Footpaths that follow the old narrow water irrigation channels down the beautiful Dolomite mountains in southern Tyrol, among other places.

(VAUL vega.)

Preußisches Heeresarchiv in Potsdam, Zentralnachweiseamt für Kriegerverluste und Kriegsgräber in Berlin

The “Prussian Military Archive” in Potsdam and the “Central Registry Office for Warrior Losses and War Graves” in Berlin.

These archives were destroyed by bombing in 1945, making it harder to research German participation in World War I. This according to historian Jesper Zedlitz.

Mr. Zedlitz analyzed 31,000 pages of official “losses lists” from W.W.I by crowdsourcing them to hundreds of volunteers who were interested in learning about their ancestors. The 700 volunteers indexed about 90% of the pages.

The German Reich published these lists from 1914 to 1919. They contained the names of people killed, wounded, missing and captured. The names weren’t in alphabetical order, but sorted by military unit: regiments, batallions, companies, etc. Also, the Prussian, Bavarian, Württembergisch and Saxon armies, the Kaiser’s Navy and the Kaiser’s Protective Troops all kept their own counts and published separate lists. The lists were in tiny print, in the difficult obsolete “Fraktur” fonts, in three columns with about 300 entries per page.

Mr. Zedlitz said during the war many errors were made in the many steps between dictating the names in the field and publishing the losses lists in Berlin. Handwriting was involved. Typesetting keyboards were also different from today’s qwerty keyboards, and so typical typesetting errors involved switching different letters.

Observations from the accessed data:

In 1917 they stopped publishing the identifying date of birth, presumably because this would tell the enemy that the German army was sending soldiers into the field who were too old and too young. The Navy’s losses lists included very sad descriptions of unidentified dead sailors who washed up on beaches, with details to help in possible identification.

Unknown No. 191. On 26 Aug 1917, a body washed ashore on the seacoast near Bangsaa (Thisted district, Denmark), floating in a white-striped unmarked lifesaver. The dead man wore a shirt, embroidered wool suspenders, underpants, gray wool socks, jackboots, blue jacket, and blue trousers with a buttoning trapdoor, whose buttons were stamped ‘Kaiser’s Navy.’ On the outside of the right forearm was an anchor and a figure supposed to represent the bust of a woman. On the inside of the same arm, was a complete portrait of a woman, extending from the elbow to the wrist. The middle finger of the left hand was tattooed with a signet ring. On the middle finger of the right hand was a wedding ring engraved with ‘T. Henne 07.'”

(PROYSS ish ess   HAIR ess archh eef   in   POTS dom,   tsen TRALL NOCHH vice omt   fir   CREE gah feah LOOSE tah   oont   CREEGS gray bah   in   beah LYNN.)

Kaufen Sie jede Woche vier gute bequeme Pelze xy 12345467890

“Buy four good comfortable furs every week.”

A German version of the test sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

Still readable on telex printouts in 17 kilometers of underground Cold War bunkers built in the Eiffel region. The largest complex was built in the Ahr valley near Bonn as an underground city for the federal government to move to in case of nuclear war, in two former railroad tunnels, with room for several thousand people.

Some of the bunkers have been opened to visitors. There will be several guided tours this summer and in the summer of 2015, visiting the federal government’s complex, an underground communications center and a shelter built for North Rhine-Westphalia’s central bank.

(Cow fen   zee   YAY da   VOCHH ah   fear   GOOT ah   beck VEM ah   PELTS ah.)


“Backgrounded,” simply providing background or written with knowledge of background to fit into the larger world outside the text; yet dictionaries say this translates into English as deep, profound, cryptic, enigmatic, ulterior. Also subtle.

(HIN tah GRIN dichh.)

Das Feuilleton fährt fort

The Feuilleton
Goes on and on.

In a charming discussion of the state of the section of German newspapers that falls somewhere “between the people’s education and corporate publishing,” Süddeutsche Zeitung said this traditionally has been understood as a part of the paper that contained “cultural interest, alert/awake/astute contemporary-ism*” and “literarily inspired writing that simultaneously has lightness and sharpness/focus.”

The principle of the feuilleton is spreading, said Süddeutsche, into diverse areas that include sportswriting and fashion reporting. “Only with special, original, witty, backgrounded texts will you make progress against the tempo of the internet.”

