Thursday, February 22, 2018

75 Years Ago ...

On February 22, 1943, a young girl named Sophie Scholl and her older brother Hans were executed by guillotine at Stadelheim Prison in Munich, Germany.  They were convicted of treason along with their friend Christoph Probst.  She was 21 years old.

As students at the University in Munich, they joined a group called The White Rose, a non-violent, anti-Nazi resistance group. They distributed leaflets, which warned of Nazi activities and atrocities, among the student body.  These were later copied and went through Scandinavia and on to the United Kingdom.  Many of these students, among them Sophie, were motivated by their faith.

Sophie was a real seeker - very honest about her struggle to trust - and yet because of Jesus, she found the faith to believe.  She is quoted as saying:

I'm still so remote from God that I don't even sense his presence when I pray. Sometimes when I utter God's name, in fact, I feel like sinking into a void. It isn't a frightening or dizzying sensation, it's nothing at all — and that's far more terrible. But prayer is the only remedy for it, and however many devils scurry around inside me, I shall cling to the rope God has thrown me in Jesus Christ, even if my numb hands can no longer feel it.
  • As quoted in At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl (1987) edited by Inge Jens, translated by J. Maxwell Brownjohn; also in Voices of the Holocaust : Resistors, Liberation, Understanding (1997) by Lorie Jenkins McElroy

Finally, beginning in the 1970's, Sophie Scholl and her brave friends' story was shared more publicly after being researched and written about - and also put into film.

My favorite movie - Sophie Scholl:  The Final Days - is now available for viewing on Youtube.  It was produced in 2004/05, starring a lovely German actress named Julia Jentsch, who spoke often of what an honor it was to play this role.  (The movie is in German with English sub-titles.)

You can read a review of the film by Christianity Today here:   REVIEW of The Final Days

It is a relevant story for today.

Sophie Scholl -
  • As quoted in Seeking Peace : Notes and Conversations Along the Way (1998) by Johann Christoph Arnold, p. 155
Just because so many things are in conflict does not mean that we ourselves should be divided. Yet time and time again one hears it said that since we have been put into a conflicting world, we have to adapt to it. Oddly, this completely unchristian idea is most often espoused by so-called Christians, of all people. How can we expect a righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone who will give himself up undividedly to a righteous cause?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love Auf Deutsch

Valentine's Day - much like Halloween - is a "holiday" that Germans haven't celebrated until recent years because of their imitation of the American tradition.  It was not a holiday I celebrated as a child with my German family in any case.  

I won't attempt to write much about Valentine's Day in Germany as many other German-blog-writers have already tackled the subject:

I am just popping by to say ALLES LIEBE ZUM VALENTINSTAG!

And to mention a few ways to express LOVE in German --- 

There is the simple Ich liebe dich. = I love you.

There is the more German-native-sounding - Ich hab' dich lieb.  Literally it is translated "I have you love" but perhaps it makes more sense as thinking of it as "I have love for you."  In my experience and from what I understand, this phrase expresses fondness - it is said to family members, maybe a close friend even.  It more means I am very fond of you.  
In contrast, Ich liebe dich, for a German is a little more serious and might be best reserved for a boy/girlfriend you are serious about or a spouse or significant other.  A child might say it to her parents as well. 
If you are German, what is your experience?  

Again, in my own experience, my German family didn't often express our love by a phrase equivolent to I love you.  Instead, we might close a letter Mit Liebe Grüsse - with Loving Greetings.  Or Alles Liebe with all my love.  

In reading up on these phrases in a more modern, less verklempt Germany, teenagers now may text HDL to their closest friends.  That's short for Hab' dich lieb!    It's kind of like saying "Love ya" in English.  Also the abbreviation hab' is lazy German; it is a shortened form of the verb habe (to have).  

Finally, for your Valentine, I will tell you some of my favorite German romantic nicknames.  If you're tired of "honey" and "darling", try these:

1.  Schatz (also, Schatzi) - let them know they are your TREASURE

2.  Sweet animal nicknames:  Maus (Mausi, Mäuschen), Hase, Bärchen (mouse, rabbit, little bear) or even Mausebär (mousebear), which is, of course, a made-up name/animal but sounds cute.  

