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Posts Tagged ‘Verden an der Aller

My Anglo-Arabian Princess in the Muir

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My wife, proud owner of a facebook profile, has told me that my recent topics aren’t nice. So now, for some nicer. It’s November, but surprisingly mild. Just the right weather for a classic-horsemanship training, late in the afternoon today.

Getting Started

Getting Started

Vaulted first…

some time later

some time later

… then on their own.

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Written by taide

November 9, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Unearthed and Buried again – the Remains of Verden’s Synagogue

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Verden Synagogue site, Johanniswall, 2011

Verden Synagogue site, Johanniswall, 2011

This used to be the site of Verden’s synagogue, from 1858 to 1938, before it was burnt down in the “Night of Broken Glass”. The place has been car dealer’s parking lot since early after the end of the war. In summer, the bulldozers were back. A shopping center will be built here, soon.

My guess about the future: one eighth of Verdeners may continue to add stolpersteine memorials to their city, and people will continue to traipse across them (literally, stolperstein means stumbling stone, but these won’t make you stumble), and try to put a Reichsbahn waggon next to the train station to remind people of the concentration camp transports, another quarter of Verdeners may continue to oppose  Reichsbahn waggons, and all other Verdeners will be shopping on this site, and listen to the sermons in church on christmas eve.

A small town in Germany – or: how to avoid remembering a real bit of the past.

Oh, and the foundations and underground facilities (including the mikveh, I seem to understand) were unearthed in summer, and then returned to the underground.

The Kreiszeitung referred to the location as a “place of memory”. But that was long ago, in 2010.

Written by taide

November 7, 2011 at 4:24 pm

Police Academy Professor: “Only Perceptions have Shifted”

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In 1998, Rafael Behr worked as the head of a police task force or work group (Dienstgruppenleiter). After fifteen years of work as a policeman, he became a professor at Hamburg’s police academy (Hochschule der Polizei). This information, provided by Behr himself, in an article for Germany’s weekly DIE ZEIT, doesn’t give me an exact idea of how long ago he left the active police service.

At the moment we begin to change ourselves, the world around us changes, too. Not just seemingly, but really, his website at the academy (currently being relaunched) says. Behr’s field of work at the academy is sociology and coaching.

Things hadn’t become tougher for the police, Behr believes – or rather, “I can’t quite believe the complaints that things were getting worse” (Ich kann das Klagen der Polizei in Deutschland, dass alles schlimmer werde, nicht so recht glauben). “Police is neither defenceless, nor are things getting worse. But above all, there isn’t more violence aimed at the police. Only perceptions have shifted” (Polizisten sind weder wehrlos, noch wird alles immer schlimmer. Vor allem gibt es nicht mehr Gewalt gegen Beamte. Es hat sich lediglich die Wahrnehmung verschoben).

Expectations to the police had become more diverse, from a time somewhere in the late 1980s, Behr suggests. After all, police staff had to show empathy with victims, a sense of justice, communication skills, etc.. Violence, strangely, had been blinded out in that idealised new concept. When police staff happened on people with few or no prospects in life (resignierte und aussichtslose Lebensperspektiven), they were ill-prepared for such encounters. After all, resignation and exclusion [from society] were frequently combined with aggression, and police staff was usually recruited from the middle class, not from the class where aggression was a more frequent phenomenon.

Violence hadn’t increased, argues Behr, quoting the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony. At times, violence was even decreasing. Rather than violence, it was insubordination which was on the rise, and where police staff wasn’t well-prepared. The use of the term “violence” had become inflationary.

It’s probably a matter of definition. According to German news magazine DER SPIEGEL (November 2010), the number of police seriously injured on duty rose by 60 per cent during the previous five years. (Seriously injured, of course, may be a matter of definition, too.) Closer to home, Verden’s nightlife has certainly changed, and the patrolman who was knived here in summer 2009 was a first-night in our  small town.

I agree with his latter point – violence has been surrounded with taboos, to a silly degree. When even boxing becomes a “no” in “good society”, it’s no wonder that you can’t make violence a topic. Addressing it seems to be about as worldly innocent as asking Pope Benedict to discuss the benefits of buggery on television. And just as bad, addressing the former matter in an open-minded way may discredit you, just as addressing the latter one would discredit the Pope.

But that’s probably the only issue where I might agree with Behr. Let’s address a police person’s realities. One of these realities is that police staff bear guns. If someone approaches you as a police person, as happened on the Bremen Freimarkt last month, to adorn his or her face with lipstick colors (it seems to be a frequent practice), you better don’t carry a gun at all. To let unknown people come that close to you won’t be advisable otherwise. And frankly, just as these people wouldn’t paint the face of a carousel owner’s or a supermarket cashier’s face with lipstick, they shouldn’t be allowed to paint a police person’s face.

