See trips hub: Europe Road Ways

For themes of conflict, present in any country, see Studying War.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Luneburg and German Exceptionalism. Henry the Lion. Mix it up.

Luneburg Between the Lines.

In the center of Luneburg is a statue of a lion, very modern. Luna or lune means moon in several languages. Lunar for us.

1.  History from another angle

History's essence can be recreated in imagined attitude, pending documentation of its actual accuracy, is that so?

Luneburg's Lion Statue is an example.

This shows Henry the Lion, who spearheaded (with Albert the Bear of Brandenburg) the Pope's Crusade against the Wends, a Slavic group that long earlier had migrated to northern and eastern Europe, but who resisted Germanization, and the forced conversions to "Christianity" (when did the Founder say to kill all who disagreed with his sermons and example, one may ask).  The Northern Crusades were brutal, and often against fellow Christians who had been converted already, but by Orthodox, not the Pope, after the Great Schism. See Crusades at

And see the History of the Wends,one of the targets of the Northern Crusades.  They had learned to hold their own in battle, and attack, and even become pirates (thank you, Harald Bluetooth, Dane), as they were beset over time on all sides:

Is this Henry the Lion at the top, Heinrich der Lowe, 1129-1195, Henry of Saxony (Luneberg is in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania) see

After 1142, he was known as Henry III, Duke of Saxony; and after 1156, as Henry XII,  Duke of Bavaria.  His Duchies remained under his control until 1180. He had a handsome face.
Fair use, Henry the Lion thumbnail, click for WikimediaThumbnail for version as of 17:13, 20 September 2010
But what happened?

2. Luneburg's subject matter:  The Moon.

What happened? Is that Henry the Lion being disrespected?  Mooning it is. Moon over Luneburg.  History is fun in Luneburg, at least from this persective on history. Pale moon rising.  Look closer. Back (pun intended) to the lion! A Fave among royalty.  Look at the base. Is this the "lion" prince reviewing his subjects who are mooning him?  

Why? What happened? After a great rise in power, he fell -- and his lands taken, see 12th Century warfaring, at this google book,  1910 Encyclopedia Britannica. No respect.  Mooning. A new meaning for Lune-burg. 

To moon. Verb. See://; as a prank, see ://  Slang, English since 1743

Don't forget the horse. Note that the horse's a___  is aimed at us, the viewers.  So who is laughing at whom.  Technically, this is an anachronism.  Mooning is supposed to date from the 14th Century, when Norman soldiers bared backs to Edward III's archers. See, at

Whole line-up of mooners-Luners.  Luneburg.  Lune.  Luna,  Moon.  We get it. Germany, pun-exceptional.

Who is that at the top of this side of the base of the Lion statue? War demon?

The chronology of events in medieval power-plays is complex, but do a search for Henry II and follow him at this timeline site, at  It does not make really clear why the big moon, but helps with the context in Europe 

3.  The Thirty Years' War

Spanish Bull - Philip IV

Luneburg featured prominently in the course of the later Thirty Years' War, 1618-1648, see

Luneburg DE, Spanish Bull Commemorating 30 Years' War

The Spanish joined the Austrians against the Protestants in the Luneburg-Hanover area, as the roughest of broad brush summaries, see 

See Philip at  There was Philip IV known as Philip the Fair, 1268-1314, King of  France;  he ordered the dismantling of the Knights' Templar, not at issue here as we understand it.  Then there was Philip IV of Spain, 1605-1665, era of the Thirty Years' War.

Thirty Years' War:  This was a series of declared wars, undeclared wars, religious and secular issues, well-summarized at the Pipeline site.  Teams:
  • House of Austria, comprised of Ferdinands II and II, of the House of Habsburg, Holy Roman Emperors; and Philip IV, who was their Spanish cousin. 
  • Danish, Dutch, French and Swedish
The Thirty Years' War was also a civil war in Germany.  Some principalities fought for the Habsburgs, or against them, back and forth. And it was a series of religious wars, Catholic, Lutheran, Calvinist identities in issue.  The Jesuit Counter-Reformation was supported by Ferdinand II, but Frederick V supported Calvinism.

