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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Germany, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 134
1. Sketchbook people live in a cafe this month

Some of my sketchbook characters decided to spend the month in a wonderful cafe called "Ninas Café Klatsch" here in Hamm, Germany. I took them there last night so they can watch Ninas guests having delicious cupcakes and soups for the next 4 weeks.

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2. Timo Meyer

Timo Meyer via grainedit.com

Solid and consistent work from Timo Meyer, a designer and illustrator based in Bonn, Germany.

Timo Meyer via grainedit.com

Timo Meyer via grainedit.com

Timo Meyer via grainedit.com


Also worth viewing:
Ross Gunter
Lufthansa + Graphic Design

Not signed up for the Grain Edit RSS Feed yet? Give it a try. Its free and yummy.

Sponsor // 100 Infographics

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3. Til Hafenbrak

Till Hafenbrak via grainedit.com

Bold and playful work from Till Hafenbrak, an illustrator living and working in Berlin.



Till Hafenbrak via grainedit.com

Till Hafenbrak via grainedit.com

Till Hafenbrak via grainedit.com


Also worth viewing…
Kevin Dart Interview
Mitch Blunt
Thereza Rowe

Thanks to Signazon for being this week's sponsor.

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4. Spies and the burning Reichstag

By Benjamin Carter Hett

It is well known that someone set fire to the Reichstag in Berlin on the evening of 27 February 1933 – eighty-one years ago. It is also well known that Hitler’s new government took this opportunity to pass the Reichstag Fire Decree, gutting the Weimar constitution and effectively initiating a 12-year dictatorship. Many readers will know that ever since 1933 controversy has raged about who actually set fire to the Reichstag: was it the first step in a Communist coup, was it a Nazi conspiracy to supply a justification for their Decree, or was the rather confused young Dutch stonemason Marinus van der Lubbe telling the truth when he claimed he had set the fire himself?


Firemen work on the burning Reichstag, February 1933. Item from Record Group 208: Records of the Office of War Information, 1926 – 1951. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

One matter that is less well known, however, is just how much, and for how long, various intelligence services have taken an interest in these questions.

Spies were a part of the story from the beginning. In March 1933, a senior officer of Britain’s MI5 named Guy Liddell traveled to Germany to make contact with the newly reorganized German Secret Police (soon to be christened the Gestapo) and its leader, the brilliant but sinister Rudolf Diels. At the time, one of the main tasks facing Diels and his officers was the investigation of the Reichstag fire. Liddell wrote a long report on his experiences in Germany, noting among other things that the weakness of the police evidence against Marinus van der Lubbe led him to the view that “previous con­clusions that this incident was a piece of Nazi provocation to provide a pretext for the wholesale suppression of the German Communist Party were amply confirmed.”

After the Second World War, Rudolf Diels and the small group of his former Gestapo subordinates who had investigated the fire in 1933 faced a difficult legal situation. To varying degrees they had been involved in Nazi crimes (including the thoroughly corrupt fire investigation itself) and they had to navigate the tricky waters of war crimes and “denazification” investigations and prosecutions. One of their real advantages, however, was their intelligence experience – coupled with their undeniable anti-Communism. This made them attractive to the Western Allies’ intelligence services. Rudolf Diels was, for many years, a key paid source on politics in Germany for the American CIC (military counter intelligence). His payment, as recorded in a written contract from 1948, was 12 cartons of cigarettes per month, supplemented now and then by ration cards and cans of Crisco – the real sources of value in Germany at the time. A few years later one of the leading figures in the West German Federal Criminal Police (BKA) complained to American intelligence officers that overly-zealous prosecutions of ex-Nazi police officers were a Cold War danger. They were weakening the BKA to the point that West Germany itself would become “a push-over for Eastern intelligence services” and thus “a weak link and danger point in the whole Western defense system.” The CIA officer who recorded these comments noted that they were “worth attention.”

One of the things that Diels and his former subordinates had to worry about was the testimony and the book of a man named Hans Bernd Gisevius, who accused them of covering up Nazi guilt for the Reichstag fire as well as involvement in a number of murders. Gisevius had himself been a Gestapo officer in 1933; from there he went on to serve in Germany’s military intelligence service, the Abwehr, during the war – and became active in the resistance that led to the famous Valkyrie plot. Diels and Gisevius hated each other. Around 1950 many well-informed people – no doubt including Diels and Gisevius – thought these men were both candidates to head the newly created West German domestic intelligence service, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. When Diels and Gisevius argued about who set the Reichstag fire – which they did both publicly and vitriolically – it is hard to overlook the fact that they were competing for jobs and influence in the emerging West German intelligence sector.

The Cold War also explained why the infamous East German Stasi spent many years and considerable effort doing its own discreet research into the Reichstag fire and the people who had been involved in it. Above all the Stasi hoped to find information that would discredit prominent East German dissidents, along with ex-Nazi police and intelligence officials in West Germany. The Stasi also tried to recruit at least one well-known western Reichstag fire researcher to be, in Stasi-speak, an “unofficial employee.”

But the most important link between intelligence services and the Reichstag fire came in the form of a man named Fritz Tobias, who from the 1950s to the 1970s was a senior official of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in the West German federal state of Lower Saxony. Earlier, in the 1940s – by his own account at least – he had served as a “scout” for the British Secret Intelligence Service. This meant that, while working on a “denazification” tribunal, he was supposed to keep his eyes open for former Nazis who might be useful to the British.

In 1951 Tobias started devoting his spare time – by his account, only his spare time – to research on the Reichstag fire. By the late 1950s his work was already becoming known, and, to some German officials, somewhat troubling. Tobias could and did use the powers of his office to get information. He was able to get access to classified documents that were closed to the public, and on at least one occasion he brought a prosecutor along with him to question a retired judge who had evidence to give about the fire. Was this all really just a spare time project? In the early 1960s, when Tobias’s lengthy book on the Reichstag fire was published (lengthy in German anyway – the English translation cut it by about half), Tobias used agents from the Office for Constitutional Protection to threaten academic historians who disagreed with his arguments, and blackmailed the director of a prestigious institute with classified documents revealing that director’s Nazi past. There seems at least a possibility that Tobias’s work was really an official commission. When asked about this while testifying in court in 1961, Tobias declined to answer because of his duty to maintain official secrets.

