was this the change you were hoping for?

Will someone please give all the Canadian idiots who were hoping that the installation of The One would make everything allright a good round of happy slaps.   Apparently things aren’t working out exactly in our favour…

Trade Wars Brewing In Economic Malaise
Outrage in Canada as U.S. Firms Sever Ties To Obey Stimulus Rules

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careful what you wish for

On occasion and what with the economy in the tank, some folk muse openly about imposing carbon based penalties on China – a new form of protectionism if you will.   The implications of this need to be understood before our poll happy politicians attempt to score domestic points – fortunately some cautionary thoughts are available over at Marginal RevolutionRTWT.

  • It can be very hard to identify and isolate the energy inputs into an exported product, especially if the host government is uncooperative and a lot of money is at stake.
  • Last I checked China was funding a big chunk of our government’s debt.  Confronting them would have to be bundled with a regime of extreme fiscal conservatism and unilateral foreign policy.
  • Chinese citizens wanting clean air at home are possibly our biggest ally so let’s not alienate them.

here there be dragons (or war memorials in small town germany)

I had just finished reading Red Storm over the Balkans, a very detailed history of the failed Russian offensive of April / May 1944 into Romania, when Edward the Corgi co-incidentally reminded me of a small yet significant feature of the Greding town war memorial.  The memorial, like many in towns all over western Europe and North America, records the names of town folk fallen in service of their country.  The Greding memorial dates from the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871 with the last entries being from the Second World War. 

However, on closer inspection you notice an interesting feature.  Those who fell in battle in both the Franco Prussian war, and the Great War for Civilisation* (that would be WWI for all you ahistorical postmodernists out there) are annotated with specific locations (an exception is made for those who served in the Kriegsmarine, where the location is annotated with an ocean name), but a large percentage of those who fell in the second war are noted as having fallen only in ‘osten‘ or the east.

War Memorial Greding

War Memorial Greding

Now this is curious for a number of reasons.  Germany, being an industrial nation, and a bureaucratic state similar to those others in western Europe of the day, and culturally predisposed to following rules (alles in ordnung) surely records must have been kept.  That even during the days of their darkest regime, there must have been bureaucrats toiling away in some nameless office block of the personnel section of the Wehrmacht, filing away posting messages, keeping unit and battalion records and together these might produce at least an idea of where each individual soldier had served and fallen.

Apparently, not as easy as one might think.  Keep in mind that from January 1943 (the surrender of Von Paulus’ sixth Army at Stalingrad) the German Army was more or less on the defence (albeit a rather mobile defence with some significant reversals for the Russians at times) for the remainder of the war, fighting in ‘terra incognita’ at least until late 1944, an area for which accurate maps and other detail was largely unavailable to both sides.   To complicate matters further, the Soviets dug up/bulldozed/destroyed any Wehrmacht (not to mention Italian, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Slovak, Romanian) cemeteries upon retaking their ground, so that not only were the families of the dead not allowed to visit the graves of the lost, in Russia, there are  no graves to visit.  Add to this the visceral feelings of hatred amongst the two belligerents, the sheer scale of the battles and casualties, the rapid movement of the lines, it all adds up to an inability to state for certain exactly where many sons of Greding are buried.  

In contrast, visit one of the beautifully kept (by public subscription, I believe) German military cemetaries in France where the families of the fallen often conduct pilgrimages to the gravesites, and you can understand how the idea of “the East” must have taken hold, particularily when the shear size and timescale of the Eastern Front is considered, with the climate extremes etc.   Without in any way excusing the excess of the horrific regimes on both sides of this largely now forgotten war, the young German soldiers who served for years in “the Land of Dragons” had no choice in the matter, and did the best they could under conditions we cannot imagine.  They deserve better than just vague reference to the east.

But there it is: ‘osten‘.  Small comfort for the families of Greding.

 _________

*  E the C will insist.   Grateful to the shorter legged canine for all the helpful editorial comments.

german as she is spoke (sumpf)

One of the curious things about language is not only the common roots of many words, but the divergence in meaning that similar words have taken over time as they progress through related languages.  Take German for instance – sumpf means swamp or marsh, while in English sump means, a hollow or pit into which liquid drains, such as a cesspool, cesspit or sink.

