Archive for the 'Der Spiegel' Category


The French Anne Frank? A new holocaust diary is published

Amazing story and a book recommendation in one, so I thought I’d pass it along.

It’s about the diary of a young Jewish girl living in a major European city during the Nazi occupation of her country. Described as beautifully written and quite personal, it details her life and that of her family members leading up to their deportation to the death camps.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Anne Frank, right?


No, it’s Hélène Berr, the diary of whom has become an instant best-seller after its recent publication in France nearly 65 years after her death in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Comparisons to Anne Frank are inevitable. But while Frank detailed a life spent in hiding from the Nazis in her Amsterdam home, Berr tells a story of everyday life under the German occupation in Paris.

Before being sent away to die along with most of the rest of her family, she gave it to the family cook, who passed it along to Berr’s fiancé, who eventually gave it to Berr’s niece. After an editor noticed a group of girls gathered around a display case trying to read the diary at a Paris holocaust exhibition, the niece was approached with the idea of publishing, but it took another five years to come out in book form.

The book sold more than 26,000 copies in its first three days of sale in France. Rights had already been sold in 15 countries before the French publication, but an English translation is slated to come out only in September. I can’t wait that long, so I’m going to pick it up at and hope to translate an extract or two over the coming weeks.

© 2008 lettershometoyou


Take the pub quiz and get some Respect

A lazy Sunday short-and-sweet one.

Take Der Spiegel’s quiz on what’s been happening over the past week. There are only 12 questions and it takes only a few minutes.

If you get the whole dozen correct, this is what they tell you.

Now I can’t get that Aretha Franklin song outta my head.  Damn earworms.
© 2007 lettershometoyou


Travelling to Germany? Stick to felafel

It took the world’s largest news organisation Reuters a few days to get off its duff to report the fact that truckloads of rotten meat have recently been sold and eaten in Germany, but at least they’ve finally done so. Spiegel magazine in English has ignored it completely. What, are you guys asleep? Why have an international edition if you’re not going to tell readers outside the country what a scandal this is? Have you passed the task on to English-speaking bloggers in Germany? Or are you tired of reporting on it because this has happened before, and not just in Germany as a women who left a comment on Saturday’s post points out?

If you read the Reuters article through to the end, you’ll see it isn’t just the Döner Kebab joints that you have to worry about. This meat – variously described as smelly, stinking and putrid – could be hiding in plain ordinary sausage meat and (corporate alarm bells anyone?) hamburgers.

What they don’t point out is the lax rules that allow waste meat to be disposed of without an inspector checking to make sure it doesn’t end up as lunch.

My advice if you’re looking for a quick bite on the way between here and there in Germany: stick to felafel. It’s fatal only in Australia.

© 2007 lettershometoyou


Throwing money at racism isn’t going to stop it

The victims of Saturday’s racist attack in eastern Germany got a chance to tell their story today.

One said they all feared for their lives, some scurried to hide in the toilet or attic, and when it was all over, he was afraid for three days to even go home.

The German government’s first response now that the initial hand-wringing is over and the what now? stage has begun is to pump an extra five million euros into programs to combat racism.

No surprise there. They have to be seen to be doing something.

But if I’ve got a problem and money will solve it, I haven’t got a problem. That works for emergency taxi rides in the pouring rain, but for an ongoing plague like racism and xenophobia?

How can throwing an extra five million euros around in reaction to the brutal mob attack on eight foreigners last weekend do anything about changing attitudes? An ad campaign? Anti-racism programs in the schools? Worthy long-term goals, but how do you measure the results? Only 190 racist attacks next year instead of 200? One is already too many.

Especially this latest one. Just read the letters to Der Spiegel from India calling for a boycott of Germany as a tourist destination, a reminder that India is a huge and growing trading partner, and you see the politicians at least have it right for once: this is already very damaging to the country’s worldwide reputation.

Germany has ignored this problem and focused on the wrong things long enough. Read through those Spiegel letters – which echo many comments left here yesterday – and you’ll come to an American who gets to the heart of the matter.

The one by Carl Bruhn of Lakewood, California says: German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble should worry more about right-wing violence, and less about taking more and more civil liberties away in order to fight perceived terrorist threats in Germany. The far right parties are a much larger threat to Germany than the imagined terrorists.

Sounds like something I might have said.

© 2007 lettershometoyou
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In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king

There was an absolutely fascinating article in Der Spiegel a couple of weeks ago about people who fall in love and want to have sex with objects. Computers, steam locomotives, the Berlin Wall, the World Trade Centre, you name it, there are people who want to sleep with it.

