Tag Archives: German Democratic Republic

DEATH OF QUEEN VICTORIA

No, I’m not late bringing you the news!

Rather, I’ve just read “Last Days of Glory,” by Tony Rennell (published in 2000).

The book answers any questions you might have about the death of Queen Victoria, in January 1901.   To my knowledge, hers was the biggest funeral service in history, befitting a woman who was the “Grandmama of Europe” and the most powerful woman in the world. If she had lived, World War One might have been avoided. The German Kaiser was her grandson and was present at her death and subsequent funeral.   By all accounts, he was on his best behavior and was well received by his Uncle Edward, Victoria’s son and successor, who also died before 1914.

 

She wasn’t England’s greatest monarch (that description belongs to Queen Elizabeth I), but she was by far the most influential, giving her name to an age. The Victorian Era carries connotations to this day.

 

Interestingly, President McKinley ordered the flag atop the White House (then known as the Executive Mansion), to fly at half-staff when he heard the news of her death, the first time this had been done for a foreign leader. He also attended a memorial service for her in Washington DC.

In reading of her life, I was reminded of a scripture in the Book of Proverbs, that “Righteousness exalts a nation” (Prov. 14:34).   Britain was exalted during the Victorian era, above all the other nations on earth.   Her empire was the greatest in history, ruling over one quarter of the peoples on earth.   She had the greatest navy in the world, giving her command of the seas.

Contributory factors were the abolition of slavery (in 1833).   There was a four-year transition period, at the end of which Victoria became Queen.   She was seen as a Liberator throughout her life.   Another contributing factor was her exemplary married life – during her short marriage to Prince Albert, they had nine children and were known to be a very happy couple.   This was in stark contrast to her two predecessors on the throne.

There’s no wonder more cities and towns around the world are named Victoria.   She reigned almost 64 years.   She left behind a country that has, sadly, rejected all the values she held dear.

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BRITISH EMPIRE FACTOID

“On the eve of the Second World War, Britain’s Colonial Empire was made up of 45 territories, 2 million square miles and 50 million inhabitants.   All but 300,000 square miles of the Empire was in tropical Africa, where there were no less than 14 territories, all of them staffed by members of the Colonial Service.” (Introduction, “Tales from the Dark Continent,” edited by Charles Allen, 1979)

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TRUMP’S UPSETTING WORDS

When President Trump told four congresswomen to “go back where you came from” and accused them of having anti-American ideas, he had a point.   First and second generation immigrants bring in alien ideas, which can be upsetting.

When I worked for an African government, my wife and I lived quite comfortably on one salary.   When a native African took over, he could not.   The reason is the extended family.   Whereas I only had to support my wife and I, plus our baby daughter, he had 300 members of his extended family to support – brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles.

No wonder the first generation of African leaders asked for bribes to do their jobs, it was the only way they could support all those people.

In Ghana, my wife had a friend from the UK who had married a Ghanaian man.   She used to get very frustrated and angry at all the hangers on, family members who would turn up at all hours of the day and night to ask for money.   Her husband no doubt had to supplement his income in order to survive.

The extended family system is very much a part of African culture.  It is similar to socialism, whereby the guy at the top distributes largesse to everybody according to his will.   As Mrs. Margaret Thatcher put it so well:   “The trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples’ money.”   Whether it’s your own money or the tax-payers, eventually the funds will be exhausted.

Far better for each person to take care of himself and his own family. This was the foundation of Anglo-Saxon supremacy,

“If a man doesn’t work, neither should he eat” (II Thess 3:10).   I Timothy 5:8 adds:   “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

But the root of the “squad’s” thinking is the extended family system, correctly described by the president as “an un-American idea.”

With immigration (and even the second and third generation) the idea will grow in numbers, changing America significantly.