4.  The crooked steeple of Luneburg - look past it to the rebuilding.

Luneburg has its crooked steeple, but also its own sense of revival.  Here off the square, with the Henry the Lion moon statue; and the church visible, see a Greek revival cafe, complete with Doric columns.  These are jarring at first, all jammed in.  Then think that medieval buildings also were crowded together, at all angles, wherever space was found on the pathways. Form and function, reimagined.

5.   Form and Function

The ultimate moon. Even the necessaries in Germany are forward-looking. Beam me up, Scotty.

Back to Germany's exceptionalism. 

Where in America will you find a public WC, where you step right up like in Star Trek, put in your coins, and the cylindrical stainless sphere magically slides open, revealing -- yes! An immaculate toilet!  Hey!  This is fun!

And when you enter and push the close button, it does.  

And you do what you do.  And when you are finished, you rise (or back up) and adjust, and only then push the Open Sesame Button, and the beam me up Scottie device does indeed open (that's a good thing), and you emerge, to imagined great applause, as at a debut.  Is it sanitized while you are out?  Sure.

6.  Mix it up

Luneburg's old half-timbers highlight the losses of history in the bombing of WWII. The reconstructed areas, where there are no original structures left, become the new norm, where efficiency and cost-watching predominate.

In Luneburg, enjoy the decorative, bending demarcations between floors, the the clear weight of the old timbers at higher levels.

Rostock. Obotrites, Tribes, Port. Ferries; Historic German Tribes.

Obotrites and Rostock
Wends, Vandals


We became restless in Germany -- so many lovely little towns, brick tidy buildings.  We followed the urge to move on to Sweden.  Rostock has been around for 800 years, but we did not tour around in it. We arrived about 8 at night, for an 11 PM --we hoped -- ferry out.

 It took us over an hour just to get to the correct dock. Navigating is not easy aaroudn the docks.  Here is a long history of the area -- medieval beginnings, trade, wars, fires, some parts survived, some did not, see ://

A.  Tribes

1.  Tribes -

The Obotrites

Obotrites.  This group was important in the founding of both the town of Schwerin, and Rostock, to the northwest, where the ferries dock now. See the timeline of the area and events at google book on historic German tribes,  history of the Obotrites.  Historic German Tribes.  Do a search for history of Obotrites in google, and scroll down to the timeline already outlined there.
 Obotrites also feature in gamesmanship, see lists of characters and armor at  Meet King Mieceslas III of the Obotrites, in the first millenium, at  in Mecklenburg, Luneburg and Holstein, Slavs who migrated across the Elbe and once inhabited all over Germany, claims the site; then fell into conflict with other Germanic tribes (and were absorbed?). In Luneburg, the last of the Slavs died in about 1750, so goes the narration.

2. The Vandals

An old source, that uses f's for s's, goes into more detail, suggesting that the Obotrites were similar to the Vandals, and it mentions a King Witzen  (Widukind?), at The Critical Review, Dr. Nugent's History of Vandalia, in a google book at The Monthly Review, Annals of Literature, Vol 21, 1766, by Tobias George Smollett  They were more curious than our age. What facts underlie?  We just refer.

We forget how mobile rulers, people and armies were in medieval and earlier times.  Even Henry the Lion, see Luneberg, carried on campaigns in Italy, and, back in Germany defeated the Obotrites, see Medieval History, Cambridge 

There is a long chronology of rulers, progeny, assassinations. Henry the Lion from the 12th Century recurs, find him also at Luneburg, Germany.

2.  The Wends

The Obotrites appear to be a Slavic group that also included the Wends, and we found Wends after they migrated south to Slovenia, I recall.  See their history in Germany at

3.  Religious tribes

Roman Catholicism claims a saint, Berno, a Cistercian Monk, as an Obotrite.  Read the history of the conversions of the multi-deists to Christianity, voluntary and not, at    Brno is also a city in the Czech Republic, see, near Slavkov, the Battle of Austerlitz (Encyclopedia Britannica) with Napoleon and the other two Emperors, from Austria and Russia.

