Why I’m Learning French

Hello hello!

Learning a new language is hard work and a big time investment, so we better have good reasons for why we want to do so. Knowing why helps us with our goals in the language (making learning it more structured) and will also help keep us motivated.

Here are eight reasons why I want to learn French:

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1. I had French for a few years in secondary school. I didn’t go that deep into the language, but I still had some interaction with vocabulary and basic grammar, which will make the learning process a little easier. Not to mention, French classes and other materials are relatively accessible in the USA, so it will be quite doable to learn basic French in the States.

2. It’s the second most popular foreign language after English. This means that I could speak French with friends (who already know it) and meet new francophones. It’s not the most popular language now, but it still holds its status as a lingua franca. It will always (or so I think) be regarded as a beautiful, romantic language that is part of a nice, prestigious culture.

3. It won’t be easy to read and write, but I like the pronunciation. (And, as I am learning more French, I like how French grammar expresses itself differently than English or German grammar. I am learning new vocabulary/new ways to think about the world, too.)

4. French and English are (sometimes) similar, so it won’t be as big of a challenge as learning, for example, an Asian language (or even Russian for that matter :D) There will be a lot of new vocabulary (and false friends) due to the Latin roots of French, but it will make it easier for me to learn another romance language in the future.

 

 

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5. The language has crept into other European languages (French used to be the language of government and the language of the elite, so other languages borrowed many French words) and knowing French will help my reading comprehension in general humanities. Therefore, I will understand history better and also improve my vocabulary.

6. I like a few French scholars already and would have access to even more scholars, writers, artists and the like.

7. After learning German and starting with Russian, I just wasn’t satisfied. Learning languages is one of my hobbies and it is something that I enjoy–not just to say that I speak the languages, or just to be able to communicate with others, but because I enjoy the process of learning them. Speaking multiple languages also makes travelling easier and more interesting.

8. Learning French will make it more enjoyable to travel in France. I can’t wait to see the beauty of the country, enjoy tasty food and get to know the culture (art, literature, customs) better.

 

So, guys, what languages do you want to learn and why?

~ Stephanie F.

 

For more language-related fun check out–>How I learned German (A Bilingual Text) & New language, new life

The Unforgettable Capital Cities of Slovenia and Lithuania (Part 1)

Slovenia in September
University Life
Travel Goals
Cake at a Castle
Lake Bled
Ljubljana

Dear readers,

It’s time now on my flight leaving Greece to reflect on my trips in Europe and put my adventures into words. I’ve been on three trips (or maybe 2 1/2 is a better description) since the last time I wrote about my travels. A bus ride and morning stop in Liechtenstein with half-a-day spent in Innsbruck, Austria. Two days in Vilnius, Lithuania. And three days in Greece (Epanomi and Thessaloniki). In this post, I will cover a trip I made back in September then begin with my trip to Lithuania. In the following post, I will discuss my bus ride to the German-speaking countries of Liechtenstein and Austria and finish with my time in Greece.

The semester has started again in Germany. Three weeks of classes are already behind me. I still have German language classes; I finally got to have Russian again and I’ve even started a beginners French class. In just a few weeks now, I will be a college graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in German Language & Literature. I have about 3 1/2 more months in Germany before I return to Georgia, USA. As far as my next plans.. well, I’m planning to apply to a couple honors graduate programs both in the USA and in England. I’d like to study journalism, history and maybe even something connected to art or politics. When I return to USA, I want to travel—slowly see all 50 States. And before I make it back to the States, I want to study Russian language in Ukraine for at least four weeks. Not to mention, I would also like to work as an English teacher in Asia within the next few years. Another travel goal, is to visit all former countries of the Soviet Union.

You may ask if my trip to Slovenia was in September why am I writing about it now? But, it’s all connected and my trip there was amazing so I think it’s worth sharing. It’s a trip that I definitely recommend! Two weeks into my study abroad program here, my intensive German language course started. It was Monday-Friday. (Fridays ended a bit earlier.) The class lasted at least 3 hours each day. That means that with a relatively small group (about 15 students), we got to know each other during the 2 1/2 weeks pretty well. It was also still vacation time so most students weren’t too worried about their studies yet. We talked a lot and had a nice time together. One of the other female students mentioned a travel group called Euro Trip Adventures, that was going to Slovenia over the weekend. I hadn’t heard much about Slovenia, but the suggestion intrigued me and I bought myself a ticket. Unfortunately, the tickets were sold out before my friend could get hers so I ended up going alone. As I mentioned in the post about Switzerland, Euro Trip Adventures can be an easy way to get know new people while traveling. So it turned out just fine going alone!

~night time in Ljubljana, Slovenia~

Overnight bus rides are quite exhausting–as was my bus ride to Slovenia and back again the next day to Germany. Space is limited and you have to be able to kill time during the journey. I recommend bringing water, healthy snacks, a pillow, your phone charger, cash, a book or games and toiletries for freshening up. My stop (in Erlangen, Germany) was first so I had gotten comfortable and was able to fall asleep by the time the last group got on the bus. Euro Trip Adventures usually stops in at least 4 cities in Germany to pick up all the travelers. It was a actually pretty funny because I laughed out loud in my sleep–no idea what I was dreaming about–and quite a few people heard me and I ended up waking myself up, but not really caring that I had laughed, and falling back asleep. I ended up making friends with the guy who sat next to me. So I hadn’t scared him too bad by laughing in my sleep 😀

In the morning, we stopped at a truck stop so that we could freshen up, use the bathroom and have breakfast. It was still another hour or two before we reached Lake Bled in Slovenia. By the way, most buses offer snacks and drinks so cash always comes in handy! The tour guide collected the money from everyone who wanted to do a tour of Ljubljana. That’s the capital of Slovenia and quite a lovely city (more about it soon.) The tour either cost 10 or 15 Euros.