One man was described as seeing his Macintosh laptop as male, so he had to regard his relationship with it as a homosexual one.

The Swedish woman who was in love with the wall was devastated when the tide of history turned. The woman whose “lover” was “publicly executed” on September 11, 2001 has had a 1:1000 scale model built for both towers, complete with aluminum exterior so that she can take them with her to cuddle in the bathtub.


The 41-year-old man at left fell head-over-heels for a Hammond organ at the age of 12. He is now in a monogamous relationship with a model steam engine.

The article was in the Science section. It had quotes from the people depicted, from experts on why some people love things instead of other human beings, what they get out of it, and so on.

But that’s not what I want to focus on. What I do want to point out is that this article is being distorted in a blog beyond recognition, used as an example of how nasty the German media is. The blog post bears almost no relation to the thrust of the article. It merely uses it as fodder for the blog’s overall agenda, which is to illustrate the so-called biased and unfair treatment the Excited United States of America receives from German media across the board. It even provides a link to the Spiegel’s online edition for knee-jerk reactive types to email in their outrage.

Ignoring the other cases portrayed and conveniently snipping out the photo of the man with the choo-choo-train, all it says is, “It doesn’t matter that nearly 3000 people died in those buildings. Now it is apparently OK to exploit them for tasteless stories on people with sexual perversions.”

What he fails to mention is that the woman fell in love with the buildings when she was eight years old, long before the terrorist attacks. He also fails to mention that it is a sensitive piece without a shred of sensationalism or voyeurism, ending with the remark that these people are the way they are, they aren’t harming themselves or anyone else with their unusual desires, and who can say that of anyone?

I was going to ignore this post completely, because why draw attention to crap, but then again, if somebody is spewing right-wing bullshit about German media to an audience most of whom probably can’t even read the language of the media being attacked, someone has to set the record straight.

Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less if you’re a loony lefty from la-la-land, a foam-at-the-mouth right-winger with an arsenal of loaded guns in the basement or so undecided you straddle the fence keeping both ears to the ground waiting to see which way the wind blows, if you’ve got an axe to grind don’t lay out examples which have no basis in reality.

Unless of course you’re going for a Masters in Intellectual Dishonesty, in which case you’re headed for top of the class.


Advice column debuts, world stops spinning

Dear Bruce,

You might have noticed that this space has changed somewhat since the last time you opened the envelope. I’ve added something I’ll admit is blatantly derivative but what the hell. I intend to have fun with my advice column even if I do have to invent the queries myself. The name you will of course recognise as my nickname in High School combined with a word which you as a student of German will immediately recognise, all wrapped up in a loose anagram of the name of that uptight biddy whose widely syndicated column we used to chortle over every day in the Living section of the Vancouver Sun.

She, by the way, was one of the reasons my customers on that route I took over from you often had their paper delivered a few minutes later than they might have been. On days it wasn’t pouring with rain or if I wasn’t rushing through to get home to play street hockey before nightfall and if their damn dog was tied up, I would take a break on Greenlee’s porch and read her column. Funny uncles? Our uncles were funny, but they weren’t that funny…

I still do something similar to that today. Der Spiegel lands on my desk once a week with a crashing thud, but instead of plodding through the latest ups n downs of German Political Life and the Sorry State of the World, I immediately turn to the left-hand column on the back page for the latest reader-submitted nonsense culled from various German news and advertising sources. Something like Jay Leno’s headlines thingy, and often just as hilarious. If I find a gem or two in the next little while, I’ll let you know.  Melanie, tell me about railway tracks and Pierre Elliot Trudeau.  Thank you.

Headlines I still remember from paper-boy days were: Ike Dead, Soviets invade Czechs, Man Walks on Moon, Freighter Rams Ferry in Active Pass (the ship was named after a poet!) They Did It (’72 Canada -Russia series) and Nixon Resigns, the latter two of which I found most satisfactory indeed. Do you recall the four of us visiting the press room at 2215 Granville Street Vancouver 9, BC at the invitation of the circulation manager? The Vietnam War was still raging because I recall reading wire stories on it as they rattled off the Sun’s telex printer.

You’ll also notice the page entitled En francais, s’il vous plaît. (Apologies, I can’t find the frickin’ cedille on this laptop.) Anyway, it’s something I’ll be writing occasionally as an outlet for a part of me that hasn’t had much to work on these past 10 years living on the Teutonic side of the Rhine. It is in no way to be construed as exclusionistique, mon frère. You can even contribute! I know Gordon will: Quelle heure est-il maintenant, ou pas?



© 2007 lettershometoyou

The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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