Why would German security services in the 1960s care about who had burned the Reichstag? There are several possibilities, admittedly only speculative. Tobias’s book, like Rudolf Diels’s before him, was to a considerable extent an attack on Hans Bernd Gisevius. Gisevius had made himself very unpopular with the West German government through his advocacy of a policy of neutrality in the Cold War and his friendship with gadflies like Martin Niemöller. There are materials in the FBI’s file on Gisevius (and yes, the bureau had one) that seem likely to have come from a German security service. There is also the issue that all the state and the Federal West German governments were very much on the defensive in the early 1960s about the number of senior officials they employed who had bad records from the Nazi era. Tobias’s own state of Lower Saxony was one of the worst offenders in this regard. Tobias’s book was very much a defense, indeed a glorification, of those former Gestapo officers who had worked with Rudolf Diels – one of whom, Walter Zirpins, had an office just down the hall from Fritz Tobias at the Lower Saxon Interior Ministry.

These spies and their various schemes make up a fascinating, if murky, part of this murky historical mystery.

Benjamin Carter Hett, a former trial lawyer and professor of history at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, is the author of Burning the Reichstag, Death in the Tiergarten and Crossing Hitler, winner of the Fraenkel Prize.

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5. Maggie Welcomes Thousands of Visitors Worldwide

Maggie Steele, the storybook heroine who vaults over the moon, has been attracting thousands of visitors from around the world. So many visitors, in fact, that she’s using a time zone map to keep track of them all.* People are … Continue reading

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6. TRAILER: “The Cold Heart” By Hannes Rall

German animation director Hannes Rall, who has previously adapted Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Erlking to animation, is wrapping up another hand-drawn animated adaptation of classic literature. This time, he’s tackling the work of German writer Wilhelm Hauff and his fairy tale The Cold Heart.

The short is set in Germany’s Black Forest during the 19th century: “Peter Munk is a poor but goodhearted young man, desperately wishing to be rich. Tempted by the evil ghost of the woods, he trades his warm heart for a heart of stone. He becomes rich but turns into a merciless and cruel man. Is there still hope for him?”

The 29-minute short channels classic German art influences including the distorted human figures of Expressionist woodcuts and the silhouette animation design of Lotte Reiniger. The film also boasts the color design of animation veteran Hans Bacher, who was the production designer of Disney’s Mulan, among an extensive list of Disney animation credits. Both Rall and Bacher teach at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where they connected for this project.

The short received German production funding from MFG Baden-Wuerttemberg. It will premiere later this year. Rall shared with Cartoon Brew some of Hans Bacher’s color scripts for the film:

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7. Hitler's Angel by William Osborne

Hitler's Angel is the story of two refugees who have managed to get to England and safety.   The girl, about 14, had come with her family, Jews from Vienna, able to escape Hitler's clutches when the Nazis entered Austria in 1938.  The boy, 15, escaped by getting a ride on one of the small ships carrying out the rescue mission at Dunkirk in 1940

Now it is 1941 and they have been asked by Admiral MacPherson of the *London Controlling Section, with Prime Minister Churchill's approval,  if they would be willing to go back to Germany and rescue a young girl who has the ability to bring down Hitler.  This mission has come about after Rudolf Hess, the second most powerful man in Nazi Germany, had parachuted into Scotland and was immediately arrested by the British.  The implication is that Hess gave information about this young girl.

The boy and girl, code named Otto and Leni, accept the mission and after two weeks of intense training, they parachute into Germany and begin their quest to find this mysterious child.  The girl is being help in a convent on an island in the Chiemsee in Bavaria.

Otto and Leni's trip from their landing to the island is not uneventful, but they nevertheless make it and find the girl, a nine year old named Angelika.  They even manage to escape almost undetected, because although they have followed what they were trained to do, they still left a trail of clues that become clear after the girl disappearance has been discovered.

Now, Hitler sets Reinhard Heydrich on their trail.  Heydrich was one of the cruelest, most ruthless men in the Third Reich, a Lieutenant General in the SS.  Heydrich pursues Otto, Leni and Angelika with a vengeance, eliminating anyone who gets in his way, with the help of Ludwig Straniak, a mystic and map dowsing specialist, sent personally by Hitler.

The pursuit of the three youngsters across Bavaria is an exciting, if sometime violent, adventure.  But who is Angelika and why is keeping her a secret so important to the Nazis?  And will Otto and Leni get Angelika into Britain and safety?  Is any place safe for this girl?

I came across Hitler's Angel in a review over at We Sat Down and was so intrigued by it, I immediately got a copy.  This debut novel by former Hollywood screenwriter William Osborne is action packed with thrilling nail-biting drama.  Sound like a movie - it perhaps could be one day.

Which doesn't mean this isn't a read-worthy novel.  Osborne has taken actual people and events and woven a sometimes feasible, sometimes not sp feasible story around them.  The story chapters alternate between Leni and Otto, Hitler, MacPherson and Heydrich, so the reader is privileged to all perspectives and there is never a dull moment.

I thought the characterization of Otto and Leni was excellent, that as inexperienced agents they would naturally makes mistakes, and they did.  And they are still idealistic, despite everything.  Both decide that it is wrong to let Angelika become a bargaining chip of war by the British, and agree to throw away the cyanide capsule MacPherson give them to give to Angelika to insure that she didn't end up back with the Nazis.  I did find that the implication of why Angelika was powerful enough to bring down Hitler was a bit slippery.  I would think of it and lose it immediately.  Perhaps because it was only speculative.

There is quite a bit of violence, some only to demonstrate the level of cruelty Heydrich is capable of, some as a result of being at war.  Hitler's Angel  has been compared to Robert Muchamore's Henderson's Boys series, which also has some rather violent parts to them, but my feeling is there is a level of depth lacking by comparison, perhaps making it feel too screenplayish.  But still definitely worth reading for those who like action and thrills.

Oh, yes, and there is bit of a romantic hint between Leni and Otto, which was rather nice.

Included at the end is a Historical Note detailing who was a fictional character and who came from real life.  And what is map dowsing, you might ask?  Simple if you have the gift all you do is how a pendulum over a map to locate what you are looking for.  And yes, the Nazis really did believe in things mystical and set up the Institute for Occult Warfare, headed by Straniak.

This book is recommended for readers age 13+
This book was purchased for my personal library.

This map of Bavaria, found at the beginning of Hitler's Angel, follows the routes Leni and Otto took for their mission.  All the Bavarian places named in the novel actually exist.