Lake Bled itself was such a stunning and serene site. We had about 3.5 hours there, which was plenty! The lake was an amazing color and so clear. We had enough time to climb the steep hill and enjoy the view from the castle. The view was incredible! Being at the castle and looking down on the water was magnificent and fairy-tale-like. My eyes  devoured the scenery. We also had time to have cake at the castle-café (the view was also quite nice from the other side of the castle at the café) and more time to explore down below and walk around the area near the lake. There was an entry fee to the castle–about 10 Euros. Slovenia is part of the European Union and uses the Euro so we didn’t have to worry about exchanging currency.

The bus ride from Lake Bled to Ljubljana lasted–if I’m not mistaken–about 90 minutes. At Ljubljana we had about 8 hours to explore the city. The tour leader took us from the bus stop into the city center and told us where we would meet for the tour with a local guide. Before the tour, we had time to explore some of the city. I had lunch and got to check out many different parts of the city like the center, some side streets and the market area as well as the many bridges. I hadn’t done too much research about tips, sightseeing or the history of Ljubljana before the excursion, but I learned quite a bit on the tour! The tour guide was awesome. He was a history teacher and seemed passionate about the city and his country. The city was charming. The history quite interesting. And overall, we got to see a lot during the tour. What I got from the tour was that Slovenia is an interesting mix of Slavic, Roman and Germanic/Austrian heritage. You can see multiple influences in the architecture. There are, of course, authors, poets and thinkers that are Slovenian–part of their own story and heritage. Quite a lot of history is represented in artwork and sculptures in Ljubljana. I was engaged and impressed by the beauty of the city and its history. The tour even included a trip up to the castle in Ljubljana. After the tour, we had more time to explore the city. I got to try local beer and wine, see more areas of the city and experience the beautiful night-time atmosphere of the lights and bridges.

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To conclude, I thought Ljubljana was clean, charming, cute, inviting and somewhat romantic. It felt like the city greeted me with a nice, warm hug. And I learned more about history. There’s never just one story and our world is so rich with different cultures that aren’t mainstream but still very special. Stay tuned for Part 2 which will be about my trip to Lithuania and an update about my studies here and back home!

Sincerely,

Stephanie F.

Nazi Past in Nuremberg (Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände)

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March 18, 2018 at the entrance of the museum/grounds

Dear readers,

This post will be about the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände  in Nuremberg, Germany. Also know as  the “Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds” in English. If you are interested in the Third Reich, want to know more about German history, and are interested in how museums portray historical events, this will be an interesting read for you. If not, you still may want to follow along and check out my thoughts as an exchange student in Germany learning about German history. Let’s begin!

Size and Scope:

The museum is umfangreich—with nineteen different exhibits. It told a full story from beginning to end of the Nazi regime. An average of eight different posters—each featuring a paragraph or two—were featured in each of the exhibits. The paragraphs were short and concise, and they were written in German but with audio guides offered in several languages. There were several accompanying images, artifacts and films throughout the museum that brought the story to life. Some of the films featured were: clips of Triumph des Willens, the celebrations during the Party Rallies and the last were interviews with Zeitzeugen (time witnesses).

Presentation:

I got the impression that everything was presented in a neutral manner. There wasn’t necessarily a negative take presented or straightforward critique. I also did not feel like the museum tried to stir emotions and ask for empathy for victims of the Holocaust. The museum presented facts in a well-organized structure. The flow from one exhibit to the next was simple. (In some art museums I have felt a bit lost not knowing how the flow of exhibits worked from beginning to end.) The story and timeline were fluid until the very end: many exhibits were in one large room; they were still labeled numerically but they were a bit scattered compared to the simple flow of exhibits leading up to this one large room. Throughout the museum, the lighting was relatively dark. Blacks, reds and grays dominated. Some rooms also had exposed brick walls. It was intentional to try to preserve as much original architecture as possible.

Reflection:

I had just done some academic readings about the Third Reich, so it was a good opportunity to review all of what I had read for only 1,50 Euro as a student. Overall, I think the museum told a cohesive and informational story about the former use of the facility by the Nazis for the party rallies and the Nazi rise to power. The planning of the grounds was done meticulously by Hitler, who worked hands on with architects and other developers. It was eerie to see how worried Hitler was about the aesthetics of Nazism. On the one hand, it showed how much effort was put into Nazi propaganda. On the other hand, it showed (in my opinion) how mentally unhealthy Hitler was. The combination of the two produced an unheimlich effect– considering how many people identified with the Nazi party, joined in on the celebrations and activities, and discriminated against fellow citizens with different religious, ethnic or political backgrounds.

One exhibit that I found very interesting was about the reception of Hitler around the globe:

In the democratic states of Europe and North America, the militarism expressed in Nuremberg and the unrestrained use of the propaganda machinery were criticized. In dictatorial or authoritarian countries such as Italy, the Soviet Union or Austria, reports usually reflected only the relations of the respective governments to the “Third Reich”.

Another exhibit that I appreciated was at the end—the film with “time witnesses.” As I mentioned before, the information in the museum was presented neutrally without a strong sense of criticism or negative outlook, but different perspectives were presented throughout the timeline of the museum, which strengthened the museum’s authenticity. This was especially true in the last exhibit: In the interviews with the time witnesses, some shared that they were head over heels for Hitler. They were so happy to see him. Apart from that, the interviewees also shared how/why they were susceptible to anti-Jewish propaganda. And how they felt united and proud.