4.  Qualities

Obotrite tenacity is legendary, along with other Germanic tribes. The ancient Romans stopped short of trying to subdue the Germanic tribes, in these northern areas, and in much of the Central German area we think of today.  That is a source of pride to the Germans in those areas. The tribes were ferocious, dedicated to their own way of life, and even the Roman regimentation could not conquer them.  There was also the geographic distance separating the Germanic conflicts from Rome,  thinning of supply lines.  Rome could meet its basic needs for resources by staying further south,  but the resistance of the Germanic tribes when attacked was a strong factor.

The Germanic language group is as old as the Latin.  All (is this so?) European languages stem from something called "Indo-European" -- and no one is superior to the other except (perhaps) in the view of those who happened to live south.  There, the warmer climes enabled people to put energies to matters other than sheer survival: other than famine and cold.
  • Geography and destiny.  In southern areas, there is a year-round ability to make clay tablets and parchment for writing, is that so? Institutions and destiny.   If it had not been for the Church in the West, as the controlling institution forcing compliance,  would even Latin have survived.  Interesting.  See the impact of geography and institutions, on history and culture, at essays on language, St. Thomas edu. 

B.  Travel:  Rostock the Port.  Ferries.

1.  Ferry from Germany to Sweden.  Make reservations in advance, but there are many ferries for easy time changes. Pay in advance, and they will put you where you want to be.

2.  Sleeping.  A cabin is not much more expense than sleeping in the lounge, and you get a shower and maybe 5 hours of sleep.  Food is in huge portions to serve the trucker trade.  One plate serves two non-trucker appetites.

3.  Getting back to the car.  Make a written note or photograph where your car is. Get the level etched in stone. There are designated car levels, say 6 levels on these big ferries, but those limits are not definitive -- if they need your car to balance somewhere else, they will keep waving you up the coiled inclines.  If you forget where your car is, you will have to run around and hope you get there before the line behind you is set to go. Your car will probably be walled in among the 19-wheelers, invisible. The off-loading is fast.


If you do not find your ferry dock immediately upon arriving at this big port, go to a big hotel and ask directions there.  There are different loading docks for different destinations, and they are far apart. A GPS is useless because you may not have the coordinates.

Schwerin and Surnames; Thirty Years' War

Castle and Lakes

Schwerin is the regional capital of Mecklenburg, West Pomerania -- founded in about 1100 -- and is surrounded by lakes, lakes, lakes.  The Thirty-Years War, 1619-1648 see ,  devastated it; the Swedes took over it, then came the fire.  A rebuilding set it to rights in the 1700's.  There is a massive palace on an island where two great lakes meet, right in town, and Mecklenburg royalty lived there from the 1300's to 1918.  This was a trade hub, and Arab writers mention it in writings from the 1100's we understand, see Mecklenburg.

The Thirty-Years War for Germany was a series of wars, declared and undeclared, between the House of Austria, the Habsburgs, Holy Roman Emperors Ferdinand II and Ferdinand III, and a Spanish cousin, Philip IV.  Opponents included variously Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, and France.  The Thirty Years War was also a civil war; and a religious war among Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists.  Maximilian I represented the later Jesuit Counter-Reformation.  War, militance, bloodshed. What was really resolved: only that strong feelings will not die, regardless of the merit of the cause. Once feelings are entrenched, can anyone change because of facts?  Wait and see. Uneasy truces worldwide.

The palace itself dates mostly from the mid-1800's, with only a few very old parts.  The area was settled in about 1018 by a group of Slavic Obotrites (see where this large tribe's area was in about 900 at ).  This group of Slavs was known as the Zuarin. But by 1160, Duke Henry the Lion, who was a "Guelph" (of the Guelphs and the Ghibellines later in Italy, see  Guelph is the Italian for the German Welf) had overcome the Zuarin.  See,_state_capital/index.jsp/. 