* German’s delatinized calque for contemporary is “time comrade,” and so the nouned Zeitgenossenschaft is a bit of a play that reads as a time association, time confraternity or time cooperative.

(Doss   fight ɔ̃   faired   FOTT.)

Präsenzhandel, Parketthandel

“Open outcry,” criée trading, a century-old form of exchange in which brokers stand in a pit screaming and gesturing at each other.

Präsenzhandel means “presence trading,” and Parkett is the old-fashioned parquet floor.

(Pray ZENTS hond ell,   pah KETT hond ell.)

Ritter der Kokosnuss

“Riders of the Coconuts,” the calqued German title of the film
“Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
Rider is the German word for a knight.

In German, the British writers’ Romanized French soldiers hurl slightly retailored insults at Romanized British soldiers from the (Scottish) castle ramparts:

“I don’t feel like talking with you any longer. You karstified English
fresh-beer-drinker! I fart on you, pig priests! If it were up to me, you would never enter the European Community!” Ha HA!

The film’s medieval class conflict comedy is complicated by verbs conjugated in a You form that no longer exists in English:

Michael Palin: Come (all you folks) here and see the violence on which the system is based! Help! Help! I’m being subdued!

Graham Chapman: Blöder Bauer! [Stupid farmer/peasant!]

Michael Palin: Hooo, now he shows his true character, did you (all) hear that? He’s a proper exploiter. Did you (all) see how he suppressed me? Did you see it?

(RITT ah   dare   COCO snoose.)

Ökolöwen Leipzig

Ecological Lions of Leipzig, an East German environmentalist organization.

There’s an 1990 interview with them in a documentary film called “MITGIFT mit Gift” which shows before and after pictures of the terrible environmental damage East Germany inflicted on itself while attempting to meet its planning goals “in the clash of the systems,” as ZDF heute journal moderator Claus Kleber said.

The large hole in the ground at the beginning of this clip is not a giant coal pit but an open uranium mine, in Thuringia.

(Ə co LƏ ven   LIPED sig.)

Erste erfolgreiche paneuropäische Bürgerinitiative

“The first successful paneuropean citizens’ initiative” was handed in to officials in Brussels, who said they were overjoyed to be meeting with privatization opponents to mark such a happy milestone for grass roots democracy in Europe. They were serious.

The group Right2Water collected 1.6 million signatures protesting new rules that would have made it easier to privatize European water utilities, and in ways large companies would have dominated. Not only was theirs the first initiative to meet the Lisbon agreement’s requirements but “who knows what would have happened” without the discussion Right2Water created, said Süddeutsche.de. In response to the signatures campaign, the commission officials under Michel Barnier canceled plans to enable privatization of municipal water utilities with bidding open to companies from all of Europe. They announced public water utilities would not be subject to the internal market’s liberalization rules.

Currently, a citizens’ initiative that fulfills the Lisbon agreement’s criteria of collecting >1 million signatures from at least seven Member States will get a hearing from the European Parliament and from the European Commission. The European Commission is obligated to issue a statement in response within three months, so in this case by 19 Mar 2014.

Right2Water organizers made three demands: that all Europeans have a right to water and basic sanitation, that the E.U. push internationally for universal access to water, and that the potable water supply not be subjected to the interior market’s rules.

The group clearly achieved some progress on the third demand, preventing the worst from happening for the time being. Regarding the second demand, European parliament president Martin Schulz (S.P.D., Germany) recently caused a scandal in the Israeli Knesset by asking why the discrepancy between the per capita water volumina available to Palestinians and to Israelis.

(Eh ah stah   eh ah FOAL gry chh ah   ponn oy roe PEI ish ah   BIR gah ee nee tsee ah TEE vah.)


“Advance decision process.”

For the first time ever, Germany’s supreme court, the Bundesverfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe, sent a case on to the European Union’s supreme court, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. It was for a “decision in advance” on a lawsuit brought in Germany by members of the C.S.U. and Leftists political parties together with other groups, about whether the policy of the European Central Bank announced by Mario Draghi (Goldman Sachs) of buying theoretically unlimited amounts of debt from Member States would be exceeding the Bank’s current brief by redistributing money to countries that hadn’t cleaned up their governments yet. It’s also feared if left unlimited the policy might put the E.C.B. in the hazardous position of becoming a “bad bank” on behalf of the banks in the troubled countries whose debt it was buying.

