Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Place They Called Home — Children of Holocaust Survivors gain German Citizenship

Our book A Place They Called Home will be out on Monday, December 10. On this day at 6.30 pm, there will be an introduction at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York, at 15 W 16th St (near Union Square). Leo-Baeck-Director Bill Weitzer will be speaking, as well as Yale historian David Sorkin and the editor of the book, Donna Swarthout, a writer with a graduate degree in political science from UC Berkeley who lives in Berlin.

A Place They Called Home. Reclaiming Citizenship: Stories of a New Jewish Return to Germany is a story collection by twelve children and grandchildren of Jewish Holocaust survivors, the majority of them Americans, who have become German citizens. Among them are Rabbi Kevin Hale, a Massachusetts-based Sofer engaged in the writing, restoration and appraisal of Torah scrolls, Yermi Brenner, an Israeli-American and the grandson of Alice Licht, the companion of a blind Berliner who saved hundreds of Jews, Sally Hess, an award-winning Ballroom dancer and former Instructor in the Arts at Princeton who lives in New York, and Pippa Goldschmidt, an Edinburgh-based scientist and writer known for The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space.

The book is a 208 pages hardcover that also comes out as an ebook. It includes a background chapter on the citizenship law. It is available at independent bookstores, Barnes & Noble and The suggested price is $19.95.

Hardcover, 208 pp
Dimensions: 6‘‘ x 9‘‘
ISBN 978-1-935902-65-2 
Suggested Retail $20 / ebook $9.99

Friday, November 23, 2018

Yes, Victoria, There is a German Thanksgiving!

We hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and wish you a joyful start to the holiday season!

Although Thanksgiving is widely known as an American tradition, other countries have similar occasions to give thanks and celebrate a harvest. Germany has a so-called Erntedankfest, which roughly translates to “thanks-for-the-harvest-festival”. Although it is not as widespread as American Thanksgiving, the Erntedankfest is a religious holiday celebrated in the Catholic and Protestant churches, often in rural areas.

The Erntedankfest is often celebrated during the first Sunday in October, but the date may vary and can take place much earlier or later. This year, the festival took place on October 6. During this celebration, churches decorate their altars with sheaves of wheat and fruits of the harvest. Some regions may have a small parade, music, dancing and a country fair. People sometimes choose to decorate with an Erntekkrone (“harvest crown”), which is a wheat wreath built up on a pole and decorated with ribbon and paper flowers. This harvest festival is less common in big cities and usually consists only of a church service.

But whether you’re celebrating German Erntedankfest, American Thanksgiving, Canadian Thanksgiving, Argentina’s Fiesta Nacional de la Vendima, Swaziland’s Incwala, the message is the same: give thanks for what you have and celebrate with loved ones.                  

Nicole Glass, The Week in Germany


Monday, November 19, 2018

Letters to Santa — You Can't Start Early Enough!

Christmas is just over a month away, which means you should start writing your letters to Santa soon! Where should you send them? Well, some people send their letters to the North Pole. And others send them to Himmelpfort.

The tiny German village of Himmelpfort is located 60 miles north of Berlin. Although it has a population of only 500, it has one of the busiest post offices in Germany (relative to its population, at least). For the last 34 years, the town has been receiving letters to Father Christmas.

This year, the Himmelpfort post office has already received more than 12,000 letters to Santa. Hundreds of thousands of letters come in every holiday season – so this is just the beginning. Father Christmas and his 20 volunteers in Himmelpfort promise to personally answer every letter that arrives before December 16.

But why are these letters arriving in Himmelpfort in the first place?

It all began in 1984, when a few children mistakenly sent their Christmas wish lists to Himmelpfort. The translation of the village’s name is “Heaven’s Gate”, and they kids assumed that this is where Father Christmas lives. When the local postwoman saw the letters, she decided to send back a reply “from Santa”. Once the children received a response, more children excitedly started to send letters to Himmelpfort, starting a trend that continues to this day.