Migration and surnames:  Surname from town.

Some immigrants and others from German towns, take the name of the town as their own -- look at the number of German towns that appear as surnames, including Schwerin, where the people claim no known connection to it.  This is not so in Sweden, where surnames for centuries derived from the first name of the father; and families emigrating then taking names from places to distinguish themselves.  See  Sweden Road Ways

Town surnames, other sources, see American Surnames:  by Elsdon Cole Smith. See Google book

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Luneberg - When your Steeple is Crooked. St. Johannes, and Hermann Dahl.

Luneburg.  Had been famous for its salt, first mention of that trade in 956 AD - see ://  Twenty-thousand tons a year at its peak (when was that?) and Luneberg supplied half of Europe with its salt, says the Niedersachsen site.  Learn Germany by reading. Nieder = lower. Sachsen = Saxony.

Bach was born in 1685, and orphaned in 1694.  He moved here in 1700 as a student, was a chorister here, continuing his education, and practising.   Himmler killed himself here in 1945, before he could be brought to trial.

This was a quiet, wettish Sunday afternoon, look up the street:

Buildings do seem to tilt.  This site says there are salt mines beneath, and things settled. See ://

Go into a cafe there, enjoy a bite, go to the Ladies in the unisex door to the separate rooms; and one attendant for both with all doors open.  Don't look surprised. Just say hello.

Stair-step facades.

Then look back down the street, where you came from:

A crooked steeple?  Off center! Run back to check: what if heaven is over that way and we are aiming this way.

Is that maybe two degrees off?  We see several spellings - Johannes and Johannis as well as St. Johns. 

The lightpole and the building on the other side are where they should be, perspective-wise.  But the umbrella looks off.

Or was it crooked also? Use the umbrella as a level - missed it in the first one.  The umbrella looks as though I tilted the camera to make the steeple straight, but that made the umbrella crooked.  Try again.

Umbrella level, and the steeple, not the brick part when you see it, but the top tiled pointy part (witches' hats) is definitely off.  The Ledger site that we found after we got back says that the steeple builder got so despondent that the steeple is crooked, that he flung himself off it in a suicide attempt.  But he landed in a hay wagon, unharmed.  So he headed to a pub, got himself well tanked, and there died of alcohol poisoning.  Ironies, says the site.

So am I.

Tilted steeples.  Slants imposed on basic foundations of religious founders. We recall, again, contemporary (now deceased) Hermann Dahl of Odessa DE, artist, who also treasured the concept of the tilted steeple, but intentionally:  Did he have it right? Religious steeples tilt away from their foundations, and that's the way it is. This is our painting, and offered continually to his son, Tim, who has been in touch with us. 

Back to Luneburg: Tilted, slanted steeples, the the step-architecture, recalling the ancient Maya, does it not?

Have to check that one.  I seem to remember another use, perhaps as council chambers.  This is not the town hall.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sachsenhain: Saxons' Grove. Charlemagne's Slaughter of 4,500 Saxon Prisoners. Stories.

Saxon's Woods
Year 782 CE. Charlemagne's massacre at Verden of 4,500 Saxon prisoners of war.
What his history done to that travesty?
1.  Summary.  A walk in the woods. The old Saxony.  Standing stones set at Verden. A long story. The year:  780-82 AD.  Saxons, defending home territory, refusing to accept Christianity, opposing the great Charlemagne. Charlemagne's response after some 30 years of back and forth:  slaughter 4,500 Saxon prisoners of war, at Sachsenhain, Saxon's Woods, the Massacre of Verden.  
  • Ask first, however, where are the bones.  For such a mass decapitation event, heads severed, the remains could not easily have been identified and returned home, and by whom?  Where is the actual killing field, the skulls, the tibia, the femurs. Even if burned, there would be remains.  Research continues, several explanations possible.
So the Saxons rose up again and again, over some 30 years.  Charlemagne would think he had won, then the insurgency popped up somewhere else. Whack-a-Saxon as they popped up was not working.  The Saxons were not responding they way "normal" defeated groups reacted.  They refused to quit.

