Word of the Week: Mutterseelenallein

Do you feel lonely? On a scale of 1 to 10, how lonely do you feel? If it’s a 10, Germans have a special word for this type of extreme loneliness: mutterseelenallein.

Directly translated, the term means “mother’s soul alone”, indicating a severe level of loneliness. If you’ve ever reached that level, you might have felt that you were so alone that even your mother’s soul was not there for you.

But even though it may sound like it’s related to your mother’s company (or lack thereof), it actually has little to do with her.

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2018 Campus Weeks “Homestory: Deutschland” at Morgan State University

Pieces of the “Homestory: Deutschland” exhibition as shown at Morgan State University

Students and faculty of Morgan State University filed into the auditorium of the university’s new Behaviorial and Social Science Center on October 16 for the first of several events associated with the 2018 Campus Weeks Homestory: Deutschland exhibit. The small but powerful exhibit, produced by the Initiative of Black Germans (Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland e.V. – ISD-Bund e.V. by its German acronym), chronicles experiences of people of color in Germany from the early 19th century to recent years. It is being shown at Historically Black College and Universities this fall as part of the 2018 Campus Weeks project.

Dr. Fatima El-Tayeb, Professor of African-American Literature and Culture and Director of Critical Gender Studies and on the affiliated faculty for the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of CA at San Diego, gave a lecture titled “Homestory Deutschland: On the (Im)possibility of being Black and German.”

Dagmar Schulz’s film, “Audre Lorde: the Berlin Years,” was followed by a lively discussion led by Morgan State professors, Dr. Sandra Skene (Gender Studies) and Dr. Jewel Debnam (History). High school students from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute joined Morgan students for a round table discussion on “The African-American Scholar in Germany: a Morgan Perspective.” Dr. Zekeh Gbotokuma from the Department of Philosophy moderated the panel, which included four Morgan students who had studied in Berlin. 

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Celebrating St. Martin’s Day on November 11

On the eve of November 11, you might come across groups of smiling German children carrying home-made lanterns through towns and cities in Germany. These lantern processions are a tradition of a widely celebrated religious observance known as St. Martin’s Day (Martinstag).

The holiday celebrates the life of Saint Martin of Tours (316-297 CE), a Roman soldier who was known for being modest and altruistic. After being baptized as an adult, St. Martin became a monk and was eventually appointed as the Bishop of Tours. Many people know of St. Martin for saving a homeless man by giving him half of his cloak during a snowstorm.

In remembrance of this humble saint, German children create paper lanterns, gather on the streets and sing songs about St. Martin as they march with their illuminated lanterns. Often times, the procession is led by a man on horseback who is dressed as St. Martin. After the walk, children and their parents gather around a bonfire.

© dpa / picture-alliance

Although St. Martin’s Day is a Catholic holiday – many children participate in the lantern processions, regardless of their religious backgrounds. The lantern walks have become a large part of German culture. St. Martin’s Day is one of the oldest religious holidays in the world, and is also celebrated in many other European countries.

If you live in the United States, there may even be a lantern procession in your city; some German churches, schools and communities come together to organize their own St. Martin’s Day celebration!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

The unlikely history of the GDR’s “Ferrari of the East”

When you think of East German cars, you probably visualize the colorful but cheaply-made Trabants (“Trabis”), which is what most people drove in the German Democratic Republic. But the GDR also had its very own race car: the Wartburg Melkus, also known as the “Ferrari of the East”.

While the West German car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz generally dominated the Formula One World Championship, East Germany participated in many of the races with its Melkus cars and had a surprisingly high level of success: Heinz Melkus, race car driver and founder of the company, was the 1958 German champion in Formula 3 and the 1960 East German champion in Formula Junior. Overall, he won 80 of the 200 races he competed in throughout Europe.

But producing the race cars was not easy, since the Dresden-based manufacturer was only permitted to use materials from East Germany. About 90 percent of the Melkus’ parts came from Wartburg cars and some of its parts came from the Trabants. Still, Melkus was determined to see his vehicle on the streets of East Germany. Alongside his race cars, he also produced sports cars for everyday use, known as the Melkus RS1000. These sleek and stylish cars could reach speeds of about 112 miles per hour. But they never gained the popularity of the Trabants or the Wartburgs, and the company stopped producing its Melkus cars in 1986.

As we remember the 29th anniversary of the fall of the wall this week, we like to look back at the things that differentiated East and West Germany, as well as the things that united them. The Trabi is a symbol of the East, but the Melkus was one of the GDR’s prized creations: a race car that was made in a region with very few resources.

Word of the Week: Pantoffelheld

If you’ve ever encountered a man who fearfully submits to his wife’s every will, you’ve probably met a Pantoffelheld.

Comprised of two nouns, this German word directly translates to “slipper hero.” But a Pantoffelheld is not heroic in any traditional sense: the closest English rendition is a “henpecked” or “whipped” husband, thereby defining a man who is plagued by the commands of an overbearing wife.

A Pantoffelheld may act tough in front of his friends, but flees any situation at the first sign of danger and is unable to stand up for himself. At home, the henpecked husband takes orders from his wife – the person wearing the Pantoffeln (slippers). In fear of being crushed under her slippers, the henpecked husband becomes submissive: he has little to say in the household and tries only to please his lady.