Today, the Deutsche Post (the German Post Office) sets up an official Christmas Post Office in Himmelpfort for two months each year, bringing in volunteers to answer letters from children in 16 different languages. If you or your children would like a response from Santa, don’t send a letter to the North Pole - send it to Himmelpfort instead!

Nicole Glass, The Week in Germany

Friday, November 9, 2018

Herr Wendriner Under the Dictatorship / 80th Anniversary of Kristallnacht

Today is the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, or, as it is also called, Pogromnacht that happened on November 9 1938 in Nazi Germany. The famed Weimar writer Kurt Tucholsky gives you an early glimpse of these times in this piece from 1930, printed in Die Weltbühne.

Didn’t I tell you not to talk so loud? There are storm troopers outside the cinema… can’t you see? Get out now. How much is it? I guess it’s not going to rain, it’ll hold up. Come on in. And shut your mouth now! Oh, I beg your pardon… Be quiet now. Where are our seats… ? First row… wonderful. All right—put your coat down over there, now your… give it to me.
“Previews. That’s only a preview. We’ve seen that one anyway—it’s… Regierer! Say, that’s a good one! What are you doing here? What, in the boxes? Oh, well, the upper crust. hee, hee.… Oh, on passes. No kidding? Say, Regierer has two extra tickets he couldn’t use. Welsch is coming too. Let’s join them in the box. Wait, we’ll come and join you… here… take your coat for a second… . Ah! Here we can talk at least.
“That was the newsreel. Parade in Mecklenburg. Big crowd, huh? Plenty of militia in here—you know, it actually feels like something is missing when they’re not around. It does. You get so used to them. Fine looking fellows, some of them. Hell, I think it’s kind of nice, come to think of it. Isn’t it, Hannah? There’s something festive about it. Sure there is. Well, Regierer, what’s with you? What do you say? We’ll see? That’s what I always say. You know, things don’t look so bad to me. When did I see you last? Two months ago… in September… . Well, there you are. Remember what a panic that was? You can’t help feeling relieved because it’s over… now at least you know what’s what. Some atmosphere we had then… my wife put me to bed for four days, that’s how run-down I was. Who would have thunked? Here on the Kurfürstendamm there wasn’t a sign of anything. Say, look—that’s Gebühr, Otto Gebühr. They say he had an offer from France a while back; they wanted him to do Napoleon. He wouldn’t do it. He says the only part he’ll take is Dr. Goebbels or perhaps Frederick the Great. Good actor. Real big right now. Big time for me, too! I… I voted Staatspartei that time because somebody had to take responsibility… and the party had the right outlook. That’s right. Did Welsch really vote Centre? Meshuggeh. I’ll ask him later. Anyway, things aren’t so bad. I‘ve been talking to a businessman from Rome and he says, compared to Rome, this country is positively free. You’ve got your yellow pass, haven’t you? Sure, we’ve got our yellow pass. Ten years? I’ve been living in Berlin for over twenty years, so they gave it to me right away. Intermission now. Shush! Say, take a look at that dark-skinned fellow down there! Some Polish Jew, I’ll bet… lemme tell you something, with kikes like that there’s a reason for anti-Semitism. Take a good look at him. Disgusting fellow. What surprises me is that he’s still around; why don’t they kick him out?… Well. I can’t complain. On our street everything’s in perfect order. We’ve got a very nice storm trooper on the corner, a real nice fellow. When I go to work in the morning, I slip him a cigarette—he salutes as soon as he sees me coming; salutes my wife too. What did they do to you? What is Regierer saying? They knocked his hat off? How’d that happen? Well, in that case, my good friend, you’d better raise your arm! The way I feel about it is, if that flag’s our national symbol you’ve got to salute it. Shush! Powder keg? I guess so. Do you think I feel quite safe? Every morning my wife rings me up at the office to see if anything is wrong. So far nothing has happened. Say, that was good just now, did you see it? The fellow pretended to be blind when he’s actually deaf. Well, lemme tell you something… you shouldn’t speak his name out loud… I’ll tell you. About this H.—even if he does come from Czechoslovakia—he sure knows the German mind. At any rate, we have order. That’s one thing we’ve got. As long as you’re a citizen and got your yellow pass, nothing happens to you… you’re under the protection of the state… they’re very logical about these things. One thing you’ve got to admit: they know how to put on a show. Fantastic! What? Like the other day on Wittenbergplatz. The way they came marching up with their flags and all that music. Under the Kaiser it was no bett… . Welsch! You’re a little late! Half the picture is over. Sit over here. No, not on my hat! Sit on Regierer’s hat… it’s not so new.
