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News from Germany

by John Noack

Angela Merkel new Chancellor of Germany

Angela Merkel was sworn in as Chancellor on 22 November. Her biography by Professor Gerd Langguth indicates that she was born in 1954 at Hamburg. Her father Pastor Horst Kastner moved the family to a small village in Brandenburg in East Germany, where her father had to milk goats and her mother had to make broth from stinging nettles. Although young, the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 left a political impression on her. She joined the Free German Youth and worked at a research institute. Once the wall came down in 1989, she first joined the Democratic Awakening and then the Christian Democratic Union, in which she supported a free-market economy and encouraged a rapid reunification of Germany (The Age 19 Nov 2005).

Berlin’s Wall Trail

The 160 kilometre long Berlin Wall, which surrounded former West Berlin for 28 years, in now a Wall Trail or Mauerweg for bikes and pedestrians. It features signposts and gardens and the remnants of the Berlin Wall are now viewed as “a memorial against violence, tyranny and the abuse of power”. This project began in 2001 and so far has cost $A9.5 million (The Age, 22 Oct 2005).

Hoyerswerda’s Decline in Population

Hoyerswerda was the heart of coal production in former East Germany and had a population of 70,000 in the 1980s. Today, it is 43,000. Although new industries, including Porsche, Motorola and IBM, are being introduced, these new high-tech plants employ fewer people. Plans are underway to turn the vast coal-pits into lakes, to provide recreation and water sports for tourists. (The Age, 15 Sep 2005).

Life Tasks

A team of German scientists reported in Geo Wissen in October how long a typical 78 year old person in the West has spent performing various activities. These include 24 years asleep, 11 years of personal hygiene, 7 years working, 5.5 years watching television, 5 years doing dishes and 6 months in traffic jams (Herald Sun 24 Oct 2005).

Du Bist Deutschland

The Nutzwerk IT company in Leipzig has instituted a “no grumbling” policy and requires its workers to put on a happy face. Company head Ramona Wonneberger points out that “in Germany, it’s typical to be angry about everything”. Norbert Kathmann of Berlin’s Humbolt University observes that “Germans tend to put anything negative right up front and then complain about it”. This positive policy has extended nation-wide into the feel-good campaign called Du Bist Deutschland or “You are Germany’ (The Age, 11 Nov 2005).

A German Sumo Wrestler

Torsten Scheibler from Germany is 2.01 metres tall and weighs 199 kilograms. This helped him to win a gold medal in a Sumo wrestling tournament at Osaka Japan. He also entered the “Battle of the Giants” held in Madison Square Garden New York in October. (The Age, 22 Oct 2005).

Nine German Tourists killed in Austrian Alps

Three adults and six children from Germany were killed when their cable car, which was carrying them between Rettenbach and Tiefenbach glaciers at Soelden in Austria, crashed onto the ground. A helicopter flying above with a load of concrete blocks in a tub destined for a construction site in Tyrol, had lost this load, which then fell and crashed onto the cable cars and cable below. Soelden near Innsbruck is a popular ski resort and Austria has about 3,000 cable cars (Herald Sun 7 Sep 2005).

A Singing Iceberg

Scientists from the German Alfred Wegener Institute for polar and marine research
have found a singing iceberg. A recent Science magazine informs us that these scientists located a 50 by 20 kilometre iceberg that had collided with an underwater peninsula and was slowly scraping around it. The water pushing through the crevasses and tunnels at high pressure has created acoustic signals, producing a tune that goes up and down.
The sound waves have a frequency of 0.5 hertz, too low to be heard by humans but by playing them at higher speed, the iceberg sounded like an orchestra warming up (The Age, 26 Nov 2005).

Digital Dreams

Artist Ulf Langheinrich presented his audiovisual work Drift, Waveform and Light at ACMI during October. This work aimed to test the limits of perception and to induce an altered state of reality. The artist was born in Wolfen-Bitterfeld in former East Germany. He spent his first two years in hospital with a severe ear condition, which influenced his later exploration of sounds (The Age, 12 Oct 2005).

German Village in South Korea

During the 1970s, about eight thousand South Korean men went to work in the mines in West Germany. This awareness of Germany inspired the authorities in Namhae County, South Korea, to erect a German Village. This included cobblestone streets, red-tiled roofs, white walls and conversation in German (The Age 15 Aug 2005).

A German Nobel Prize for Physics

Theodor Haensch from Germany joined two Americans Roy Glauber and John Hall in receiving the Nobel Prize for physics for work in optics, enabling extremely accurate measuring of time and distance. They showed how light can measure time more accurately than an atomic clock (The Age, 5 Oct 2005).

