Word of the Week: Waldeinsamkeit

When Henry David Thoureau took his leave into the woods of Walden, he said he wanted to learn to live deliberately. He claimed to “need the tonic of wildness” and that “we can never have enough of nature”. Since it is officially spring and the forests are coming alive again, it might be useful to rediscover the feeling of Waldeinsamkeit. The feeling you get when you are walking in the woods all alone with natures wonders all around, that is Waldeinsamkeit.

Waldeinsamkeit consists of two words: Wald meaning forest, and Einsamkeit meaning loneliness or solitude.

It is the feeling of being alone in the woods, but it also hints at a connectedness to nature. The feeling plays a big role in religion. Shedding one’s material possessions is often a prerequisite for joining an order of monks or priests. This act is called monasticism. Christianity has a long tradition of Saints who live in on the land and pursue Waldeinsamkeit. One famous example is St. Trudpert, who was given a piece of land within the Black Forest and retired there in a simple church in solitude, surrounded by nature. The image above was taken at St. Trudpert’s Abbey.

The solitude of wilderness as a motif is prevalent in both religion and literature. The entire literary movement known as Romanticism (1800-1850) centers on returning to nature and becoming a part of untamed nature. In Germany, authors and artists depicted individuals quelled by nature’s glory. Authors from this movement included E.T.A. Hoffmann, the Brothers Grimm, and Heinrich von Kleist. The word Waldeinsamkeit belongs to this movement; it describes not only a feeling, but an entire motif in romantic literature. Ludwid Tieck, a well known romantic German author, once composed an ode to Waldeinsamkeit in his story Fair Eckbert :

“Waldeinsamkeit, “Woodland Solitude

Wie liegst du weit! I rejoice in Thee

O dich gereut, Tomorrow as today

Einst mit der Zeit. – Forever and ever

Ach einzige Freud Oh how I enjoy,

Waldeinsamkeit!” Woodland Solitude!”

The woods, it seems, is the place to go to contemplate the loneliness of ones existence – or maybe just to get some fresh air. Regardless, spring has sprung, so its time for some Waldeinsamkeit!

Word of the Week: Schnarchnase

You’ve been staring at the ceiling for hours. Despite all your attempts, you just can’t fall asleep – and you blame the Schnarchnase beside you for that!

Literally translated, the German word Schnarchnase means “snoring nose”. The term comes from schnarchen (“snoring”) and Nase (“nose”), and it identifies someone who snores loudly while sleeping. The reasons for this can vary – maybe the Schnarchnase has a stuffy nose, maybe it’s sleep apnea or maybe there’s no explanation for why this person snores every time he or she goes to sleep. Regardless of the cause, sleeping next to a Schnarchnase can be annoying – especially if you’re a light sleeper!

But the word doesn’t always define someone who snores in their sleep. The term is also used to describe someone who has messed up a task or is slow in finishing something. A so-called sleepy-head or a slowpoke (like, for example, a slow driver) can also be called a Schnarchhase. Even if someone has good intentions, he may still be called a Schnarchnase because he can never seem to get it right.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

German Week in the woods of Missouri

The term “in the woods” is often used when referring to the U.S. Army’s Ft. Leonard Wood training installation in the Ozark Mountains in Pulaski County, Missouri. Situated in a remote location between Springfield and St. Louis, Ft. Leonard Wood is the duty station for some 30,000 service members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force and the U.S. National Guard. This is where the U.S. Army carries out training for engineer, CBRN defense and military police personnel under the auspices of the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence. By contrast, the town of St. Robert, which borders the area of Ft. Leonard Wood, only has about 4,000 citizens.

Due to its location in the Midwest, far from Washington D.C., Ft. Leonard Wood is a perfect place when it comes to holding a German-American military event in the heart of the United States as part of the Year of German-American Friendship.

This “German Week” was jointly hosted by Major General Donna Martin, the commanding general of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, and Colonel (GS) Helmut Frietzsche, the commander of the German Armed Forces Command USA/CAN. The event featured German delegations of the Army Engineer Training Center in Ingolstadt, the Bundeswehr Military Police Command in Hannover and the CBRN Defense Command in Bruchsal, under the overall command of Brigadier General Frank Schmitz, Deputy Director of the German Armed Forces Office, jointly training together with their U.S. Army counterparts in Ft. Leonard Wood.

The German Week offered many occasions to discuss current military activity areas, the future development of the armed forces, and other fields of cooperation.

