Sunday, December 20, 2015

Advent, Advent .... Happy Birthday, Leipzig!

Advent, Advent .... today, December 20, is not only my birthday, but also the birthday of Leipzig, the German city that was the home of Johann Sebastian Bach, Martin Luther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Richard Wagner, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Clara and Robert Schumann, and Erich Kästner (among many other musicians and writers). Leipzig has turned" one thousand years on December 20, 2015. This is how our book Leipzig: One Thousand Years of German History, by Sebastian Ringel, describes the first mentioning:
"December 20, 1015, was probably a rather uncomfortable Wednesday in the middle of the Middle Ages and all in all not much different from most other days at the time. No one likely even suspected the day would become an important one. Thietmar, the bishop of Merseburg recorded the date in his Chronicle, however, but not because he wanted to mention Leipzig for the first time. One of his colleagues had died. “Then the valiant Bishop Eido was taken ill after returning from Poland with splendid gifts,” he wrote, “and his faithful spirit returned to Christ in the urbs Libzi on December 20.”
So, granted, Leipzig MUST have existed before December 20, because otherwise, how could Thietmar have talked about it, but this is how city birthdays are celebrated. So, here is you gift: If you buy the book on our website, you will get 5 dollars off. And, as always, if you sign up for our newsletter, you will get a free ebook.
And, of course, you will also get a picture....sadly, we don't have one of Thietmar, since selfies were not commonplace in 1015, but here is a pic of Dietrich the Oppressed, who governed Leipzig in 1217 (and who was not so much an opressee than an opressor).

Your Publisher, Eva C. Schweitzer

Friday, December 18, 2015

Advent, Advent .... Today is the day when West Berliners used to get Christmas presents!

Advent, Advent . . . this is your picture for December 17. This was a very important day for Berliners for a number of reasons. On December 17, 1963, the government of the German Democratic Republic and the West Berlin Senate agreed on the Passierscheinabkommen, ratified with the four Allies who governed Berlin. The Passierscheinabkommen made it possible for West Berliners to go to the Eastern part and visit their relatives. Until then, traffic had been cut off by the Wall since August 1961. This was a huge Christmas present for Berliners. 
The first crosspoint to open was Oberbaumbrücke, the bridge crossing the Spree, but only for foot traffic. Cars as well as the subway were still suspended. 
Nine years later, on December 17, 1972, the Transitabkommen was signed. This allowed Germans to drive from West Germany to West Berlin while transiting through the GDR without (much) border controls. Everybody does remember the words spoken by border guards, "Do you have children on board? Weapons?"
You can learn more about this in our books Berlin in the Cold War, by Thomas Flemming, and The Berlin Wall Today, by Michael Cramer

And here are your pics for today, Obeerbaumbrücke in 1963 and today!

Your Publisher, Eva C. Schweitzer

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Advent, Advent ... Mark Twain in Berlin on December 8, 1891.

Advent, Advent ... Mark Twain, the famed American humorist, spent half a year in Berlin, from October 1891 to March 1892 — unfortunately, the winter half. On this day, he sent his first letter to a man who would become his best  friend in Berlin: Rudolf Lindau, a sixty-two-year-old diplomat, adventurer and also a novelist. Twain would soon call him “Rudolf the incomparable” and “one of the head saints in this family’s calendar.” Lindau was born in 1829 in a village near Berlin, to a lawyer of Jewish faith and the daughter of a pastor, he attended the Lycée Bonaparte in Paris. Later, he traveled to Italy, England, and the Netherlands. In 1860, he left Marseille for East Asia via Egypt, Ceylon, Singapore, and Hong Kong, by ship and train. From Shanghai, he went to Japan, Saigon, Macao, and Vladivostok, all the way to California. In 1873, he became Bismarck’s press secretary in Paris but returned to Berlin when the Iron Chancellor stepped down. Twain wrote to him: 

“I am delighted and beg to name Wednesday, as that is the only unengaged evening I have this week.” Four days later, he thanked Lindau for a dinner in the latter’s home at Sigismundstrasse (west of Potsdamer Strasse) that was “too delicious & too exquisite in every way for mere sinful human beings,” and continued, “All through, it was an ideal evening, in ideal quarters, with ideal helps of all kinds to make it perfect.”He also announced that he had “soaked an old cob pipe in whiskey all the morning, for you.” And in an undated letter, presumably from the same week, he wrote, “Yes, time is flying—let us be old friends right away! I’m with you there, and thank you for suggesting it.”

