Marcel Reich-Ranicki

Marcel Reich-Ranicki met his wife Theophila in the Warsaw ghetto. They escaped together, walking away from a freight train, and were hidden for years by friends and strangers. But the rest of his family was killed by Nazis in World War II. Yet after the war and, as tagesschau.de said, after having witnessed the complete breakdown of the ethics of the German people, Mr. Reich-Ranicki decided to live in Germany and pursue a life devoted to literature there. He was a literary editor at Die Zeit and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, among others, and discovered television late in life where he contributed wonderfully to, as many have said after his death this month at the age of 93, the education of the German people, “Volksbildung.” His television show “The Literary Quartett” was watched by millions each week. His polite public refusal of the German Television Award in 2008 is popular YouTube viewing to this day:

“Ladies and gentlemen. In my life, and in the fifty years I’ve spent in Germany—a bit more than fifty all told, I spent my youth in Germany as well, in Berlin. In those many years I have received many literary prizes. Very many. They included the highest ones, such as the Goethe prize, the Thomas Mann prize, and some others. And I always said thank you for these prizes, as you should, and, please forgive me when I speak openly: it didn’t present any difficulties to me! To say thank you for these prizes! But today I’m in a very bad situation. I must react somehow to this prize I have received. And [?] said to me, please, please, please, don’t say anything too rough! Yes. (Laughter.) Truthfully. I don’t want to aggrieve anyone, insult or hurt anyone, no. I don’t want to do that. But I would also like to say very openly that I will not accept this prize.”

Apparently he concluded each Literary Quartett episode with a quote from Bertold Brecht: “Und so sehen wir betroffen den Vorhang zu und alle Fragen offen.” This can be translated as “and so we see, deeply moved, the curtain closed and all questions open,” yet if Fragen were not capitalized it would completely change the meaning of the sentence, turning it into the preface “and everyone openly questioning” anything that followed his show. ZDF heute journal’s Marietta Slomka said Mr. Reich-Ranicki is also said to have said, “I don’t want to bore myself.”

Update on 01 Jun 2014: The city of Frankfurt/Main held a celebration in the Paulskirche commemorating what would have been Marcel Reich-Ranicki’s 94th birthday. Some of the speeches will be printed in the Feuilleton of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 02 Jun 2014.

“Den kleinen Kreis der Kenner zu einem grossen Kreis der Kenner zu machen”

Much-loved words of Bertold Brecht in the 1930’s. He said, “What is democratic is turning the small group of people ‘in the know’ into a large group of people ‘in the know.'”

(Dane   KLY nen   k rice   dare   kenner   tsoo   eye nem   GROSS en   k rice   dare   kenner   tsoo   MOCHH en.)

“Wir brauchen keine Volksarmee, wir brauchen Butter!”

“We don’t need a People’s Army, we need butter!” The East German uprising of 1953  will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary on 17 June 2013. To spread the word about the general strike on 16 June, people went through the streets of East Berlin the night before calling out where and when to meet, as well as slogans like this one. During the day East German protesters apparently used loudspeaker cars and bicycles to communicate between strikes in the central and outlying districts, while the strikers themselves got around on public transportation such as trams and the metro. Wikipedia says a West Berlin radio station reported about the East Berlin strike, probably helping the protests spread to other East German towns.

Bertold Brecht wrote a poem about 17 June 1953 called “The Solution.”

After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts.
Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

(Vir   brow chh en   k eye neh   FOLKS arm ae,   vir   brow chh en   BOO ter.)

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