Behr replaces much of what is conveniently termed “violence” with “insubordination”. But that term, too, lacks definition. It seems to suggest that it is basically about some happy, occasional anarchism light. But that’s not the case, certainly not in Germany, which is still ticking like the corporate state it used to be. People who spit to the feet of police people (let alone into their faces) are angry, because a police person epitomises state power. The problem is that just as violence, power, too, is surrounded by taboos. German civil society, to quite a degree, and not only below the middle class, is unable to handle authority. Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer ´described stupidity this way, in 1943:

The fact that a stupid person is often stubborn should not deceive anyone into thinking he is independent.  In conversation with him it is felt that you are not dealing with the person himself, but with cliches, slogans, etc. that have gained dominance over him. (Daß der Dumme oft bockig ist, darf nicht darüber hinwegtäuschen, daß er nicht selbständig ist. Man spürt es geradezu im Gespräch mit ihm, daß man es gar nicht mit ihm selbst, mit ihm persönlich, sondern mit über ihn mächtig gewordenen Schlagworten, Parolen etc. zu tun hat.)

I’m not trying to judge if the classical American cop approach – common wisdom suggests that it includes no fun factor – can be attributed to an innate American feeling that you are free anyway, and that (as a member of the middle class, anywaqy) you practically cooperate with, rather than cowardly submit to a cop. In Germany, a citizen’s feelings are much more likely to be dominated by concepts of authority and powerlessness than elsewhere. And when a cop in Germany comes across as weak, the mice will play. It’s hardly a coincidence that many Germans  find the idea of Per Steinbrück for chancellor (that’s Germany’s political top job) not only tolerable, but even desirable. It’s hardly a coincidence that Helmut Schmidt, German chancellor from 1974 to 1982, and Wehrmacht lieutenant in the 1940s, endorsed Steinbrück last week, even before Steinbrück actually decided to apply for the job.

The times when a cop’s word “counted for something” are over, writes Behr. Those times wouldn’t come back, and a different society wasn’t in sight. “It is imperative to think police anew.”

Maybe. But before doing that, we must understand what our society – not just the “new underclass” – is actually like.

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Related

We, the Anti-Democrats, December 5, 2010

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Verden’s Commemoration Efforts: those Unhappy Memories

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It has been said before that the way Germans remember their former fellow citizens –  citizens murdered and expelled in the 1930s and 1940s, and many of them Jewish – may matter more to the German citizens of today, than to the actual victims, their surviving relatives and the following generations (many of whom live abroad).

This thought could make commemoration easier. It wouldn’t need to include the horrors, which can’t be adequately described anyway. People who once lived and worked here, and who worshipped their God in our town, would be remembered for the respect we owe them. People who, if this had always been a normal and decent country, could have stayed among us, rather than getting killed, or having to flee what had been their city and country, too.

Excavations on the old synagogue site, Verden, July 18, 2011

Excavations on the old synagogue site, Verden, July 18, 2011

Verden’s synagogue was inaugurated in 1858, and burnt down during the “Night of Broken Glass” (Reichskristallnacht or Reichsprogromnacht) in November, 1938. Until recently a car dealership’s location, the old site is now to become a shopping center. Excavations have begun last week.

Some eight years ago, a Verden Society for Regional History (Verein für Regionalgeschichte Verden e. V.) planned to place a Reichsbahn railway waggon at Verden Railway Station, as a site to remember the haulage of forced labourers and other nazi victims to the concentration camps. The railway waggon was arsoned on January 2007.

For the arson attack alone, the waggon had served a function after all – the attack was a clear indication that commemoration of nazi crimes was deemed undesirable by certain quarters (something that many opponents would have liked to deny). But many Verdeners – correctly – pointed out that deportations by rail had taken place from Bremen, rather than from Verden, and that for historical reasons alone, Verden’s railway station was hardly the right place for the waggon.

In April 2010, Eilert Obernolte, teacher at Verden’s Domgymnasium (one of the city’s secondary schools) and two students,  picked up a suggestion by city council member Jürgen Weidemann (FDP, liberal democrats) to find a way to commemorate the synagoge, within the shopping center concept.

While the railway waggon approach was questionable from a historian’s perspecitve, the synagogue is definitely part of Verden’s past. Now that the shopping center’s construction has begun, one wonders if and how the synagogue and Verden’s former Jewish congregation will be remembered.

Stay tuned.

Written by taide

July 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm

Join in and Seek out New Life!

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One of my sources here in Verden provided me with a recent newsletter from the regional Christian Democratic Union or CDU, a traditionally conservative party (which is to say that there is no noticeable political party on its right side on the German political spectrum). To give you an idea, it’s the party of Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel.

The Modern Join-In Party

CDU: The Modern Join-In Party

The CDU here in Verden made a survey among its members in the Verden district and learnt from the feedback (no statistics given in the newsletter) that the CDU’s local work is viewed positively by the party’s grassroots, especially because it is strong and active in election campaigns.