And here is your pic: Rudolf Lindau, when Twain met him 

.. and as always, if you sign up for our newsletter, you will get the ebook "Berlin - The Chicago of Europe," by Mark Twain.

Your publisher Eva C. Schweitzer

Advent, Advent ... the Days of Hanukkah!

Advent, Advent .... these are the days of Hanukkah. Here is a picture from Jews in Berlin, by Andreas Nachama, Julius Schoeps and Hermann Simon — this is the cover of Jüdisches Berlin, the monthly paper of the Jewish community at the Oranienburger Strasse synagogue, taken by Judith Kessler, who also wrote the recent update of the book. Enjoy!

And that is not all: On Hanukkah, Chabad Lubavitchers are lighting the menorah at the Brandenburg Gate, with the Major of Berlin. Here is a pic from the book when Klaus Wowereit was Major.

And this is the book! As always, sign up for our newsletter and get a free ebook.

Your publisher, Eva C. Schweitzer

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Advent, Advent! ... how to Make Berliners

Advent, Advent! Today is December 6, the day St. Nikolaus comes, and with him — at least in the Southern part of Germany and Austria — Krampus. If you were nice, Nikolaus brings you an orange and some cookies, if you were naughty, Krampus would either bring you a piece of coal or spank you. Well, these were the old days; kids today get a Star Wars action figure; and a piece of coal might severely traumatize them. You, however, will be getting a recipe for Berliners, those jelly-filled specialty people from Berlin call Pfannkuchen, from our Berlin Cookbook, by Rose Marie Donhauser!

And here is your recipe!

2 cups +  3 tablespoons flour
1 yeast cake (3 1/4 tablespoons)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup lukewarm milk
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
grated lemon peel (from 1/2 .unprocessed lemon)
3 egg yolks

For the work surface: flour
For the filling:
jelly or jam or your choice
(apricot, cherry, raspberry, etc.)
oil for deep frying
powdered sugar for dusting, or sugar for dredging

1) For the dough, sift the flour into a bowl and make a depression
in the middle. Crumble yeast cake into the depression, 
add sugar and milk. Dust with a little flour from the edge;
chop butter and distribute around the edge. Cover the bowl
and set aside to rise in a warm, draft-free place, about 30 minutes.

2) Knead the dough with the salt, lemon peel, and egg
yolks. Cover again and let stand 1 hour.

3) Knead the dough well on a floured work surface and flatten (or roll out). 
On half the dough, punch out circles with a glass or cup.
Put a teaspoon of jam or jelly in the middle of each circle.

4) On the remaining half of the dough, use the glass or cup to surround
and cut or punch out more circles of dough; place these over the tops of the first circles
(the ones with the jelly), and the edges together,
to seal circles (the ones with the jelly), and the edges together.

5) Turn the donuts over on a floured work surface and cover with a cloth; let sit about 30 minutes. They should rise noticeably.

6) Heat the oil to a boil (360 degrees). Place the donuts in the oil, a few at a time, 
and fry until golden brown and crispy on both sides.

7) Let the oil drain off the donuts through a sieve.
Dust immediately with sugar or powdered sugar.
Tip: These taste great with a rum glaze—stir together 3/4 cup powdered sugar 
with 1 or 2 tablespoons of rum until smooth;
spread over the top of each donut.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Advent, Advent .... People of the world, don't abandon this city!

Advent, Advent ... on December 5, 1948, Ernst Reuter was elected mayor of West-Berlin, the legendary Social Democrat who asked the "people of the world," to not abandon Berlin. Reuter, born in 1899 in what is today Denmark, was a former Communist. In 1933, the Nazis put him in a concentration camp; he spent World War II in Turkish exile. Reuter made his speech due to the blockade of West Berlin, when the GDR, together with the Soviets, closed the streets and the railways to West Germany. The blockade led to the Berlin Airlift and it got Reuter on the cover of Time Magazine. This was also the end of the immediate post-War period and the beginning of the Cold War.
Today you will get two pics; one from Berlin 1945, by Michael Brettin, and one from Berlin in the Cold War, by Thomas Flemming, from Berlin's past that is still visible today.

