Celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift

An American aircraft drops food and supplies near a crowd of Berliners during the blockade of Berlin. © dpa / picture-alliance

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the Berlin Airlift of 1948 and 1949, which is widely considered a turning point in the German-American relationship.

After the end of the Second World War, Germany was divided into the American, British, French and Soviet occupation zones. Although Berlin lay within the Soviet occupation zone, the city itself was also divided into four sectors. In 1948, the Allied nations created a single new currency – the Deutsche Mark – for their occupation zones. The Soviets were displeased with this move, fearing that this new currency would devalue the Reichsmark they were using in the East. As a result, they began a blockade of West Berlin, hoping to starve the western powers out of the city. Without the intervention of the Allies, there would have been a humanitarian disaster and many people would have starved to death.

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11 items that will give you a taste of Ostalgie

“Ostalgie” is a special kind of nostalgia. In the US, some people collect old soda and gas station signs or old cars. All over the world there are also people who collect old relics from the former East Germany. Trabis, GDR signs, East German food, TV shows – all are examples of Ostalgie.

1. Trabant

The “Trabi” may not be the fastest car, or the prettiest car, or even a good car for that matter, but for anyone who has a touch of “Ostalgie,” it is the perfect cure. People in East German would literally register their children at birth for Trabants, in the hopes that by the time he or she turned 18, a car would be available. Trabi enthusiasts can still be found all around the world. In the US, there is an annual Trabi Parade in DC to mark the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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2. Rotkäppchen

Rotkäppchen is one of the few East German brands that survived reunification, and is still widely enjoyed in both the East and West.

3. DEFA

The film company DEFA produced a huge chunk of East German television programming. Its fairy tale series was particularly beloved by children. Most of the full length films are still available on YouTube.

4. Berlin Wall pieces

While not strictly a piece of “Ostalgie” the Berlin Wall is nevertheless one of the most symbolic parts of East Germany. Today, pieces of the Berlin wall are attached to key chains, magnets, or used as paper weights. For some, the wall is still a symbol of forty years under a surveillance state. Others, though, see it as a symbol of hard-fought freedom.

5. Pittiplatsch and Friends

Pittiplatsch the kobold and his companions were a staple in East German children’s television. Pittiplatsch dolls are still around to buy, and the older episodes are available online.

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6. Spee washing detergent

Delaware’s Enzian Volkstanzgruppe celebrates 50 years

Anke Popper of the German Embassy Washington presents the German-American Friendship Award to Brian Schulz, President of the EVTG (second from left), and Tommy Keith, Vorplattler of the EVTG (fourth from left). Also present are Edeltraut Gilgenast of the Culture Committee of the Delaware Sängerbund, and Dr. Carl Renner, President of the Delaware Sängerbund.

“Sitt’ und Brauch der Alten Wollen Wir erhalten.”

If it’s an authentic experience of the Bavarian mountain culture you seek, you needn’t head for the foothills of the Alps south of Munich.

Rather, if you’re in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, a more convenient—and less mountainous—destination lies at hand.

Head to the “Deutsche Halle” of the Delaware Sängerbund in Newark, DE (that’s Delaware, not Deutschland!) for a festive dance performance by the Enzian Volkstanzgruppe—the traditional Alpine dance ensemble of the Sängerbund—founded 1853, making it one of the oldest German social clubs in the country.

The Enzian Volkstanzgruppe, or EVTG, founded in 1968, has been keeping the German mountain traditions alive for 50 years now. On Saturday, September 15, 2018, the dance troupe members along with many friends and guests from the Gauverband Nordamerika—the association of 72 member Vereine dedicated to preserving Alpine traditions—gathered to celebrate the 50th “Stiftungsfest” or founding, of the EVTG.

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The 61st annual Steuben Parade celebrates German culture and heritage

The 61st annual German-American Steuben Parade was held in New York City over the weekend, once again bringing out thousands of spectators to celebrate German-American friendship, culture, history and heritage.

Germans and Americans lined the parade route, wearing traditional German clothing (including the famous Dirndl and Lederhosen), waving German flags and cheering on those who marched in the parade. The parade featured many different marching divisions and even showcased old German cars. The German Embassy featured a float that promoted the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift – a mission in which the United States and the United Kingdom airlifted food and fuel to the people of Berlin after the Soviets blockaded the city in 1948 and 1949. The Airlift is considered a turning point after the Second World War for the German-American friendship.

At the end of the parade route, the Steuben Parade Oktoberfest served thousands of hungry people in Central Park. Featuring German food and live bands, the afternoon of September 15 once again marked an important occasion for the German-American community in New York.