Süddeutsche.de reported that this sort of debt purchasing, which a government must promise to cut costs and carry out structural reforms in order to receive, has never occurred, but the announcement that it was possible calmed the markets in 2012. Spiegel.de made it sound more like the structural reforms and cost cutting were linked to aid from the Euro-Rettungsschirm, the “euro rescue umbrella” bailout programs, but repeated that the E.C.B. has never carried out any of these so-called Outright Monetary Transactions.

After the Bundesverfassungsgericht receives the decision of the European Court of Justice on these questions, said the Spiegel.de article, it will then decide its own case. And here are four ways the Bundesverfassungsgericht said in its 52-page submission that the European Court of Justice might deal with the Bundesverfassungsgericht’s concerns:

  • “The bond purchases should not undermine the policies of the bailout funds [Rettungsschirme] which link loans to clear conditions such as savings programs and reform programs.”
  • “The E.C.B. would have to rule out the possibility of a debt haircut [Schuldenschnitt] for the purchased bonds, because in the end a haircut would mean financing of the country.”
  • “Individual Member States’ bonds may not be bought in unlimited amounts.”
  • “The E.C.B. should influence so-called pricing [Preisbildung] as little as possible by buying bonds shortly after their emission by the States.” Apparently the E.C.B. previously agreed to limit O.M.T.’s in this way to some degree by agreeing to not buy bonds immediately after emission and to follow purchasing time frames that will be defined in a guideline that will not be made public.

(Fore OB ent SHY doongs fair FAR en.)


Wonderful pan-European website of digitized photos and documents about World War One from libraries, archives, online submissions and, among other things, family history roadshows taking place in many European cities. Now available in the languages Danish, Dutch, English, French, German and Slovenian, the website’s collections are intended to tell the stories of regular people, “simple soldiers,” and their families who were involved in the “war to end all wars.” The collections, research and electronic documentation have been going on for three years now. Organizers said this might be the world’s largest collection so far of European WWI items from private owners, i.e. the families involved. It is intended to “show, well, perhaps unity in suffering,” said historian Frank Drauschke.

Even public school systems that teach more than 0–1 year of history have problems with societal forgetting, it seems. As part of their commemorations of the centenary, German television news programs recently did street interviews with German high school students asking basic facts about the First World War but discovering a shocking lack of answers. Apparently teaching the atrocities of World War Two to German schoolchildren has over time come to overshadow teaching about its causes and its first iteration.

This Europeana.eu project also seems wonderful because it probably preserved so many materials by digitizing them and posting them online. It saved the stories of descendants who still remember why each item is important. The format allows people to see the war from inside more than one of the countries that participated in it. While providing jobs to historians and translators!

Bahntunnel unter dem Bosporus

Rail tunnel under the Bosphorus strait, being called the Marmaray Connection.

A tunnel for trains opened between Europe and Turkey! ARD tagesschau.de said it was a joint Japanese-Turkish project that found many archeological treasures, including old ships from sunken armadas.

(BON toon ell   OON tah   dame   BOSS pore us.)

Aufenthaltsgenehmigung vs. Aufenthaltserlaubnis

“Residency permit” vs. “residency permit.”

The names of the documents that are so important for noncitizens living in a German-speaking country have changed over time and space. Some are preliminary documents acquired in order to acquire the documents you need to acquire the main permit. Some are obsolete. Some have been Swiss or Austrian, or, perhaps one day, could be an official German-language translation of an E.U. residency document.

German<>English legal dictionaries list several other names of German-language residency permits:

Aufenthaltsbefugnis, Aufenthaltsberechtigung, Aufenthaltsbewilligung, Aufenthaltsgestattung; and Aufenthaltstitel has been an umbrella term for these docs since 2005 in Germany.

An Aufenthaltsduldung [“residency toleration”] is a temporary stay of deportation.

(Ow! fenned HALL ts geh NAME ee goong   vair seuss   ow! fenned HALL ts erroll OW! b niss.)

Schattenhaushalte vieler katholischen Bistümer

Shadow budgets of many Catholic bishoprics in Germany.