Your publisher, Eva C. Schweitzer

Friday, December 4, 2015

Advent, Advent .... December 4, 1943.

Advent, Advent! December 4 is an important date for Leipzig, the city that was home to Bach, Luther, and Goethe, and whose former mayor Carl Goerdeler had been executed by the Nazis for being in the resistance. On that day in 1943, the city was bombarded by the American and British air force, a strike that destroyed or damaged many buildings, including the church of St. John, the church of St. Matthew and the church of St. Thomas, where Bach played the organ, and killed 2000 people. Here is more from our book: Leipzig. One Thousand Years of German History, by Sebastian Ringel.

On December 3, 1943, at 3:58 a. m., a cascade of light and so-called Christmas trees—lights hung on parachutes to mark bomb targets—lit up the city. A spectacle ceremoniously announcing the beginning of the destruction. In the next moment, the first flight squadrons crossed a sky that was lit up as bright as day, from north to south, dropping bombs to break up the roofs. The entire city center shook with the resulting concussions. The force of countless detonation store windows and doors off their hinges and crumbled the mortar in basement walls, where men, women, and children clung to each other in the dark, seized by mortal fear. When the hellish noise waned twenty minutes later, silence descended. There was no all-clear signal since the sirens had been destroyed. Despite the explosive power, only a few buildings collapsed. The actual destruction was yet to come. In a corridor three miles long and almost a mile wide, from Uferstrasse in the north down to Connewitz, about five thousand fires were blazing.....

Your publisher, Eva C. Schweitzer

Thursday, December 3, 2015

“Just a Minute!”

Advent, Advent! This is our Advent calendar up to December 24. Today, on December 3, 1926, Kurt Tucholsky took over the helm at Die Weltbühne, the weekly magazine he was working for, after Siegfried Jacobsohn, the longtime editor and friend, had died. Jacobsohn was a left-wing theater critic in Weimar Germany, and Tucholsky became one of most important journalists, satirist and political writers of the Weimar Republic. He was an acerbic critic and an early warner of the Nazis, but most of all, he was a very funny writer with a huge audience; Berlin's Jon Stewart, so to speak.

So here is your gift: Not only do you get a free e-book with a Tucholsky-story about the inner workings of the Weimar theater business if you sign up for our newsletter at, here is also one of his stories about Berlin, written under one of his four pseudonyms, Peter Panter, translated by Cindy Opitz.

“Just a Minute!”

Peter Panter, Vossische Zeitung, January 1, 1927

It’s a wellknown fact that a Berliner, left to his own devices, will sit staring at the ground, deep in thought, and suddenly jump up, as if bitten by a tarantula, and ask, “Is there a phone around here?” If Berliners had never existed, the telephone would have invented them. It is above them, and they are its creation.

Imagine a bold young man trying to interrupt a serious businessman during some important negotiations. He won’t be able to do it. Halberds will block his path. Private secretaries will hurl themselves in front of the door; the only way through will be over their dead bodies; any attempt by that still-so-bold young man will fail. If he doesn’t call. If he calls, he can disturb the President’s governing, the editor-in-chief’s editing, and Madam’s fitting. Because in Berlin, the telephone isn’t a mechanical device: it’s an obsession.

When people pound on their doors, Berliners simply won’t open them. But if that little phone rings, they’ll dismiss the most noble visitor, mumbling in that obsequious tone usually heard only among pious sectarians, “Just a minute!” and throw themselves, keenly interested, into that little black speaker-cone. Business, midwife, stock exchange, settlement negotiations—all forgotten. “Hello? Yes? I’m__.Who are you?”

It’s impossible to talk to a Berliner for fifteen minutes without being interrupted by a telephone. How many punch lines fall flat! How much built-up energy flies out the window! All that negotiative cunning, coaxing, and beautifully devious planning in vain! The telephone wasn’t invented by Misters Bell and Reis—V-Vischer filled the box with all its treachery. It only rings when you don’t want it to. How often have I experienced the powerful speech of some visitor convincing the entire room, approaching the summit, victory within reach, hooray, one last step. . . and the telephone rings, and it’s all over. The fat man at the desk, already three-fourths hypnotized, his double chin sinking down over his tie, his lower lip jutting out, relaxed, an iron mask lowering over what he passes off for a face. His hand suddenly gripping the receiver, he forgets his companion, business, and himself. “Dinkelsbühler speaking; who’s this?” Zealously whirling in foreign waters, he’s entirely captivated by this other, unfaithful to his companion of just a minute ago, completely submitting to deceit and betrayal.