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WAR WITHOUT END

“For nation (Greek “ethnos” = ethnic group) shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Matthew 24:7)

“When he slipped out of consciousness, Batsi Lokana watched the militiamen who had attacked him slice off his mother’s head.   When he came to, her body was gone.  “Either they ate her, or they threw her into the river,” he surmises from his hospital bed in Bunia, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ituri province.   Given Ituri’s history of gore, it is not a far-fetched conclusion.   The past two decades have seen civil war, mass killings, systematic gang rape and a vile scramble for loot.   For some militias, cannibalism is just another way to terrify one’s enemies.

“Last month saw a reprise of the violence, as Ituri’s cattle-herding Hema and seed-sowing Lendu ethnic groups again turned on each other.   Armed men emptied villages, burned down houses, hacked bits off their occupants and ripped the fetus out of at least one woman.   A mass grave found in the village of Tche contained 161 bodies, babies and small children among them.”   (“Ituri’s injuries,” The Economist, July 13th)

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EUROPE ELECTS FIRST FEMALE PRESIDENT

STRASBOURG — The European Parliament on Tuesday elected Ursula von der Leyen as the next president of the European Commission — the first woman to hold the EU’s top executive job.

Von der Leyen, from the center-right European People’s Party, served most recently as German defense minister and is a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel.  She will be the first German to lead the EU in more than a half-century, since Walter Hallstein served from 1958 to 1967.

Von der Leyen won 383 votes in a secret ballot, just slightly above the absolute majority of 374 she required to be elected — and far short of the 422 votes cast in favor of current Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in 2014.   There were 327 votes in opposition, 22 abstentions and one vote declared invalid.  (Politico.eu 7/16)

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“The Fourth Reich:   The Specter of Nazism from World War II to the Present

 Amazon books:

Ever since the collapse of the Third Reich, anxieties have persisted about Nazism’s revival in the form of a Fourth Reich.   Gavriel D. Rosenfeld reveals, for the first time, these postwar nightmares of a future that never happened and explains what they tell us about Western political, intellectual, and cultural life.  He shows how postwar German history might have been very different without the fear of the Fourth Reich as a mobilizing idea to combat the right-wing forces that genuinely threatened the country’s democratic order.   He then explores the universalization of the Fourth Reich by left-wing radicals in the 1960s, its transformation into a source of pop culture entertainment in the 1970s, and its embrace by authoritarian populists and neo-Nazis seeking to attack the European Union since the year 2000.   This is a timely analysis of a concept that is increasingly relevant in an era of surging right-wing politics.

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PLANS FOR THE [German Army] BUNDESWEHR
The relentlessly fighting AfD army
by VON PETER CARSTENS:  Political correspondent in Berlin,          10 July, 2019

The AfD* calls for a “strong military force” with “relentless” soldiers and a leadership role in Europe.    Their plans for the Bundeswehr are reminiscent of old times.  It would create a state in the state.  An analysis.

Some sympathizers of the AFD have come to the party because the Union has failed to take care of traditional conservatives.

They see themselves as patriotic people who love their country, respect the Basic Law and defend it if necessary with the weapon in hand.   This also applies to the Bundeswehr, which was neglected for years.

For a quarter of a century, from the Urals to the Atlantic, central European politics barely saw any territorial threat in the midst of its great peace project, which would have to be met militarily.  There remained peace operations and disaster relief to justify the existence of the Bundeswehr.

But times have changed.   Germany has been investing more in equipment, training and readiness for five years now.   It will, however, take time for the worst deficits to be balanced.   After all, it was possible in the late autumn to bring about 10,000 well-equipped soldiers and their vehicles and everything else for several weeks to Norway for the NATO maneuver “Trident Juncture” [Google machine translation].    (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 10th July)

* The AfD (Alternative for Deutschland) is the right wing opposition party in Germany.)

