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.)

Schlichtungsstelle für Suchmaschinen

Mediation board for search engines.

Since the European Court of Justice’s recent decision that Google (and all search engines) must delete on request links to pages that E.U. burghers feel violate their personality rights, thousands of deletion requests have been sent to the company.

Germany’s coalition government announced they want a board to be created to help search engines process these requests so the search engines are not the sole deciders. They said they want clear rules about how these requests are evaluated. Clear credible rules for how the “forget” requests are handled are also necessary: in the U.S.’s data protectionless jungle, companies frequently respond to consumers’ requests to forget or correct information with demands for more information, all of which is certainly not deleted. Who will be allowed access to the forget requests? Who can make copies of them, and how secure are the copies?

Germany’s data protection officers have demanded they have a significant role in the evaluation of the link deletion requests.

Update on 30 May 2014: Germany’s data protection officers have criticized that the “forget” request page Google has provided requires a scan of the requestor’s passport or other photo identification. Hamburg state data protection officer Johannes Caspar, who deals with Google questions, said that the automatic saving of personal ID’s by non-public entities was illegal and must be changed immediately. Google promptly changed the wording on the online submission form to “Please attach a legible copy of a document that identifies you.”

(SHLIH chh toongs SHTELL ah   fir   ZOO chh mosh ee nen.)

Europeana1914-1918.eu

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!

Befehlsnotstand

The emergency-like urgency of having to follow orders, one of several excuses 22 S.S. officers used as their defense when put on trial on
20 Dec 1963 in Frankfurt for having helped to commit mass murder at Auschwitz. “22 out of more than 8000, who together killed more than one million people,” said ZDF heute journal moderator Claus Kleber. “This trial marked the beginning of the end of the suppression of what happened during the war.”

One of many good aspects to the story of these Auschwitz trials is hearing again about the “fearless prosecutor,” Fritz Bauer, himself a concentration camp survivor. He forced people to start looking at what their government had done. On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of that belated yet difficult undertaking, German news programs showed archival footage of court guards secretly saluting the defendants, the S.S. officers’ arrogant assertions that they weren’t aware what the killing machinery was for, that they’d forgotten about the deaths, that they were only following orders.

(Beh FAILS NOTE shtond.)

Berlin-Hohenschönhausen-Ausstellung

Permanent exhibit in the former Stasi interrogation prison at Berlin-Hohenschönhausen, where 40,000 East Germans were held prisoner. Includes photos of the prisoners, descriptions of how they were treated (torture, solitary, permanent surveillance, silent shoes on the guards, and prisoner uniforms deliberately issued in the wrong sizes, in “a system designed to break people”), evidence found of prisoners’ courage and good humor (bronx cheers and Latin vocabulary exercises written on napkins using coffee as ink). Also, as director Hubertus Knabe pointed out, the museum has added a new section with information about the Stasi prison’s guards. “What kind of people worked here? How did they live? How were they held together ideologically and brought in line? You can find that out here too.”

(Bear LYNN   ho! en shin HOW’S en   ow! ss shtell OONG.)

Erichs Lampenladen

Erich Honecker’s lampe shoppe.

Nickname of the Palast der Republik in the former East Berlin, which had many moderne chandeliers under its ceilings.

From a wonderful website featuring timelines, videos and other explanations and evidence to help Berlin tourists celebrate 24 years of the fall of the Wall and to help everyone remember what things were like in the walled city between 1961 and 1989.

(Air ichhhhhh z   LOMP en LOD en.)

Gedenksteine

Memory stones, thoughts stones.

Cobblestone-shaped brass squares set discreetly but firmly in the sidewalks in front of houses where the Nazis took people away. The little metal markers list the names, sometimes with more information. You can see these house-by-house memorials all over Germany now. On the 75th anniversary of Reichspogromnacht, the German news showed schoolkids in Berlin polishing the brass Gedenksteine and talking about what happened.

The flat little metal cobblestones are nicknamed “Stolpersteine” because you figuratively stumble across them as you’re walking around the towns.

(Geh DANE k sht EYE neh.)

Trennungsjournalismus vs. Journalismus der richtigen Zusammenhänge

“Separation journalism vs. journalism of correct connections.” A NiemanLab.org book review said Jay Rosen wrote that U.S. journalist ethics have been about getting the separations right and should move on to getting the connections right.

Bob Garfield made a seemingly related comment about journalistic problems with lack of context in the 02 Aug 2013 episode of National Public Radio’s “On the Media” when he said, “Journalism is pretty terrible at covering ongoing conditions. It tends to be very good covering the acute. Poverty and de-industrialization, they’re just hard to cover because they require constantly paying attention to things that are changing only very incrementally, right?” I think he went on to indicate the longer term was only two weeks though.

The wonderful Seymour Hersh mentioned the recognizing relevance problem—after substance’s having been neglected too long in favor of style—in a talk at Boston University from what may have been the first year of President Obama’s first term because health reform hadn’t passed yet.

“[T]here’s no knowledge. I can’t tell you how many times… just last weekend, a senior official was interviewed live, maybe to camera, but the interview was broadcast live on a major show by somebody who didn’t really understand what he had said. He gave away something, and the person wasn’t smart enough, though a very eminent person, wasn’t smart enough to jump on it. So you have a lack of acumen too, because it’s all gone stylish. And so there you are.”

