Browsing articles tagged with " Justice"

The faces of horror

Berlin, February 4, 2013

Herta, Hildegard, Irene… the women on this picture could have been innovator scientists, prolific authors or virtuoso musicians, happy housewives or friendly shopkeepers, but for their life’s script they chose a cruel role instead: guards in the nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. They were not the only ones: about 4,000 women performed functions of Aufseherinnen also in camps like Auschwitz and Ravensbrück.

The photo was taken back in April 1945, short after the British army occupied this camp, where more than 50,000 died within a few years. Herta, Hildegard, Irene and other Aufseherinnen did their best to make the lifes of thousands of detainees worse than the worst nightmare, killing them of starvation, cold or torture. Perhaps Herta, Hildegard or Irene where directly responsible for Anna Frank’s death at age 15, or that of her sister Margot at 19. They both died in Bergen-Belsen only two months before the nazis lost the war. Only two months.

At the same location where the Secret State Police (Gestapo) was based between 1933 and 1945, a place known amongst the Berlin citizens as the “house of horror”, the “Topography of Terror” can be visited. The permanent exhibition focuses on the SS (the “Protection Squadron”), the police and the institutions through which the Third Reich frightened the population and kept the policital opponent at bay, which in many cases meant to kill them. Rests of the cells where the detaineed where interrogated and tortured can also be visited.

Until November 9, also the temporary exhibit “Berlin 1933 – the path into dictatorship” is open: a number of photographies describe the consequences of Hitler’s advent to power, for Germany and the rest of the world, which took place 80 years ago on January 30. All the information on display is available in English. The museum is open Monday thru Sunday, 10AM – 8PM and the entrance is free.

The building of the post-nazi Germany, in Bonn

A small city where a few ministeries still keep their main seat, Bonn was the capital city of the Federal Republic of Germany until the reunification of the country. It lodges the House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany, a very interesting museum worth a visit! It is located about 30 minutes away from Cologne, and its permanent exhibit offers a vision of the post war Germany through documents, pictures and films (see video: The museum closes on Mondays and the entrance is free.

Some pictures of the exhibit at Topography:
Web “Topography of Terror”:
Web “House of the History of the FRG”:

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The critic who survived the nazism, the communism and the capitalism

Berlin, January 14, 2013

Germany is home to names like Sebastian Vettel and Heidi Klum, popular all around the globe thanks to the media, people who do not need be introduced. This article, though, is devoted to a character unfortunatelly little known outside the boundaries of this country. We at intend to chance this circumstance.

Marcel Reich-Ranicki has lived through the hard years of European history in the 20th century. As a jewish, he could not enrol at Humboldt University, which rejected him as a student back in 1938 (in 2007 he was awarded degree of doctor honoris causa by this institution). He would later live in the Warshau Ghetto and survive his parents, who died in the gas chambers of Treblinka, and elder brother Alexander, executed in Poniatowa. Reich-Ranicki’s life, like that of many others, was modelled by the nazi madness.

In the early 1950s, Reich-Ranicki embraced literature as a reader for an important publishing house of Warshau, and started later on his career as a writer. After settling in Germany, he worked as a literary critic for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Between 1988 and 2001, he presented Das literarische Quartett on the public television. This video of the programme was a special edition, devoted to Bertolt Brecht:

At the same time admired and feared, Reich-Ranicki showed his ungovernable character during a ceremony which was being broadcast on television, back in October 2008. He was to be awarded a prize in recognition of a lifetime’s work, a prize which he rejected as soon as he stepped on the stage: he wanted to show his contempt for the bad quality of the programmes on German televisions. Amongs faces of surprise and not few nervous laughs, he was offered to take part in a special programme about this issue, which was indeed broadcast some 10 days later.

Aged 92, Reich-Ranicki is still a reference in Germany, of course in the area of literature but also as a survivor of the nazism, the communism “and the capitalism”, as he was presented a few minutes before his astonishing appearance in the 2008 ceremony. A real character, Mr. Reich-Ranicki!

Listing of authors and books comented at Das literarische Quartett:

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The limits of solidarity

Berlin, December 31, 2012

One of the essential paragraphs of the German Constitution clearly states that the 16 regions of the country must offer similar life conditions to all of the citizens of the Republic, regardless of the region they live in. Through the so called Finanzausgleich it is decided what länder (regions) must transfer funds to those with a wealth level below the federal average. This not controversy-free tool is nonetheless a necessary one to provide each and every German citizen similar services.

Within the past years, there have been four donor and 12 recepient territories, although this has not always been the case: Bavaria, for example, was a recepient region until 1986, and in 1993 it turned into a donor territory. All in all, Hessen has been the most “generous” region since the German reunification, having contributed some 38,500 million Euros. Bavaria (capital city: Munich), with some 37,000 million, and Baden-Württemberg (Stuttgart) with about 34,000, are placed in the second and third position respectively. Nordrhein-Westfalen (where Cologne is), with about 11,000 M€, and the city-state of Hamburg, with 5,000 million, close the ranking list of the donors.