Athletes seek $19 million compensation

An estimated 800 athletes, who were part of East German athletic teams until 1989 and who were given the blue anabolic steroid pill Oral-Turninabol, developed serious ailments. Now 190 athletes are launching a $19 million case against its manufacturer Jenapharm and some are suing the German Olympic committee. Such doping was against the law of the then GDR but practiced for national prestige and to demonstrate the superiority of communism. The above legal action follows the collapse of this communist system (The Age, 2 Nov 2005).

 Soccer clears the air

German soccer has joined other institutions in examining its behaviour during the reign of the Nazis, when it excluded players on racial grounds. Historian Nils Havemann has written Fussball underm Hakenkreuz (Soccer under the Swastika) in order to present the historical facts and to help in clarifying the past to visitors to the World Cup. (The Age, 15 Sep 2005)

Socceroos experience royalty!

During the World Cup, the Socceroos stayed in the 45-room Wald und Schlosshotel in Friedrichsruhe, about 75 kilometers north of Stuttgart. The palace was originally built in 1712 but about three decades ago, descendants of the Wurttemberg royal family converted this summer palace into a hotel, including a Finnish sauna, a gymnasium, outdoor and indoor swimming pools and a golf course.
This Swabian region is a wealthy area and Prince zu-Hohenlohe-Oehringen still owns land there.
The Socceroos played their games in Munich, Stuttgart and Kaiserlautern so this location at Friedrichsruhe was most convenient. (The Age 19 Jan 2006).

A Woman in Berlin

In 1945, when the Russian army entered Berlin, a German journalist aged 32 who remained anonymous began a diary. She recorded what she experienced, including being raped by soldiers. Later, she tried but was unsuccessful in having the diary published and she died in 2001. This diary has now been published by Virago. It is considered to be authentic by wartime specialist Anthony Beevor and it is promoted as “one of the essential books for understanding war and life” (The Age, 3 Sep 2005).

Tragedy strikes Australian cyclists

Six Australian female road cyclists were in Germany training for the Thuringian Rundfahrt (Tour of Thuringia) road race when they were involved in an horrific road crash. All riders were struck by an out-of-control Honda Civic driven by Stefanie Magner near the village of Zeulenroda, about 80 kilometers south of Leipzig. Amy Gillet was killed, most of the others had serious injuries and the Premier of the German state of Thuringia Dieter Althaus extended to them a message of condolence (The Age 20 July 2005).

Louise Yaxley is undergoing rigorous rehabilitation after having her wrists and elbows shattered and she may never ride again (The Age 3 Dec 2005). However, Alexis Rhodes and Kate Nichols were able to ride in the Bay Cycling Classic at Williamstown in January 2006 (The Age 5 Jan 2006).

The greatest German.

Following the BBC’s Great Britons contest, won in 2002 by Winston Churchill, Germany’s ZDF television station in 2003 polled 1.5 million German to determine the greatest German. Konrad Adenauer polled best and was viewed as selfless and incorruptible. Amongst the top ten were Martin Luther, Albert Einstein, J.S.Bach, Karl Marx, J.W.Goethe, Otto von Bismarck and Sophie and Hans Scholl. Gerhard Schroeder was 82nd (The Age 29 Nov 2003).

Saxon Glory

The painting of Crown Prince Frederick Augustus of Saxony, a ruler of the Saxon Wends, was used as the backdrop to the launch of “NGV Kids” summer program. Children donned white wigs during this Totally Wigged Out segment (The Age 3 Jan 2006).

Some flames of unrest

By 9 November 2005, more than 5,000 cars were torched in France during riots staged by children of immigrants; only 5 were torched in Berlin. Norbert Seitz, director of the German Forum for Crime Prevention, reported that German state and local governments as well as the police “made big efforts to create youth services and build relations with migrant groups”. A leader of the May 1968 student uprising in France and now a German member of the European Parliament, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, has stated that “Berlin Kreuzberg (where many of Germany’s Turkish migrants live) is an island of happiness compared to the situation in France” (The Age 9 Nov 2005).

Germans rescue China’s terracotta warriors

8,000 terracotta warriors were created in 221BC to accompany Emperor Qui Shihuangdi when he died. He was buried at Xian and his tomb later collapsed, covering the statues with lime and mud. They were unearthed in 1974, but the paint peeled as the water evaporated. Professor Heinz Langhals of Munich’s Ludwig Maximilian University and his team found a way of replacing the water with alcohol which attracts water and prevents the varnish from drying. A special glue is then inserted (The Age 29 Nov 2003).