2.  The setting: 

 Charlemagne was pushing to take over Saxon lands and to force the Saxons to convert to his version of Christianity (the institutional Pope's version, the more contemplative forms having been targeted and removed as a threat to the institution).  Pope Adrian at the time had had his own troubles with the Lombards, and Charlemagne had come to attack them, so the relationship with the Pope was a good one.  

At Verden and Saxony, however, he had been thwarted for decades. These people wanted nothing to do with his religion or his invasion. Sometimes Charlemagne won, sometimes he did not. He became infuriated that the Saxons would not stay defeated. Read a 1902 account of that, and history of the time: Medieval and Modern History, Part I, The Middle Ages by Philip Van Ness Myers at p. 122 ff.

3.  Issues of proof.  

Where are the bones?  I recall no mass grave indication, or account of identifications of the dead made and relatives returning home with them.  That would not have happened. Without an ossuary-find, even chars, how to explain where the bodies went? The story of the Massacre of Verden is told and retold, even at children's level, see but without the proofs. Research continues.

3.1.  Is the absence of bones related to a rewrite of history, to downplay this vicious side of Charlemagne?

 Read versions written after Charlemagne was in process of beatification -- apparently never concluded.  He was "sainted" by Paschal III, an "anti-pope".  See  He has never been recognized by the Catholic Church as a saint, see site.  Nonetheless, supporters would stress Charlemagne's goodness, as would be needed for a saint. Rewrite history, downplay Verden, and so it was done. See accounts at Internet History Sourcebook,

 If he was to be a saint,

a) All his sins had to be forgiven for that status.

b) So forget about the massacre at Pamplona, where it is said that 30,000 were killed in his leveling of the city, see this view of Charlemagne from the Evil side, ://; and

c) So forget about the massacre here at Sachsenhain, Massacre at Verden, and excise it from the written histories.  Or, ameliorate them:  Charlemagne had asked for the Saxons only to identify their leaders, and the rest could go; but they all stood up, is one version (looking for the cite).

The victor Charlemagne supporters had the written language.  And they wrote what they wanted, is one explanation for official scribes, biographers to omit details of Verden.  You will not find a negative account of Charlemagne there. So what did happen?  Smart:  rewrite history. Who is to say what is right? Repetition gives even falsehood credibility.

3.2  Or did the massacre never happen?
  • Others say that a Latin word from the early texts was mistranslated, so that a concept for "exiled" or "relocated" became "beheaded". See ://  That site also notes, however, that a 681 AD edict by Bishops in Toledo called for beheading nonbelievers, so the policy was in place.  
  • And Charlemagne himself issued laws known as capitularies for the killing of those Saxons who still refused to convert, and this was several years after Verden, and even those who conspired with the Saxons, see History of the Christian Church,
The oral tradition of the Saxons, however, whether tied to a mistranslation, or an example of history's rewrite to purge it, held. Either way, the story of a massive massacre was passed on, and on. And fit with other acts of Charlemagne, as at Pamplona.

4   Origin of the stones themselves.  The Third Reich.

The stones around the long road-walk were set in place by German Nazis to promote nationalism, as a gesture that they were serving the public good.  Enter the Third Reich.

They erected a walkway.  Issue: How many stones ring the walkway?  This site says only 1000. See ://

It may be more.  Heinrich Himmler put together a public works project in 1934-35, a memorial at Sachsenhain, ostensibly to honor the Saxon dead -- all 4,500 with 4,500 standing stones.  Who has counted? The stones line a broad smooth dirt road around a rural pastureland, through woods, around.  Wide enough for vehicles.  Handy because, once the community was thankful to the Reich for their memorial, the Reich took it over for the Hitler Youth and the SS.  See next post.