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a photo from another exhibit that reflects well what the time witnesses had to say about the Third Reich
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anti-Jewish propaganda
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“Jewish business” “don’t buy from the Jews”
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“Jews- enter this place at your own risk”

Being in Germany today makes the idea of the Holocaust and Hitler’s regime almost unimaginable so I think keeping the history out in the open in locations like this, is the only way to make sure it’s not simply swept under the rug and will continue to be discussed in order to strive for a better today and tomorrow. That’s it for my reflection. To conclude this post, I have added some additional information from the museum below according to the timeline that was presented in the museum.

The Story—a timeline and additional things I found noteworthy:

Aufstieg der NSDAP: this part of the museum detailed the start of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (an anti-Marxist party which was also opposed to the democracy of the Weimar Republic and the Treaty of Versailles), the formation of the SA (“Sturmabteilung”), and the failed Beer Putsch of 1923, which Hitler went to jail for and where he wrote Mein Kampf. It gave insight to Germany after World War I… the war debt, poor living conditions, inflation, and frustration. It also covered Hitler’s hate for the Jews and the early propaganda that they were the ones to blame. It showed too that Hitler wasn’t working alone. There were others in the party and Nazi organizations formed rapidly. He was a talented speaker and could represent the party.

Die „Machtergreifung“: The putsch failed so Hitler realized he had to pursue power through legal means. By 1930, Hitler’s party was in the Reichstag. The SA was fighting communists on the streets. The Great Depression led average citizens to agreeing with Hitler’s anti-Semitic propaganda. The Weimar parties could not stop the Communists or the Nazis. There was traditional campaigning alongside terror tactics. In 1932, the Nazi party was the largest in the Reichstag but without majority. There were some actions taken to outmaneuver Hitler but being the largest party they were able to elect Göring as Reichstag president and started to influence things from inside the government. Chancellor Papen left office and President Hindenburg elected Hitler as chancellor. Other posts were given to members of the NSDAP and the SA & SS marched through the streets of Berlin. Attempts to control the Nazi party failed.  And most seemed sure that Hitler would not turn German democracy into a dictatorship. But it wasn’t long before things changed.

Die Anfänge der Diktatur: The time covered here was the turning point. It set the foundation for the horrible things to come. On February 27, 1933, the Reichstag was set on fire. For the new government, this was the excuse to override important fundamental rights and to create a permanent state of emergency. The Nazis also used the state’s means of power to fight their political opponents without hesitation. In March 1933, the first concentration camps were built. Book burnings, but above all first boycott actions against Jews.

„Führer“ und „Volksgemeinschaft“:

  • Gleichschaltung (“forcible coordination”)- organizations that held democratic ideas were destroyed.. communisis were crushed by the police.. the SPD was banned. By June 1933, there was only the NSDAP. The largest mass organization of the Third Reich, the “Deutsche Arbeitsfront” was created. All associations and clubs were connected to and decided by the government. Nazi propaganda dominated popular culture and entertainment.
  • Volksgemeinschaft (“people’s community”)- people of all classes were united to achieve a national purpose. A major focus was the youth and there were a handful of youth organizations (Hilter Jugend; Bund Deutscher Mädel)  that preached Nazi propaganda. The intentions were to strengthen and preserve the German Volk and Greater German Reich. There was a strong sense of national and military pride.

Der Führermythos

  • Hitler was considered the greatest German, the greatest statesman, as the first artist and builder of the nation, after the beginning of the war as the greatest general of all time. The myth draws Hitler as a unique genius and at the same time as a simple man of the people.

„Stadt der Reichsparteitage“

  • There were both political and practical reasons to make Nuremberg the place of the Rallies of 1927 and 1929.  The Nazis had a strong base early on in Nuremberg and in Middle Franconia and they were also supported by the state police director.
  • Nuremberg’s past as an imperial city and as a city of medieval imperial diets could easily be reinterpreted in the sense of the “National Socialist Reich idea.”
  • In Nuremberg, the Nazi regime used the slogan “from the city of the Reichstag to the city of the Reichsparteitage”. Thus, the National Socialists claimed to “complete German history.”

Baugeschichte des Reichsparteitagesgeländes

  • Eternity and monumentality were the principles of the Nazi state & party architecture. The buildings for the Nazi Party Rally Grounds were to impress and at the same time intimidate, demand discipline and convey a sense of community. The architecture was put at the service of propaganda and power demonstration. As a self-styled “supreme builder,” Hitler often dealt in detail with the major construction projects.

Zwangsarbeit für Nurnberg

  • Tens of thousands of prisoners of war and forced laborers from all over Europe were brought into forced labor camps on the Nazi Party Rally Grounds between 1939 and 1945 in and around Nuremberg.

Die Reichparteitage- Ablauf eines Rituals & Reichsparteitage als Erlebnis

  • The Nazi party rallies served the internal and external self-representation and were intended to stage the “Volksgemeinschaft” and the “Führer-Mythos”. Parades, the omnipresence of uniforms and military demonstrations were directly related to the preparations for war by the Nazi state. Above all, however, the Nuremberg rallies appealed to the feelings of participants and spectators. Politics were not intended to be understood here, but “experienced”.
  • Mass rallies, military performances, speeches, meetings of the Nazi organizations, propaganda exhibitions, folk festivals, fireworks, concerts and opera performances made up the ritual of the party rallies. Christian and Germanic customs were presented as well as representation of Italian fascism.

Die Organisation der Rechtsparteitage

  • The Nuremberg Rallies were governed by the NSDAP leadership, which gave instructions to the party congress of the city of Nuremberg. The party congress distributed the tasks such as transport, accommodation and meals of the participants, traffic control and so on. The congress was also responsible for decorating Nuremberg and for the reception of Hitler. To finance the Reichsparteitage, the NSDAP members had to give a contribution. Admission was also required to attend the events.