An incident made the news which in turn made people aware that Catholic bishops in Germany appear to have large discretionary funds, sometimes, whose contents and disposition are not transparent.

The incident happened to be the scandalous new bishop’s residence in Limburg, originally approved for 2.5 million euros but now at 31 million and possibly costing up to 40 million ultimately as the digging and draining that proved so unwieldy and expensive for the site itself may turn out to be endangering the stability of historical buildings around it. Limburg has been settled since at least the Stone Age and has Roman ruins dating back to before the Roman empire became Christian in 380 C.E.

In tumultuous economic times, especially when Germans see more reasons to worry about their traditional issue of inflation, moving cash into real estate may be a wise investment. But the Limburg bishop’s motivations appear not to have been entirely practical ones. He was also caught subsequently perjuring himself about church finances, according to procecutors in Hamburg.

An ecclesiastical friend gossiped to me that the Limburg bishop’s shadow budget or discretionary fund was about 90 million euros because his predecessor was a saver.

In addition to reporting details about the bishop’s construction projects, which were hidden behind an expensive high stone wall and included designer gardens, conference rooms, housing for nuns (as domestic servants?), a chapel, the bishop’s own apartment and an underground relics room, reporters have also used this opportunity to explain the history of how Germany got to its strange semi-separation of church and state whereby the states collect a “church tax” and distribute it to the dioceses (income tax is collected state-by-state in Germany). After Napoleon invaded some German principalities and enacted legal reforms, in 1803 the so-called Reichsdeputationshauptschluss or “German mediatization” according to Wikipedia stripped the officially recognized churches of their property but set up annual payments—almost pensions—to the churches to compensate for the loss. Now, two hundred years later, the government still pays compensation [Staatsleistungen] to the bishoprics—my ecclesiastical friend said these obligations were eliminated for dioceses smaller than bishoprics during the last decade or so—for the church property technically confiscated in 1803. The state also pays churches Staatsleistungen for the social services the churches provide, such as day care. Also, anyone who ticks a box marking themselves as Catholic or Protestant on their mandatory registration form with the local police will automatically owe church tax [Kirchensteuer]. People voluntarily do this because they feel religious, they want to get married in a church in addition to the standard civil marriage in the town hall, or, especially, they are desperate for preschooler day care which was mandated but not provided in Germany until 2013, when actual penalties went into effect for towns that didn’t provide enough day care. Money for saving and maintaining wonderful old church buildings, bells and organs also comes from the state in these forms. Such income streams are how German cathedrals are kept heated in winter despite being giant stone piles with ceilings 20 meters above the floor ducts.

German news reported that the transparent public budget of German Catholic bishoprics includes taxpayers’ voluntary church tax [Kirchensteuer], collected and handed over by the government, for free, and the government’s own payments [Staatsleistungen, several hundred million euros annually] as rent on the property seized in 1803. Bishoprics’ untransparent private budget includes income from e.g. real estate, stocks, bonds, legacies willed to the church and interest income. ARD’s tagesschau.de reported e.g. that the Catholic bishopric of Würzburg said its private property was 271 million euros, and Cologne said it had 166 million euros. A political scientist and journalist disagreed with these numbers however, telling tagesschau.de that the Cologne diocese had three billion euros in cash and property, including an investment in a company that owned ~23,000 apartments, he told ZDF heute journal. The researcher, Carsten Frerk, published a 2010 book estimating annual subsidies of German churches at 19 billion euros and accusing churches of “false labeling” because, he said, nearly all the religious business they carried out was subsidized by government funds, taxpayers’ direct church tax and even N.G.O.’s such as Germany’s health insurance schemes. Mr. Frerk also noted that churches in Germany are exempted from paying property tax or tax on interest income and from many fees as well, while taxpayers can take church tax as a 100% deduction for which the government also receives no compensation.

Tagesschau.de reported that Hildesheim is the only Catholic bishopric that is fully financially transparent. Their books are published in their entirety, and kept according to the German Commercial Code [Handelsgesetzbuch]. ZDF heute journal reported that in the wake of the Limburg scandal 14 of Germany’s 27 Catholic bishoprics started publishing financial statistics about themselves that they hadn’t disclosed before.