5.  More variations on the story.

The slaughter -- out came the swords, and down the lines, around the circle, went Charlemagne's executioners.  Whack, Whack.  Other stories tell of fathers and sons clinging together, or brothers, or friends, as the sword descended nearer and nearer.  It was a travesty, if it happened that way. The Saxons never forgot. This was their Wood.  Their Grove. Sachsenhain. Saxon's Grove.  I am looking back for the cite offering these possible details.

6.  Cultural, heritage distinctions underlying the refusal to submit.

What made the Saxons so different from more southern European Germanic tribes, that these should be such holdouts.  See overview at
  •  The Saxons were not inclined toward the Roman organization, with its institutionalized hierarchies. They were a decentralized group: many within the larger tribe over a large area, with a common culture; and leaders arising as needed, then blending back into the community to carry on with an ordinary life. 
  •  Thought Charlemagne, perhaps, the only way to ensure subjugation is kill them all.  This is part of Western tradition.
    • See Stonewall Jackson debating with Colonel Patton on whether to kill brave men:  “I should have spared them because they were men who had gotten into a desperate situation,” replied Patton.    Jackson replied, “No, Colonel, shoot them all, I don’t want them to be brave.” Fair use, see, at The Death of Turner Ashby May 6
    • See Cistercian monk Amalric, ordering the massacre at Beziers, by Simon de Montfort, : Albigensian Crusade, Cathar Christians, in essence  Kill them all. The Lord will know his 
    • See also Crusaders sacking Jerusalem and Constantinople, etc.
So the Saxons continued to fight, melt away, feign conversion, and Charlemagne had had enough.

As a memorial, however, it remains moving, with stones seemingly tilting toward each other, some sheltering lesser sized stones, others defiantly to themselves.

 Individualized standing stones, Sachsenhain, Germany

7.  Now, diminution.

The current owners and operators, an evangelical group, unfortunately has defaced some of them.  They etched in the stones their own religious motivational slogan words, but ignore those.

The area is now owned and operated by an Evangelical group, with slogans and words on the stones difficult to translate.  We think this is Menschen Wie Vele Leben or men will live, something like that. Some stones as we recall had one word, or perhaps two.  Looking for others' accounts of the translations.  We simply prefer historic stones kept as they are, free of any agenda.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Verden and Sachsenhain: Memorial Appropriated by Himmler for Hitler Youth, SS

Hitler Youth and SS appropriate Sachsenhain: Saxons' Woods.
Watch propaganda's tactics:  Appear to sympathize, represent a group's interest. Then highjack their most treasured symbol.  Himmler first built a public-works memorial here, to nurture the old Saxon patriotism of a population.  The Nazis then used it for Hitler Youth, SS when the population was off guard. The area still is used for other than the Saxon Memorial, but less offensively so -- youth oriented.

Sachsenhain in 782 CE.  Saxon Grove, near Verden.  The area moves from a memorial to a massacre of 4,500 Saxon prisoners of war by Charlemagne, to 20th Century facility for Hitler Youth; SS.  The park area and its standing stones still merit a long study.

Origins.  This nature park was built as a public works project, supposedly as a memorial to the Saxon Slaughter of 782 CE by Charlemagne, at that place, known as Saxon Grove.

In 1934-35, the National Socialist Party, pursuant to orders of Reichsfuehrer Heinrich Himmler, set it up as a memorial to the slaughter of 4,500 Saxon prisoners by Charlemagne, in 782 ACE.

Strategy.  The community was thrilled:  at last, they were receiving official recognition of the great sacrifice of the Saxons of more than a thousand years ago;  the area where the murders happened (defenseless prisoners, retribution); and the great injustice of Charlemagne and his forced conversions, invasion of their lands, bringing the Papal religion in tow and down their throats.

Not long after the memorial was built however, with a several miles long perimeter smooth path wide enough for vehicles, and 4,500 memorial standing stones representing the deaths, once the local population was in sync with Himmler's plan for the area and surely Himmler was their friend; it all changed.