His companion is the stupid one. He sits there vacantly, empty, the pathetic, just-uttered word dribbling pointlessly from his mouth, like an old flag in an armory, the banner of some troop long gone. He sits there, ashamed, naked and disoriented, a dull, unfulfilled desire simmering inside. 

What now—?

Now the fat man at the desk talks for a long, long time, the way everyone talks on the phone in Berlin, and there’s only one person talking more: the person on the other end of the line, who must be gushing like a sizable waterfall. The man at the desk gazes thoughtfully at the blotter, his eyes wander to the inkwell, stare vacantly, and then stray to the bald head of the abandoned companion. He even starts doodling, stick figures and shapes, and judging by the quivering membrane of the receiver’s speaker, the guy on the other end must be shouting entire dictionaries into the phone.

The guest wriggles impatiently in his chair at the first signs that the conversation might be ending. “Well, then. . . ,” “All right, let’s plan on it. . .” The guest’s spirits rise, the way a concertgoer’s soul rushes ahead to the coat check when the orchestra gets ominously loud and the conductor flaps his wings to draw more and more brass into the din. . . but there’s still a ways to go. They continue on for quite a while, heading toward the end again and again, but the end doesn’t come. The waiting man feels a growing urge to hit the man on the phone over the head with the Commercial Code. “All right, then—good bye!” He says, and finally hangs up.

And that’s the worst moment of all. The light in the deskman’s eyes switches off with a nearly audible snap. He turns to his abandoned companion with a wink and a feeble expression on his face. “So, where were we?”

You start over from the beginning. You gather up the broken pieces of your conversation from the floor, take a deep breath, and try to get back into the swing of it. . . good night! The momentum is gone, the cleverness is gone, and the desire is gone. The discussion dwindles lamely. You’ve accomplished nothing. And this by her song’s sheer power Fair Lorelei has done.

The reader puts the book down with a quiet smile and thinks for a moment. He jumps up like a deer on the run. The Mona Lisa smiles up from the floor. He rushes to the telephone . . .

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Advent, Advent...!

Advent, Advent . . . there is a German tradition called the Adventskalender, a calendar that gives you a picture, or a gift (or a piece of chocolate) every day leading up to Christmas. So, Berlinica will give you a picture, or poem, or a valuable piece of information from a book every day on our Facebook page at

There is also a gift for everybody who signs up for our newsletter; an e-book either about Mark Twain in Berlin, or a famed story by Kurt Tucholsky, The Times are Screaming for Satire.

In addition, we will raffle off two e-books among friends and fans of Berlinica on our newsletter list: One copy of Wings of Desire — Angels of Berlin, by Lother Heinke, and one copy of Leipzig! One Thousand Years of German History. Bach, Luther, Faust: The City of Books and Music, by Sebastian Ringel, both of which are beautiful books with many color pictures. Leipzig will turn 1000 years on December 20, 2015, so this is the occasion. Also, if you want to buy the print book, you can now do it directly from out website. We are selling Leipzig! with a 20% discount from its list price of $24.95, including shipping, so, it's only $20.00.


Erik Kirschbaum, author of Burning Beethoven. The Eradication of German Culture in the United States During World War I; which deals with the experience of German-Americans during the war, has been mentioned at the History News Network by Roy E. Finkenbine, Professor of History and Director of the Black Abolitionist Archive at the University of Detroit, Mercy. "My own German-American ancestors experienced many of these changes wrought by the war. The Finkenbines left Baden for the wilderness of western Ohio in 1833. For more than eight decades prior to the conflict, they worshipped, prayed, memorized Luther’s Small Catechism, conversed, courted, studied, raised families, farmed, and conducted business in German. Wartime paranoia about the “Hun” radically altered their behavior." Read the whole text here.

Your publisher, Eva C. Schweitzer


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