The parade is one of the largest German-American events in the world and is named in honor of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730-1793), a Prussian general who came to the United States to support General George Washington in the American Revolution. Similar parades and festivities are also held annually in Philadelphia and Chicago.

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Who was Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben?

German-American Steuben Parade of New York is one of the largest observances of German heritage throughout all America and the world. With tens of thousands of German-Americans marching up Fifth Avenue every year in September, the Parade is also a showcase of the strong friendship between the two countries. © dpa / picture-alliance

The annual Steuben Parade is getting ready to kick off! On September 15, we will be participating in the parade along New York City’s Fifth Avenue. And it’s one we definitely can’t miss: the Steuben Parade is one of the largest gatherings of German- Americans in the world!

Thousands of participants and spectators attend the annual parade, and we can’t wait to be among them! Let’s take a look at who this large event is named after:

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Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730-1794) has long been a symbol of German-American friendship. The Prussian-born military officer fought in two major wars, but is best known for his contributions on American soil. His experience gained during the Seven Years’ War equipped him with a wealth of military knowledge that helped the young man rise in the ranks. When he was in his thirties, he found himself in debt, and hoped to find employment in a foreign army to gather funds. In 1777, the young baron was introduced to General George Washington by means of a letter. Soon thereafter, he was on his way to the United States, where he offered to volunteer his services without pay. Arrangements were made so that Steuben would be paid for his services after the war, based on his contributions.

And he did not fail to impress: Von Steuben became inspector general and major general of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, and he is often credited as being one of the founders of the Continental Army. In the final years of the war, the Prussian-born military officer even served as General Washington’s chief of staff. Finally, in 1784, he became an American citizen.

Today, there are celebrations throughout the US that are named after Von Steuben, including the German-American Steuben Parades in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. There is also a Steuben Society, an educational and fraternal organization that was founded in 1919 to help organize the German-American community. We even have a statue of Von Steuben at the German Embassy in Washington!

As we celebrate German-American friendship, culture and heritage, Von Steuben is a name that we will always remember.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

The rising popularity of American Football in Germany

As school starts and the leaves gradually change in color, we turn our attention back to one of America’s favorite pastimes—football. Be it attending high school games in our home towns or driving into the city to see professionals take the field, football is both entertainment and a culture in and of itself. Even the least sporty of Americans is still known to be caught watching a full game once a year during the Super Bowl or throwing a ball around the backyard to pass time.

Though a poll by Gallop shows that football is America’s favorite sport, it hasn’t gained much traction in other places around the world and in fact, “football” refers to an entirely different sport in most other places. Germany is much more associated with the other football, Fußball, and has over 26,000 football clubs nationwide.

Despite their clear love of what we’d call soccer, young Germans—always on the search for a new way to stay active—have been dipping their toes into the world of American football.

First seen on TV

The prevalence of online media has allowed sports enthusiasts to easily transcend borders. More and more Germans are being exposed to football games via their social media feeds or by streaming games live. That access brings Germans as close to the big action as most Americans! The NFL averages 3000,000 viewers each Sunday from Germany. With the screaming crowds, big sponsors, and bright lights, the exposure to the sport has inspired some Germans to start local clubs at home.

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The evolution of German-American culture in the United States

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The United States is a country built on immigration — and the largest group of immigrants actually came from Germany!

Based on the most recent US Census, more than 44 million Americans claim German ancestry. That’s a higher number than those who claimed English, Italian or Mexican ancestry.

At the turn of the last century, Germans were even the most predominant ethnic group in the US, with eight million people out of a population of 76 million. The world’s third-largest German-speaking population was in New York City, following only Berlin and Vienna. So what changed? Continue reading “The evolution of German-American culture in the United States”

Explaining Germany’s “Pfandsystem”

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Many Germans are conscientious about recycling – and the German Pfandsystem makes it easy to do so.

Since 2003, Germany has had a system (the Pfandsystem or “deposit system”) that regulates the sale and return of plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans. When someone buys a bottled beverage, they pay a deposit on that bottle (for example, 15 extra cents). If, however, they bring that empty bottle to a return station (often located in supermarkets), they get that money back. Imagine how much money you could get back if you return 50 empty bottles! This is why you sometimes see individuals voluntarily collecting used bottles in Germany.

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The bottles that are eligible for Pfand (the “deposit” cash) are usually multi-use, refillable bottles. Plastic bottles in Germany can be reused up to 25 times and glass bottles can be reused up to 50 times. It is much more environmentally friendly to sterilize recycled bottles than to produce new, single-use bottles. The Pfand is an incentive to have those bottles returned, rather than thrown in the garbage.