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10 creative ways people crossed the inner German border

Some went over, others went under and some went right through it!

In a hot air balloon

In 1979, eight people soared over the Berlin Wall in a home-made hot air balloon created with small pieces of nylon cloth. To avoid looking suspicious, the families of Hans Strelczyk and Gunter Wetzel secretly collected small amounts of cloth over a long period of time. After their escape, the East German government began to strictly control the purchases of light-weight cloth.

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These everyday items were invented by Germans!

© dpa / picture-alliance

Inventors from around the world are converging on Nürnberg from November 1 to 4 to present their inventions at Germany’s 70th annual trade fair for ideas and inventions (the Ideen- Erfindungen-Neuheiten-Austellung, also known as iENA). The fair is the largest of its kind; since it was first held in 1948, more than 300,000 inventions were presented to the public – including inline skates, wheeled suitcases and folding bicycles. Inventors from 44 countries are expected to display their ideas.

In light of this fair, let’s take a look at some inventions that you may not have known are German!

Aspirin

Many of us depend on aspirin to cure us of our pains. But few may know that aspirin was invented by a German chemist, Felix Hoffman. The Swabian-born chemist initially developed the drug for his aligning father, but got a patent for it in 1899.

© dpa / picture-alliance

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Building bridges, celebrating friendship

What symbolizes the friendship of two nations better than a bridge between them? A slackliner walking across a highline between two hot air balloons, one featuring the German flag and the other the American flag.

This crazy idea — that may cause many to shudder just thinking about — was made possible last week over the mountains of Monument Valley along the Arizona-Utah border. Niklas Winter, a German athlete for slacklining group One Inch Dreams, braved the 33-foot walk at 1,640 feet in the air, looking down at the red desert sand of the Navajo Nation Reservation. After days of unpredictable and difficult weather conditions that delayed the stunt, the forecast finally cooperated, making the feat possible on October 25. With the help of a dedicated team — including Utah State Senator and balloon pilot Curt Bramble — and local support on the ground, Winter successfully walked across the highline.

The stunt is a testament to the strong ties between our two countries. Many new bonds have been forged during this project, and friendships developed in new areas and with new communities in the U.S. The project evinces the heights we can reach together. As we face shared challenges, we must build more and stronger bridges between our people.

This venture is part of Wunderbar Together. For an entire year, we are celebrating the German-American friendship with over 1,000 events throughout the U.S. We will paint a picture of everything our relations stand for in an array of topics including science, the arts, culture, language, business and of course sports. We’re excited for what other thrilling events are yet to come. Stay tuned!

By Alina Burkholder, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Kobold

© Wikimedia Commons

With Halloween just around the corner, Americans are excitedly gathering for haunted hayrides, telling scary stories around campfires, and searching for frightening costumes. At this time of year, it’s common to hear stories about the chupacabra, Bigfoot, and the headless horseman.

Mythological creatures exist throughout the world, but let’s take a look at one that has existed in German folklore for centuries. A popular supernatural creature is the Kobold, a mischievous household spirit that is usually invisible, but will occasionally materialize, taking the form of a human, an animal, or an object. An ill-tempered Kobold might, for example, take the form of a feather, descend onto the nose of a sleeping homeowner, and trigger a sneeze.

Most images of a Kobold depict small, human-like figures often dressed like peasants. But there are many types of Kobolds. Some are friendly spirits that live in one’s home, taking care of chores and playing malicious tricks if they feel upset, neglected or insulted. Others live underground, haunting old mines. Some reside on ships, accompanying sailors as they navigate the open seas (this type of Kobold is called a Klaubautermann).

The origin of the Kobold and its etymology remains shrouded in mystery, but this mythical creature is believed to have emerged from Pagan customs many centuries ago.

There are numerous other legendary German creatures that are closely related to the original Kobold, such as the Heinzelmännchen (house gnomes). But while the Heinzelmännchen are good-natured creatures that tend to the house, Kobolds also have a darker side to them, often wreaking havoc. In some cases, the damage Kobolds inflict might resemble that imposed by a poltergeist.

© dpa / picture-alliance

Need a place to celebrate Halloween? Head over to Frankenstein Castle in Germany!

With Halloween just around the corner, let’s take a look at one of Germany’s creepiest places: Frankenstein Castle.

Frankenstein Castle sits on a hilltop overlooking the city of Darmstadt. It was constructed sometime before the year 1250 by Lord Conrad II Reiz of Breuberg, who founded the free imperial Barony of Frankenstein. Over the coming centuries, the castle was home to various different families and witnessed several territorial conflicts. In 1673, Johann Conrad Dippel – who later became an alchemist – was born in the castle. The structure fell into ruins in the 18th century and was restored in the mid-19th century.

The most famous story is, of course, that of the alchemist who worked in the castle in the 17th century. He was known to experiment with strange potions. He supposedly created an animal oil (which he named “Dippel’s Oil”) that was a so-called “elixir of life”. There are also rumors that the man studied anatomy and conducted experiements on cadavers, some of which he dug up himself from graves. There is no evidence that proves that any of this happened, but local people believe the legends are true.

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