To finally financially separate church and state in Germany, governments would have to make large 1803-concluding lump payments to the bishoprics which they feel they can ill-afford right now. Thus the situation continues.

Update on 09 Feb 2014: A report is expected soon from the Catholic church’s five-member commission investigating the financial scandal in Limburg. It doesn’t look good, said Spiegel.de. Construction costs of the bishop’s 2.5-million-euro residence will exceed the most recent estimate of 31 million euros. Some church foundation money [Stiftungsgelder] was diverted into the project; apparently this is mentioned because it was done improperly. Spiegel.de’s source used interestingly arcane words: The investigators managed to document possibly prosecutable [justitiabel] offenses, based among other things on information found in a “secret registry” [Geheimregistratur] found in a “conspiratorial apartment” [konspirative Wohnung] rented separately in Limburg, where the “most important documents” on the church construction project were found together with financial papers bearing the bishop’s signature which could be used as evidence. The commission’s report is supposed to go to the catholic bishops’ conference and the Vatican, but it would be nice if it were shared with the general public as well.

(SHOTTEN house halt ah   FEEL ah   cot OLE ish en   BISS toom ah.)

Seltene Sprachen und Dialekte, die über Crowdsourcing aufgenommen und gedolmetscht wurden

Researchers at the University of Melbourne have created a free app that lets speakers of endangered languages, whether encountered by academics doing field work or self-selected in networks of colingual neighbors and friends, use relatively cheap Android phones to record their speech. After the sound file is uploaded, people anywhere can listen, stop the playback at any point and record voice translations of the sentences into another language. The translation sound files are linked to the source sound files in the database, creating a vast verbal Rosetta stone that doesn’t require literacy to accomplish preservation and sharing. This archive of vocabulary, grammar and content—tales and histories—will be available for future linguists to explore, centuries from now.

In an interview about the project on Australian ABC Radio National, Dr. Bird said once the person demonstrating the software has explained how it works, it is older people especially in the village who are delighted and start recording story after story in these rare languages.

(ZELL ten ah   SHPRRROCHHH en   oont   dee ah LECKED ah,   dee   über   KRAUT sourcingk   ow! f geh nome en   oont   geh DOLE metched   voor den.)

Damnatio memoriae

Attempt to erase public memory of a politically out-of-favor person by rewriting official history.

Sehr beeindruckend

“Very impressive.” The excellent foreign correspondent Dietmar Ossenberg reporting from Tahrir Square on the night of July 1, only a few hours after the Egyptian military issued its 48-hour ultimatum for anti-Morsi and pro-Morsi protesters to find a compromise.

When asked what would happen Monday night, Ossenberg said he didn’t know.

“I don’t know. Peacefully, I hope. It is enormously impressive to see how once more hundreds of thousands of people are demonstrating in this square before the [?] palace, and really very peacefully. Despite the images we just saw of the Muslim Brotherhoods’ main headquarters. The people here are not letting themselves be provoked. They talked beforehand with young people, they practically did training for this, to make sure these mass demonstrations would happen peacefully. So it is really very impressive… We have experienced many historical moments here, but this is really very moving. A speaker for the Egyptian military said today that these are the biggest demonstrations, and peaceful demonstrations, that Egypt has ever seen. That is true in fact, and simultaneously an indication of what side the military will put itself on. I think the erosion process of the power of the Muslim Brotherhood has started. Today we had eleven resignations of ministers, which Morsi refused. But that doesn’t mean anything because these ministers will no longer be carrying out their official business. From the provinces, five provinces, there were reports that the governors’ offices are closed. So people are refusing to follow the central government. So I think the Muslim Brotherhood will have to pivot. They will have to try to approach the people with a compromise. That could be a referendum, for example, which was under discussion tonight in the Muslim Brotherhood, a referendum about whether or not Morsi should stay in office. But I can’t imagine that would impress the people demonstrating in any way, shape or form. So I think that within 48 hours we will not have an agreement, that the military will take over power in a soft coup d’état, perhaps for a transition period, to then together with all the parties, as the Minister of Defense said today, form a type of round table to define a road map for the future. I can’t imagine after the last 48 hours that Egypt’s history is not about to be rewritten again. The sole hope remaining for us, however, is that this happens relatively peacefully. But this year the army promised they would try to prevent violent conflicts. However, one must respond to that by saying that the people here relied once before on promises made by the military and were bitterly disappointed.”