Brigadier Schmitz emphasized that “intensive exchanges such as this, as well as the consistent continuation of similar cooperation projects in the future, are an essential prerequisite for the interoperability and credibility that we need in order to prevent conflicts in a highly complex environment and to successfully carry out joint operations.”

In this context, both delegation heads welcomed the fact that specific agreements have been reached concerning further cooperation in the fields of CBRN defense, engineering, and military police work.

The extensive supporting program of the German week also included a German fest with German beer, bratwurst and sauerkraut. This not only provided the opportunity to bolster the good relations, but also brought back pleasant memories among the many American friends and their families of time spent abroad in Germany.

In a speech held during the event, Brigadier General Frank Schmitz explained the background and meaning of the Year of German-American Friendship in the United States. He also briefly highlighted some important milestones in the long German-American friendship. In view of the markedly reduced number of U.S. troops and military families deployed in Germany since the end of the Cold War, the brigadier emphasized that cooperation and exchange programs had gained increased importance in terms of further promoting mutual understanding.

The opportunity to obtain the German marksmanship badge (Schützenschnur) and military proficiency badge during the event was seen by the U.S. soldiers as a privilege and expression of the special relations between the two armies. After all, the two badges are categorized as approved foreign awards which the U.S. soldiers are allowed to wear on their uniforms.

The approximately 250 U.S. soldiers being awarded the German marksmanship and military proficiency badges by Brigadier General Schmitz, Colonel Frietzsche, Colonel Busch, Colonel Schiff and Colonel Thieser, as well as their U.S. counterparts, was therefore undoubtedly an emotional and ceremonial highlight of the weeklong event. In addition, on arrival of the delegation, the 399th Army Band played the “General’s March” as a sign of special appreciation and to honor Brigadier General Schmitz.

The supporting program was rounded off with a tour and introduction of the leading-edge training facilities in Ft. Leonard Wood. This also included a visit to the Chemical Defense Training Facility (CDTF), to be reopened in April following extensive conversion work, which will enable live agent training for CBRN forces in an extremely realistic training environment.
All in all, the weeklong event was a highly informative and well organized occasion that received outstanding praise and recognition from both sides.
Special thanks is due to Major General Donna Martin and her team for the excellent support and outstanding hospitality on behalf of the U.S. Army, and to Lieutenant Colonel Veeck, the initiator and very capable German coordinator who successfully organized the event together with his team. Bravo zulu – well done!

Word of the Week: Sollbruchstelle

When you break off a square of chocolate, you are breaking it at its Sollbruchstellen.

The German word Sollbruchstelle is unique and not easily translatable. But it is useful: this word describes the predetermined breaking point of an object, such as the ridges in a bar of chocolate where you break off a square. As you’ve probably noticed by now, Germans really do have a word for everything!

Directly translated, Sollbruchstelle means “should-break-spot” – in other words, the spot where you should break the object. This word can be used to describe points on many different objects.

If you’re assembling furniture, opening a can of soda, dividing a bar of chocolate, or setting up a brand new fish tank, you are using the Sollbruchstelle to open, peel or break the object in a predetermined location. Thanks to the Sollbruchstelle, your life is a whole lot easier! But describing the Sollbruchstelle is no easy task in English, since there is no word for it. You’re better off using German!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

“Wunderbar together” with the South Carolina National Guard

A delegation of the German Armed Forces Command, USA and Canada visited the South Carolina National Guard in Columbia from March 14-17, 2019 to support the good relations with their American partners. As in the preceding years, the visit was centered around obtaining the German Armed Forces Proficiency and Marksmanship Badges.

© South Carolina National Guard

One highlight of the event, although also a challenge due to strong turbulence, was the flight in a CH47 helicopter of the U.S. Army, which transported the twelve German soldiers from Washington International Airport Dulles to Columbia, the capital of South Carolina, on their way to the McCrady Training Center.

Physical fitness as part of military routine

© South Carolina National Guard

The participating soldiers from South Carolina took the German basic fitness test (BFT) and subsequently the swimming in uniform test, both of which were organized by the soldiers of the German Armed Forces Command, USA and Canada.

At the start of the final day, all participants set off on a joint 7-mile ruck march, to be completed in 120 minutes while carrying a 33-pound rucksack.

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April Fools’: a German tradition from Medieval Times

There’s a good chance you fell for at least one April Fools’ joke today. Every April 1, the Internet is flooded with hoaxes and stories meant to trick people into believing them. April Fools’ is a tradition celebrated widely in both the US and Germany. Although it is unclear exactly how and why this day of jokes originated, there is plenty of evidence that Germans (along with other Europeans) were already playing tricks on each other back in the Middle Ages!