Most bottles in Germany are eligible for Pfand, but there are always exceptions. Single-use bottles occasionally find themselves onto grocery store shelves and these are usually not eligible. Imported bottles from other countries may also not be subject to German laws and thus not be eligible for a deposit.

But overall, the German Pfandsystem is quite effective; last year, British company Eunomia named Germany as the world’s best recycler. In Germany, 97.9 percent of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) were sold with a deposit on them and 93.5 were recycled in 2015, according to a report by the German Society for Packaging Market Research. Most PET bottles end up as new PET bottles, but some are recycled into other products (plastic sheets, textile fibers, etc.)

Many Americans who visit Germany (or other Europeans with similar systems) rave about the Pfandsystem. Because after all – it’s efficient and it works.

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By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

In Germany, swimming in Flussschwimmbäder (“river swimming pools”) is part of the culture

When it’s hot outside, where do you go? Some of you may go to your local pool. If you’re lucky, you may even be near a beach.

But for Germans, the answer is often a nearby river – or a so-called Flussschwimmbad (“river swimming pool”).

There are plenty of clean rivers to swim in throughout the German countryside. But in recent years, German cities have made an effort to convert city rivers into swimming areas. For example, the Flussbad project in Berlin is an initiative to transform an unused part of the Spree River into a giant swimming pool that is equivalent to 17 Olympic pools. This “will provide a public urban recreation space adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Museum Island, for both residents and visitors,” according to the foundation planning the project.

But for now, Berlin already has the so-called Badeschiff (“swimming ship”) – a pool that floats in the River Spree and allows visitors to feel as though they are in the river already.

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Some German cities, however, are already home to clean rivers for swimming. In Munich, for example, many residents choose to cool off in the Isar River in the hot summer months. Part of the Isar River is even used for surfing!

For those who want a well-manicured Liegewiese (“lounging field”) and changing rooms to add to their experience, they can visit a pool filled with river water, such as the Naturbad Maria Einsiedel in Munich.

A Naturbad (“nature pool”) that consists of river water is free of chlorine and is therefore a healthy alternative to conventional swimming pools.

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The German city of Lübeck also has a popular Flussschwimmbad. The so-called Marli-Freibad pool is a swimming area in a river. The water is supposedly clean enough to drink. With water slides and changing rooms, swimming in this section of the river can be fun for the whole family.

Although there are occasional rivers that may not be clean enough for swimming, the vast majority are: a recent study found that 98 percent of the rivers, lakes and coastal swimming areas in Germany met the water safety requirements set by the EU, according to the magazine Monumente. Of these, 91.4 percent were considered to have “excellent” water quality.

And swimming in rivers is an aspect of German culture that dates back hundreds of years. The first river bathing establishments were set up in the 1800s and usually including food vendors, changing rooms and sectioned-off areas for swimming (often separated between male and female swimming areas).

Some of these establishments were shut down in the early 1900s but are being reestablished today. Having access to a clean river for swimming is simply part of the German culture!

 

10 facts about Bavaria

1. Bavaria is both the oldest and the largest state in Germany. It is home to 12.9 million inhabitants as of 2016 and it encompasses over 300 cities and towns.

2. There are three primary dialects spoken in Bavaria: Austro-Bavarian, Swabian German and East Franconian German.

3. The first Nobel laureate for physics, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923), made his home in Munich, Bavaria. Röntgen is most famous for discovering x-rays.

4. The world famous Neuschwanstein Castle is located in Füssen, Bavaria. This fairytale castle was built by King Ludwig II (1845-1886).

5. Levi Strauss, a German-American businessman who founded the first company to manufacture blue jeans, came from the Bavarian town of Buttenheim (north of Nuremberg).

6. German NBA player Dirk Nowitzki is a native of Bavaria. The basketball player was born in Würzburg and is often called the “German Wunderkind.”

7. German artist Albrecht Dürer, a painter, printmaker and theorist from the German Renaissance, came from Nuremberg, Bavaria.

8. Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837 – 1898), also known as “Sisi”, was born into  the royal Bavarian house of Wittelsbach and was originally known as the Duchess of Bavaria. It was only when she married Emperor Franz Joseph I  that she left her beloved homeland to become Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary.

9. Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze, is located in Bavaria. At 9,718 ft above sea level, the Zugspitze has three large glaciers and is also a top ski resort in Germany.

10. Bavaria is home to Oktoberfest, an enormous festival that has been held in Munich for over 200 years. The first Oktoberfest took place in 1810 to honor Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage, but today it is associated with German beer, cuisine and Bavarian culture.