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ISN Weekly Theme: Twenty Years Since the Fall of the Wall

The Berlin Wall in 1987, photo: fjords/flickr
The Berlin Wall in 1987, photo: fjords/flickr

Two decades after the fall of the Wall the world and Germany itself is afforded a moment for self-reflection and an opportunity for analysis of the consequences of that momentous event. As well as providing us with a unique reference point in terms of the end of the Cold War and Cold War history more generally, the end of Germany’s division provides us with a benchmark for the analysis of the progress that Germany has made since its re-unification nearly two decades ago.

  • In our Links section we feature 20 Years After the Wall, a web page provided by Spiegel Online that offers articles, background and opinions on the anniversary of the fall of the Wall.
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Social Media Government

Crossmedia Campaigning

Only three days left for 62.2 million eligible Germans to vote to elect a new parliament which, many fear, is likely to result in more of the same, a CDU-led grand coalition government together with the SPD. Out of those 62.2 million, about 3.5 million voters will cast their ballot for the very first time, with around 2.8 million of them members of one of Germany’s leading social networking forums: StudiVZ, SchülerVZ and meinVZ.

Given the dramatic twist of 2002’s German general election when the SPD won with a mere advance of 6.027 votes compared to the CDU/CSU, the attitudes of some millions of voters illustrate that in a democracy every vote counts.

So how to best trace the hard-to-predict political attitudes of young voters? Right, start a massive crossmedia offensive with social networks, public television stations, newspapers, Twitter and YouTube working hand-in-hand to provide a platform with the hardly web 2.0-compatible name of “Erst fragen, dann wählen” (= ask first, then vote).

Fine, let us “ask first” then…

Screenshot of the "Erst fragen, dann wählen" website
Screenshot of the "Erst fragen, dann wählen" website
Categories
International Relations Government Security Foreign policy

The Consequences of German Decisions

Small button, big consequences / Photo: Steven De Polo, flickr
Small button, big consequences / Photo: Steven De Polo, flickr

After the German-directed ISAF air strike on two fuel vehicles stolen by the Taliban reportedly cost civilian lives, public calls for clarification are accompanied by both palsy and hectic in Berlin. Federal elections will take place in less than 3 weeks.

What often happens when things go very wrong is that people engage in speculation and search for a scapegoat. Too seldom though, we see people take responsibility, especially in politics. Clausewitz wrote that war never is an end in itself and always serves a political purpose. Imagine now a trigger in the hands of a German soldier serving in an army with a heavy legacy; an army from a pacifistic, self-traumatized post-war state, in which military planning, strategy and even tactics are subject to widespread emotional discussions. How much politics can efficient tactics bear?

Categories
International Relations

Pilots vs Zurich Airport

Another case of biting the hand that feeds you:

Here in Switzerland, Aeropers, the Swiss Airlines pilots’ union, is suing Zurich Airport because of aircraft noise.

“The Aircraft noise reduces the value of our office building, which is located in Kloten under the eastern approach corridor”, says Henning Hoffman, the head of Aeropers.



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Since Germany has limited the over flight over its territory to the north, the eastern approach of the airport, which is the global hub for Swiss, faces much more traffic and the buildings underneath it an increased devaluation.

At present, many flat owners in Kloten, the town nearest the airport, have lawsuits pending for monetary compensation. Never mind that:

  • They built and bought their homes 1 kilometer from an airport under an existing – though less frequented – approach corridor and knew it.


  • The home prices have always been lower in the area because of the airport.

The same holds true for Aeropers, whose members produce the same aircraft noise they’re complaining about every day. (The ‘B’ in the map is the Aeroper building).

Real life satire.

Categories
History

I Am Committing High Treason with All My Might and Means

Sixty-five years ago, on 20 July 1944, during the darkest days of German history, a few good men brought back a small spark of light to the conscience of a nation torn by war and involved in history’s most unprecedented mass murder. The story is well-known. So is the result: the attempt to remove Hitler from power with the help of his own contingency plan “Valkyrie” tragically failed.

What might not be so well-known is that Count Claus von Stauffenberg, according to Cambridge historian Richard J Evans, “found moral guidance in a complex mixture of Catholic religious precepts, an aristocratic sense of honour, Ancient Greek ethics, and German Romantic poetry. Above all, perhaps, his sense of morality was formed under the influence of the poet Stefan George, whose ambition it was to revive a ‘Secret Germany’ that would sweep away the materialism of the Weimar Republic and restore German life to its true spirituality.”

The key to understanding that “Secret Germany” (as cryptically elaborated in a poem by the same title, which was written around 1910, but hermetically kept from the public until 1928) is the idea that only the poet with his charismatic authority can voice the arcane without revealing it. It is him being the “spiritus rector” who deepens the inner reflections of his disciples, who awakens their intellectual and spiritual sensitivity, so his word is followed by their action.

Stefan George, Claus and Berthold von Stauffenberg in 1924, one year after having first met in Heidelberg./ Public domain
Stefan George, Claus and Berthold von Stauffenberg in 1924, one year after having first met in Heidelberg. / Public domain