itself from politics and reinvent itself by adapting to the needs of today’s generations, a step that has been taken in some aspects, like homosexuality, but in others- like tolerance- it’s having problems doing.

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Blocks at the Manga–  While the Manga exhibition, located in Hall 5, attracted its typical individuals, which included superheroes, waitresses in short skirts, aliens, and people dressed up in outfits dating back 125 years ago, one has to look more carefully at the trends that a person can find. While the theme from last year  was lighting in Japan, this year’s theme seemed to be boxes and its several shapes, designs and sizes. No matter whether they were lunch boxes, jewelry boxes or even mini-storage boxes or even designer boxes  found at booths like the Sega games, it was a real treat just to see these boxes while looking at the products typical of Japan, which include stuffed animals, sweets, games, books and even dishware, just to name a few.

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Thinking Scandanavia- To round off our tour of the Buchmesse, we have some literature recommendations worth noting. One of the unique aspects of the convention was found at the international book section in Hall 4 and in Scandanavia. Consisting of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finnland, the themes most commonly written by authors in the region  consists of mysteries, tourism, mental well-being and lastly photography. Two books that represent fine examples of such works is a Danish work by Meik Wilking entitled The Little Book of Lykke: The Path to being the Happiest People in the World, which focuses on the Danish secret to being the happiest society in the world. This includes the way of life, physical and mental well-being, mentality towards materialist items and money as well as the power of the bicycle.  Another is a collection of night-time and sometimes underwater photography by Finnish author Petri Juntunen entitled “At the Heart of It All,” where he brings the new meaning of photography to light, as he focuses on relicts and other non-life forms that are shone down by a ray of light, showing the interest from above.

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To sum up the visit and the highlights, the 2018 Leipzig Book Convention may have not set any records this year, yet judging from the news and my own observations, one could not get enough of the suspense that was presented, both positively as well as negatively. Still, as themes, such as religion, extremism, social and cultural issues and current affairs (such as environment and climate change) become the everyday norm, such book conventions like in Leipzig and also in Frankfurt/Main will need to adapt in a way that these issues are addressed and people understand them and take action. This action should also include putting an end to hate and violence, a commodity that has always been a burden to society but one that seems to become a universal problem on all fronts, especially since the end of 2015. It is only hoped that the next book convention will bring about constructive themes and discussion instead of propagizing hatred and inequality based on things we don’t like.

The next Leipzig Buchmesse will take place  from 21st to 24th March 2019. To see more photos of the Buchmesse, please click here as it will take you to the Files’ facebook page and its photo album. Please feel free to add your photos and impressions of the Buchmesse. We love to see them. 🙂

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Genre of the Week: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

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As we look at ways to control the sale of guns and put an end to gun violence in the United States, one of the aspects that was brought many times is mental health.  People who think that we should focus on the issue of mental health claim that the majority of shooters happen to be people who are loners, suffer from some sort of depression, schizophrenia, or have some sort of narccist personality disorder, have come from broken homes where they had been abused by (foster) parents, have been bullied by others, are bullies themselves or a combination of the factors.  In other words, if a student is alone, doesn’t have many friends and always keeps to him/herself, then that person is at risk of committing a violent crime such as a shooting spree, as we have seen with the last school shooting in Florida or the bloodiest massacre in US history at Las Vegas in 2017.

Yet little has anyone realized that there are some advantages of being a loner. Introverts are people who thrive when they are by themselves, creating things with no one around that in the end others can benefit from their inventions. Albert Einstein, Agatha Christie, Arthur Miller, Thomas Edison are a few very popular examples of introverts who never liked being an outgoing entertainer towards others- a primary characteristic of an introvert- and prefer to work on tasks on their own, as they can better concentrate and be creative in their thoughts and imagination. Unlike extroverts, who present proposals to others during meetings and try to make the best out of thriving from attention, introverts prefer to be in the background in group conversations, listening to others and only contributing when absolutely necessary.  This makes them excellent in art (or any kind of fine arts) but lousy in a forensics competition, where they are forced to talk even though they don’t really feel like it.  Admittedly in high school, I was one of the introverts who thrived that way- in art and music- but really sucked in sports (except track and field) and forensics.  😉  And even as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, while I enjoy telling stories and helping people out with improving their language skills, in the end, when the bell rings at the end of the day, my place is in the office with the doors closed, brewing up something for the next day (or week) with no people around to “pester” me. 😉

Introverts unfortunately are the most easily targeted individuals as they are seen as outcasts- bullied by those who don’t like their secret “behind-the-scenes” talent (because they don’t have it in them), pushed by their parents so that they can get recognized by the public (this one I can fully relate while growing up) and forced into the conversation by teachers who think introverts are a sign of a bigger problem- if a teacher looks at each student’s own personal book, they can read between the lines in terms of their personalities and the reasons for that.  But as Susan Cain mentions in a TED-Talk presentation in 2012, introverts are a lot brighter and more sophisticated than what others think, and therefore should not be mistaken for someone who wants to do harm to others.  Sometimes by getting to know them further and giving them space, they can thrive better and provide others with something that surprises and dazzles them.