3.  There's also Schnecke (snail) ... or another kind of made-up word form of this:  Schnucki

4.  Most people will recognize the word Liebling, which is the German equivalent of darling.  

5.  Süsse (for females) or Süsser (for males), which means Sweetie.  

Happy Valentine's Day from 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Frankfurt - Post World War II

In Frankfurt, after World War II was declared over in May of 1945, the surviving citizens faced a city in rubble, lack of living quarters, and hunger.  Frankfurt and many German cities were destroyed, bombed and burned, the results of a horrible war brought on my horrible dictator.  The men returning from the war had to find jobs, and as American troops occupied the city, the rebuilding and reorganizing began slowly.  Families, torn apart by the war, regrouped.  Many, many had lost loved ones.  It was time to start over. 

My mother was born in August of 1945 in Northern Germany; her brother had been born in December 1943.  After the war, my Opa had returned from prison camp; my Oma had fled her home of East Prussia and found a new place among her husband's family in Frankfurt; her parents too had fled Prussia and got stuck in Eastern Germany for some time.  Some day I need to gather the exact dates, if I can, but since my childhood I have heard the stories of this time.  At first, my mother's reunited family lived in what used to be a bathing cabana on the Main River.   What was a recreational area on the banks of the river before the war was now a thin-walled shelter divided up into small rooms for families who were homeless.

Thankfully, my Opa had family in Frankfurt; his mother and sisters had secured an apartment in the Riederwald district.  It had a few rooms and a bath with a "maid quarter" room in the attic which could also be used for sleeping.   Several of my Opa's sisters were widowed by the war; they lived there or nearby.  Cousins close in age all were cared for by the sisters and sister-in-laws.  The children helped by gathering any coal that may have fallen off the coal truck as it rumbled down the street or a random potato that might have rolled off the vegetable vendor's cart.

Sometimes they watched the American soldiers when they played baseball during their off-time.  Occasionally they got treats of chocolates or gum from them.  These are the snippets of information that I can remember being shared from that time.

As I listened to my relatives talk about that time, no one seemed bitter or angry.  I think everyone was in the same boat and had to work together to survive.  While my Oma sometimes struggled to fit in with her sister-in-laws, who were far more boisterous than she, she still appreciated them very much.  They all had to survive one of the coldest winters in a long time that came in 1946 to 1947.  They needed each other.

From this time comes one of my very, very favorite pictures of my mother and her brother, Dagbert.

Despite the struggle of having little money, the children had their coats and winter shoes and were well-groomed.  My mother was probably around 2 years old and her brother about 3 1/2.  I am just guessing, but I think at the end of a long day of working, worrying, and trying to provide food and shelter, my grandparents probably found some joy in these sweet, innocent faces who still had no idea what a struggle it was just to survive in those post-war days.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Happy Groundhog Day - or Hedgehog Day - or Some-Other-Animal Day?!

February 2nd is Groundhog Day in America ... Will Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow or not?  Will there be 6 more weeks of winter or are spring temperatures just around the corner?!  

Recently I read an article about the origins of Groundhog Day, and it mentioned that the original winter-predictor was actually the HEDGEHOG, but when German settlers came to America, few hedgehogs were to be found so they watched the next best thing:  the native groundhog.  

In German, a groundhog is translated as Murmeltier.  I am no expert on its origin, but I can tell you that the German verb murmeln means to mutter or to mumble!  (The noun Murmel is translated to be a marble.)  I prefer to envision a groundhog muttering around to himself as he is awoken at the crack of dawn by a crowd of boisterous people who force him out of hibernation to make a non-scientific prediction of the weather forecast for the next 6 weeks.  HOW RUDE!

The hedgehog is der Igel in German.  I wrote a little more about the word Igel during my Projekt:  A bis Z posts last year.  The word is pronounced:  ee-gehl.  

All of this said - and guess what?  Upon further research and "google-ing," I found that Wikipedia states that the Germans did NOT substitute the groundhog for a hedgehog but that the tradition in the Old Country had been to use a BADGER as a winter weather predictor!  The German word for badger is Dachs.  

