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Germany

Tuesday, 31 August 2010
White Rose

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We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!

~ the concluding words of the fourth pamplet of the White Rose, a non-violent resistance group in Nazi Germany, consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor. The group became known for an anonymous leaflet campaign, lasting from June 1942 until February 1943, that called for active opposition to the Nazi regime. The core members of the group were arrested by the Gestapo and were executed by the guilletine in 1943.  The group may have named themselves after a poem by José Martí:

I cultivate a white rose
In July as in January
For the sincere friend
Who gives me his hand frankly.

And for the cruel person who tears out
the heart with which I live,
I cultivate neither nettles nor thorns:
I cultivate a white rose.

José Martí is said to have sent this poem to a friend who betrayed him to the police.  I remember seeing the film die Weiße Rose over 20 years ago and it having a profound effect on me. Apparently it also had an effect on Marc Rothemund, the director of the recent film Sophie Scholl - the last days. In an interview on Movienet he is quoted as saying:

When I was growing up in Munich, I remember seeing director Michael Verhoeven’s 1982 film The White Rose in school. The movie tells the story of the anti-Nazi group of the same name, and devotes only a few minutes at the end to the arrest, interrogation and execution of White Rose members Sophie and Hans Scholl.

This sparked my interest on the final days of Sophie Scholl and I found out much from researching and reading newspapers from the period. This 21-year-old woman spent four days in Gestapo headquarters and I learned that there were supposed to be actual transcripts—unpublished documents—of her time there.

Sophie Scholl spent three days in a room being interrogated by a tough 44-year-old Gestapo interrogation officer. Sophie and her brother were so mentally strong that after five hours of intensive interrogations they made the Nazis believe that they were innocent. Unfortunately, Hans Scholl forgot a handwritten note in his pocket that incriminated himself, Sophie and their friend Christoph Probst.

We were extremely gratified to find that not only was it still possible to shoot on original locations such as the University, the Palace of Justice and the Scholl’s original house, but we also found Sophie Scholl’s sister, who told us many intimate details of their family.

Even more amazing was that we found the son of the Gestapo interrogation officer. He was very generous in helping us to get at the character of his father. We also located the sister of executed White Rose member Willi Graf, who was interrogated by the same officer in the same room and on the same chair as Sophie Scholl. Many other White Rose members, all of them in their eighties, helped us tremendously.

Many aspects of Sophie’s story obsessed me. There was the psychological make-up of the Nazi who believed in Hitler but had not murdered anyone personally. There were the executioners—Sophie Scholl’s executioner was an eighth-generation German hangman. He killed 3,000 people, but was quoted as saying that he had never seen people going to their death as free and upright as Sophie Scholl and the other members of the White Rose had done. Then there was the life-affirming, positive-minded Sophie Scholl, an extremely courageous young woman who had to come to terms with her death in a very short time.

I took this photograph of the fountain at Geschwister Scholl Platz (The Scholl Sibling Square), a central plaza at the University of Munich, Germany, which has been named after Sophie Scholl and her brother Hans.

Further reading:

Posted by bigblue on 31/08/2010 at 08:00 AM
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Monday, 30 August 2010
Odeonsplatz

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This is the square where police confronted and dispersed the Nazis when they attempted to seize power in the “Beer Hall Putsch” of 1923. Fifteen nazis, two police and an innocent bystander were killed in the failed nazi coup. Hitler himself was wounded, and spent a year in prison.

The monument on the facing end of the square is the Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshall’s hall). It is situated on the site of part of the original city wall, and was constructed in 1844 to commemorate Germany military leaders. It is an architectural design based on the Loggia dei Lanza in Florence, Italy. After coming to power, Hitler turned the left side of it into a a shrine to the 1923 putsch ‘martyrs’. The shrine was guarded by the SS and the passing public had to give the Nazi salute the shrine.  It is said that Munich residents who were against the Nazis used to pass on the right and then slip down Viscardigasse (which became known as “dodgers’ alley) at the back of the monument in order to avoid giving the salute.