The memorial area was appropriated as a training ground for the Hitler Youth, see Hitler Youth at ://; and also provided housing for the SS.  Himmler softened the population by pretending to act in their interest, then substituted his own.

Go back to that era, to see the unrelenting focus on reinstating "Germany" as rightful rulers of others, then see how effective the manipulations were even here, at Verden.  After World War I and its humiliating and devastating defeats, Adolf Hitler analyzed brilliantly how to use propaganda to get at the heart of the masses, see Natural Pragmatism, Unser Kampf, Mein Kampf, Hitler as Propagandist  Use their emotions, and let nothing distract.

The Loss of Place.  There would be so much history to learn at this place, if it had remained a memorial to slaughtered Saxons.  A main point could be a study of the nature of history itself:  that proofs from that 782 AD era are difficult, and conflicting. See this site, not friendly to Charlemagne, but with a somewhat different version of the killings. See ://  Nonetheless, a population's memory of injustice does not require exactitude or agreement on all the facts.  The grip of an injustice is still there, and ongoing with this new use.  

Reality says parks cost money, and if an evangelical center can pay the rent, fine. Still, we wish they had kept their chisels off the stones, and kept their motivational sound bites to somewhere else.

This Himmler-inspired public works project then was taken over by Himmler for the Hitler Youth and SS.

 Hitler Youth:  Hitler addresses the Hitler Youth, see and hear, watch videos, and read at the History Place:

"We do not want this nation to become soft. Instead, it should be hard and you will have to harden yourselves while you are young. You must learn to accept deprivations without ever giving in. Regardless of whatever we create and do, we shall pass away, but in you, Germany will live on. And when nothing is left of us you will have to hold up the banner which some time ago we raised from nothing. (Applause) And I know it cannot be otherwise, because you are flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood, and your young minds are filled with the same will that dominates us. (Applause) You cannot be but united with us. And when the great columns of our movement march victoriously through Germany today I know that you will join these columns. And we know (Applause) that Germany is before us, within us, and behind us."

The area is now a Youth Camp for an Evangelical group.

The nineteenth century fostered great interest in the idea that there was a special connection between nature and the German people, and those carried over into design in the 20th Century, see Nature and Ideology, Natural Garden Design in the 20th Century, by Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn at://

See also Pseudo-Archeology and Nationalism at ://  Participation in a fictitious past, or partially fictitious: human nature to associate and appear greater than one is?  

But is Sachsenhain fictitious?  How much of what we think we know now, came from the National Socialists seeking to purify Germany, bring it back to its pre-Christian glorious roots.  Or was the story already there, ready to be taken to new levels with the SS and Hitler Youth.  Some German-speaker:  the sites are online.

Revisit Charlemagne at ://  Some accounts say that fathers and sons were among the Saxons, and that they clung together as the swords whack, whack, whacked down the line.  Is this a motivation for so many placements, stones protecting each other.  Workmen: Tell us. What were you thinking?  

And would the current owners, the Evangelicals, please keep their personal philosophies off these stones. 

Chiseled graffiti.  Take it off.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Circus! German Circus Tradition

The Circus in Germany

All over Europe, find traveling small groups of performers camped at the side of a road near a town; or large, elaborate and big-tented circuses, like this one found between Hanover and Celle. Find a history of circuses at ://

Recent history:  See Circus Williams, Great Circus Williams-Althoff, German National Circus, at ://  The tent colors and trailers are different from these that we saw, but the history of that particular group shows the appeal of feats of daring and skill.

From the circus site:

Englishman Philip Astley (1742-1814) began the first modern circus format, featuring equestrian trick-riders from the training schools of various military groups. An early showman was another Englishman, Jacob Bates who focused his activities in the German States, and inspired Astley.  Astley did not think up the round performing ring, however.  That developed naturally among equestrians because the centrifugal force generated by the rider and horse going round and round, enabled the rider the better to keep balance while standing up. A gallop in a straight line would not produce the same derring-do possibilities. Astley used a 62' ring diameter. The standard now is 42'.