*I have never heard of the London Controlling Section before, but it was a secret department created in 1941 to coordinate military deception.  See a fuller description of the London Controlling Section on Wikipedia

9 Comments on Hitler's Angel by William Osborne, last added: 9/8/2012
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8. T4 by Ann Clare LaZotte

Paula Becker is 13, deaf and living in a small village in German when the Nazis pass Aktion 4 allowing them to do the unthinkable - "euthanize"disabled persons like Paula in their quest to become a master race and to eliminate the cost of caring for them.

T4 is a short novel in free verse told throughout in Paula's voice:

Hear the voice of the poet!
I see the past, future, and present.
I am deaf, but I have heard 
The beauty of song
And I wish to share it with 
Young readers...
 ...In T4, the facts
About history are true, and
My characters tell the story. 

At first, Paula writes, the Nazis target only people living in institutions and she is left alone.  But in March 1940, the family's  priest comes to the house in the middle of a snow storm to tell them that it is now necessary to get Paula out of the house and into hiding.

The priest takes her to a woman named Stephanie Holderlin, where it is believed that Paula can remain safely hidden.  There, she is able to learn  the official sign language of the deaf.  But early one morning, the Gestapo knock on the door.   They had been informed that a disabled person was living there.  They search the house, but do not find Paula.  Stephanie finally manages to get rid of them, but Paula must be moved to another safe place immediately.

This time, she is taken to a homeless shelter run by a Lutheran priest.  There, she meets Homeless Kurt.  Gradually, he and Paula become friends and after a while, they decide to travel to Berlin together.  On the way, they discover seven people living in the woods, Jews who are hiding from the Nazis.  Realizing they cannot really make it to Berlin without being caught, they return to the shelter.

In 1941, the killings under T4 'offically' ended but it still wasn't safe for people like Paula and Kurt until the end of the war.  Unofficially, Paula writes, the killings continued.

When the war was finally over, the people responsible for T4 were tried at the Nuremberg Trials, with the exception of Dr. Philipp Bouhler, who was the head of the program and who committed suicide.

In its simplicity, LaZotte's story poem manages to convey some of the horror that Nazi Germany held for some people, but also some of the kindness that could still be found there among the people, reminding us again that not everyone was a Nazi and many didn't support their policies, like T4.

The author, Ann Clare LaZotte can well understand what it would be like to be in Paula's shoes, since she herself is also deaf.  She clearly feels very strongly about T4 and it shows throughout in her poetry. And she also knows more than a little something about German poetry: Stephanie Holderlin was named for Frederich Holderlin, a German lyric poet and two of the Jewish children that Paula and Homeless Kurt meet int he woods  are named for Nelly Sachs and Paul Celan, two of the greatest poets of the Holocaust and whose works I would definitely recommend reading some of when you have finished reading T4.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library.

More information on Hitler's T4 Program can be found here.

10 Comments on T4 by Ann Clare LaZotte, last added: 9/21/2012
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9. “Snail Trail” by Philipp Artus

Today is bittersweet because we are presenting the final film in our 2012 Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival. But we are delighted that this film is an extraordinarily unique achievement in computer animation.

Snail Trail comes to us from Germany, where it was made by Philipp Artus at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. The film draws an ingenious link between two disparate things: the spiral of a snail shell and the concept of exponential acceleration (don’t worry, we had to look up the latter one too).

Mere description fails to do this film justice though. Snail Trail is an intensely visceral experience. Excitement and surprise abound in every frame, even as the film celebrates the mathematical order of the universe. The snail’s dynamic evolution in mobililty is eloquently expressed through a luminescent line that curls and stretches across the screen. Artus achieved the fading trail of images by projecting his computer animation with lasers onto a phosphorescent material.

The totality of Artus’s vision is startlingly beautiful. Snail Trail, quite simply, uses computer animation in ways that we have not seen before, and the results are astounding.

Click HERE to read an interview with the filmmaker Philipp Artus.

The Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival is made possible by the generosity of our presenting sponsor JibJab.

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10. CBTV STUDENT FEST: “Snail Trail” by Philipp Artus

Today is bittersweet because we are presenting the final film in our 2012 Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival. But we are delighted that this film is an extraordinarily unique achievement in computer animation.

Snail Trail comes to us from Germany, where it was made by Philipp Artus at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne. The film draws an ingenious link between two disparate things: the spiral of a snail shell and the concept of exponential acceleration (don’t worry, we had to look up the latter one too).

Mere description fails to do this film justice though. Snail Trail is an intensely visceral experience. Excitement and surprise abound in every frame, even as the film celebrates the mathematical order of the universe. The snail’s dynamic evolution in mobililty is eloquently expressed through a luminescent line that curls and stretches across the screen. Artus achieved the fading trail of images by projecting his computer animation with lasers onto a phosphorescent material.

The totality of Artus’s vision is startlingly beautiful. Snail Trail, quite simply, uses computer animation in ways that we have not seen before, and the results are astounding.

Continue reading for comments from the filmmaker Philipp Artus:

In the animation a snail invents the wheel and goes through a cultural evolution to finally get back to its origin. The basic idea of the work is inspired by processes of exponential acceleration, which can be observed at different levels. Thus, the evolution of life proceeds at an extremely slow pace for more than 3 billion years, until it suddenly seems to explode in the Cambrian period. The tools of human beings progress relatively little during the Stone Age until there comes a rapid cultural development during the Holocene. Nowadays, a similar acceleration process is generated by the exchange of information through the Internet. From this perspective, the exponential spiral on a snail shell may almost appear like a miraculous wink of nature.

I rigged and animated the character in 3ds Max. Then I projected the animation with a laser on a phosphorescent material and recorded it frame by frame with Dragon Stop Motion. Finally, I did the post production with After Effects. It was a very time consuming process, but I like the unique style that it creates. It looks somehow digital but has also the feeling of a hand-drawn animation.

The animation is based on a laser sculpture, which has a somehow purer and darker feeling than the film. For me the challenge was to find the right tone for the film, to make it into something else than a mere copy of the laser installation. It took me some time to realize that I had to free my mind from the original character and to give space to an evolution. Finally, the film turned out much brighter and more colorful than I had imagined in the beginning.