Das Urteil des Auslandes

  • I discussed this section previously with the newspapers from abroad. But for the international reputation of the Nazi State, the presence of foreign guests of honor at the party rallies was extremely important. Except for the Soviet Union, all important states (such as the USA, France and England) were represented by diplomats at the party rallies. I still find this shocking how accessible Nazi Germany was and why the global sphere did so little to end the Nazi dictatorship.

„Triumph des Willens“ [1934]

  • the official Parteitagsfilm directed by Leni Riefenstahl
  • the film was much more than a documentary–it was propaganda, that conveyed the most important political message of the party rallies: the connection between the Führer and his Volk
  • In a third of the film, Hitler was featured. Other scenes featured shots of people waiting in anticipation to see him
  • therefore, the film not only shaped the image of the Reichsparteitage but also Hitler’s image

Die „Nürnberger Gesetze“

  • In 1935 many versions of new laws about citizenship and racial separation were discussed until two new laws were established that received Hitler’s approval. The two laws are grouped together as “die Nürnberger Gesetze” (the Nuremberg laws) and consisted of: 1) a Reichsbürgergesetz, which de facto created a two-class society- with one group having all rights and a second group receiving only minor rights. 2) “Gesetz zum Schutz des deutschen Blutes und der deutschen Ehre” (a law to protect “German blood and honor”)- making it illegal to have “interracial” relations. Attached to that law were several propaganda concepts such as “Rassenschande” and “Blutschande” to shame Germans into following the laws. The Nazis even recognized “full” and “half” Jews according to how many of the grandparents were Jewish. Terror only worsened after these laws and the social isolation of the Jews was accelerated. The Gestapo had a new target–racial violations of the law. The laws were an intermediate step along Hitler’s plan, which was followed by complete loss of rights for Jews and their deportation to the east.

Der Weg in den Krieg: The German Reich attacked Poland on September 1, 1939. Two years later the war expanded into a world war. The Nazis had been preparing for war since the very beginning. Germany’s recovery began and Hitler achieved great foreign policy successes. The first victims of race and biological “measures” were the sick and weak. Between 1933 and 1945 approximately 350,000 people were sterilized due to alleged sickness. During the start of the war, the sterilization turned to euthanasia. At least 200,000 people were killed at the hands of the Aktion T-4/Euthanasie by the end of the war. Such measures only led Germans to being more susceptible to anti-Semitic and anti-Bolshevik propaganda, when they too lost family members and friends at the hands of the Nazis.

Have you heard of Martin Niemöller? He wasn’t mentioned at the museum but he had something important to say:

„Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie mich holten, gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.”

(First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.)

Vernichtungskrieg in der sowjetischen Union

  • Under the name “case Barbarossa” Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June of 1941. This started the war, which was Hitler’s main concern–his goals of: permanent appropriation of “living space” in the East, annihilation of Bolshevism, “solution of the Jewish question”, exploitation of raw materials and labor.
  • The Jewish population living in occupied Soviet territories was killed by mass shootings at the same time that plans were made in Berlin for the systematic murder of all European Jews. That was in fall of 1941.
  • In order to kill the large number of Polish Jews, the SS erected three pure extermination camps near the former Soviet border: Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka. Polish Jews were also murdered in the extermination camps Chelmno, Lublin-Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Between July and October 1942, more than 800,000 Jews were killed in Treblinka alone. Finally, the extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, also called “Auschwitz II”, becomes the central location of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question in Europe”.
  • In February and March 1943, 23,000 Sinti and Roma were deported mainly from the German Reich to Auschwitz and isolated there in the so-called Gypsy camp. Most died of hunger and disease. The last 3,000 survivors were sent to the gas chambers in August 1944.
  • In total, at least six million of the Jews who fell into German hands lost their lives – through manslaughter, forced labor, malnutrition and illness. Just over half died in extermination camps. The total number of murdered Sinti and Roma is still unclear, estimates vary between 100,000 and 500,000.

Zweiter Weltkrieg:

  • The Soviet Union was to be defeated in a rapid campaign like other state of Western and Northern Europe. There were initial successes but winter of 1942/1943 in Stalingrad (Saint Petersburg) proved that German forces could not complete Hitler’s conquest program. During the same period, British and American troops were displacing the Wehrmacht from the south–from North Africa, Sicily, southern and central Italy. The Allied invasion of northern France in June 1944 opened a third front against the German Reich, whose situation was becoming increasingly hopeless.
  • Nevertheless, Hitler continued the fight. It was not until the Red Army occupied the Berlin government district that Hitler gave up and took his own life in the bunker of the Reich Chancellery. The German Wehrmacht finally surrendered on the night of 8 to 9 May 1945. Overall, the human losses in this war are estimated at more than 50 million.

Der deutsche Widerstand- Although few in number there were priests, workers, and students who tried to resist the Nazi regime. According to the Gestapo, only 2 out of every 1,000 were against the regime. The first wave of resistance was immediately after 1933 by underground organizations of the workers’ movement. But they underestimated Hitler and were not prepared to resist the dictatorship. Communists were forced to establish illegal associations due to the massive police persecution. The final wave of resistance was after the attack on the Soviet Union. Resistance had gained strength by this time and it ends with a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler in 1944.

Die Nürnberger Prozesse: On November 11, 1945 the trial of the “main war criminals” began in the jury courtroom of the Nuremberg Palace of Justice. 21 leading representatives of the National Socialist regime were tried at an international court for their crimes against peace and humanity. In the Palace itself is a museum about the trials.

 

Let’s finish this post with a few photos of the grounds. Since it was snowing, I didn’t explore the grounds outside of the museum. There are also bus tours that you can do to learn about the different areas and usages of the grounds. However, I did get to see the unfinished Kongresshalle, which you will see below.

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The Kongresshalle (“congress hall”) planned for 50,000 people is the largest remaining testimony to Nazi reign architecture.