Lacking the information you need doesn’t mean you’re not smart. But it’s everyone’s tragedy if it’s not remedied.

Speaking of style/substance and context’s deep undercurrents: In the 1990’s my fellow German history majors and I were instantly suspicious of German television news anchors who smiled. In addition to exceeding what was necessary in the exquisitely minimalist atmosphere of the time, and implicitly giving permission to models that ultimately drove news into entertainment, they appeared to be knowingly or unknowingly siding with encroaching private media empires that were trying then to undermine the decent public television channels you could still find in Germany. Some of those entrepreneurial, debt-fueled private channels have since gone broke while others resemble empires. There have been changes at the top as well: British media mogul Robert Maxwell was found floating dead next to his yacht, and Bavarian media mogul Leo Kirch died of old age after suing Deutsche Bank for accidentally bankrupting his company by managerial loose talk. For a time, Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s interest in purchasing German media scared people so much they hoped Italian media mogul Silvio Berlusconi would get them instead. Today I think the smiling-news-anchors “tell” no longer applies—you can be a very good German news anchor now and occasionally smile on television!—but persistently mugging for the camera might remain a bad indicator. Sounds terrible in the context of 2013 U.S.A., criticizing someone for smiling!

F.y.i., here is NiemandLab.org’s interesting Rosen-brainstormed collection of ideas about contemporary deliberate U.S. journalistic separations:

  • Editorial functions are separated from the business side.
  • The news pages are separated from the opinion pages.
  • Facts are separated from values.
  • Those who make the news are separated from those who cover the news.
  • Truth-telling must be separated from its consequences so that journalists can “tell it like it is.”
  • The newspaper is separated from other institutions by its duty to report on them.
  • One day is separated from another because news is what’s “new” today.
  • A good journalist separates reality from rhetoric.
  • One’s professional identity must be separated from one’s personal identity as a citizen.
  • How one “feels” about something is separate from how one reports on it.
  • The journalist’s mind is separate from the journalist’s soul.

(TRENN oongz joor nah LEEZ moose   VAIR seuss   joor nah LEEZ moose   dare   tsoo ZOM en heng eh.)

Kommentariat annotiert

The Commentariat is annotating.

The new marginalia commenting and the documented discussions it produces could turn ebooks into new social media silos, as online discussion moves to new places.

When online newspaper articles, blog posts and, now, ebook comments too, migrate from end notes to text-specific marginalia, new software visualizations could display online conversations as if in 3D, letting readers spot sapling/mangrove forest discussions at a glance and swoop along topic threads as if they were roller coaster tracks branching sideways off what used to be 2D text. Might make it easier to follow a discussion for some of us and for others be thoroughly distracting.

Non-anonymous I.D.’s could be taken from Twitter. Reddit tools could be useful as well. In addition to rating and flagging each other’s texts, commenters could tag their own comments, helping address and organize them.

(COM en tar ee OTT   on oh TEE at.)

Damnatio memoriae

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

Reiseberichte, Reisebeschreibungen

“Travel reports,” “travel descriptions.” Travelogues, books and stories that share a wanderer’s experiences, discoveries, places and times.

From a recent travel article in Spiegel-Online:

“Iran has sensational sights to go and see. The monuments to the poets, the gardens in Shiraz, the oasis idylls of Yazd, the mosques in Isfahan, all were on my itinerary. But then I kept meeting so many wonderful people, whose stories were much more interesting than those narrated by historic stone walls.”

(WRY zeh beh RICK teh,   WRY zeh beh SHRY boong en.)

Tag der deutschen Einheit

“German unity day.” Celebrated on June 17 for years in West Germany to remember the popular uprising against the East German government 60 years ago this week.

The German unity holiday was changed to October 3 when East and West Germany signed the agreement to reunify on Oct. 3, 1990.

Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck, a regime-critical East German pastor who after the Wall fell led the so-called Gauck-Behörde, the agency created to figure out what to do with the Stasi files left behind by the secret police, said,

“Today it remains essential, everywhere around the world, to stand by / provide backup for those people who, though discriminated against and marginalized, courageously take a stand for freedom, democracy and justice.”

“Es gilt auch heute, überall auf der Welt, jenen beizustehen, die sich obwohl diskriminiert und ausgegrenzt mutig für Freiheit, Demokratie und Recht einsetzen.”

(TOG   dare   DEUTSCH en   EYE n h eye t.)

“Wissen, wie es war”

“To know what it was like.” Motto for the twentieth anniversary of the museum for the Stasi documents, the files and systems of the East German secret police, that were saved from destruction, reconstructed despite destruction, archived, read, evaluated, reread and shown to visitors from all over the world.

The decision to preserve the files was not as obvious now as it may seem in retrospect. Some well-meaning West German deciders wondered if finishing the Stasi’s destruction of the files might not be a benison to the Stasi’s victims, in the extremely short term. Fortunately for victims, for voters who in the decades since might otherwise have elected candidates with an “inoffizielle Mitarbeiter” (“unofficial coworker,” “unofficial employee”) past, for people living in police states who are making plans about what to do when the dictatorship falls, and for people living in potential police states, the documents were not destroyed, systems were developed to work with them while preserving privacy for the innocent, and the people at these archives are happy to share what they’ve learned with visitors.

(VISS en   vee   ess   vahr.)

“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.)

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