• Humpty-Dumpty and the Fall of Berlin’s Wall

    “Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty-Dumpty had a great fall.” The children’s rhyme and its words Wall and Fall came to mind in connection with commemorations of the fall of the Berlin Wall — actually its opening up.  Is such an allusion frivolous?  Maybe.  For millions, that event twenty-five years ago was marked by genuine, […]

  • Losing Heads and Sending Arms

    Two famous heads got lost in Berlin.  Neither loss, I hasten to add, was connected with brutality.  From the past or near future, they caused melancholy or rejoicing, depending on your viewpoint. One loss really occurred twenty-two years ago, when the 62-foot red granite statue of Lenin on East Berlin’s Lenin Square and Lenin Allee […]

  • Sour Pickles and Sour Grapes

    When politicians vacation and little action is expected, the words German journalists use for such summer doldrums is “Saure-Gurken-Zeit” — “sour pickle time.”  Since German often squeezes things together into what Mark Twain called “not words but panoramas,” it’s usually written with no break, “Sauregurkenzeit,” and may be derived from the time before the harvest […]

  • Across the Atlantic: A Month in the USA

    What a trip!  I had last visited my American home country three years earlier; some things hadn’t changed much, some things had.  As ever, piled high, were many contrasts and contradictions. My first goal was my class reunion (the 65th!!!), partly in the Harvard Yard, sober and dignified even when filled with thousands of new […]

  • Political Parties, Left, Right, and Purely Satirical

    During my month in my home country, the USA, things kept moving along on this eastern side of the Atlantic.  I must try to catch up! In early June Europe had to digest results of the European Parliament elections — and choke down some pretty revolting clumps.  Far-right groups took alarming leads in France and […]

  • Germany’s Left Party on the EU and NATO

    Running up a down escalator is itself mighty difficult.  Trying to keep your footing both on an up and a down escalator at the same time is simply hard to imagine.  Yet it gives an idea of Germany’s present Ukrainian policy. Soon after Soviet soldiers left East Germany between 1989 and 1994, the newly-unified country […]

  • Europe’s Future — Wanna Bet?

    There are many TV talk shows in Germany, sometimes hot, often vacuous.  But the one on January 16th hit the roof, with far more people watching it afterwards via Internet than at the time it was aired.  And their comments, by the thousand, were mostly pounded away in great anger! A main cause of such […]

  • Europe’s Future — Wanna Bet?

    There are many TV talk shows in Germany, sometimes hot, often vacuous.  But the one on January 16th hit the roof, with far more people watching it afterwards via Internet than at the time it was aired.  And their comments, by the thousand, were mostly pounded away in great anger! A main cause of such […]

  • GroKo Politics: No Change of Key in Germany

    Some suggested the German “Word of the Year” should be “whistleblower” — in the Denglish language here breezily called “Neu-Deutsch” (“New German”).  But chosen instead was “GroKo,” headline shorthand for “Grosse Koalition,” a term used constantly during three months of wrangling between Germany’s two biggest parties, once seen as “irreconcilable foes,” to form a nice […]

  • Germany: Fast Food, Slow Decisions

    Let me begin with food — fast food.  Let me invite you in.  Looking around, there’s no denying it: this is Burger King.  It could be in Augusta, ME, or Anaheim, CA, and the fatty Whoppers taste the same.  But it’s not — most customers here speak German, some maybe Turkish (the biggest minority).  For […]

  • Germany: Threats of Violence, Hopes for Votes

    All summer the threat of violence was in the air in Hellersdorf.  This borough on the outskirts of East Berlin, once a huge site of modern high-rise buildings aimed at solving East German housing problems, provided homes for nearly 130,000 people.  After “the Wall went down” many high-rise buildings were cropped from eleven to five […]

  • Interdom at Eighty: Reflections in Russia, on Dreams Old and Renascent

    Russia, as travelers have noted over the centuries, is immense.  Most of it is far from large bodies of water.  And yet, in a first visit after many years, I came upon some unusual islands right in the heart of the country.  But they were not islands in the geographic sense.  Some were children’s islands. […]

  • Stumble Stones in Germany

    The late, late snow has finally disappeared from Berlin’s streets.  Visible once again, here and there, are the “stumble stones” — Stolpersteine in German. Many Berlin tourists will enjoy the night life.  They may also look upwards — at the giant TV tower, the Brandenburg Gate, at ancient and less ancient churches.  There is a […]

  • For the Finance Minister of Germany, Crisis Is a “Necessity”

    Angela Merkel’s face usually displays a rather plain, friendly, almost benign expression, matching her simple, benign words.  But in rare unguarded moments, some claim, they glimpse a very hard visage, which is matched, equally rarely, by hardly benign words, like her annoyed statement that Cyprus was “exhausting the patience of its euro partners.”  Yes, Angela […]

  • The Resistible Rise of a New One-Party System

    Conversation in Germany these days, when not about soccer, dealt often with beef which was part horsemeat, high-priced organic “bio” eggs which weren’t all they claimed to be, or, in thrilling, moving detail, the last weeks, days, and hours of the one and only German Pope (since 1058 A.D.). Also under often heated debate was […]

  • What Would Karl and Rosa Say?

    First, a glance at long-past history — at the American hero Friedrich Wilhelm Augustin von Steuben, known as Baron Steuben.  In many ways he was really a phony.  His noble title and rank as “Prussian Lieutenant General” were inventions; he had really been dropped from Friedrich the Great’s army as a lowly captain.  That he […]

  • Where Is the Left in the Austere Germany of the “Patriots”?

    Things in Berlin are all really up in the air!  No, cancel that!  Just the opposite; they are grounded — indefinitely!  That giant new hub airport for Berlin, named after Willy Brandt, was due to be opened last June after weeks and months of ballyhoo.  But it wasn’t.  Something was not quite OK with the […]

  • What’s Behind the Growth of Right-Wing Hatred in Germany?

    No, it wasn’t shredded wheat.  This shredding was not of breakfast food and has been much harder to digest; it was evidence on serial murder!  The related biliousness is all the more painful due to a worrisome new survey of rightist hatred in Germany.  But first some background. For a year now the case of […]

  • What Have We Learned Since the “Forgotten Holocaust”?

    Decent news to begin with: Near Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate a memorial was finally unveiled to mark the murder of approximately 500,000 Roma people (often called Gypsies) in Nazi death camps.  The decision to erect it was made in 1992, the year a pogrom in the East German city of Rostock was unleashed when Roma refugees […]

  • German Politics and Vitamin B

    What has Vitamin B to do with politics?  For the answer you must learn a little German, at least one key word.  “Beziehungen” — with a capital “B” — means connections, especially good connections.  It’s smart to have lots of “Vitamin B,” and not just the pharmacy kind! Now here’s a man whose pockets seem […]