First Time Visiting a Concentration Camp (August 2017)

Dachau was the model for other camps. It was first. The quote on the front gate of the camp reads “Arbeit macht frei.” Working was supposed to “rehabilitate criminals and other wrong-doers.”

Dachau

September 1, 2017: I saw a concentration camp for the first time this week. I was in Munich before I traveled to Erlangen. I went on a tour to Dachau. Even though I was physically at the place, it was still hard for me to picture the terror that occurred there. Because something so terrible, yet so controlled is simply unthinkable. The tour guide really knew a lot about the history of the concentration camp and I learned a lot of details that I previously did not know. For example, that Dachau was used as a safe place for refugees in the 1950s.

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Memorial artwork to commemorate the lost lives during the years 1933-1945

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On the grounds of Dachau near the maintenance building and entrance
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a multifunctional unit that was used for registering new inmates; the quote on the roof of the building is translated as: “There is a path to freedom. Its milestones are Obedience, Honesty, Cleanliness, Sobriety, Hard Work, Discipline, Sacrifice, Truthfulness, Love of thy Fatherland.”

 

Dachau was the model for other camps. It was first. The quote on the front gate of the camp reads “Arbeit macht frei.” Working was supposed to “rehabilitate criminals and other wrong-doers.” There were some German speaking victims who lived in the camp, but many came from different countries and could not speak German. The largest group of prisoners came from Poland, followed by Germany and then citizens of the former Soviet Union. Therefore, some of them could not even understand these quotes, which were supposed to guide their every-day thinking. As soon as they arrived at Dachau, prisoners were stripped of their individuality and basic human dignity. It did not matter if they had a uniform that fit or shoes that matched. Their entire body was shaved. They were placed into a category according to “the crime that they committed.”  (See below.)

marking system

Arbeit macht frei
front gates
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liberation by the Americans

 

Apart from having to work 12-hour shifts after only eating a thin soup, the victims were subjected to various types of torture by the guards. The fear and discipline there was so intense that guards barely had to supervise when prisoners admitted new prisoners or had a role as a leader among fellow prisoners. Many prisoners died from starvation and diseases since hygiene was so poor and quarters were so close. Although the Nazis tried to keep it hidden, many prisoners committed suicide by jumping onto the electric fence surrounding the grounds.

The first crematorium was too small to keep up will all the deaths and a second had to be built. (The second featured disinfection “showers” in one part of the building.) Apart from the physical abuse from guards (some really awful forms of torture were used) and lack of nutrition and individuality, prisoners also lived in extremely crowded conditions. Where 200 men should be living according to the size of the housing, 2,000 men were living there. The beds were not divided but rather a huge wooden bunk bed.

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The barracks
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Each of the 32 former barracks are no longer standing, but they are indicated by the foundations you see here.
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The perimeter fence
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“Remember how we died here”

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gas chamber disguised as a shower room “Brausebad” ; reported to have never been used
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the first crematorium

 

The true situation of the camp was not portrayed in newspapers as such. Work camps were supposed to be something good for the country. The Nazis didn’t build murder camps in their back yard in order to hide what was happening in a neighboring country like Poland. There were numerous concentration camps in Germany and a few death camps as well, but Dachau is not considered to be one of them. It is still estimated that there were 200,000 prisoners at Dachau and deaths as high as 30,000.

If someone tried to escape the camp, they would have most likely failed due to the ditches and large electric fences around the grounds. There was also an SS academy (SS: “Schutzstaffel”- a Nazi security group) nearby as a final threat. Prisoners also saw the academy when they were walking by foot to the camp during arrival–a threatening introduction to Dachau. Sick were kept separately until they got better (if they got better). Even some experiments were held there such as tests with air pressure to see what humans could withstand as well as hypothermia experiments. Hundreds of prisoners suffered, died or were executed in the medical experiments.

Political prisoners, who had attempted to murder Hitler or who had committed similar crimes, had larger quarters in special facilities. For example, Georg Else, a Swabian carpenter who attempted to kill Hitler on a lone mission, lived under relatively favored conditions until he was shot dead in front of a wall in Dachau. Else had installed a time-bomb in the Munich Beer Hall, where Hitler commemorated the anniversary of the failed Nazi 1923 putsch. Due to foggy weather, Hitler changed his travel plans to an earlier train ride and the bomb went off after Hitler was already gone. Such political prisoners were killed before the camp was liberated by Americans under Hitler’s orders. If seeing all these horrible facilities as an informational museum wasn’t heart-breaking enough, they also played a film that told the story of the Holocaust and of Dachau with original footage.

There are also numerous artistic and religious memorials throughout the grounds that commemorate the victims and urge us to never forget. WWII and the Holocaust are discussed to great extent in American schools. What isn’t discussed enough is the 150 years leading up to the Nazi siege of power, which teaches us how such horror developed due to political instability and poor living and working conditions. The horrible crimes that were committed were not based on a single decision, but were part of a long process of terror, propaganda and total control by the Nazi government. We might be aware of fascist aesthetics and hate among others, but would we be willing to stand up to it? Would we be passive and live off the struggle of others? Or would we too become a victimizer when our governmental authority tells us that it is okay? (A video series about social psychology– to help us understand how such horrible things could happen anywhere)

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“Never Again”
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The colors and symbols represent the marking system used to label inmates. However, on this memorial piece there is no pink represented (for homosexuals)
Memorial Artwork
“May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men”

 

The following photos are of the various religious memorials at Dachau.

