Berlin Writes History in Soccer

The Stadium Altere Försterei, where FC Union Berlin plays at home. Photo taken by Christian Liebscher via wiki-Commons 

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FC Union Berlin advances to the German Bundesliga for the first time ever after ousting VFB Stuttgart in the Relegation Round.

BERLIN- In the end, only the strongest survived. The strongest in terms of nerves but also in coherency. The strongest is the one that makes history. This was done last night with FC Union Berlin. After a 2-2 draw against VFB Stuttgart, who had been sitting in 16th place during almost the entire 2018/19 Bundesliga season, all the iron men could have done is put the iron curtain in place- literally in front of goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz  and let Stuttgart fire their shots- to the left, to the right and right into the goalie’s hands. And while the offense was on autopilot, a 0-0 tie was enough for Berlin to make history.

For the first time ever FC Union will play in the premier league this upcoming season, competing with the likes of Bayern Munich- fresh off its seventh consecutive title but poised to lose its top two players in Frank Ribery and Ariel Robben- the Robbery Duo- similar to the Killer Bs of the Pittsburgh Steelers in American football before Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown left the team after the 2018/19 season and its lone B- the quarterback, Ben Rothlisberger. It will be facing other teams with multiple years of experience and armed with deep pockets for 1st class players, such as Frankfurt, Dortmund, Hoffenheim and Bremen. And while Freiburg, Cologne and Augsburg may be push-overs, like it was with Hamburg SV during its time in the second tier (winning 2-0 and tying 2-2), Union Berlin will have two rivalries to contend with:

  1. Inner-City Rivalry: FC Union Berlin will have to contend with Hertha BSC Berlin, which has been in the premier league for all but two seasons since 1997. While FC Union Berlin has had many soccer rivalries in the German capital, even during the Cold War era, this one will be the battle of the iron fists that will attract tens of thousands, and whose victories will be very close. While FC Union lost a close one 2-1 on 3rd September, 2012, the two teams finished tied at 2-2 on 11 February, 2013, the last time the two played. When the rivalry continues this upcoming season, it will be the first inner-city derby in the Bundesliga since the 2010/11 season with Hamburg vs St. Pauli.
  2. East German Rivalry: Apart from its western city rival, FC Union will have to contend with Leipzig. But not the Leipzig that many soccer historians are accustomed to. While Union and VfB Leipzig’s rivalry attracted thousands of fans during the 1980s and 90s, the Leipzig they will be facing is one that will have a new (and fiery) head coach and a talented group that is regrouping after losing the 2019 German Cup to Munich and finished third in the regular season- meaning RB Leipzig. Even they have played three games, FC Union has yet to beat Leipzig, having lost two and tied one- but all in 2015 and 2016.

FC Union Berlin will be the sixth East German team to be in the top league in almost three decades- the others were Dynamo Dresden, Hansa Rostock, VfB Leipzig (now FC Lok), Energie Cottbus and Hertha. It is the 56th team in history to reach the top tier. And after years of toil and disappointment, the team has entered chartered waters bound to make history. The team has the largest fan club in German soccer and its culture is implanted in Berlin soccer, with a stadium that has hosted soccer games, Christmas events and concerts and crowds that come to enjoy the game and not rampage it, like in some cities. This was noticeable with last night’s relegation game with Stuttgart- it ended in celebration and with no incidences! One could blame Stuttgart for its shortcomings, which will land them in the second league for the first time in three seasons, but the timing of FC Union Berlin’s rise to the top could not have come at a better time. All it needed was unity and the team got it.

And should this unity continue in the upcoming Bundesliga season, then FC Union Berlin will be making even more history as it climbs in the rankings at the expense of those who have been there for years. Seven years ago, one wondered whether professional soccer will return to the east. With first Leipzig and now Berlin, that question has been answered.