There was a German equestrian named Carl Magnus Hinne (1818-1890) set up circuses in Germany, Poland, Denmark and Russia.  Names of old circus families that originated in Italy or Germany could well become associated then with Russia, or Denmark. 

Horse acts declined after WWI, but in Germany, the era between WWI and WWII was boom time for traveling circuses, very flamboyant.  As the core of the show, equestrian trick riders were replaced by and joined by balancing acts, tight-ropes, clowns, trapezes, acrobats, wild animal trainers (the German Hagenbecks, importers and dealers, spearheaded this), and menageries, and then booths for feats of skill and a reward of a pink fluffy stuffed something.   Then came formal schools in the different nations, serving a nationalized circus, or national interests. Other countries preferred permanent circus buildings to the traveling variety.

German and Italian tent-makers were considered tops for the Big Top, apparently.

1977:  Enter the Big Apple Circus, performing branch of a circus school (reintroduced the old one-ring idea); then the German Roncalli Circus brought back the old flamboyance; and Cirque de Soleil has been innovative; so circuses remain on the move.

Bergen-Belsen Documentation Center, Concentration Camp Memorial Park, near Celle

Anne Frank is Somewhere Here.
So is everyone else.  

Some scholarship challenges the numbers of German Jews killed, and the focus of the holocaust, see Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, by Timothy Snyder, review at ://  The impact remains. The Memorial Park itself is flat acreage with woods, and cleared areas, remains of structures, some relief maps, a few large memorials like the Polish Cross, and specific memorials to groups victimized, including Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, the mentally handicapped, and "enemies of the state," including those who criticized the Nazi rise to power, see ://

Find a walk through the Memorial Park at  Memorial Park, Bergen-Belsen, Celle, Germany. There are isolated and grouped headstones (as memorials, not actual persons necessarily), a long pathway, cross-paths, and many, many raised flat mounds, deep pits into which hundreds of bodies were bulldozed, a mound made on top, flattened, and heather or other low brush covering, and a memorial set in the raised turf wall indicating how many souls were interred there:  750, 250, 1000 and so on.

Still, what happened there? A child, a visitor, would have no idea except that there are flat maps here, like toys, like a board game; and there are so many numbers for the dead.

So go into the Documentation Center, a modern building, with the photos, exhibits, relief maps, films.

The place was structured, meticulous rows, functions. Read Heinrich Himmler's speech to the SS at Poznan, Poland, in 1943 on extermination of the Jews in particular, at ://  Hear and see it at ://  A list of selected quotes: at including loyalty and responsibility only to own German blood, no one else ://

Bergen Belsen: originally a transit center. Later, an end-stop concentration camp. Germany

See the connectors between Bergen-Belsen and the labor and death camps elsewhere. Allies have been criticized for knowing what the railroads were being used for, yet not bombing the rails and stations to stop it. Aiming for stations and railways would have hampered the transit, without also killing the prisoners the bombing was supposed to help.  Is that so? Find other debate about bombing the camps themselves, which would have also caused deaths of thousands, see that discussed at ://

Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS:  "We have always selected the highest and abandoned the lowest.  As long as we maintain this principle, the Order [the SS] will remain healthy.  After the war, we shall really build up our Order .... it will provide Germany with an elite. This elite will provide leaders to industry, agriculture and politics and the activities of the mind." 

Tragic camera moments. The exhibit regarding women prisoners notes the irony of women before the Bergen Belsen ID camera, not knowing what was coming; and out came a "camera" response -- they fixed their hair, made a shy smile, even a little coy, as though this were its own occasion. Please, like me. I see me. My aunts. Would we be different?

Plan your visit to Bergen Belsen so that there are several hours left at the end of the day to appreciate all the exhibits.  Films take time, the whole presentation is overwhelming - not in how it is arranged, because that is in manageable sections -- but overwhelming in the human sense. Those Germans look just like us. Does that mean we could do that, too. Reference to a few exhibit photos must be fair use out of such a total. Photographic and other teaching tools -- the information belongs to the world, is that so?