Vogelschiss. Birdshit. A German politician used this word recently to describe the National Socialist regime which ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945. He was looking for a new perspective, one which would reduce the Nazi dictatorship to proportion in a thousand years of mostly successful German history. Elections were in the offing, and he may have felt that he needed attention. Because I am reluctant to give him any, he will be referred to here as Mr. Bird, leaving out the second syllable.
Claude Lanzmann’s film ‘Shoah’ is memorable. Not because of what it says. But because of its refusal to say anything at all. The theme of ‘Shoah’ is the Holocaust, in which over six million Jews were murdered by National Socialist Germany. But to state the theme in this way is to already go beyond the film. ‘Shoah’ can be classed as a documentary, in that it features interviews with real people about events to which they were eyewitnesses. But it does not document anything, or try to explain anything. If there is a message, it must be worked out by the viewer, in subjective imagination. Which puts the question to me.
Markus Wolf was the legendary head of the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA) the East German foreign intelligence service. The HVA was much better than its West German counterpart, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND). BND operations in East Germany yielded little that could not be read in the newspapers. Small wonder. Markus Wolf had agents so well-placed in the BND that much of its activity was steered from the HVA.
For over forty years, from 1949 to 1990, Germany was divided into West and East, each side calling itself a Republic. From the beginning, there were serious attempts at reunification. Why did it take so long? Here are a few reasons.
It is 500 years to the day since Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, and unleashed the Reformation. While Germany celebrates one of its most famous sons – some Germans, that is, for fast swathes of the population spend their time playing computer games or foaming at the mouth over football, and couldn’t care less – it is worth asking whether there is any truth to the legendary deed of Wednesday, October 31, 1517.