On the side of the recepient regions, Berlin is the main beneficiary: the city-state has received some 45,000 million Euros within the past 22 years, an amount which has brought it back to the map of the big world capital cities. It is followed by Saxony (capital city: Dresden, with about 17,000 million) and Saxony-Anhalt (Magdeburg, 10,000 million). See in the chart below the listing of recepient regions (blue) and donor ones (red):

Two länder have decided they will take to court the Finanzausgleich: the regional governments of Hessen and Bavaria will predictably meet up on February 5th in Wiesbaden, the capital city of Hessen, to iniciate the claim. Back in 2011, the then four donor regions contributed 7,300 million Euros (Bavaria, Hessen, Baden-Württenberg and Hamburg).

Here, in German, a piece of news about how the Finanzausgleich works:

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Plänterwald, for children and adults

Berlin, October 22, 2012

The story of the former amusement park in Berlin-Plänterwald is that of a dream which became a nightmare, of an enterpreneur who would in the end destroy his own family, that of a father for whom his son would be imprisoned for twenty years, in one of the hardest prisons in the world. Paradoxically, a place for leisure behind which lies a gruesome story, a mixture of dreadful economical management and drug dealing.

The origins of the then named Kulturpark Plänterwald, located at the eastern sector of the divided city, go back to October 1969. With the opening of the only permanent amusement park in the country, the government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) commemorated the 20 years of its foundation. The 45 metres of its colourful wheel would become the absolute star of the facility, which would welcome up to 1.7 million visitors yearly during its good times; pas mal. The fall of the Berlin Wall, in November 1989, would mean for the Kulturpark the gradual fall of its visitors.

Norbert Witte and the Spreepark

Renamed as Spreepark, the facility revived in 1992 under new command. Norbert Witte, a self-made enterpreneur, was the person to manage the park, despite the seven victims of an accident caused by a ride of his back in 1981, in a fair in Hamburg (article). The renewed park, which had been expanded within the first years, closed doors in 2002 leaving behind a debt of 11 million euros.

Witte then started a new life… in Peru. He took six of his rides to Lima with the intention to set up Lunapark, his umpteenth attempt to start a business. He failed once again, and this time he would end up in prison for drug dealing: Witte had 167 kilogramm cocain hidden in one of his rides, which had to be taken back to Germany. There he was arrested, as soon as the Peruvian police discovered the illegal content of the machine. He was judged in 2004 and sentenced to 7 years: he served five of them in Berlin and was released in 2008 after suffering a couple heart attacks. His son was not so lucky and is since then imprisoned in Lurigancho, Peru, from where he will theoretically be freed in 2023.

Visiting the park

Currently, some of the rides are still visible in Plänterwald (photo album). Amid lush vegetation, a small fair train covers the perimeter of the facility every weekend and on bank holidays, between 11 am and 6 pm for 15 minutes (video). The ride costs 2 euros. For those interested in learning more about the park, there is a guided tour (in German) which lasts about 2 hours, every Saturday and Sunday at 1 pm. It costs 15€ (information, here).

Articles about the issue:

Spiegel Online (in English): The Downfall of a Funfair Family
Caretas (in Spanish): Carrusel de coca
Tagesspiegel (in German):
20 Jahre Haft: Appell an Perus Botschafter

The history of the Wittes has been taken to the screen: the documentary Achterbahn (Roller coaster, 2009), is a portrait of the ups and downs that Norbert, his former wife Pia and their sons, Marcel and Sabrina, have lived both in Berlin and Lima:

A tourist, yes, but well informed!

Berlin, July 23, 2012

A usual tourist does not need more information about his/her destination than the names of the places he/she considers must be visited, maybe just to take a couple photos. But others, to whom this article is devoted, long for a bit of backround on the place they will soon visit. Flight of capitals, circumcision and the so called fiscal equalization scheme are in the agenda, these days. Also the crisis in Spain, of course.

The regional government of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) did it again: 3.5 million Euros were paid to buy a CD containing information on German citizens having accounts in Swiss banks. Indeed, this is not the first time that such a purchase is done, in order to uncover flight of capitals; it also happened back in March 2010 and late 2011, when thousands of citizens were investigated.

Also a religious practice, which Jews and Muslims share, is these days a top piece of news in Germany: circumcision. According to a court in Cologne, this practice is an attack to the babies to whom it is done, who simply cannot decide by themselves whether they want to be circumcised, or not. The sentence might open the door to a possible ban of this practice in Germany, which led the president of the Conference of European Rabbis speak about “the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust”. Now, politicians will have to decide whether the practice can continue in Germany or not.

The key of the safe

The Bavarian regional government does not want to keep paying as much money as it has been paying so far, to help the poorest regions in Germany. The so called “fiscal equialization scheme” rules in the country since 1950, and since 1993 is Bavaria the region which pays the most, considering its rate of wealth: 3,700 million Euros in 2011. Also Baden-Württemberg pays, as much as 1,800 million, exactly the same amount that Hessen, while Hamburg contributes with 60 million Euros. On the other side of the scale, Berlin gets the most: 3,000 million in 2011. Now, the government of Bavaria has decided the lay currently in force is unfair, for which reason has filed a suit: the German Constitutional Court will have to make a decision, which in any case will not happen before 2014. Watch this video if you want to know a bit more about the system (in German):

Of course, Spain and its banks are also on the German media, these days. On Thursday 19, the Bundestag decided to give the banks in Spain a maximum of 29,000 million Euros (the total amount contributed by the European Union being 100,000 million). Even now, it is not probable that Spain will disappear from the paper covers, from now on. Unfortunatelly.

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