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Jewish memorial

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more than 6 million Jews fell victim to Nazi tyranny
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The Mortal Agony of Church Chapel
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Protestant Church for Reconciliation
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Russian Orthodox Chapel

 

That’s it for this entry! I shared what I learned about the camp during the tour. I introduced the camp and some of what happened during the Third Reich. The Third Reich is a very extensive topic in German History. Too much has been destroyed and lost to even paint a full picture of every atrocity that happened at Dachau. But, we know enough to hopefully never allow something like the Holocaust to happen again. And I hope that you are feeling grateful rather than depressed after reading this. I strongly recommend Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. The book is a response to the question: “How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?” Frankl was a psychologist and Auschwitz concentration camp inmate.  It is a book that very well may change your perspective about the purpose of life.

Currently, German students take day trips to such camps to learn about the Holocaust. Learning about history is just as important as being aware of what is happening in the moment all around the globe. Remember, not all Germans were Nazis and not all Nazis were German. We should never forget, be informed of today’s news and self-reflect. Thanks for reading about my experience at Dachau!

 

Sincerely,

Stephanie F.

Was ist Deutsch? (What is German?)

Liebe Leserinnen und Leser,

Heute versuchen wir die Frage “Was ist Deutsch?” zu beantworten. (Today we will try to answer the question “What is German?”). We will cover historical information as well as modern thoughts from several people–including myself. The magazine “Deutsch perfekt” put together an interesting article on the topic (September 2017) that I really wanted to discuss since many points are connected with the introductory points in my course, German Civilization. I will begin by discussing the article then I will share my thoughts and experiences on German culture compared to American culture.

Wir wissen schon woher der Name “Germanen” kommt (Julius Cäsar). (We already know where the name “Germans” is from.) Aber was steckt hinter dem Namen “deutsch”? (But what is behind the name “deutsch”?) Laut Deutsch perfekt “deutsch” bedeutet (according to Deutsch perfekt “deutsch” means):

  • “Deutsch ist die Sprache, die zum Volk gehört.” (Deutsch is the language that belong to the Volk.)
  • “Historisch gesehen, bedeutet “deutsch” nicht viel mehr als” ungefähr die gleiche Sprache zu sprechen.” (Historically, deutsch does not mean much more than speaking roughly the same language)
    [At the time there wasn’t just one Germany–instead, there were hundreds of smaller lands. In 1800 the situation changed due to hate for Napoleon (and his occupation) and the many Germans united under national pride. ]
  • Hat Deutsch perfekt Recht? Was steht unter “deutsch” im Duden? Deutsch=VolkThe Germany dictionary, Duden, confirms that “deutsch” carries the meaning of Volk.
  • Short grammatical note:  deutsch (adjective- “German”); (das) Deutsch (German language); Deutscher (German man); Deutsche (German woman); Deutsche (also plural- “Germans”); die Deutschen (the Germans). Unlike most other nationalities in German [der Amerikaner, die Amerikanerin “the American (man)”, “the American (woman)”], the words for German (female, male, plural) behave like adjectives, therefore their declination depends on the gender (or if it is plural) as well as whether they stand alone, with ein (a), or der (the).

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By the way, Deutsch Perfekt is a great resource for language learners. Articles are written in a simpler fashion, vocabulary is listed in side notes and grammar is explained in a refreshing manner focusing on what’s most important with plenty of examples. You can subscribe to the monthly magazine digitally or in print and there is also an accompanying website. Check it out if you want to know more about German culture and language!

Back to our topic.. How does “Deutsch perfekt” define Germanness?  First, I will include some of the main answers given in the article (many of which were repeated throughout). Then, I will share my summary and conclusion to the article. After we finish with the article, I will move on to my comparison of German and American culture. Title page of the article see below.

“The question is easy. The answer too: German is, that there is no easy way to answer. Why then is identity such an important topic for the Germans?”

 

The article continues with several photos see below:






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Featured Answers to the Question “Was ist Deutsch?”:

  • “Deutschland ist bunt.” (Germany is colorful.)
  • “Dichter und Denker.” (Poets and thinkers.)
  • “Ruhig und geordnet.” (quiet and orderly)- quiet streets; bold emotions aren’t shown in public; concentration within “in sich”
  • “Nirgends gibt es so viele Vereine.” (Nowhere else are there so many clubs.)
  • To think about the question (what is German?), but nothing really so strange that doesn’t exist somewhere else
  • “Nationalsozialismus”
  • “Pünktlichkeit” (punctuality)
  • “Zuverlässigkeit” (reliability)
  • “Einwanderungsland” (Germany is a land of immigration.)- Every fifth person in Germany is an immigrant or the child of immigrant parents.
  • “Regeln” (rules)
  • “Bürokratie”

 

Summary and Discussion of the Article:

The article begins by stating that even German researchers and philosophers, who have analyzed what it means to be German, think that there is no definite answer, but that the question is nonetheless very important to Germans and they will always be curious as to how they are perceived for being German. Nietzsche wrote in 1886 the following: “Es kennzeichnet die Deutschen, dass bei ihnen die Frage “was ist deutsch?” niemals ausstribt.” (My rough translation: “Germans are marked German because the question “was ist deutsch?” will never die out among them.”) Another point that was stressed in the beginning of the article is that Germany is diverse.

Several people share their opinion about German culture–including foreigners and native Germans. Alida Bremer, a German-Croatian writer, states that punctuality and reliability are very clearly important. She also shares that Germans don’t have problems correcting others and that they love to follow the rules. Bremer has been living in Germany for more than 30 years, does translation as well as writing in German. Another point she mentions is that Germans sometimes seem unsure who they are. A psychologist and native German, Stephan Grünewald, does marketing research and believes that this uneasiness leads to productivity–i.e. that Germans want to be do something with purpose.

 

Conclusion:

The article from Deutsch perfekt is a collection of opinions from writers, researchers and business people. Native Germans as well as foreigners, who have lived in Germany for many years, are included. History and modern culture is broken down in order to provide readers with a better glimpse into the meaning of “deutsch.” A variety of images are also used to make the article more vibrant. If I could sum up the article with just one or two of the points mentioned, I would say: “Deutsch” means many things, but what is very “deutsch” is the desire to know what it means.