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COUNTER-MEASURES TO US SANCTIONS

(Own report) – Berlin and Brussels are weighing countermeasures to the Trump administration’s growing number of extraterritorial sanctions.   The US government is seeking to globally enforce its unilaterally imposed sanctions to bind other countries, including allies, to its foreign policy course.   The sanctions against Iran are the most prominent example.   They also made German business with Iran largely impossible.   Washington first implemented extraterritorial sanctions in the mid-1990s, but finally reached agreement with the EU not to enforce them against European companies.   This was changed during the Obama administration, when it amassed billions in fines from banks in the EU.   The Trump administration has expanded the extraterritorial sanctions to include Russia and Cuba.   Following the failure of the INSTEX financial vehicle, German government advisors are proposing that legal action be taken in US courts.   Now, “asymmetric countermeasures” are also being discussed.   (German Foreign Policy, July 11th)

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UNDOING THE PAST

PRUSSIAN MONARCHY HEIRS SEEK RESTITUTION OF ARTIFACTS FROM GERMAN STATE                                            Hohenzollerns want property and artworks lost after two world wars and Soviet occupation                                                                                        Guardian UK, 12 July 2019

Negotiations have been ongoing “for several years” between the Hohenzollern family, the federal government and the states of Berlin and Brandenburg over the aristocrats’ demand for restitution.  “The talks … are aimed at finding a lasting solution for different art and collection objects, which are valued differently by the public institutions on the one hand and the Hohenzollern House on the other hand,” said the culture ministry in a statement.   According to Der Spiegel, the Hohenzollerns are seeking the restitution of tens of thousands of paintings, sculptures, coins, books and furniture.  Further, they want a right to reside at one of several properties, including Cecilienhof Palace, where Allied powers met after second world war to decide on Germany’s future.

The restitution negotiations were spearheaded by Georg Friedrich Ferdinand, the great-great grandchild of Wilhelm II, the last emperor and king of Prussia, who was deposed and went into exile after Germany’s defeat in the first world war.   The Prussian royals were initially stripped of their properties without compensation after the monarchy was overthrown, but a deal on the monarchy’s assets was later brokered between the state and the Hohenzollerns under a 29 October 1926 law.    However, Soviet occupation following the second world war and the subsequent communist rule in half of Berlin and in the state of Brandenburg led to additional expropriations, further complicating things.

“The negotiations are about legal ambiguities in the agreement, but also with legal positions that have changed as a result of the subsequent historical events, in particular the measures of the Soviet occupying power and the government of the German Democratic Republic,” said the culture ministry.

As a first step, a list of concerned objects has been drawn up that concerns less than 0.1% of the collections in the Prussian Castles and Gardens Foundation in Berlin-Brandenburg, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and the German Historical Museum.  Nevertheless, a rapid resolution of the talks is unlikely. “At the moment, the positions of the negotiating parties are still very far apart,” said the ministry.

(https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/12/prussian-monarchy-heirs-reclaim-historical-artefacts-from-german-state)

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DUTCH ROYAL FAMILY STEP IN TO SAVE FORMER HOME OF KAISER WILHELM II                                                                                                 Huis Doorn in the Netherlands struggles to attract visitors due to controversial legacy of last German emperor                                        Guardian UK 2018

The Kaiser bought Huis Doorn, his home until his death in June 1941 at the age of 82, from Baroness Ella van Heemstra, the mother of Audrey Hepburn.   Between September 1919 and February 1922, five trains pulling 59 carriages arrived at Zeist station filled with his possessions.

Today those possessions remain largely untouched.  On his deathbed lies a small bunch of snowdrops and a note from his mourning son, Adalbert, who was serving in Hitler’s Wehrmacht when his father died.   Wilhelm’s morning gown hangs in his bedroom, above his fur-trimmed slippers.   A framed postcard from his grandmother, Queen Victoria, takes pride of place.   His cigars sit by an ashtray.

(https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/18/dutch-royal-family-step-in-to-save-former-home-huis-doorn-kaiser-wilhelm-ii)

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MUSLIMS ADD TO INSECURITY

“The BfV has found that all Islamist organizations active in Germany harbor anti-Semitic ideas and disseminate them in various ways. These ideas represent a considerable challenge for peaceful and tolerant coexistence in Germany.” — Annual report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV), 2019 (Gatestone, 7/17)

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Prominent California Islamists Praise Imam’s Call to Exterminate Jews     by Seth Westrop
Islamist Watch, July 9, 2019

While waiting at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, following a trip to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, California imam Ahmed Billoo (also known as Ahmed Ibn Aslam), wrote on his private Facebook account that he was “feeling annoyed” about his location.   He offered a prayer to deal with the surfeit of Jews in the building: “Oh God, reduce their numbers, exterminate them, and don’t leave a single one alive.”   He added the hashtag “Zionists.”