(Z air   beh EYE n drook end.)


A tatterdemalion carpet of many colors, a rag rug, a patchwork quilt. As a metaphor it means a medieval landscape of organically-grown legacy laws that vary unpredictably between numerous small zones (whose locations and borders may also be unpredictable). These countries are fun to visit and very instructive to the historian.

Though most modern economies are trying to make their laws simpler, more uniform and thus more predictable for businesspeople, some are not rationalizing their inherited lawscape and some are even heading in the opposite direction.

(FLECK en TEPP ichh.)


“Shellack rarities,” rare old records. Hildesheim University is working with Teheran’s Music Museum of Iran to digitize thousands of old Iranian records, preserving them, cleaning up the recordings and making it possible to share them on a large scale. The first recording devices were brought to Iran by caravan about 100 years ago through Istanbul, reports the F.A.Z.

Hildesheim Uni’s Center for World Music has done this before. They worked with Germany’s Foreign Office to collect old records of popular music from markets in Ghana, Malawi and Sierra Leone, saving them and digitizing them. Now African radio stations can play their countries’ old music.

(Shell OCK rawr ee TATE en.)


“Storm of mummies.” Joschka Fischer was in the German Green Party the first time it managed to join a ruling federal coalition. He became foreign minister (Secretary of State). Years later it turned out the Foreign Office (State Department) had a cadre of elderly and/or retired diplomats who objected to the new government’s decision to stop publishing obituaries of colleagues who had been former nazis, egregious former nazis in the case they chose to start a ruckus over, in the foreign ministry’s small in-house magazine.

Joschka convened an international “Historians Commission” that spent five years researching the history of ex-nazis in the post-WWII German foreign service. They brought sunlight to a problem that had been made possible by, among other things, the fact that FO was the only cabinet ministry allowed to manage its own document archive and thus control and rewrite its own history; all the other cabinet ministries had had to submit their documents to a central federal government archive. Joschka was particularly irked by the following issue as well: there had been a few brave German diplomats during the 1930’s and 40’s who tried to resist the nazis; most were killed for their troubles; and they tended to be communists. After the war, many of the diplomats with a nazi past or who supported post-nazi colleagues pretended to have been in the resistance. Right wingers hiding behind the communists, Joschka called them. He also called their obituary-based revolution a “mummies storm” like in the Brendan Fraser movies.



“Structure built for viewing purposes.”

Investigations are still ongoing into the March 2009 collapse of the Cologne city archive, though it’s pretty clear that subway tunnel work caused the tragedy. The five-year statute of limitations will expire in only one year. Engineers and the district attorney are now working together to find out how exactly what occurred, including building a fascinating “viewing structure,” 30 meters deep, into the relevant subway support walls and possibly shifting soil layers. Which is good inter alia because the massive stone walls of Cologne’s 800-year-old cathedral, one of the world’s few ships of time, which were strong enough to survive WWII bombing may be being damaged by vibrations from a new subway tunnel that went into operation in December 2012.

Update on 18 Jan 2014: Cologne prosecutors filed charges against ~100 people, including employees of the office responsible for the project, Cologne Transport Services [Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe, KVB], and of three construction companies and one subcontractor firm, who were working as inspectors, planners, “projecters” and construction workers.

The Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger said the scenario currently favored by prosecutors for causing the collapse of Germany’s most important municipal archive is that there was a hole in the wall of the subway tunnel under construction, through which water continuously got into the tunnel, creating a hole between the tunnel and the historical archive.

Two people died in the collapse. Ultimately, about 95% of the (unique, irreplaceable) historical documents kept in the archive were recovered from the wet sinkhole, Spiegel.de reported, but it is estimated that it will take about forty years to restore them. The Cologne archive had ~30 kilometers of shelves. About 60,000 of the recovered Cologne documents have been distributed to multiple archives in Germany for restoration and digitization.