Long before the Internet, Germans were celebrating April 1 the old fashioned way. On April 1, 1530, a meeting was allegedly scheduled for lawmakers in Augsburg, who were told that they were gathering to unify the state’s coinage. When people heard of the meeting, they began trading their currency to make a profit from the change. However, the meeting never took place, the law was not enacted, and everyone who showed up – as well as those who traded their currency – were mocked as fools.

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From the Washington, D.C. Tidal Basin to Hamburg’s Altes Land, cherry blossom trees bring joy to many

©dpa / picture alliance

You might have seen images of the cherry blossom trees that blanket Washington, D.C. every spring. The 3,000 trees around the Tidal Basin were a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912, symbolizing the friendship between the two countries. Once the trees begin to bloom, the city is filled with festivals, celebratory events and a parade marking the occasion.
Although the District has an abundance of cherry blossom trees, Japan has gifted its prized sakura trees to several other countries, including Brazil, China, Turkey and Germany. And in Germany, the blossoming trees have been growing in popularity.

©dpa / picture alliance

In Germany, the trees typically bloom a few weeks later than in the US, but nevertheless come with their own celebrations. Since 1968, the city of Hamburg – which is home to about 2,000 Japanese residents and 100 Japanese companies – has hosted an annual cherry blossom festival, complete with fireworks, a Japanese Kulturtag (“day of culture”) and a bi-yearly pageant for a cherry blossom princess. In the 1960s, Hamburg received approximately 5,000 cherry blossom trees from Japan, which were planted along the city’s riverbanks.

But even hundreds of years ago, Hamburg residents would flock across the Elbe River to the so-called “Altes Land” (“old land”) in the spring to admire the countless cherry blossom trees that blanketed the region. The Altes Land, which is the largest contiguous fruit-producing region in Northern Europe, has had cherry blossom trees for centuries before they were planted along the Hamburg’s riverbanks.

©dpa / picture alliance

Other German cities host smaller cherry blossom festivals of their own. And in Bonn, the cherry blossoms have become a major tourist attraction in recent years. In the mid-1980s, the city decided to plant cherry blossom trees all throughout Bonn’s Altstadt (“old town”) in order to make it a nicer place to live. The plan worked: Bonn’s Heerstraße is now one of the most attractive springtime destinations. Photographs depicting Bonn’s tunnel of pink have become an internet sensation, bringing tourists from around the world to visit the city during peak bloom. Japan’s gifts have brought beauty to cities across the world, including Germany!

©dpa / picture alliance

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Women of the Bauhaus: Alma Siedhoff-Buscher (1899 –1944)

As we conclude Women’s History Month, we will reflect on the life and work of Alma Siedhoff-Buscher, who enjoyed an unusual career of furniture and toy design at the Bauhaus. It is noteworthy to consider that the women at the Bauhaus began their artistic careers at the moment when German women earned the right to vote for the first time in January 1919.

Alma Siedhoff-Buscher (1899 –1944)

Preliminary designs for a children’s room interior by Alma Buscher. Courtesy WikiCommons.

Alma Buscher could not know that her early art studies would lead to the field of furniture-making and toy design and a deep interest in child pedagogy. By the time the artist enrolled at the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1922, she had attended several art schools, including the State Arts and Crafts Museum in Berlin. At the Bauhaus, she took the preliminary course taught by Johannes Itten and attended classes by Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, as was standard. She became one of only a few women who continued in an area other than weaving when her teachers Georg Muche and Josef Hartwig supported her move into the wood sculpture program.

In 1923 Ms. Buscher’s furniture designs were shown in the school’s first exhibit in the Haus am Horn – the first example of a building based on Bauhaus design principles – and included furniture designed for the children’s room, as well as toys and a puppet theater. What was unique about the artist’s furnishings – such as the cabinets she designed – was that they encouraged children to explore space on their own and rearrange the brightly painted crates that were part of the cabinets in any way they wished. She incorporated the element of movement when she added wheels to the crates, allowing children to further create and pursue their own narratives.

“Children should, if at all possible, have a room in which they can be what they want to be…everything in it belongs to them and their imagination designs it …”
– Alma Siedhoff-Buscher, 1926

Shipbuilding toy (left) designed by Alma Buscher. Courtesy WikiCommons.

Only a year later, the Zeiss kindergarten was outfitted with children’s furniture designed by Ms. Buscher. Her furniture and toys were exhibited at a conference for kindergarten teachers and youth leaders, as well as the “Youth Welfare in Thuringia” exhibit in Weimar. In 1926, her designs were shown at “The Toy” exhibit in Nurnberg.