Billoo seemed palpably relieved to arrive in Istanbul the next day, writing “So good to be in a Muslim country” and “#TiredofSeeingZionists.”

Billoo is a prominent cleric in California, and part of a prominent Islamist family.

He works as the religious director at the Islamic Center of Cypress, serves as a “professor” at California Islamic University, and is a teacher at the Institute of Knowledge, a seminary that offers religious advice to Muslim students and trains the next generation of imams.   Its faculty includes prominent clerics from the hardline Salafi and Deboandi strains of Islam. (Middle East Forum, July 9th)

(https://www.meforum.org/58906/california-islamists-praise-imams-call-to-exterminate-jews)

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COLOGNE CATHEDRAL MEMORIAL

Koln cathedral

It’s Friday morning here in Michigan.   As I write, I’m watching the State Memorial service from Cologne (Koln) Cathedral, for the 150 people killed in the “Germanwings” flight in the French Alps on March 24th.    The German Chancellor Angela Merkel was present, along with the German President Joachim Gauck.   Spanish leaders were also represented.   These were the two countries that lost the most people in the disaster.

The Cathedral is about a thirty-minute drive from Dusseldorf Airport where the plane was due to land after a short flight from Barcelona in Spain.

Koln Cathedral is one of the most magnificent buildings in Germany, an architectural marvel from the Middle Ages, a time of great faith in European history.   At such a time as this, faith is a great help to those who have lost loved ones.   The peace and serenity, together with inspiring music and the presence of 1,500 people, seemed to bring some comfort and closure to the relatives and friends of the victims, who still await burial.

The service is being relayed on BBC World, with occasional interruptions to bring the latest world news.  Religion is a common theme running through the morning’s news program.   Koln Cathedral is a reminder of the religious certainties of the past. Construction of the gothic cathedral began in 1248.   The church remains a Roman Catholic cathedral, in a country divided by Lutheran Protestantism five centuries ago.   The German Chancellor is the daughter of a Lutheran minister and grew up in the officially atheist German Democratic Republic (communist East Germany).  The German president is a former Lutheran pastor who came to prominence as an anti-communist civil rights leader in the former communist state. The professed atheism of the eastern European countries did not bring the utopia that people had hoped for.   I first visited the cathedral as a 16-year-old exchange student.   The German student I stayed with was also an atheist.

Fifty years ago it seemed that religion was a thing of the past. Now, it dominates our news on a daily basis.   This is especially true of news involving the Middle East.

A frequently mentioned news item this morning is the arrest of fifteen Muslim immigrants arriving by boat from Libya.   The men originated from West African countries.   10,000 refugees have landed in Italy in the last seven days.   The fifteen were all on the same boat and had deliberately pushed twelve Christians overboard during a religious dispute, killing all twelve.

Another news item was of regular chlorine bomb attacks on Sunni Muslims by the Shi’ite Alawite government of Syria.   Victims included small children who died agonizing deaths, witnessed by survivors.

Switching for a few minutes to a US based channel, concern was being expressed over a US citizen who had spent two months in Syria training with ISIS, and was arrested on his return to the United States where he was planning terrorist attacks on Americans in uniform.   The concern is that he is the first of many more to come, people motivated by extremist religious views, intent on mass killing.

In such a time of religious confusion, comfort can certainly be drawn from the religious certainties of the past.   But those certainties hide a disturbing reality.   In 1248, when the foundations of the cathedral were laid, beliefs were based more on tradition, on ignorance and superstition than on revealed scripture.

The Bible was not the foundation of the medieval church.   It wasn’t until 1534 that the Bible was first published in German, having been translated by Martin Luther.   It was the revealed truths in the scriptures that divided the medieval church, still clinging to beliefs and traditions that could not be biblically substantiated.