Congratulations to FC Union Berlin on making it to the big leagues! 🙂

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FC Union Berlin won the relegation based on the “Goal Away from Home” rule. This means the team that has scored more goals “away from home” wins, if the total goals scored by each team are otherwise equal. This is sometimes expressed by saying that away goals “count double” in the event of a tie. In this case, Berlin won against Stuttgart based on that rule by a score of 2-0 because of the 2-2 draw in Stuttgart. 

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From the Attic: Bonn- the Birthplace of the German Constitution 1949


BONN- On this day 70 years ago, the German Constitution was ratified, thus ushering in the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland). It was the first democratic government since the Weimar Republic, which was created in 1919 but lasted only 14 years. It also brought in its first chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who until 1998, became the longest tenured chancellor in modern German history, having served from 1949 until his resignation in 1963. Bonn was its capital until 1994, when it was moved to Berlin, five years after East and West Germany reunited. Since 1999, all federal Offices and the German parliament are conducted in Berlin.

While Germany has some Milestones to celebrate, it is interesting to see how the West German government ratified the Constitution, which still remains in use and is discussed to this day (See the previous article on it here.). Two “Exemplars” on its ratification can be found in this article below; the first produced by the British channel Pathé, the other in German by Zeitzeuge Portal, which includes interviews with historians and political scientists in German. In either case, they are both interesting to see the reaction to the creation of West Germany from local and outsider perspectives.

Enjoy! 🙂

Pathé (UK):


Zeitzeuge Portal:


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Germany at 70: The Constitution


May 23rd, 2019. On this day 70 years ago, the West German government, together with the western allies of the US, France and Great Britain ratified the German Consititution, a set of basic laws that are binding and foster equality, freedom of speech and Democracy. The basic laws were the basis for establishing a democratic state, the first since the Weimar Republic of 1919. And unlike the Republic, which was dissolved with the rise of Adolf Hitler, who ushered in the era of Naziism 14 years later, the German Constitution has become the solid rock, one of the examples of how Democracy works even to this day, despite going through the hardships in the sense of politics, society and the economy.  This was even adapted by the former East German government in 1990 as part of the plan to reunify the country.

While there are booklets in many languages that have the Basic Law of Germany, there are some questions that are still open as to how it works in comparison to those in other countries, the US included. This documentary, produced by a bunch of American scholars, gives you an in-depth coverage and discussion to the laws that exist. Albeit Long, one can skip to some of the laws discussed or just simply play it in ist entirety. For those wishing to live in Germany in the future, even temporary, this is rather useful.

Enjoy the documentary! 🙂


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Photo Flick Nr. 15/ Mystery Place


Co-written with sister column, bhc-logo-newest1

During a recent hike along the Thuringian/Bavarian border, I happened to find this interesting place: a picnic area on the Thuringian side with a gorgeous view of Bavaria and the River Saale. Little did I realize that there had been four rusty steel fence posts- I-beam style- that was found at every single corner of the picnic area; behind the bench and the table.

I bet the Soviet troops had just as much fun with the picturesque view before 1989.

What was here before this picnic area was established?  Tell us about it. This was found between the Rudolphstein Viaduct (an article can be found here) and the village of Sparnberg, located 1 km west of the bridge and 3 km west of Hirschberg.



Task: Make a story about this scene.  🙂



From the Attic: Berlin 1959

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

Berlin, 1959. Two years before the erection of the Wall and the closing of the border that would separate East and West Germany until 1989. The city was in the midst of a rebuild 14 years after the end of World War II . People were still able to pass despite the city being occupied in four areas by their respective allies who liberated them from the Nazis: The USA, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Yet the passage is restricted. Inspite of the rebuilding efforts, there were some differences between what would become East and West Berlin. In this documentary produced by the BBC 60 years ago, the host of Panorama took a walk through Berlin and interviewed several Berliners, showing you the difference in terms of progression and regression. Enjoy the documentary! 🙂

Education Tip: 

Compare Berlin of 60 years ago with today. What has changed and what has remained the same? Do we still have a difference between the former East and West or has Berlin grown together?