Children’s furniture designed by Alma Buscher, donated to the Bauhaus Museum in Weimar. Courtesy picture-alliance/dpa.

Her most popular toy designs were the Kleine Schiffbauspiel (“Little Shipbuilding Game”) and the Groβe Schiffbauspiel (“Big Shipbuilding Game”), small brightly painted wooden blocks that could be constructed and re-arranged freely. Other popular toys were her simple colorful building blocks and her Wurfpuppen (or “Throw Dolls,” dolls made of straw and with bead heads) and coloring books. In 1927, she designed crane and sailboat cut-out kits, published by Otto Maier-Verlag in Ravensburg. The shipbuilding games and cut-out kits were reintroduced into production in 1977.

Journalists view toys, including some designed by Alma Siedhoff-Buscher at the commemorative “Collection of the Bauhaus” exhibit at the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin. Courtesy of picture-alliance/dpa.

Ms. Buscher married her fellow Bauhaus student, actor and dancer Werner Siedhoff who worked closely with Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus stage. The couple moved to Dessau when the school relocated there in 1925. Two years later she graduated from the school and worked there for a year. Because of her husband’s line of work, the family – which by then included a son, Joost, and a daughter, Lore – moved frequently. She performed freelance work after leaving the Bauhaus and died in an air-raid in 1944.

Haus am Horn, part of the Bauhaus UNESCO World Heritage Site. Courtesy picture-alliance/dpa

In 2004, the Bauhaus Museum in Weimar opened a solo exhibition, “Alma Siehoff-Buscher: A New World for Children” which traveled to the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin in 2006. The Haus am Horn as part of the Bauhaus and its Sites in Weimar, Dessau and Bernau/Berlin is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is scheduled to reopen in May 2019 after extensive renovations to return it to its original appearance.

By Eva Santorini, German Embassy

Comprehensive information on the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus can be viewed at bauhaus100.com.

Recommended reading:

“Bauhaus Women: Art, Handicraft, Design” by Ulrike Müller.

An interview with Alma Siedhoff-Buscher’s son, actor Joost Siedhoff, is available in German.

“Bauhaus and Harvard” is on view at the Harvard Art Museum in Cambridge, MA through July 28, 2019.

“Bauhaus Beginnings,” an exhibit at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles runs from June 11–October 13, 2019.

“Bauhaus: Building the New Artist,” an online project of the Wunderbar Together initiative, runs from June – October 2019. More at www.getty.edu/research and wunderbartogether.org.

Word of the Week: Strohfeuer

©dpa / picture alliance

Few things last forever. Many of them are Strohfeuer, such as interesting fashion trends or a summer fling.

Directly translated, Strohfeuer means “straw fire”, and it describes something that’s strong, but short-lived – like a fire that’s fueled by straw. Straw can quickly become engulfed in flames, but once the fuel is out, so is the fire.

An English equivalent to Strohfeuer is the phrase “a flash in the pan.” As a metaphor, the word Strohfeuer can describe a range of temporary phenomena, from relationships to the stock market. Although you might perceive your new-found love as a long-term partner, he or she might be nothing more than Strohfeuer! If you just started your own business and it’s going well, keep in mind that your success might also just be Strohfeuer. And if you’ve seen a spike in the stock market, be aware of the fact that this too might just be a flash in the pan.

So don’t draw conclusions about your state of affairs too soon, and learn to recognize the difference between a Strohfeuer and lasting success!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

10 famous German immigrants who changed the world

©dpa / picture alliance

Not a lot of people in his native country are familiar with Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730 – 1794), but in the US the German-born military officer is a household name: he is considered one of the heroes of the American Revolutionary War of 1775 – 1783. Von Steuben, a veteran of the Prussian general staff, was recruited into the Continental Army by Benjamin Franklin. He used his extensive military experience to drill and discipline the badly organized and ill-equipped troops, transforming them into an effective army. Under the leadership of George Washington, the Continental Army eventually defeated the British. Today, Baron von Steuben is honored every year on Von Steuben Day, when parades are held in several US cities. A statue of von Steuben stands in Lafayette Square just north of the White House.

©dpa / picture alliance

Thomas Nast (1840 – 1902) was one of the most famous caricaturists and cartoonists in the United States in the 19th century. He was born in the southern German town of Landau and immigrated to the US with his family during his childhood. Working for the illustrated political magazine Harper’s Weekly, Nast established the elephant and the donkey as symbols of the Republican and Democratic parties, which are still in use today. Nast has also been credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus – a round friendly grandfather figure wearing a red suit.

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