Update on 24 Feb 2014: Charges have been filed, but it may take years for the trial to start as engineering investigations continue. Spiegel.de said they’re now focussed on “lamella 11” in an underground “huge construction” called a “slotted wall” or “slurry wall” [Schlitzwand]. After a sudden flood of water bursting in from underneath was ruled out by an expert [a so-called hydraulischer Grundbruch], the current scenario is that lamella 11 may have been damaged during final tunneling work, “but although the foreman should have noticed it no notification was made to construction management” because, it is assumed, they wanted to be done. There was serious cost pressure to finish, among other pressures. In this scenario the records documenting the work may also have been manipulated shortly thereafter. Divers are now using the Besichtigungsbauwerk to search for more evidence, presumably contending with even more interesting pressure differentials as Seattlites discovered after the breakdown of our giant tunneling machine in December 2013.

(Beh ZICHH tee goongs BOW verk.)

Monarchische Kirche vs. demokratische Kirche

“Monarchic church versus democratic church.” German schools have to teach religion by law, and apparently this is the kind of discussion students are having about the Catholic church there.

(Moan ARCHH ish ah   kir chh ah   verse ooss   dame oh CROT ish ah   kir chh ah.)

“Eine kluge Erinnerungskultur”

“A smart memory culture,” what every society needs to devise in order to teach new generations about the past. What history shall we share, how will we communicate it, how will we refresh it? The theme of this year’s Buber-Rosenzweig award was “Giving the future a memory” [“Der Zukunft ein Gedächtnis“]. In her interesting speech at the ceremony, Dr. Charlotte Knobloch talked about “eine kluge Erinnerungskultur.” She quoted Hessian general district attorney Fritz Bauer, whose hard work made the Auschwitz trials happen, as saying “Nothing belongs to the past. Everything is present-day and can become the future again” [“Nichts gehört der Vergangenheit an. Alles ist Gegenwart und kann wieder Zukunft werden.”] and called for mehr Mut! More courage.

(Eye neh   clue geh   err IN err oongs cool tour.)


“Bear bitey.” A very important force behind the amazing success of the German Green party over the last three decades was Joschka Fischer, a high-school dropout and one of the world’s most amazing politicians. The director of a documentary about Joschka described his relationship with the media as “bärbeissig” but also said, “It wasn’t always easy, but it was always open.” When the Greens were governing Germany in a coalition with the SPD, and Joschka Fischer was foreign minister, I remember my surprise at how he would answer the questions journalists asked—not providing an answer to a different question entirely, as I had gotten used to since Reagan—and yet not make the situation worse. While speaking openly and well, he makes situations better.

There’s a new book by Joschka Fischer that came out in 2011 about the war in Iraq, which occurred while the Greens and SPD were in charge. Its title is taken from something he told Donald Rumsfeld: “Excuse me, I’m not convinced.”

16-second video on YouTube:

“You have to make the case. And to make the case in the democracy you must convince by yourself. Excuse me, I am not convinced. This is my problem. And I cannot go to the public and say, well, let’s go to war because there are reasons and so on, and I don’t believe in them!”

(Bear BICE ichh.)


“Onion tower,” the round domes on old towers in Russia, Bavaria and parts of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

(TSVEE bellll TOOR m.)

“Weltbürger, Wutbürger oder Passivbürger”?

World citizens, fury citizens or passive citizens“? 30 Jan is the anniversary of Hitler’s lawful accession to power via structural weaknesses in Germany’s first democratic government, known as the Weimar Republic. Discussion and analysis of whether Germany’s current democracy is structurally strong enough to resist international and national erosion factors included the commentary that a democracy requires sufficient numbers of democratic citizens who participate in it. Former Volkswagen C.E.O. Carl Hahn also said that citizens who travel and see non-democracies for themselves will prefer democratic governments to the alternatives, and that the best stability for a democracy depends on how well it educates and communicates values to the next generation.

(VELT burgher,   VOOT burgher   ode er   poss EVE burgher?)


Archaic word meaning an old or sick domestic animal that is no longer useful and is now used as bait in a hunt.

(SHIND lood er.)


“Committee Investigating the Airport.” Berlin’s state parliament has created a committee to look into the billions of unbudgeted euros and months if not years of delays incurred in the construction of its new airport. The committee chair is Martin Delius (German Pirate Party), the first Pirate Party member ever to chair a parliamentary committee in Germany.