You can choose another city in Germany if you wish- whether it is Munich, Hamburg, Erfurt, Dresden, Flensburg, Rostock- regardless of population and size. Do this comparison using this time with a time before 1989 or even before the Wall in 1961. Compare and present to your classmates. Many will be amazed at the difference and will provoke a conversation that will last an entire classroom session.

Useful for any language class, including English and Germany, as well as history, sociology, social studies and political science. For college level, that, plus architecture, engineering and planning. 🙂


From the Attic: The Telephone

Source: Kornelia und Hartmut Häfele [CC BY-SA 3.0 (
This Film from the Attic ties in an oldie and Doris Day. It’s the use of the telephone. The mean of communication, especially if it’s long distance. It’s one we cannot live without unless you are a long-distance sprinter like Achilles. It’s one that has become so advanced in the 170 years of existence, that we’re having problems keeping up with the newest technologies. Yet some of our children and grandchildren are wondering: “How did telephones work during your childhood?”

Ask not further. 🙂

A couple days ago, I stumbled across this very ancient TV film on the introduction of the modern phone in the early 1950s. Produced by Bell Telephone in 1954, the homemaker in this film takes us through the days where the modern phone was supplanting phone service where operators were standing by to connect you to another person. Gone were those days, the modern phone took over where all you had to do is dial the number and it would take you to your destination. For those wondering how it works, play this film and you will see. 🙂

The first thought that came to mind was a household figure during the 1950s and 60s: Namely, Doris Day. Ms. Day’s career spanned over a half century as an actress and musician, plus an additional 40+ years as an environmental activist when she retired from the business. One of the best examples of how she articulated herself as an actress playing the housewife, always using the phone during her days, like in the excerpt Pillow Talk, produced in 1959 and co-starring Rock Hudson.

As Doris Day lived on and ripened with age and wisdom, the telephone advanced in ways where we sometimes wonder: “How could we train our older generation how to use today’s phones- namely the Handys (mobile phones (UK); cell phones (USA))?” Many of them have lost track or resorted to the classic phone. But it would be cool to train them to use it, just once, and imagining life with the phone and its many uses in comparison to Doris Day’s time, wouldn’t it? 😉 After all, communication has advanced so much and we should all profit from what we have to offer today.


Mystery Place: A Bridge, A Castle and Tunnels in Hof


Co-written with the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, whose article is known as Mystery Bridge Nr. 114 with the same title as here……

HOF (SAALE)- This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the borders connecting East and West Germany. On 9th November, 1989 the East German government, caving into the pressure by its own people as well as both the US and Soviet Union announced the opening of the Berlin Wall and with it, the borders that separated East and West, starting with the Dreiländereck near Prex (Bavaria) where Bavaria, Saxony and the Czech Republic meet and slicing through mountains, rivers and valleys until its terminus east of Lübeck in Schleswig-Holstein.

While many museums and historic sites have preserved some of the relicts from the time of the fall, many other places along the border have fallen into disarray and now, overgrowth has taken over, erasing the area that once was a scar in Germany’s history. Yet in the case of this mystery site, there are some questions that have to be answered, like the following as seen in the pics below:


1. Why are there windows built into the bridge’s wingwalls on the Bavarian side apart from the fact that they are resting areas for bats and birds?


2. Why are there entrances to tunnels that have long since been walled shut?


3. Why do we have ruins south of the bridge that represented places that used to be inhabited? – Among the places, there are a pair of chimneys sticking out, one of which was made of metal and is over 80 years old plus old machinery that is long since been abandoned.


