Gertrud Berninger (written ca. 1943-5)

Das Kinderzimmer gelb und blau,
der Mann im Mond, die Nebelfrau
und rosenrote Tapeten;
zubettegehn beim Angelus
den jeder Christ beten muß,
den frühen und den späten.

Den frühen und den späten:
er ruft nicht einen Jeden,
das haben wir gelernt.
Die Nacht war mit Kometen,
mit Glanz und Glück besternt –
wer kann da Ave beten!

Die Nacht ist prasselnd ausgebrannt
zu Morgengraun und Niemandsland,
zu Asche auf unsern Zungen.
Wir wachten bis zum Angelus
den jeder Christ beten muß:
Die Glocke war zersprungen.

Die Glocken warn zersprungen
und die Erinnerungen.
Wir bauten uns ein Haus aus Leid
– kein Lied ward da gesungen –
und siedelten stumm in der stummen Zeit
in des Tityrus Niederungen.

Da schlägt die Wachtel früh am Fluß,
der schlafenden Stadt zum Überdruß,
uns aber zum Herzen, zum Herzen:
Das ist der neue Angelus
den jeder Christ beten muß
zum Dank für Schmerzen.

Off to see my mother for a week. She wrote the above undated poem towards the end of WW2.

Anne Frank

Mashable reported that The Anne Frank House has just posted the only video footage of Anne Frank on YouTube. You see her leaning out of a second-story window as she watches a bride and groom exit a neighboring address. Here it is:

The Diary of Anne Frank was my way in to German history as a girl, alongside Die Weiße Rose/ The White Rose, the 1947 memoire by Inge Scholl on Sophie Scholl and her friends in German student resistance. The combination was potent. I was so thrilled by the story of student resistence that I had very little trouble knowing that my family was half German and my mother had grown up in Nazi Germany. It never occurred to me to be ashamed of my heritage, as I assumed that thinking people everywhere in Germany must have seen Hitler for what he was. That, of course, was a child’s view of the world, making it easier to find a place for myself. But I was quite shocked when a well-educated American sister-in-law of mine started talking about my family being Nazis. I never did figure out whether she was being nasty or trying to be funny, but the more she talked about it, the more she seemed to talk herself into it, creating an insurmountable barrier between us. I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time thinking about how the Nazi era played into my family’s lives. From their recollections about the war, I knew they were Catholic and despized the Nazis and found ways to live outside the system, be it because my grandfather had a big house in a village where he could listen to the radio in the basement and provide travellers with shelter, or in my mother’s case, because she lived a bohemian life as an actress and managed to lie low, and when the theaters closed went home to work as a nurse in her father’s country doctor’s office. One day I’d like to edit her papers, which I have piled up in the basement.

It wasn’t until much later, when I read Alfred O. Hirshman’s Exit, Voice, Loyalty that I understood what inward immigration really meant.

I often used the biographical, personal narrative approach when I was working as an historian and exhibition coordinator, and saw how great it is for awakening interest and involving people otherwise not drawn to history.

The Anne Frank Virtual Museum will open in 2010. A preview:

Question: What’s your New Frontier?

Today is the 40th anniversary of Armstrong and Aldrin walking on the moon and I’m up there too today, somehow. Kennedy called space the New Frontier, and that was certainly what it felt like 40 years ago. I’m leaving out the Cold War context here to focus on social change for the moment. The Apollo missions showed us that the moon was a cold, dusty place and how beautiful and inviting Earth looked from outer space. I used to watch Star Trek, and the inside of Starship Enterprise looked cozier and cozier as the crew continued “To boldly go where no man has gone before” – a grammar structure, by the way, that drove grammarians nuts. This was the era of progressivism. No matter what your political leanings were, you believed that the world would become a better place if only people would buy into your mission. And you know, just look at the trailers to the two main Star Trek series and you’ll see what the many real frontiers in that era were.

The first trailer of 1966 is all about Captain Kirk and his two reports, but shows nothing of the men. All you see is empty space and a modern spaceship. When the series restarted everything was different. In the second trailer for the Next Generation series of 1987 with Captain Picard space is magical and beautiful, the man’s voiceover is emotional, and it’s clearly all about the people on board the ship, the men and the women, the ethnic mix, the mix of natives of the known world and assimilated aliens. The issues depicted over the years included war and peace, personal loyalty, getting over authoritarianism and dealing with leadership, class warfare and economics, racism and religion, sexism and human rights and feminism, and the role of technology, which was changing. Have a look:



The progressive age may be looking a little dated, but the whole concept of a trek and a mission is still very much alive.  So back to the occasion itself: Those people setting out on the Apollo mission to land a man on the moon didn’t know how they were going to do it, and they frankly didn’t have the big picture. But they did it. This is something that I find very heartening. I really think we are an ingenious race and will always figure out how to make things work. But we do need frontiers to aim for, and the means to do it, and sometimes a visionary to push us.

Do you have a personal frontier? What are you going for?

Was ist das Blogprojekt? Mehr dazu unter Englischlernen mit Anne!

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JFK: We choose to go to the Moon

In the fall of 1962, when the USA was far behind the Soviet Union in its space program, JFK held his rivetting “We choose to go to the Moon” speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas, proclaiming space to be the new frontier. I’d like to highlight two excerpts, with the minutes in the video indicated so you can read along as you watch.

See min. 4:35-6:20 and min. 8:40-9:17, text experpts below

4:35-6:20: “If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.

Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space to the moon and to the planets beyond. And we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We avow that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding. Yet the vows of this nation can only be fulfilled if we and this nation are first, and therefore we intend to be first.”

8:40-9:17: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon… (interrupted by applause) we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

Trivia: Kennedy said that the year’s space budget stood at five billion four hundred million dollars, calling that “a staggering sum” (!) but saying that the American people were spending more than that on cigarettes and cigars (!!)

Full text

John Calvin at 500

John Calvin’s (10 July 1509 – 27 May 1564) greatest legacy today may be what Max Weber described in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. According to Weber, Calvin provided the ideological impetus for the development of capitalism. In addition, Calvin also contributed to the development of representative democracy in general and the American system of government in particular through his doctrine of sin and human fallibility, which suggested the division of authority in a system of checks and balances. And finally, Calvin’s ideas on Christian liberty contributed to the growth of religious freedom and the openness of society.

Clara Boone, pioneer

When I was a child in the late 60s, a family friend, a descendent of Daniel Boone, came round one day for tea. Clara Boone was a teacher at a public school in DC. The local public schools were deteriorating in those days, kids were really tough, and the teachers were struggling to adapt.

We were sitting around an elegant little table drinking Earl Grey, when “Miss Boone” as I called her told us this horrific story, in her gentle voice: The previous week one of her middle school students, a boy of maybe 14, had cornered her in the hallway during the break between classes … unzipped his pants … and pissed on her.

The school took disciplinary measures, of course, but then… life goes on. Can you imagine having to face that class day after day? I was totally shocked by Miss Boone’s story, but her calm resolve to keep on keeping on made a huge impression on me. She was so patient, so courageous. I don’t really know how the story continued, so I wonder about it now. She went on teaching, sure. But I wonder if she really got the support she needed?

And what about the other students?

China 20 years later

Sorry to break my blog break yet again, but today is 20 years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, and I can remember being glued to the TV and mourning.

We can’t really blame the young Chinese for their apolitical materialism, can we? Is anyone here thinking about next year, let alone 20 or 40 years down the road? Is anyone thinking at all? The banks and the old industries are using up all of the social democratic resources we need to “buy” democracy, while the middle class scrambles for cover …