The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is the truth.   “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).   Jesus Christ is truth.   He is also “the Word.”   (John 1:1, 14)   God’s Word is truth.   (John 17:17)   The Apostle Paul adds: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  (II Timothy 3:16)

The same Bible also tells us, in this age of great religious confusion, that salvation is only possible through Jesus Christ.   (Acts 4:12)

The solid walls of Koln Cathedral may be a reminder of religious certainties but they also reflect certainties that were wrong.   Today, we should be thankful that we have access to the scriptures, thanks to men like Martin Luther and his contemporary William Tyndale, who died to bring us the Bible in English.

Five centuries later, it was revealed just a few days ago, the Bible has still not been translated into 57% of the world’s languages.

For those of us who are blessed with a translation in our own language, we should renew our commitment to daily Bible Study and remember the importance of working out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12).

Martin Luther showed that it wasn’t the medieval church that could guarantee us salvation.   That remains true today.   Only Jesus Christ can guarantee us salvation.   Our eternal life depends on Him.   The Church can help guide us in the right direction, but salvation depends on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

The sister of one of the German victims of the crash prayed a very moving, yet simple prayer before the congregation:  “Lord, please dry our tears.”

This simple request brought to mind a verse in the last book of the bible:   “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.   There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”  (Rev. 21:4)

Understanding the real truth of God brings a peace of mind that truly sets us free.  (John 8:32)

REMEMBERING THE BERLIN WALL

berlin wall-flag

It’s been almost fifty years since I crossed the border between West and East and entered communist East Germany. As students, we had spent some time in Nurnberg with German families, a truly memorable experience. Our school had also planned a short trip to Berlin, which was then an enclave in the communist part of the country.

The country was officially called the German Democratic Republic. Don’t let names mislead you. It wasn’t democratic or a republic and, as it was controlled from Moscow, it wasn’t really German either. It was a communist dictatorship and totally different from its western counterpart.

I remember there were no toilet facilities on the long drive from the border to Berlin. It was bad enough that we had to wait a very long time at the border before they would let us in. A couple of communist soldiers spent their time watching a game of chess that two of our students were playing, deliberately holding us up, in an attempt to show they were in control. When they did finally let us in, we had to wait a few hours for a toilet facility – they did, however, make a stop in the middle of nowhere and said, “Men that side and women this side” of the road. That was it.

I remember touring East Berlin after we crossed through the Wall at Checkpoint Charlie. The wall had been built in 1961 to keep out the degenerate undesirables from the west. At least, that was the official version. Of course, the reality was very different. The real reason for the Wall was to keep their own people inside the GDR, to stop them escaping to freedom.   That didn’t stop them, though – hundreds of people tried to cross the Wall. Some succeeded, some were caught and shot to death.

One vivid memory I had was of an evening at the Berlin Opera House. We had gone to see Puccini’s “La Boheme,” one of the most popular operas. The opera was written by an Italian, is sung in French and was being performed in Germany! It was the first time I had seen grown men cry (German men, remember!). During the interval we had gone out on to the balcony and looked east, at East Berlin. On the western side, everything was lit up, inviting people to go downtown and have a good time; the east was in total darkness. Touring the city had revealed that all was dull and drab, service in the museum restaurant was slow and surly, the food limited, dry and hard. Soldiers seemed to be everywhere. There were very few vehicles.

It was not too difficult for young people from the West to see which society was the better. At a time when many people were becoming left wing to one degree or another, this was a stark reminder of the failure of centralized planning.

It’s not surprising that, exactly 25 years ago this weekend, the Wall came down.

People want freedom. I should add “up to a point.”

Reflecting on Germany’s past, we should never forget that freedom can and will be rejected when times are hard. High unemployment can so easily lead to a dictator who promises to give the people what they want, everything that is except freedom.

Another great lesson from the past is that borders are constantly changing.   This has been particularly true of Germany. The country was divided by the allies after World War II. The German Democratic Republic was absorbed into the Federal Republic of Germany in October 1990.