• The Swiss and the Muslims

    The Swiss, known for cheese, Alps, watches, chocolate, and secret bank accounts, at least two of which are full of holes, have now added a sixth important product: intolerance.  57.5 percent of its 8 million population, or of those who went to the polls, voted to forbid minarets next to Muslim mosques. As nearly everyone […]

  • SPD — Buridan’s Ass?

    It recalled ancient Greek tragedies.  The Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), founded in the 19th Century, is the country’s oldest party, and now its saddest one.  On September 27th it suffered its worst election defeat since 1897, losing six million former voters and ending up with only 23 percent of the vote.  It had […]

  • The Fall of the Wall

    I hate to sound like the grouchy Grinch.  Here in Berlin radio and TV are celebrating the Fall of the Wall twenty years ago so intensively there’s hardly a moment for the weather report, which, unfortunately for all the planned events, turned out nasty and rainy.  From my window I just watched the fireworks’ brave […]

  • A Nazi March Near My Home

    Today, close to my Berlin home, I saw a frightening march of Nazis, calling themselves the Nationale Sozialistische Partei Deutschlands — leaving out only the word Arbeiter (Worker) from the name Hitler used.  Several thousands of them, almost all in black, many skinheads but also many all too normal-looking youngsters (and a smattering of very […]

  • Germany: Turn Left or Right?

    October 7th marked the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the German Democratic Republic, and the media let no one forget it!  Sarcasm prevailed, the attacks were all-embracing and almost interrupted, the only GDR relics spared in the attacks were the TV Sandman broadcasts for children, the jolly green and red figures on traffic lights […]

  • Germany: The Chancellor Wins; So Do the Ragamuffins

    Much of the media complained that the German election campaign was dull; after all, the two main opponents had worked together in a coalition for four years and generally agreed or compromised on most issues.  Dull or not, however, it had three important results. Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) will remain in […]


    The religious struggle in Berlin which ended Sunday with joy for some and great disappointment for others was primarily a political battle, even though it dealt with schools and religious lessons.  Many Berliners never did understand the complicated issue.  For an outsider to even try, a few German peculiarities need explaining. First of all, church […]

  • Kaiser’s Class Justice

    She’s called Emmely; her real name is Barbara E. — with the family name omiited in line with legal practice here.  All over Germany people are talking about her, most frequently with anger in their voices.  For Emmely, a cashier in East Berlin, was fired by her discount store employer for allegedly filching 1.30 euro […]

  • Dresden and the Nazis

    A large-scale anti-fascist action in Dresden last weekend ended with brutal violence.  February 13th has for years been a day of solemn ceremonies in this city on the Elbe, the capital of Saxony.  It marks the date in 1945 when British and American planes destroyed the heart of Dresden, a treasure chest of baroque architecture […]

  • Elections in Hesse

    Sunday’s special elections in the German state of Hesse were the first in a year jammed full of state and national votes.  The two main results: the right-wing incumbent Ronald Koch won again; and the young party, the Left, again overcame the 5 percent barrier to win six seats in the state legislature. In the […]

  • In Crisis, Germans Remember Das Kapital and GDR

    Yes, the big economic crisis is hitting Germany, too.  The evidence includes the hasty meetings of top politicians and the decision by the government coalition of Christian Democrats and Social Democrats to save the suffering banks with 500 billion Euros in credit. Another piece of evidence: Karl Marx’s famous book Das Kapital is selling better […]

  • How the Crisis Saved the German Railroads

    The rolling stock of the German railroads, due to be peddled off to the highest stock market bidders on October 27th, has been saved, at least temporarily, and is still nationally owned.  That seems to be the one possible bit of good news in the present economic crisis.  All the rest is bad. The railroad […]

  • Austria, Bavaria, and Brandenburg Go to the Polls

    Bavaria, Germany’s largest state, borders on Austria: both have countless Alpine peaks, lots of men in lederhosen, and many right-wing Roman Catholic traditions.  Both had elections on Sunday.  Before nightfall many an otherwise happy yodeler showed tightly compressed lips and a grim look. In Austria the main parties, the conservative Austrian People’s Party and the […]

  • Crisis in Germany’s Social Democratic Party

    The big weekend blowout in Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) demonstrates how to cut off your nose to spite your face.  In a series of small, smaller, and smallest secret gatherings, the party leaders — facing a disastrous seepage of members and voters because of their switch rightwards in recent years — got rid of […]

  • An Antisocial Social Democrat

    A former top leader of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) has been saved from expulsion and possible disgrace, and Germany’s oldest party, founded in 1863, has huffed and puffed its way out of one more pothole.  Wolfgang Clement, 68, once the powerful economics minister in the cabinet of Gerhard Schroeder, now on the board of […]

  • Obama in Berlin

    I attended the big rally with Obama in Berlin Thursday evening, not as a press representative but as one of the crowd.  And what a giant crowd it was!  The news reports counted “over 200,000,” but, to someone sandwiched in so tight I could hardly lift my hand to scratch my itching nose, much less […]

  • Key Contrasting Congresses in Germany

    Three all-German congresses were held this past weekend, all important but very different. The bad news first: The beautiful old city of Bamberg hosted the national congress of the National Party (NPD) — the main neo-Nazi party.  All attempts to bar it from the city’s Congress Hall foundered on a Bavarian court decision, since the […]

  • May Day in Germany: Rightists, Leftists, Greens, and Neo-Nazis

    May Day remains a national holiday in Germany.  So does Jesus’s Ascension Day (whose German name, I’m afraid, is Himmelfahrt) and this year, for the first time in many years, both occurred on the same day.  Less pious males frequently celebrate the religious holiday with markedly sexist outings of loud tipplers, often on horse-drawn wagons […]

  • Hamburg and the Horns of a Dilemma

    There was plenty of suspense Sunday evening in Hamburg, Germany’s second biggest city.  Would the mayor, Ole von Beust, win a majority again and keep ruling the city-state without requiring support from any other parties?  Or could the Social Democrats, possibly with the help of the Greens, overtake him and regain control of a city […]

  • Fear of the Left Cripples German Defense Chiefs

    What a difference a party on the left can mean! US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, at the annual International Security Conference in Munich, stepped up pressure on Germany to send more troops to Afghanistan and commit them to active fighting there, not only in the currently more peaceful north but in the battle-ridden south […]