In the animation the snail goes through various metamorphoses. Working on the project was quite a similar experience: in the beginning I just wanted to do a normal animation with a snail. Through experimentation I then discovered the phosphorescent light trails, which add a unique sense of time to the animation. Later I had the idea to project the laser onto a 360° cylinder, so that the audience would have to walk around to follow the course of the snail. Finally, I created the film version, which again turned into something completely different from what I had originally in mind. Thus, the snail taught me the lesson to be fluid, to leave space for the evolution of your creations. Or as Bruce Lee puts it: “Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless – like water…”

My inspirations come from being in nature, observing animals and the way they move. The drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, Alberto Giacometti and M. C. Escher have also inspired me. As a kid I played video games a lot, which probably had an unconscious influence. I also used to do a lot of skateboarding and I love surfing – which might be an inspiration for the motion. The sound was influenced by various musicians, ranging from classical ambient drones to electronic post-dubstep beats. Aditionally, I had a very creative collaboration with the Portuguese musician Madalena Graça. Finally, the Vimeo community and the rapid change of our world through the digital era have also inspired my work.

Philipp Artus’s website

The Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival is made possible by the generosity of our presenting sponsor JibJab.

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11. Itty Bitty Stick People and Furniture


I scooped up these beauties at the last Waldorf craft basar we attended in Germany. I got them as much for myself as for the kids.

Carved Doll Stove

Don’t the stove and tiny pot, just like, kill you? I realize it’s hard to tell the scale here, but the pot has about the same circumference as an acorn top. I’m powerless before this kind of stuff. Makes me want to take up whittling, because, you know, I totally need another creative hobby.

Hand Carved Toys

Acorn dishes!

DSC_1030A teensy Fair Isle cape!

I think one of the things I like best about these is the bark. For some reason it never occurs to me to make things out of actual sticks from trees.

Hope you had a good weekend. I’m pressing forward on my novel revisions, though I had a reminder this morning of just how slow I am when I looked at where I was last year this same week. Yipes!

Are you in a reflective mood about what you’ve done over the past year? Celebrating goals met? Making new ones?

2 Comments on Itty Bitty Stick People and Furniture, last added: 1/15/2013
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12. Weekend Groove: Music Videos from Australia, Germany, Belgium and France

We’re going to start featuring the most interesting, creative and original animated music videos every weekend in a new section we call the Weekend Groove. Submit you vidoes HERE.

“Gangsta Riddim” directed by about:blank (Belgium)

Audio excerpt of “Gangsta Riddim” remix by Roel Funcken. Gangsta Riddim (Original) by SCANONE.

“Over You” directed by Drushba Pankow (Germany)

“Over You” is a music video clip originally made for the song “Nobody’s Fool” by Parov Stelar. The Berlin-based musician Michal Krajczok wrote and produced his song “Over You” especially for this video, featuring the voice of Larissa Blau. The video is directed, designed and animated by Drushba Pankow (Alexandra Kardinar and Volker Schlecht), with additional animation by Maxim Vassiliev.

“A Very Unusual Map” directed by Loup Blaster (France)

A music video for Hibou Blaster

“Teapot” directed by Clem Stamation (Australia)

Cantaloupe are a synth-guitar/bass-drums trio from Nottingham, UK, formed in January 2011. Drawing influences from Afro-pop to Krautrock to the avant garde, who aim to make infectuous and thoroughly pleasing instrumental pop music.

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13. The Franco-German connection and the future of Europe

By Ulrich Krotz and Joachim Schild

Ten years ago, at the Elysée Treaty’s 40th anniversary, Alain Juppé characterized France and Germany as the “privileged guardians of the European cohesion.” As the European Union’s key countries celebrated the 50th anniversary of their bilateral Treaty, Europe traverses a whole set of crises making the Franco-German “entente élémentaire” (Willy Brandt) appear as ever more important for providing or preserving European crisis management, decision-making, and, in whatever exact form: cohesion.

The endurance and the adaptability of the bilateral Franco-German connection—in spite of frequently dramatic domestic political changes (say changes of governments, parties in power, key personnel, economic rises, social upheavals, among others), regional European transformations (including widening and deepening European integration, the fall of the Iron Curtain, German unification), and wider international rupture or dynamism (such as the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War, or burgeoning globalization)—is a remarkable feature of European politics of the past half-century. Different combinations of a variety of factors have nurtured both resilience and adaptability of this bilateral link over time, political domains, and specific issues:

  • complementary (more often than identical) strategic and economic interests;
  • an extraordinarily tight fabric of bilateral institutions and norms to lubricate intergovernmental cooperation;
  • parapublic and transnational interconnections between the two countries civil societies to undergird public intergovernmental links;
  • the basic strategic choice on both sides generally to handle bilateral differences with delicacy, circumspection, and patience to arrive at compromises in bilateral and European matters whenever possible;
  • and, finally, what Stanley Hoffmann once called an “equilibrium of disequilibria”: an overall by and large balanced bilateral relationship that enabled France and Germany to exercise joint European leadership on a footing of relative equality.

In 1963, the Elysée Treaty crowned the period of Franco-German friendship following World War II. At the same time, the Treaty offered a frame for an emergent and lasting “special” bilateral relationship between France and Germany, and inserted the Franco-German connection at the very core of the evolving institutions and decision-making processes of the European Union and its various predecessors.

The signing of the treaty on 22nd January 1963. In the picture (sat at the table, left to right): Dr. Gerhard Schröder (Minister of Foreign Affairs), Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, President Charles de Gaulle, Prime Minister Georges Pompidou, and Maurice Couve de Murville (French Foreign Minister). Source: This image was provided to Wikimedia Commons by the German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) as part of a cooperation project.

And very much in the spirit of its godfathers and signatories Charles de Gaulle and Konrad Adenauer, the Elysée Treaty helped to base this novel sort of Franco-German relationship not only on an unusual set of bilateral intergovernmental institutionalization, but also on linkages and interchange among the French and Germans beyond and below the intergovernmental level. Most notably, the past 50 years have seen the emergence and flourishing of a massive set of publicly funded or organizationally supported “parapublic” institutions and institutionalization, such as the Franco-German Youth Office (with some 8 million participants in exchange programs since its foundation); some 2200 “twinnings” (jumelages, Partnerschaften) between French and German towns or regional entities; connections between high schools and universities; and, later, the creation of the Franco-German TV channel ARTE, and the framework of the Franco-German University.

To be sure, the Franco-German connection of the past five decades has experienced numerous disagreements, crises, or even phases of protracted tensions. In retrospect, the Gaullist period, with fundamental and seemingly insurmountable divergence in French and German strategic orientations, might appear as the most trying. And yet, neither this phase, nor various enduring differences in political or economic inclinations, nor a motley crew of disagreements, have either broken the bilateral connection or led it to degenerate into marginal relevance.