When exactly was the point of departure?  Clearly both words imply a common meaning at some time in the past, and yet over some time have diverged to mean quite different things, and yet not far enough apart to obscure the original meaning.

around the world – 37.2 (die inner-deutsche grenze)

Sunday May 03:
border post @ moedlareuth

border post @ moedlareuth

About two years ago I had stumbled across the old inner-german border whilst wandering near Coburg.  That brief experience lead me to begin researching the very physical manifestation of Churchill’s ‘iron curtain‘.

Google being  my friend – it didn’t take too long to find websites which are dedicated to preserving the history of this particular border.  In the course of my googling I came across the curious case of the ‘little berlin’ or the town of Moedlareuth.  This town, which even today remains tiny, sits in a picturesque valley, with a wee stream dividing it in half.  The stream also marks the boundary between the German provinces of Thuringa and Bavaria – notable because this also marked the extent of the Soviet Zone of Occupation after WWII and subsequently became the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik-DDR 1949-1990).      

From 1952 until 1966 the DDR strengthened its border with the federal republic, becoming eventually one of the most heavily militarised zones anywhere – perhaps with the exception of that between North and South Korea.  In moedlareuth it was particularly noticeable as the border ran right through the middle of the town passing quite close to buildings.   By 1966, the temporary fencing was replaced with a 14 ft high double wall backed up with electrified fences, watchtowers, minefields and machine gun posts manned by the volkspolizei (‘vopos‘) creating a death zone which became almost impossible to cross.

And so, presented with the opportunity to go and see remnants of this border, early sunday morning, off I jetted towards moedlareuth.  A beautiful sunny day, the wide open autobahn – no need to repeat my previous musings about driving fast cars in Germany. 

_______________________________

 remnants of the border fence west of moedlareuthNote:  in this first picture, taken from the former East German side – from right to left – the vehicle track along which  border / security forces would patrol, the plowed soil intended to reveal footprints, the small ditch with the vertical rise on the left, thus preventing any vehicles from ramming the electrified fence, and further to the left – but since removed – was the 14ft high concrete wall (although a segment remains just out of the picture).  Between the fence and wall the 10m wide strip was planted with land and anti personel mines.    The only border in the world designed to keep its residents in.  In fact the East Germans essentially thought of those who escaped as ‘deserters’.   The pamphlet “He Who Leaves the German Democratic Republic Joins the Warmongers”, Notizbuch des Agitators (“Agitator’s Notebook”), published by the Socialist Unity Party’s Agitation Department, Berlin District, November 1955, had this to say:

Both from the moral standpoint as well as in terms of the interests of the whole German nation, leaving the GDR is an act of political and moral backwardness and depravity.

Those who let themselves be recruited objectively serve West German Reaction and militarism, whether they know it or not. Is it not despicable when for the sake of a few alluring job offers or other false promises about a “guaranteed future” one leaves a country in which the seed for a new and more beautiful life is sprouting, and is already showing the first fruits, for the place that favors a new war and destruction?

Is it not an act of political depravity when citizens, whether young people, workers, or members of the intelligentsia, leave and betray what our people have created through common labor in our republic to offer themselves to the American or British secret services or work for the West German factory owners, Junkers, or militarists? Does not leaving the land of progress for the morass of an historically outdated social order demonstrate political backwardness and blindness? …[W]orkers throughout Germany will demand punishment for those who today leave the German Democratic Republic, the strong bastion of the fight for peace, to serve the deadly enemy of the German people, the imperialists and militarists.

 

electrified fence and watchtower - moedlareuth

electrified fence and watchtower - moedlareuth

 

the death zone - moedlareuth

the death zone - moedlareuth

 

 

border at moedlareuth 1946

border at moedlareuth 1946

machine gun bunker inside the death zone @ moedlareuth

machine gun bunker inside the death zone @ moedlareuth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to get there: 

By Car from Greding:  turn onto the Autobahn 9 (A9) north towards Nuremberg, following signs for Berlin / Hof.  Leave A9 at exit 33, joining A72 towards Hof.  Take exit 3, north towards Toepen.  In Toepen follow signs for the Deutch-Deutches Museumto moedlareuth.