Some of their inventions can become the household product in the future. 🙂

So let’s have a look at the Genre of the Week and the theme of Introverts:

 

Fl Fi USA

Genre of the Week: 18 and Life by Skid Row

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As we’re talking about gun violence and looking at ways to stopping it, we’re also looking at the causes of this rapid increase in violence which has especially hit schools the hardest. I had a chance to listen to a speech made by four survivors of the shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida as well as the interviews that followed. The students that survived the bloodbath knew the killer (who is behind bars) and were very angry at how this was not stopped earlier. These four were born the same year as the infamous Columbine massacre that took place on 20 April 1999 and have grown up used to mass shootings, including those in schools.  Here’s a quick preview of the speech:

One of the key issues we’ll need to work on as we look at reforming gun control laws is also the ways to reform the mental health system and make schools and public places safe. But how can we do that if we have people running around irresponsibly waving guns around and firing aimlessly at people, killing some in the process and permanently scarring others in the process, like it happened with Columbine, Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook, Cold Springs and now Parkland?

One way is to look at how parenting has changed over the years. In the past 40 years, we have gone from being strict Puritans who spank and hit children in order for them to behave to being those who allow children anything and everything they want to, even if it means running over teachers, law enforcement officials and the like at the same time. Parents have struggled to find a middle ground in order to allow for controlled growth- meaning growing within their boundaries and knowing what is right and what is wrong. It means taking responsibility for their own actions and accepting the consequences for their wrongdoing. A one-day suspension from school for fighting or showing disrespect is painful but should be a lesson for the future. It’s by teaching children how to respect others and learn the Golden Rule: Do onto others as they would be done onto you. This includes stories and fables to be told regularly but also normal interaction with people and understanding their feelings.  And if parents cannot do their job, have another foster parent or relative take over for a while, someone who can foster the child’s growth and show them the values of life.

This Genre of the Week looks at a scene that is very typical in today’s society today: a teenager who has gone wild because of years of being overly controlled and abused by his father. His recklessness by using alcohol and guns led to his downfall as he lost not only his family and best friend, but his own life. And as alcohol regulations has worked in keeping people away from the booze, gun regulations can do the exact same thing and even more. But even with gun regulations (which can work), we need to look at reforming our society and investing more time and especially money to reforming our society, starting with the health system, then the school system and lastly the family. This way we don’t have any more wild ones like in this song by Skid Row entitled 18 and Life, produced in 1989.

 

 

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Skid Row was formed in 1986 featuring lead singer Sebastian Bach, guitarists Scotti Hill and David Sabo, drummer Rob Affuso and bassist Rachel Bolan. It still produces heavy metal music to this day but with ZP Theart as the lead singer. 18 and Life was produced in 1989 and made it to the Top 4 in the US and Top 12 in the UK. It even won a gold platinum that year. The band is based in New Jersey.

 

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Holiday Genre: Lord Octopus Went to the Christmas Fair by Stella Mead

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Before returning to my visits to the Christmas markets of 2017, I would like to tie this holiday genre with the Christmas market tour, for it has to do with shopping and finding things for friends and family-

or in this case, family and extended family. 😉

When this poem was written by Stella Mead in 1934, it appeared in the comic strips before becoming part of a treasury of Christmas Stories which Ann McGovern put together in 1942. And while the character was indeed an eight-armed underwater beast, the thought of buying the right gift at the right place at the Christmas Fair still comes true today.

And so, Lord Octopus Went to the Christmas Fair just like the author went to the Christmas market for shopping and food. Enjoy! 🙂

Lord Octopus went to the Christmas Fair;

An hour and a half he was traveling there.

Then he had to climb

For a weary time

To the slimy block

Of a sandstone rock,

And creep, creep away

To the big wide bay

Where a stout old whale

Held his Christmas sale.

 

Lord Octopus went to the Christmas Fair;

An hour and a half he was traveling there.

His two little girls and two little boys

Were waiting at home for their Christmas toys;

And dear old Granny,

And fat Aunt Fanny,

And Cousin Dolly,

And Sister Molly

Would think Lord Octopus quite unpleasant

Unless he brought them a Christmas present.

 

Lord Octopus went to the Christmas Fair;

An hour and a half he was traveling there.

He purchased two hoops for the little boys.

He purchased two rings for the girls as toys.

He bought for Granny

A sweet nightcap,

To please Aunt Fanny

A game of snap;

For cousin Dolly

A winter wrap,

For Sister Molly

A sea-route map.

 

With hoops for the boys, for the girls round rings,

The wrap, and the rest of the Christmas things,

Tied up into parcels and packets strong,

Lord Octopus merrily went along.

On every arm he hung a present,

And said, “It’s really rather pleasant

To have eight arms instead of two.

What can those human creatures do

With just two arms for all the toys

They have to buy their girls and boys?”

Source: McGovern, Ann (Ed.) Treasury of Christmas Stories  New York: Scholastic Book Services, 1960. 

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