At the celebrations of the Elysée Treaty’s 50th anniversary, and the beginning of what France and Germany have baptized “the Franco-German year,” two developments threaten the continued endurance and political relevance of this bilateral relationship in Europe: on the one hand, the seemingly deep disparities across major policy fields during this period of severe crises; on the other, an apparently increasing gap in economic performance and competitiveness.

As for the former, most visibly perhaps, France and Germany have so far not succeeded in developing bilateral compromises so as to decisively help manage or overcome the Eurozone crisis. Or, for that matter, even to define a coherent approach in dealing with this crisis and its possible implications for the future of European governance in the monetary realm or beyond. In the policy fields of foreign, security, and defense—equally of supreme importance—France’s and Germany’s disparate strategic cultures persist, and their visions of the EU’s role in international politics and security continue to diverge, most strikingly perhaps when it comes to the use of military force. Some of the key questions in these domains—how to position oneself and to act in an often dangerous and violent world in which the most comfortable and comforting answers do not always suffice—continue especially to plague German elites.

Plaque commemorating the restoration of relations between Germany and France, showing Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle. Photo by Adam Carr, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

However, it is the seemingly ever worsening loss of economic performance and competitiveness on France’s side, the erosion of the domestic economic bases of France’s bilateral and European standing, and the growing bilateral asymmetry in power and influence between the two countries, that pose the greatest challenge for the future of the Franco-German connection and for the survival of the Eurozone. While it is hardly conceivable that the Franco-German relationship could be based on a France lastingly in the role of the junior partner, the European Union more than ever requires strong leadership in order to navigate through its arguably deepest set of crises since its emergence from the treaties of Paris and Rome. Neither German hegemony, nor frequently weakened or inchoate supranational European institutions, nor another bilateralism or minilateral grouping is available to act as a replacement for the joint Franco-German role at the core of Europe.

The ability of France to face the realities of decline, and the courage and political will of its leaders to comprehensively reform the social and economic model—no matter how painful or divisive domestically—are indispensable conditions for that the tremendous success story of the Franco-German connection in Europe to continue and blossom beyond the celebrations of the Elysée Treaty’s anniversary and the Franco-German year.

Ulrich Krotz and Joachim Schild are the authors of Shaping Europe: France, Germany, and Embedded Bilateralism from the Elysée Treaty to Twenty-First Century Politics. Ulrich Krotz is Professor at the European University Institute, where he holds the Chair in International Relations in the Political Science Department and the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies. Joachim Schild is Professor of Political Science at the University of Trier.

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14. Books for Children of the World: The Story of Jella Lepman by Sydelle Pearl, illustrated by Danlyn Iantorno

Imagine you are a German Jew who managed to escape Hitler's Germany during the war.  Now, the war is over, but you have been asked to return to Germany by the United States Army to assess what the German children living in that now decimated country need to live a better life.   After all that happened to Jews in Germany, could you have done it?  It would indeed take a strong, caring, forgiving person to embark on such a task, but that is exactly what Jella Lepmaan did.

As Jella traveled through Germany in an army jeep, she saw that the children needed so much - clothing, food, homes, warmth.  But they also wanted books.  She spoke to the General at army headquarters where she was stationed about an exhibition of children's books from around the world.  The General agreed this was a good idea and, night after night, Jella wrote to publishers to ask for books donations for the exhibition.  She called her letters doves of peace.  And, amazingly, even after what Hitler had done to the world, publishers around the world did respond.

The books were great, but were for an exhibition, not for the children who wanted them.  So, Jella decided to translate The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf into German.  Then she had it printed - 30,000 copies on newsprint and a few days before Christmas, they were handed out to Germany's children.

That was just the beginning.  By 1949, Jella's first children's book exhibition had grown into the International Youth Library in Munich.  This research library still exists today and still collects children's books from around the world.

Sydelle Pearl's Books for Children of the World: The Story of Jella Lepman is a beautifully written homage to a very courageous woman and the library she founded.  Lepman believed that just as her letters were doves of peace, books were messengers of peace and the idea of peace is a clear message in her work.  Pearl is herself a librarian and it is easy to see that she believes in the power of books.

Giving out newsprint copies of The Story of
Ferdinand to children in Germany 
Illustrations add so much to a book and those of Danlyn Iantorno are no exception.  These bold, colorful realistic illustrations, which appear to have been rendered in oil paint, capture both the bold spirit of Jella Lepman and the varied emotions of the children.  I also thought that the tones of the colors used reminded of picture books and readers from the late 1940s and 1950s reflecting the Zeitgeist of that particular time.

Be sure to read the Author's Note at the end of the book for more information about Jella Lepman and the International Youth Library.  There is list of selected sources as well, should you be inclined to explore Lepman and the library further.

Bear in mind that this is a historical biography and not really a picture for young readers.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was provided to me by the publisher.

There is a wonderfully informative lesson plan based on Books for Children of the World: The Story of Jella Lepman which, though produced in 2011, is nevertheless still very useful and  can be found here.

Nonfiction Monday is hosted this week by Wendie at Wendie's Wanderings

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15. Ariane Spanier

Ariane Spanier

Ariane Spanier Design is a Berlin-based studio founded in 2005 focused on print work for architects, galleries and publishers. Often playing with the perception of depth they create typographic landscapes that bend and fold revealing rich layers of color and texture.

Ariane Spanier

Ariane Spanier

Ariane Spanier


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16. Wild Garlic, Witch’s Brew, and a Secret Hideout

The Eilen Riede (say  “EYE-len REE-duh”), Hannover’s huge city forest, is one of the top ten things I’ll miss when we move back to the States over the summer. The Eilen Riede  is twice as large as NYC’s Central Park and has 130 kilometers of walking and bike trails.

One of our favorite things to do as a family is to ride our bikes there. In fact, both of our kids learned to ride on the wide forest paths.

The little white flowers you see, according to German friends, are bärlauch, a wild garlic relative. I’m told people do collect and cook with it—you use the leaves, not the bulbs. Evidently there are several bärlauch items on restaurant menus right now, too.

Often we stop at one of the many playgrounds in the Eilen Riede, several of which have little snack bars—even decent cappucino in china cups! Last Saturday we found instead a few surprises in an unexpected spot.

This old stump was full of collected moss, perfect for a witchy potion.

And this tree fort seemed to have sprung up on its own:

I love the way the hideout is so simple, no fasteners, and it just blends into the landscape. I think we’re going to have to recreate this one in our American back yard.

And what would a forest trip be without yet another stick to take home? Ummm…yeah. Just what we need in our flat.