ZDF said Martin Delius (28) has meticulously prepared for this job, even swotting up on police interrogation techniques. He also created Wikileaks-type websites for airport workers to submit information to anonymously. ZDF briefly flashed an image of a book in Delius’s office by Oliver Wenzlaff called Piratenkommunikation: Was die Eliten in Politik und Wirtschaft von den Piraten lernen können [“Pirate communication: What the political and economic elites can learn from pirates”]. Berlin’s ruling SPD party said it wants to follow this GPP example of good transparency. The Greens said they want to do better than the stated Pirate goal of finding out what happened, by finding out what happened and then firing people and bringing lawsuits. The investigation is to last approximately one year, so results will be published in October 2013, presumably.

(FLEW g hoff en   OON ter ZOO kungs ow! ss SHOOSS.)

“Wenn jeder ein bisschen weniger leistet, dann reicht das nicht mehr aus.”

“When each person does a little bit less, it’s no longer enough.” One attempt to explain how Germany could be beating Sweden 4-0 after 60 minutes on 16 Oct 2012, and yet the match could end in a tie. That WC qualification match was the first time the German national soccer team ever wasted a four-goal lead. (Four elegant goals.)

Swedish headlines the next day included the epic “DANKE! DANKE! DANKE! DANKE!”

(Venn   yay der   eye n   bissell   venniger   lye stett,   don   rye kt   doss   nicked   mare   ow! ss.)


Thieves’ cant or argot, used by marginalized groups in Germany for at least 700 years. From Eric Hobsbawm’s excellent book Bandits.

(ROTE velsh.)

Kumulus und Kunnilingus

What German university students complain become the main preoccupations of the rare few who are lucky enough to become German college professors, in a process not unlike deification. No one can check you or make you work after that rapture, students said, and the money is great. In the 1990’s physics students told me there was a tendency for new professors to buy an ultralight aircraft, cancel their monthly office hour and the lectures they promised during the interviews, and spend their days circling high above the countryside, looking down on everyone. I’m sure the situation has improved since then.

I shall regret this terrible post but it’s too funny. The insight into university institutions new and old provided by the controversy around Annette Schavan reminded me of this old joke.

(COOM you loose   oond   COON ee ling goose.)


The wonderful Michael Ballack is ending his career as a soccer player. For years he stitched the German national team together, always managing to be where he was needed at both ends of the field. The crucial pass, the defensive assist. He was amazing. The most impressive player. I’m just waiting and biding my time until he becomes the national trainer.


Medieval law or custom stating that children of unmarried parents became the property of the local lord.

(BOSS tard fall.)


War equipment that was exclusively inherited by male heirs under medieval German law. Though the concept apparently exists since at least Carolingian times, Heergewäte was first mentioned in the 12th century, then disappeared relatively early from towns and cities but persisted in rural areas until the 17th century.

(HAIR ge vey teh.)


Prebendary, a type of canon in the Catholic or Anglican church. Now used in German to mean someone who receives a stipend without having to work for it. A sinecure holder.

(FRIEND ner.)


World Mummies Congress of the EURAC Research Institute in beautiful Bolzano, Italy.

(Velt MOO me en con gress.)


The Batrachomyomachia, the “Battle of Frogs and Mice,” is a humorous parody of the Iliad that was probably written two thousand years ago.

(Froh sh MOY zeh kreeg.)


Vaticanery. Up to no Vatican good.

(VOT ee CON er EE.)


Vaticanologist. Someone who follows the Vatican.

(VOT ee con oh LO geh.)


“Fury citizen,” a voter filled with frustration and anger at the bad decisions made over his or her head by elected and selected officials. This neologism was voted 2010’s German Word of the Year by the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache e.V.

(VOOT burgher.)


Squeeze money out of someone. Also, a cupping treatment used in the Middle Ages.

(SHRUP fen.)


Not what you think. Synonym: Kondominium (also not what you think). Political territory where two or more sovereign powers agree to share dominium jointly, without dividing it into national zones.

(Con DOME in ott.)


Someone who flips the facts around, incorrecting them. From Der Spiegel’s obit for Andrew Breitbart.

(FOKT en ferr dray er.)

Blau machen

“Making blue,” i.e. drinking. Also playing hooky. In the Middle Ages, making blue dye required lots of urine, hence the term.

(Bl OW! mack en.)


An older man, usually over 50, who is unmarried out of conviction.

(HOGGA shtolts.)

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