I am an American exchange student living in Germany so what do I think are some of the potential meanings of “deutsch” in relation to American culture? Let’s explore some of the main points that come to mind below. Please do not think I am trying to offend you or anyone else. Obviously, these points will be relatively subjective. There are always positive and negative sides. I like both my native language and country as well as the German language and Germany. I hope that you will see that I am actually not trying to be so negative anyway. I have not had any special intercultural training other than the short discussions of German culture compared to other cultures in my orientation week here. Not to mention, I have taken several German language courses in the United States as well as in Germany. Therefore, I have picked up on most of these things through experience.

Some points that stood out from me from the discussion of German culture in my orientation course are as following: 1) Germans loving talking about German stereotypes and explaining how “true” or “not true” they are. 2) Some stereotypes mentioned include: having a clean, nice car; love of rules and insurances; hard shell- warm on inside; punctuality (but that’s true because time is valuable); Germans are direct and honest (say what you mean when around Germans)

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Photo credit: Pinterest ~Most likely taken from a presentation for international business or cultural studies~

 

Speaking English- Speaking German:

In the USA, it is pretty much expected that everyone can speak English. Since foreign languages are not stressed at most schools and American culture is so dominant around the world (not to mention English is the lingua franca and one-third of the world speaks English), very few Americans speak more than one language. If a foreigner speaks English to an American, the American will speak English back to them.

In Germany, it is a totally different situation. Elementary school students must take many school subjects including foreign languages. Not to mention, English is everywhere–music, cosmetic industry, general advertising, business industry, tourism industry, science and so on. In everyday conversation, Germans use English words (even if there may be German equivalents) in their speech. For foreigners who have just learned a few words in German, they should pretty much expect that they won’t hear much German spoken to them. Workers in almost all fields will quickly respond with English. Even when you are decently fluent in German and ask touristy questions (where is the bathroom?), some Germans will still respond in English–I guess they just want to practice their foreign language skills. Because they get used to many tourists/foreigners who aren’t very interested in learning German, advanced students of German may get frustrated. If you are in an official situation where you have to share that you are American (for example, opening a bank account) and speak great German with them, sometimes they may start speaking English (out of habit) and ask whether they should speak German or English. I have personally experienced the last situation and I respond in German, but I am never rude if someone is so eager to speak English to me because I trust my language skills and don’t let little interactions cause me to lose my confidence. But, I also want to add that once you have a good foundation in German and a decent accent, Germans will converse with you and go on with things like normal. Not all Germans speak English and they speak English on many different levels, but do expect to read & hear the English language in everyday German life and meet many Germans very eager to practice English.

Smiling

Americans may not realize how often they smile in comparison to other nationalities until they go abroad. Many other nationalities (Germans, Russians, etc.) often interpret the frequent smiling as superficial/dishonest or weird/crazy. To Russians, a person walking down the street just smiling is not all right in the head. And an approaching person, who is smiling, wants something. Even smiling is not 100% viewed the same in all parts of the USA. Take for example, a small southern town in comparison to a big city. A smile is usually (or so I think) a polite/friendly greeting once you make eye contact with somebody or it is an indication that everything is alright. But in a fast-paced city, where you may not be able to trust everyone around you, a smile may be too personal. In Germany, I have experienced a lot of staring when walking down the street or quick, awkward glances when passing someone. So, yes it seems fair to say that Germans stare more and smile less. Overall, they do not have as dramatic and open emotions as Americans and can appear more business-like even in casual situations. But, they do smile in Germany–especially once they have got to know you. No need to feel intimidated if you don’t see a lot of smiles and give Germans some time to open up. Eye contact and smiling may also be interpreted as flirting in Germany so keep that in mind too! To sum it up: if not waving and not smiling isn’t considered unfriendly in Germany, then that also means when an American waves or smiles to a stranger they aren’t necessarily being unaufrichtig/oberflächlich (insincere/superficial), it is a habit of their culture and considered polite and friendly even if they may not be overflowing with joy to meet a stranger.

Hello!

Greetings & small talk

When you enter a room (a shared kitchen for example) or any shop, you will always be greeted–but just with “hello” and not “hello, how are you?” In comparison, in American stores you may often be greeted with “hey. how are you? how’s it going?” Also when you exit a place in Germany, you say bye. Often Americans leave without saying goodbye. There is some small talk (especially among students), but Germans seem to be more comfortable with the silence when among strangers. Although, I have noticed that older Germans love to talk with each other on the bus and train. And just like anywhere, people usually talk to the most with people they already know. So I am not implying here that Germans don’t like to converse with each other–just that it depends on the situation and small talk in the line at the grocery store or other similar situations is less common than what I experienced growing up in Georgia, USA. There are many clubs in Germany and they also have parties and other events so there is a lot of social life and conversation here too. I have encountered many outgoing Germans who always introduce themselves, but also less talkative, shy Germans too. Overall, greetings (hello-bye) are a daily standard everywhere but open conversation among strangers seems to be much more common in the USA. In formal, impersonal situations, what is necessary is said, but “personal” topics are only discussed in informal, more casual situations (in Germany).

Being polite vs. being straightforward wimpy nation.jpg

That brings me to my next point–namely, about being polite vs. being straightforward. Well, let’s just start by saying that Germans complain more. When they don’t like how something is being done, they will say something. I don’t think that makes them rude–they are just trying to improve things. Americans also tend to soften the truth instead of being straight forward. Yeah, they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but what can be accomplished when everyone avoids the truth? In Germany, you get what you ask for. Constructive criticism gives Germans the chance for self-improvement. German language tends to be more literal whereas English can do roundabouts. Opinions and discussions are gladly heard in Germany.