In other news, the weather is still quite chilly (by my Carolina spring standards) and I’m really hoping it will warm up soon. We’re still wearing insulated rain coats and scarves and hats.

Spain posts are still coming, I promise. Hope your week started out well!

*information about the Eilen Riede’s size and trails comes from wikipedia

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17. Summer Fun

I have 18 more school days left. 18!!!! And I can't deny that I'm just a teeny, tiny bit excited. Because I can't wait for summer to begin.

I'm kicking off my summer by attending the Florida SCBWI Orlando Conference on June 16th at Disney.

Here's the line up: 

Holiday House Associate Editor Sylvie Frank, Scholastics Trade Vice President and Executive Editor Andrea Davis Pinkney, Tracey and Josh Adams of the Adams Literary Agency, Henry Holt Editor Noa Wheeler, Simon and Schuster Art Director Laurent Linn, Artist Agent Christina Tugeau, Tammi Sauer (Chicken Dance, Bawk and Roll), Florida SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator Linda Shute, Donna Gephart (How To Survive Middle School), Nancy Werlin (Impossible), Tracy Barrett (Dark of the Moon), Nancy Rosenthal Stewart (One Pelican at a Time), Deb Noyes Wayshak, editor-at-large at Candlewick Press, and Gaby Triana (Backstage Pass, Cubanita).

So you see, it's going to be awesome.

Then I'm jumping in a plane with my boys and spending a week in Germany and then another week in Austria. The main request from my boys is to see lots and lots of castles. It's going to be such an inspirational trip and I hope full of adventures.

Then come July, I'll be attending the Quill Track at Ascendio 2012 at Universal Studios. And guess who's going to be there? Beth Revis! I can't wait!

Here's the line up for the Quill Track:

  • Lev Grossman (author)
  • Beth Revis (author)
  • Veronica Roth (author)
  • Aimee Carter (author)
  • Michelle Hodkin (author)
  • Molly O’Neill (editor)
  • Ben Schrank (publisher)
  • Joanna Volpe (agent)
  • Lindsay Ribar

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  • 18. The Ark by Margot Benary-Isbert

    That's The Way It Was Wednesday
    Occasionally, on Wednesdays, I review a book written during World War II. It was a time when no one knew what was going to happen from moment to moment, so they offer a very different perspective on the war.

    I found The Ark to be an oddly pleasant story about a family trying to survive in post-war Germany, not the subject of too many YS novels.   And even thought it was originally written and published in Germany in 1948 under the title Die Arche Noah, and not translated and published in English until 1953, I felt it qualified for a That's The Way It Was Wednesday post..  Some of the books content comes from Benary-Isbdert's own experiences in Germany at the end of the war.

    The Ark center's on the Lechow family: Mother, eldest son Matthias, 16, Margaret, 14, Andrea, 13 and Joey, 7, but is, for the most part, Margaret's story.  It is October and the Lechow's have been refugees for a long time, after fleeing west from their home in Pomerania just ahead of the Russian Army at the end of the war.  Now, after two years of living in refugee camps, they have finally been assigned two rooms in the home of elderly Mrs. Zerduz, and though she can't do anything about it, she has made it clear that Mrs. Lechow and her children are not welcome.

    Little by little the Lechow's settle into their new, more stable home.  Joey is finally enrolled in school, where he immediately meets a best friend and fellow adventurer Hans Ulrich, an orphan.  Andrea is offered a full scholarship at a private girls school, Margaret stays home and helps with the house and shopping (she doesn't want to return to school) and Matthias is assigned to work in construction, where he meets a best friend and fellow musician, Dieter.

    And Mrs. Lechow uses her considerable skill as a seamstress to make some additional money.  All in all, life has take a turn for the better for the Lechow's.  Even Mrs. Zerduz begins to feel very attached to the family.  But they still haven't heard from Dr. Lechow, a POW in a Soviet labor camp; Matthias would rather be an apprentice to a gardener than work in construction; and animal-loving Margaret would rather work on a farm.

    Just before their first Christmas in their new home, the children, with Dieter, go out caroling and end up at the lovely Almut farm.  One thing leads to another and pretty soon Matthias is taken on as an apprentice and Margaret as a kennel maid.  Both of them are ecstatically happy with this arrangement, plus they get to live in an old railroad car that Mrs. Almut had purchased many years ago.  They fix it up into a lovely home that can sleep eight people and pretty soon find themselves with both human and animal visitors. For that reason, Margaret decides to christen it "The Ark"

    The Ark is an easy to digest novel abou

    8 Comments on The Ark by Margot Benary-Isbert, last added: 5/18/2012
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    19. Waldorf Craft Basar

    The spring Waldorf basar, with crafts, kid activities, and yummy food, happened a few weeks ago. It was our last one before we move back to the U.S., which makes me a little sad. There is really nothing like a Waldorf basar, and there aren’t any Waldorf schools or kindergartens in Charlotte that I know of.

    The Waldorf handicrafts are so different from what I’d seen before, so very German, and all from natural materials. The rabbits above were what I made this year. You wouldn’t believe the hours that go into making one tiny bunny.

    Below are some feather babies, who are sleeping in painted walnut shells:

    Bock! Bock! Knitted chickens:

    and my personal favorite this year, deer:

    The bunnies in front of the deer are mine, thankyouverymuch.

    I just bought Stofftiere zum Selbernähen (Stuffed Animals to Sew Yourself) by Karin Neuschütz so I can make some more animals on my own. It has patterns for camels, donkeys, giraffes, pigs, everything–except deer, which bums me out. I’ll have to find that pattern somewhere else. Looks like the book is only available in German, but you really only need the patterns and a blanket stitch to make them. She does have a few other titles that have been translated, looks like.

    I also just bought Hütten von Kindern Selbst Gebaut (which translates something like Huts Children Can Build Themselves) by Louis Espinassous. I think it may be originally French. Anyway it’s all about little forts kids can build out of sticks, brush, or scrap wood. For some reason, after seeing this one, I am kind of determined for the kids to have a fort in Charlotte, though maybe I just want one to play in myself.

    I got some good writing done this week. Trying to get as much done as possible before our move. The weather has been amazing this week, after a long, long winter. We hope to get in some bike riding this weekend. Have a great one!

    1 Comments on Waldorf Craft Basar, last added: 5/25/2012
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    20. Luebeck, Germany: Queen of the Hanse

    I’d been wanting to go to Lübeck for a long time, ever since I read that it’s the former capital of the Hanseatic League, a city-state trade alliance existing during the 13th-17th centuries. More about the Hanseatic League here. I’d love to read more about the league, so if you know any good books about it, give me a shout.