4. Why are there kilometer markers on the Bavarian side using the English decimal system with periods?


To answer number 4 right away, we have to take a look at the Autobahn Viaduct located at the aforementioned site and its history in connection with the division between East and West Germany.  Construction of the bridge began in 1937 and was completed in 1940 with the plan to carry the motorway from Hof to Chemnitz. The bridge features three main arches with two thinner arches in between, making it one of the most unique structures among the viaducts along the Motorway A 72. At 268 meters long, the bridge is one of the shortest along the highway but at the same time, one of the tallest with a height of 39 meters above the River Saale. The bridge was built using many variants of granite that was quarried in regions near Hof as well as in the Lausitz region, using manual labor consisting of prisoners from the concentration camps at Flossenburg and Mauthausen. The bridge’s service was short-lived as the war progressed and work on another viaduct at Pirk (west of Plauen) was halted. After the war, the viaduct was reopened for a short time, but because of the reconstruction of another viaduct at the East-West border at Rudolphstein in 1966, approximately 10 kilometers away along the Berlin-Munich Motorway (A9), this crossing, together with the Motorway 72 was shut down between Plauen and Hof, never to reopen until 19 December, 1989.

Even though the River Saale formed a border between Bavaria and Saxony, the viaduct was located five kilometers west of the border where the Hochfranken Interchange with A 72 and A 93 meet. In fact, the border zig-zagged its way to the Saale at Hirschberg, where it continues westwards past the border crossing at Rudolphstein, towards Bad Lobenstein.   Even though the bridge and the motorway were rendered useless during the Cold War, it served as a key point for American troops which was to protect the area from a possible attacks from the east and in some cases, help those who crossed the border to the west. Yet with the Rudolphstein Viaduct reopened to international crossings, the bridge near Hof was nothing more than part of the area Americans were patroling before 1989. 

Looking at the first question involving the windows in the wingwalls, however, this one is a mystery. While some sources have claimed that the windows with gates are now used as habitats for rare forms of birds and bats, its straight-line arrangement in three floors makes it appear that there may be offices that were in there- either police or jails, or other administration that may have existed during the Third Reich. This makes the most sense given the second and third questions mentioned here. To the south of the bridge are several openings with tunnels that have long since been walled shut, plus ruins that indicated that the place was inhabited.

According to some sources, there used to be a castle named Burg Saalestein, which was first mentioned in 1524 and was established based on the discovery of minerals to be used for ceramics and the like, for they could be used. Stone walls and graves are all that remain, together with some houses that belong to a restaurant bearing the same name of Saalestein. The houses are fenced which allows for private ownership and a limited allowance of guests. Yet at the bridge, openings to tunnels and underground huts- characterized by 3/4 buried burrows with rusted chimneys sticking out.  Two of them were found in my discovery. Plus rusted machinery indicated that the area was occupied during modern times. As the Nazis during the 1930s and 40s constructed a network of underground tunnels in mountain areas throughout all of Germany, the former Saalestein site was used as some sort of fallout shelter, where residents could take cover during the bombings, which also affected Hof during the last year of World War II. The tunnel network was later walled shut but chances are, the Americans may have used it later.


To summarize: The bridge spanning the Saale needed three years to build but only five years of traffic before it was rendered useless. The question is what the bridge was used for between 1945 and 1990. The openings in the wingwalls on the western side was used as office space but how it is unknown. And lastly, what became of the castle of Saalestein after the 16th Century and what role did the Nazis and later American troops played in utilizing the ruins?

What do you know about the bridge and the area? Feel free to comment below or contact Jason Smith using the contact form enclosed here.  The area has a lot of history much of which has yet to be discovered, Can you help? 🙂


Photo gallery with the pics of the bridge and the ruins can be found here. 


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From 1945 until 1990, Germany was divided into two countries but four zones occupied by the allies of the US, France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. The Soviets were responsible for the region which is today Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Mecklenburg- Pommerania, Brandenburg and East Berlin. The Americans were responsible for much of the southern part of Germany, including Bavaria, Baden-Wurttemberg, Hesse and parts of North Rhine-Westphalia, yet it consolidated its territories with Britain and France in 1949 prior to the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany.


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