“Nu, Welsch, what’s what? Let’s have a look… now I can see you better. You look fine. Say, is it true you voted Centre? Here come two from Security. Shush!… It is true that you voted Centre? Meshuggeh. Sure, the Centre did have Karewski on its list, but that’s Jewish business. We… not so loud! Keep your voice down, that’s all I ask. Don’t get me into trouble—times are too serious for that. After all, they’re perfectly right in expecting us to maintain a certain decorum in public. Perfectly right. It’s starting again. That’s Kortner—see, they let him act. I’m telling you, it’s really not so bad. Don’t you agree? Of course you do. Cute little number—take a look! We were just talking about H. With him at least you know he isn’t going to break into your safe. With the Communists I don’t know. Or rather… I know too damn well. Yes, right now they can’t move a muscle; they’re out flat. Serves them right, too. My dear Welsch, a politician’s business is to be successful; otherwise he’s no politician. The same goes for a businessman. That’s realpolitik. Let one handle politics and the other the realities. Am I right?
“Newsreel again? Well, why not? Shush! When they’re showing those pictures, you shouldn’t talk. Let them have their fun—it’s not so bad. Anyway, it’s good camera work; the other day we saw him from quite close; he was standing there with his lieutenants… No! Goebbels is out… Didn’t you know that? Yes, sure he’s very popular. Maybe that’s why. H. keeps his eyes open. Goebbels wanted to speak in the Wintergarten… but they wouldn’t give him a permit.
“Today it was a little weaker. A little weaker. Why? With the stock exchange, it’s no use asking. The stock exchange has a nose… don’t ask why. Those fellows have a flair; when things go well they don’t say a word and make money, and when things go wrong they drive everybody meshuggeh. Afterward they’ll tell you they knew what was going to happen all along. Charming picture, take a look! Say, did you see that? Those French soldiers running in all directions… ? No, that couldn’t happen in Germany. What was I saying? Well, even if some people are beefing, if you ask me, the thing has its good side. How so? What do you mean? What has that got to do with the war? What has the Young Plan got to do with the war? Go on! Did we start the war? All we did was cheer. And when it was over we didn’t have any butter. Aw, don’t tell me. Since when does a nation have to pay for losing a war? It’s bad enough we lost it; the other side won, let them pay for it! My dear Welsch… I have… I am… shush!
“I expected… my dear Welsch… I expected certain things just the same as you did. All right. And now that I see it isn’t the way I expected, I’ve got to admit that this system has its good side too. I mean, it has its historical justification—go on! You can’t deny that. It has its… that is, I mean, the city does look different. And the foreigners will be back soon enough, out of curiosity. You’ve got to hand it to them: those boys have something. I don’t know what it is, but they sure have got it.
“That’s the end. So let’s go home. Oh yes… the Horst Wessel song first. What are you gonna do—you’ve got to take part in it. The English sing their national anthem after the theatre, too, so we Germans sing a different song… . Marschiern im Geist in unsern Reihen mit.… Oh well.
“Beg your pardon… tsk, tsk, tsk… it’s raining. So, it’s raining after all.
“Wait a while… maybe a taxi will come along. You wait under the marquee; I’ll watch for a taxi. That’s not a Sturmtruppführer, it’s a Gauführer… .
“I know the insignia. Get out of the rain. When it rains you should take shelter. Do we have to get wet? Let other people get wet. Here comes a taxi.
“Shush! Get in.”

Germany? Germany!
Satirical Writings:The Kurt Tucholsky Reader.

By Kurt Tucholsky
Translated by Harry Zohn
Foreword by Ralph Blumenthal


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