 

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Eating at the table

Although there is a proper way to eat at the table in English-speaking countries, fast-food has made this less relevant in America. We eat with our hands, talk loudly at the table and sometimes cut our food and then put the knife back down and just eat with the fork. One thing I’ve observed in Germany is that Germans usually keep their hands and arms visible–above the table. They often rest their elbows on the table, which I guess is not considered rude here. Yes at the Biergarten, Germans are going to be talking with each other but somehow Americans are always louder. Finally, Germans eat with a fork and knife and do not set the knife down until they are finished eating (or need to reach for a drink, etc.) There are some foods that you eat just with the hands (pretzels or bread rolls), but fries and burgers are eaten here with a knife and fork.

To conclude this article on “Was ist deutsch?”, I want to return to Deutsch perfekt’s article, which ends with “Deutsch at a glance.” This part of the article is labeled “schwer”- meaning it is written for advanced students, but check it out and see what you can understand. If it isn’t clear, I recommend dict.cc for translation. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this presentation and were able to understand the question and answers to “Was ist deutsch?” a bit better. My question for you is: how did you interpret the photos that were included in the Deutsch perfekt article? Abstract? Meaningful?

Until next time,

Stephanie

 

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Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland: A depiction of 6,000 years of German history

Dear Readers,

Today is Thursday, October 12th and after four days in a German hospital in Hamburg, where I know only one person, I am glad to be back on my feet and slowly recovering.  Due to my operation and hospital stay, my blog posts have been delayed. Fortunately, I got to do some sightseeing in Hamburg before all that happened.

Hamburg’s Miniatur Wunderland was personally recommended to me and is also considered to be one of Hamburg’s top three attractions on the internet. This post will focus on one specific exhibition at the museum.

I will begin with a little background information about Miniatur Wunderland just to make it clearer what I am actually describing then I will jump into describing the exhibition and its relevance for German Civilization: 

  • Miniatur Wunderland (English: miniature wonderland) is a model railway attraction in the historic Speicherstadt of Hamburg.
  • Some of the exhibits in the museum include: America, Scandinavia, Hamburg, Switzerland and Austria.
  • The creators wanted to build the largest model railway attraction in the world. But to reduce it to the words “model railway” would not do it justice. It is truly a unique experience and one needs some time to really take a look at everything.
  • Apart from the liveliness of the exhibitions (moving components, lights, and sounds), it is also impressive from different sizes of perspectives. Artistry, creativity and thoughtfulness are seen in the smallest details.
  • The “people” in the exhibit are smaller than toy soldiers, but they all have outfits and personality. From a medium perspective, a particular scene appears to be alive as if you are seeing it life-size. And from the largest perspective–seeing the entire depiction of Hamburg or Scandinavia for example–is like looking at a beautiful 4-D painting.

It is hard to describe Miniatur Wunderland with concrete words, but I hope that you have an idea of what it is now. If you would like a little more information, the following link is a video that describes Miniatur Wunderland in 4 minutes (there is also an English version on the website): Miniatur Wunderland. So now that we have covered the basics let’s move on to the exhibit about German civilization.

The exhibit “Über 6.000 Jahre deutsche Geschichte – dargestellt in acht Dioramen” (More than 6,000 years German history depicted in eight dioramas) is actually not one of the main exhibitions. Each diorama is encased in its own small glass box and it is located at the exit near the featured exhibit “Die geteilte Stadt” (A City Divided). Without images or good imagination, it can be difficult to picture how people lived thousands of years ago or even how the earth looked before industrialization. That is what makes this creation quite practical. It is a new way to have a look into the past without searching Google images or watching a film.

At the exhibition you are able to put on headphones and listen to descriptions of each scene. If you don’t understand German, English text is shown on monitors above the glass cases. I recommend checking out the German version on the website and watching the video series: The history of our civilization.

deutsche Geschichte

What does the exhibit have to say about German history? (The photos of the display are my personal photos but the information about each time period is directly from Wunderland’s website.)

  • 5500-2200 AC – Die Jungsteinzeit (Neolithicum)

Jungsteinzeit

neothlicum

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  • 770-1300 – Das Mittelalter (Early Middle Ages)

Mittelalter

early middle ages

Mittealter description 1

  • 1300-1600 – Das späte Mittelalter (Late Middle Ages)

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Late Middle Ages Title

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  • 1600-1789 – Das Barockzeitalter bis zur Französischen Revolution (Baroque Age until French Revolution)

Barock 1

Baroque Area Titelbaroque description 1baroque description 2

  • 1789- 1848- Zeit der Revolutionen (The Age of Revolutions)

Revolution

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revolution descr 1revolution descr 2

  • 1848-1910 – Der Beginn des deutschen Kaiserreiches (Begin of the German Empire)/ Das “Lange” 19. Jahrhundert

Lange Jahrhundert

LJT 3

Begin of German Empire TITEL

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  • 1910-1933 – Von Kaiser Wilhelm bis zur Weimarer Republik (Kaiser Wilhelm until Weimar Republic)

Weimar

Weimar 2

Kaiser Wilhelm 1

Willhelm 2Willhelm 3Willhelm 4

  • 1933-1942 – Die Machtergreifung der Nationalsozialisten (The Nazi regime’s seizure of political power)

Nazi

Nazi Power

Nazi 1Nazi 2Nazi 4

The exhibition provides an overview of German history in a short amount of time. One thing that I noticed is the more recent the time period, the shorter it is. Technology and other advances had big influences on civilization. So many big changes happened in the past two hundert years. In much older times advancement happened much slower. My questions for you guys are: Did you learn anything new? What do you think about Miniatur Wunderland? What parallels do you see between the depictions and course materials?

Thanks for reading. I am looking forward to your responses.

Beste Grüße

Stephanie