The alley today has some golden cobbles to commemmorate the Nazi resisters/dodgers:

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The nazi martyrs were removed from the shrine in July 1945, cremated, and buried in common graves.  The metal of the Nazi shrine was recycled and used in reconstruction of Munich after the war.  The site Third Reich Ruins has some more photographs and information from Odeonsplatz.

Posted by bigblue on 30/08/2010 at 08:20 AM
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Sunday, 29 August 2010
Munich Olympic Park

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By night and day.

The largest Games yet staged, the 1972 Olympics were supposed to represent peace. But the Munich Games are most often remembered for the terrorist attack that resulted in the death of 11 Israeli athletes. With five days of the Games to go, 8 Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village, killing two Israelis and taking nine others hostage. The Palestinians demanded the release of 200 prisoners from Israel. In an ensuing battle, all nine Israeli hostages were killed, as were five of the terrorists and one policeman. IOC president Avery Arundage took the decision to continue the Games after a 34-hour suspension.

- from a Guardian special report on Politics and the Olympics.

The alleged mastermind of the Munich attack was Abu Daoud, who died earlier this year.  An obituary described that:

He belonged to a group of hard men who founded the PLO in 1965 and believed that armed struggle must not be given up as option beside negotiation. In his last interview, with Al-jazeera in 1999, he said he would carry out the Munich attack all over again as he had no regrets, remaining militant to the end. “Today, I cannot fight you anymore,’’ he said in a statement to the Israelis shortly before his death of a kidney failure, “but my grandson will and his grandsons, too.”

The photographs above are of the Olympic Village, part of the Olympiapark complex in Munich.

The 2012 Olympics in London will mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich attacks and it has been reported in the Jewish Chronicle that some event to commemorate this is being planned for the 2012 games.

Posted by bigblue on 29/08/2010 at 12:54 PM
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Thursday, 26 August 2010
Rikscha-mobil

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We’ve just peddled around Munich for an hour on this vehicle. Somewhat of a bumpy ride. External link.

Posted by bigblue on 26/08/2010 at 06:15 PM
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Sunday, 07 June 2009
Graffiti tag in Berlin

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Found near Potsdammerplatz.

Posted by bigblue on 07/06/2009 at 08:40 AM
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Saturday, 18 April 2009
Taking photographs is not allowed

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Upon reflection the above is a self-portrait. It is also a museum-piece in Berlin: a poster which states

Taking photos is not allowed

in several languages. It is a reminder of the cold-war regime in East Germany which was maintained by the Stasi. It reminded me of the police state that I used to live in: where unjust laws and arbitrary police powers were used to maintain an unjust status quo. While I think it is spurious to equate East Germany or apartheid South Africa with the United Kingdom today, there are certain comparisons to be made.

As recently as 2001 it was regarded as “a bit of a joke” that a group of British plane-spotters could be arrested in Greece on suspicion of spying (even if it was a “Greek tragedy” for those involved) . The United Kingdom collectively looked down her nose at the sub-standard democrazy of Greece. It could never have happened here. Yet today not too dissimilar events are actually happening here in the UK.

I won’t go into all the things that I find disturbing. In August 2007 our man inside wrote about the creeping appearance of the police state in Britain today, and this covers several areas.

Just consider the practical application of some of the laws that were introduced in the UK in the war against terrorism:

Some of this would be mildly amusing in a democratic state if it weren’t for some of the consequences.

Posted by bigblue on 18/04/2009 at 04:05 PM
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Thursday, 16 April 2009
Imperfection

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All the coloured perspex in this hotel is very 1970s.

Posted by bigblue on 16/04/2009 at 02:28 AM
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Thursday, 09 April 2009
Self-portrait Berlin

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I’ve been busy this past fortnight with a client “go-live”. Hence the reduced output here during the last week. Despite this I’ve had a lot to comment on (which has gone unsaid): things like lost luggage and the (lack of) airline customer service.  I might come to write about these in the near future.

Meanwhile I took this photograph last week on the Berlin underground.  The monitor screen is presumably for the benefit of train drivers rather than commuters.

Posted by bigblue on 09/04/2009 at 06:49 AM
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