Probably to become even stronger and still more active, the CDU in Lower Saxony wants to become a modern join-in party (Mitmachpartei). Member of (federal) parliament Andreas Mattfeld is happy to take the time to explain government policies as part of the join-in activities. That much about politics. Besides, the activities on offer…

… is multifaceted, so that for you, there will be something of interest for you, too. As a “join-in party”, we offer politics, sociality, and association! Such multifaceted awareness weeks have never happened here before, and certainly not by other political parties! I cordially invite you to join in yourselves! The schedule of the join-in weeks can be found on the back side.

Best regards

Adrian Mohr, CDU district chairman.

So it all begins with politics, i. e. Mr Mattfeld taking the time to explain government politics, on May 28. And that’s it, basically, as far as politics is concerned. They offer a walk through a forest, a bicycle tour, a cookery course at an Italian inn (with a maximum of ten participants), a refuse collection (not from the households, but on a public playground), OK… and a civic forum on “What kind of school do we want here?”.

Of course, the world football championship is also built into the join-in weeks. On June 13, after yet another bicycling tour, there will be a jumbotron – probably for the match Germany vs Australia. Which is good, because high spirits are almost guaranteed (safer than on an election night for the CDU these days), and there will be an opportunity to sing along with the national anthem.

May I give the CDU a bit of advice? Go to the grassroots and help people filling in their applications for dole-money (that’s what the PDS is doing), or with other stuff that endears you to strange new worlds.

Seek out new life! Your greatest potential is no longer at the “center”. Do away with Angela Merkel, and revive Heiner Geissler. And re-integrate Martin Hohmann to secure the right wing of your party, if Mr Geissler can put up with that (and if Mr Hohmann is still willing).

After all, political parties are about politics.

“Isn’t the Right to Work a Civil Right?”

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Lutz Brockmann is the first mayor who the union speaker can remember who managed to appear on each and every May Day rally in Verden to date. “Only you have managed that, Lutz.”

Good to know that our mayor got something done in his six first years in office.

Verden's mayor Lutz Brockmann greets the masses

Verden's mayor Lutz Brockmann greets the masses

Apart from Mr Brockmann himself who is a member of the social democrats (SPD), neither the SPD nor the “Left Party” had information booths at the rally. The (market)-liberal democrats (FDP) were obviously missing, too, and so were the conservative christian democrats (CDU). The Industrial Union of Metalworkers (IG Metall) had a booth there, and so had the Green Party.

At least one employer was there, too, but stayed on the sidelines. The union speaker didn’t invite him for a beer.

The rally was organized by the German Federation of Unions, the DGB. And it was a smart decision to let a green politician talk. Brigitte Pothmer is a member of the German federal parliament (Bundestag), and she was the one who could actually deliver something that deserves to be called a speech. She even had the nerves to tell her audience that Greece needed financial help, and that it would get financial help: “The longer it take, the more costly it will be.”

That said, just like everyone else, she kept talking about the rights of young people to be trained in the companies after finishing schools, about the right to earn good money for ones good work, the right to this, the right to that. No word about the need to do a good piece of work before getting paid, and no word about the duties to learn reading, writing, and to acquire a basic numeracy before being unleashed on innocent industrial units.

“Isn’t the right to work a civil right? Aren’t decent wages a civil right?”

Obvious answer: to prepare oneself for a good working life is a civil duty. To get the means to make it happen is a civil right. To dumb oneself down is not.

There was a lot of talk about the youngsters and their rights. Their right to oversleep wasn’t mentioned, but it was manifest yesterday morning. You saw many greyheads there on the rally, and I remember no0ne who might have been younger than thirty.

And that, even though they only started at eleven a.m., rather than at 10 a.m. as tradition would demand.

It would have been an even smaller congregation of early Christians if they hadn’t been joined by unionists from the neighbouring town of Achim, who organized a bicycle tour to Verden. Achim itself hasn’t seen a May Day rally this year.

Anyway, Mrs Pothmer made an entertaining talk. And the trade unionist, as usual, managed to produce at least one phrase which made no sense at all. Something like “more work for more money”.

Weather was nice, same as last year. It only started raining in the afternoon. And the Bratwurst was even better than last year.

Another Friday Night in Verden

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Cave people

Cave Peoples' nightlife (picture: JR)

A number of nightlife fans aged between sixteen and twenty had a big fight in the Sandberg street, in the vicinity of a discotheque, on Friday night or Saturday morning. Then they let loose on the arriving police (usually one or two patrollers only) who defended themselves with pepper spray. A twenty-year old was chased and arrested after throwing a cobblestone. The sixteen-year olds were handed over to their lucky parents.

If education worked, the police would have had a calm night, and the idiots would have a future. And if idiots had a bit of memory, they might have been prepared for police who is somewhat chippy these days anyway, and in no mood to take chances.