    Lübeck is such a quiet, relaxed place now, it’s hard to imagine it as the center of trade in this part of Europe. One of our favorite parts about the city is its canal encircling the Altstadt (old town). Hannover used to have one of these, too, but it’s long since been filled in.

    Above is a photo of the Holstentor, which is the city gate and a famous German landmark. Below you see the entrance to the puppet museum, which, sadly, we didn’t have the chance to visit. Love the little guy, though.

    Below is a glimpse of Lübeck’s “crown.” When you see all the city’s lovely pointy towers and steeples together, they look like a crown. The white building is the Rathaus or city hall.

    My favorite feature is the round holes.

    In addition to its history and the distinctive brickwork, Lübeck is known for its Gänge (walkways) and Höfe (courtyards). According to Lonely Planet, during the Middle Ages there was a lack of housing for the many artisans and craftspeople in Lübeck. So rows of smaller homes were built for them behind existing homes. Walkways were built to connect them to the street. People still live in these areas, and you can peek in to get a glimpse.

    Here’s one of the courtyards:

    And one of the walkways from the street:

    You can easily miss the entrances if you don’t look carefully.

    Lastly, a yellow building I loved—-I guess they couldn’t agree on which yellow to use.

    Lübeck is also known for its marzipan, which comes in every shape imaginable. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures to show you of it, but do be sure to try some if you go.

    I’m quickly getting sucked into the vortex that is the overseas move. Hopefully I can make some more posts in our last weeks, but we&rsqu

    6 Comments on Luebeck, Germany: Queen of the Hanse, last added: 6/4/2012
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    21. Vimeo Awards and Festival in NYC

    Tonight in New York City is the second annual Vimeo Awards. I was one of the judges in the animation category, and one of these four nominees in the category will receive $5,000:

    Little Boat by Nelson Boles (US)

    Les chiens isolés by Rémi Bastie, Nicolas Deghani, Jonathan Djob-Nkondo, Paul LaColley, Nicolas Pegon, Jérémy Pires, Kevin Manach (France)

    Umbra by Malcolm Sutherland (Canada)

    Cross by Fabian Grodde (Germany)

    Tickets are sold out to the award ceremony, but there are still tickets left to the Vimeo Festival which takes place tomorrow and Saturday, and offers lots of interesting talks targeted toward short filmmakers. Vimeo is offering a special deal for Cartoon Brew readers. For a $40 all-access pass to the 2-day festival, go to Ticketfly and use the discount code “brew”.

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    22. German Comics: Internationaler Comics Salon Erlangen 2012


    erlangen logo German Comics: Internationaler Comics Salon Erlangen 2012Every two years, the northern Bavaria city of Erlangen hosts the pre-eminent comics event in Germany.  A bit like Angoulême, although smaller in scale, with a bit of American comic-con-ness, the city actively promotes the International Comics Salon.  There are art exhibits, academic and popular topics discussed on panels, and the Max-und-Moritz Preis, presented to the very best of German-language comics.

    Since most German youth learn English in grade school, many are fluent, and the language has infiltrated the slang.  Many comics shops have a Diamond-supplied American sector, as fans are not willing to “wait for the translation”.  This influence, overlapped with the continental comics of French and Belgian comics, and the strange hybrid of Disney comics created in Europe, has created a culture similar to the U.S. comics scene of the early 1990s.  Superheroes are known, but do not dominate, although any multimedia property will find a spot on the local newsstands (Disney/Egmont/Ehapa’s Micky Maus Magazin weekly rules, offering extras with each issue, and selling about 180,000 copies a week for about $4.)  Publishers, bookstores, and libraries know the medium, and know how to market the books.

    Messe Poehlein0865 200x133 German Comics: Internationaler Comics Salon Erlangen 2012However, there hasn’t been a visible comics community until recently.  Germany is overshadowed by France and Belgium, there are few comics published in newspapers or magazines, and European fandom in general is low-key.  This all changed with the east-west invasion of the millennium, as the American beachhead of Marvel and DC was bolstered by the influx of literary comics.  From Japan came the manga/anime tsunami, and like America, young comics readers were quickly seduced.

    Today, there is a strong community of German comics creators producing stellar work, and finding success overseas.  (Baby’s In Black and Ulli Lust being two recent examples.) There are enough comics events in Germany to support a cosplay tournament (Erlangen hosts a preliminary round, with the finals at the Frankfurt Book Fair!)  Not only do Ehapa and Carlsen import popular comics from America and Asia, but smaller presses also translate literary comics from the U. S.  (Charles Burns was one of the few American guests at this year’s show).

    I attended the show in 1994, and was quite fortunate that this was my first comic con experience.  (When I lived in Omaha, the local shows were science-fiction conventions, with a bit of comics thrown in to entice fans.)

    3 Comments on German Comics: Internationaler Comics Salon Erlangen 2012, last added: 6/11/2012
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    23. German Comics: Max und Moritz Preis 2012


    MuMGala Malter1089 1024x683 German Comics: Max und Moritz Preis 2012

    v.l.n.r.: Ralf Keiser (Carlsen Verlag), Daniela Winkler, Isabel Kreitz, Flix, Rossi Schreiber, Simon Schwartz, Luca Bartulovic, David Basler (Edition Moderne), Lorenzo Mattotti, Andreas Kiener, Jan Taussig, Dr. Dieter Rossmeissl, Hella von Sinnen, Christian Gasser Copyright: Internationaler Comic-Salon Erlangen – Foto: Erich Malter, 2012

    So, just what is the “Max und Moritz Preis”?

    The “Max und Moritz“ Gala in Erlangen’s baroque theatre on Friday, 8 June 2012, at 9 p.m., is the highlight of the Salon. The “Max und Moritz” Prize, endowed by “Bulls Press” and presented by the City of Erlangen, is the most important prize for graphic literature in the German-speaking countries. It is awarded in different categories by an independent jury of professionals and plays a decisive role in the recognition of comics art in the German-speaking countries. The work of outstanding artists is recognised, exemplary publishing encouraged and debate on graphic literature encouraged by the prize. Alberto Breccia, Will Eisner, André Franquin, Robert Crumb, Moebius / Jean Giraud, José Muñoz, Albert Uderzo, Jacques Tardi, Alan Moore and Pierre Christin have previously received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

    It is named for the characters created by Wilhelm Busch, one of the early pioneers of comics, and known as the grandfather of German comics.  (Heard of Töpffer? Busch is next.  The Germans quote him almost as much as Goethe and Schiller.)