The Pennsylvania Dutch were immigrants from German-speaking areas of Europe. The Germans already had a tradition of marking Candlemas (February 2) as "Badger Day" (Dachstag), where if a badger emerging found it to be a sunny day thereby casting a shadow, it foreboded the prolonging of winter by four more weeks.

Protestant Germany

The Candlemas was a Catholic festival officially eliminated by the Protestant Reformists, but it had been retained and continued to be celebrated by the folk.
The weather-predicting animal on Candlemas was usually the badger, although regionally the animal was the bear or the fox.  The original weather-predicting animal in Germany had been the bear, another hibernating mammal, but when they grew scarce the lore became altered.
Similarity to the groundhog lore has been noted for the German formula "Sonnt sich der Dachs in der Lichtmeßwoche, so geht er auf vier Wochen wieder zu Loche" (If the badger sunbathes during Candlemas-week, for four more weeks he will be back in his hole).  A slight variant is found in a collection of weather lore (bauernregeln, lit. "farmers' rules") printed in Austria in 1823.
(Source for above information is Wikipedia.)

Personally, no matter what animal has the best odds of correctly predicting our next 6 weeks' forecast, I am hoping for SPRING WEATHER as soon as possible.  How about you?

Monday, January 29, 2018

Germany's Other Side: The Tale of Hans Schemm

For the most part, I choose to focus on what is scenic, historical, cultural, and deliciously gastronomic about Germany.  However, for those of us who are German, it is unavoidable that the past catches up to us occasionally if we know much about our ancestors, especially those who lived during the "Hitler years".  My own German family, at least on my mother's side, suffered much because of World War II.  I don't know everything about them, but I know my grandmother - and my great grandparents along with 9 children - had to flee from their beautiful homeland of East Prussia because the Russians were taking over the territory brutally and barbarically.  My father lost his father on the Russian front when he was about 8 years old.  My great-uncle spent many years in a prison camp in Siberia (and lived to tell about it!).

I am sure there are things I don't know - and don't want to know.  I have had glimpses of relatives who embraced the Nazi party and joined its ranks.  I don't want to glorify that in any way ... and yet, there are facts about that time that can provide a glimpse into German life of that mostly awful time period.

I have copies of the pages of a Frauenkalender (women's calendar) from 1942 that show how the Nazi propaganda was spread among the German people.  A quote from the week of March 1-7, 1942, is loosely translated OUR RESPONSIBILITY:  The bodily and psychological carrier of the family is the mother.  The foundation of her thinking and will must be racial pride.  An aged wise man said:  "Give me better mothers and I give you a better world."  The fortune of the world lies anchored in the nursery. 

This quote is credited to Hans Schemm.  Herr Schemm was a teacher, a chemist and a Nazi. As early as 1923, after he met Adolf Hitler on September 30, his loyalties were to the National Socialists for whom he grounded a National Socialist Teacher's Federation.  He was clearly antidemocratic, anti-Jewish, and anti-communistic.  He used his influence through newspaper articles and teaching to spread his Nazi message and gain support for the party.  He was rewarded with a seat in the Reichstag and was made a SA Gruppenführer and Gauleiter (provincial governor under Hitler).    Hans Schemm's influence ended when he succumbed to his injuries following an aircraft crash on March 5, 1935, a date which the calendar page above commemorates.  He was honored by having numerous halls, schools, and streets named after him.

(The legend of the above coin says, "haltet einander die Treue" which means
"Hold true to one another.")

If you are a student of history, you know that the Nazis wanted large - and strong - families.  Mothers of pure Aryan background were of highest value and almost considered "breeders".  Children were esteemed.  Hans Schemm said, "Those who have the youth on their side control the future."  Ironically, as far as Wikipedia states, Hans Schemm only had one son, born in 1917, perhaps because he contracted tuberculosis during World War I and was unable to father more children.

This too is part of German history ... Looking back, we now know the entire story, how seemingly innocent and sweet calendar pictures of a mother and baby were actually used to promote a dangerous, tyrannical, and racist regime, which affected millions of people very, very adversely.  I feel it should be mentioned - out of interest - out of historical context - and so that we may learn to never allow such atrocities to creep into our world again.