    There is a DRM-free PDF e-book of all of the nominees with examples, but the file is 92MB.  If you don’t mind registering, and can parse German, then click here.  (They also have a comics section on that site!)

    Otherwise, MyComics.de has a special site where the nominees can be seen.  It is Flash-based, but there are links to the actual publisher sites.

    For the second time, there was an audience award.  Three subject-specific websites handled the voting (German, American, Manga), and the three finalists were included among the nominees.  A full list (in German) can be found here.

    There are ancillary awards for independent comics, webcomics (long list, short list), and something called “Comic Clash” which seems to be a vote-based tournament.  There is also an award selected by students:

    The prize of the “Francomics!” competit

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    24. Sorting and Stockpiling

    We’re getting closer to our move date, and we’re going through our stuff but also thinking about (clinging to?) the things we’ll miss. I say “we” but maybe it’s just me doing the clinging.

    I find it funny that when I left the U.S., I was stockpiling American things I feared I wouldn’t be able to get in Germany: Trader Joe’s salsa, children’s OTC medications, inexpensive winter gear. Now I have the same frantic hoarding tendencies but for German things, as if somehow I can take my memories with me only if I find enough items to hold them in.

    We’re really trying to get rid of things, not collect things, but if I could stockpile all I wanted, here’s a list of some favorites:

    • Alnatura dark chocolate from DM—best cheap chocolate ever
    • Ritter Sport dark chocolate with hazelnuts (yes, they do have it in the U.S. but I hear it’s not the same)
    • Weleda bath and beauty products
    • Alnatura lemongrass soap
    • Whole grain spelt (dinkel) bread
    • Ready-to-eat mango lassis from the refrigerator aisle
    • Fresh apricots (they just don’t grow these in the southeastern US, and the ones you can get from California are mushy by the time they get to you)
    • Fleur de sel—best salt ever—yeah, it’s French, but it’s easy to get here
    • Wine—goes without saying
    • Cheap vintage linens from the thrift store (okay, I may have collected a few of these, but reports have been widely exaggerated)
    • Nutella collectible football glasses
    • Wooden toys—any German toys, really
    • Absolutely everything from the Waldorf basar
    • Kids’ rain pants
    • Cheese—so cheap and delicious here—a mozza ball costs as little as, I kid you not, 50 cents!
    • Rooibos caramel tea
    • Burda Style magazine—the awesomest sewing mag ever
    • Homeopathic German medicine—oh yeah! It really works.
    • The unbelievably thick walls, high ceilings, and beautiful doors of our apartment
    • Chocolate croissants baked just a few steps from our flat

    But most of all I’d like to stockpile the things that couldn’t be packed up, even if we had the space:

    • Bike rides through the forest
    • Coffee and running and lunch dates with friends
    • Sunny afternoons in the kindergarten garden
    • The smell of freshly baked bread from the downstairs bakery
    • Kind neighbors
    • My kids’ knowledge of German

    For the last two plus years I’ve sought out English reading material wherever I could, and now suddenly I’m desperate to have some German books for the kids. I just got Richard Scarry’s Mein allerschönstes Wörterbuch (it’s similar to his other books but with German and English labels). Also ordered Das grosse Liederbuch (The Big Song Book, illustrated by Tomi Ungerer) on the advice of a friend, hoping we might be able to preserve some of the folk songs our son has learned in German kindergarten.

    The probability of him losing his near-native accent is the thought that stings the most.

    But I won’t dwell on that now.

    10 Comments on Sorting and Stockpiling, last added: 6/19/2012
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    25. Stones in Water by Donna Jo Napoli

    I picked up this book in a library book sale because it was about another one of those little known events that occurred during World War II: the snatching of Italian boys by Nazis and used as forced labor.  And also because the setting, at least in the beginning, was in Venice, Italy in the early 1940s, an unusual setting for most MG or YA novels.  The story centers on the friendship between 12 year old Roberto, a Catholic, and Samuele, a Jew.  It begins with the lure of seeing an American western film at the local movie theater proving to be too great for young Roberto to pass up.  Before long, however, not only is Roberto sneaking off to see the movie, but he is joined by his older brother Sergio, and friends Memo and Samuele.

    The movie hasn't even begun when German soldiers swoop into the theater and round up all the boys.  Before they know what is happening, they are sorted by age so that Sergio and Roberto are separated from each other.  The boys are then put on trains heading north.  All through Italy, the trains picks up more and more boys.  Gradually, the trains head east to the Ukraine.  The whole operation appears to be such a perfectly planned operation.  A Western movie would and did draw only boys from the area, and no girls.  Non of the boys in any of the groups speak the same dialect, so there is little communication among them.  Soon, though, the boys realize the danger for Samuele, who is circumcised, so they change his name to Enzo and Roberto gives him his St. Christoper medal to wear.

    Eventually, Roberto and Enzo end up in a labor camp, where all the boys are forced to build an airstrip for supply planes to land.  The work is hard and there is little food, and as winter comes the boys must find whatever rags they can use to try to keep from freezing, usually striping what they can off dead bodies - dead soldiers and prisoners alike were fair game.  At night, Enzo entertains Roberto with stories, most from the Old Testament, to keep his morale up.  The friends continue to support each other, so when another boy discovers that Enzo is Jewish and demands he give him most of his food ration, Robert shares his ration with his friend.

    Throughout their captivity, Roberto worries about his parents and about getting home, but there seems to be no end in sight for the boys.  And to make matters worse, Enzo begins to weaken from the lack of food.  And to top it all off, with winter's snows, survival becomes more and more difficult for the boys.

    Will they ever see home again?

    This was the kind of coming of age story that really makes you realize what the concept 'coming of age' really means.  As you read Roberto's story, you can watch as he is transformed from a boy who had romanticized war to a thinking, feeling young man who realizes and appreciates the horrors of war without ever having been on a battlefield.  Yet, right from the beginning, Roberto and Samuele witness shocking Nazi brutality whenever boys tried to run away or when they fainted while working.  These were sobering lessons, and both boys heeded them in order to stay alive.

    Stones in Water is a fast read, and for the most part it was excellent.  Some readers seem to feel that the end of the book didn't have a satisfactory conclusion, but I liked it.  Hinting at a sequel, I felt that Roberto has more in store for him than just going home.  And indeed, a sequel was written, Fire in the Hills, continuing Roberto's story.


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