German bread, again

The Germans are extremely proud of their bread culture – and pretty scathing about bread from most other countries (don’t get them started on Toastbrot.) Since moving to Germany, Rachel has discovered the delights of fresh German bread from the local bakery.

But there’s still one thing getting between her and a bag of crusty bread rolls. Rachel moved from the UK to Germany in 2016. Back then, as a relative newcomer she casts a fresh eye over German clichés and shares her experiences of settling into German life. Every two weeks she explores a new topic – from unusual bans to meaty cuisine or haunted castles. This week: bread.

German bread

What do most Germans miss when they are abroad? Their bread! Hannah Hummel at Deutsche Welle explains why people in Germany are so crazy about it, how Germany developed such a huge bread diversity and why so many bakeries are under threat nowadays.

Her German father baked bread for the family in Scotland. It is very common for Germans living outside of Germany to bake their own bread.

1990. Bush. Gorbatschow.

Robert Zoellick, former Deputy Secretary of State under President George H. Bush, addresses Putin’s claim that the West broke a promise it made in the 1990s not to expand NATO.

This is about the topic Agreements, and the American logic. Listen carefully beginning at around 2:30, especially at 3:56, where Zoellick reveals crystal clear the American logic: “Nothing’s really final until you put the words on paper.”

This video was posted on YouTube on February 1, 2022. It is not clear when it was recorded. Russia had amassed conventional forces surrounding Ukraine. The invasion began on February 24.

The German Mittelstand

A brief video describing well the strengths of the German Mittelstand, small- to medium-sized companies typically in manufacturing and family-owned and -run.

The Mittelstand is often described as the heart of Germany’s economy – and rightly so, given that mid-sized firms account for the largest share of the country’s economic output, employ about 60 percent of all workers, provide crucial training, and contribute significantly to corporate tax revenues in Germany. See BDI

Ludwig Erhard, the Economics Minister who crafted post-war West Germany’s economic miracle (Wirtschaftswunder) warned against reducing the Mittelstand to a mere quantitative definition, but instead emphasized more qualitative characteristics which embody the German Mittelstand, as it is “much more of an ethos and a fundamental disposition of how one acts and behaves in society.”

“Nature of the Problem”

H.R. McMaster, February 2017 until April 2018 National Security Advisor under President Donald Trump, describes how critical it was at the beginning of his tenure to get clarity on scope. Listen to minutes 3:00 to 4:15 about “the nature of the problem”, and about “framing out the problem”:

McMaster earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History, both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He turned his dissertation on the strategy of the U.S. in the Vietnam War into his book entitled Dereliction of Duty.

Joe Rogan is one of the most widely listened-to long-form interviewers on the Internet. His podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience, has as of February 2022 nearly twelve million subscribers. More viewers, and more loyal viewers, than most networks tv shows. Because he has serious guests, asks the right questions, and listens.

Hans Holbein the Younger

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543) was a German painter and printmaker who worked in the Northern Renaissance style, and is considered one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century.

Holbein was born in Augsburg, Bavaria, but he worked mainly in Basel, Switzerland as a young artist. Holbein travelled to England in 1526 in search of work, with a recommendation from the great European thinker, Erasmus of Rotterdam.

Holbein was welcomed into the humanist circle of Thomas More, the Archbishop of Canterbury, where he quickly built a strong reputation. By 1535, he was King’s Painter to none other than Henry VIII of England.

Of particular interest to us as students of German culture are minutes 22:20 to 25:00 in this very interesting mini-documentary about Hans Holbein. Pay particular attention to the segment 24:00-24:37. “If you wanted precision, quality and Vorsprung durch Technik (the current motto of Audi) you bought German.”

And by the way, the documentary is done exceptionally well. Tudor England. Henry the VIII. Thomas More. And, of course, Thomas Cromwell. Very much worth watching in full.

Beraten vs. Dienen

The Germans use the word service very often, and in many different situations. But, service is not native to the German language. The German equivalent for service is dienen. And the word dienen can be traced back as far as the 8th century. At its root dienen was in connection with Läufer (runner), Bote (messenger) or Knecht (farm laborer or servant). Dienen means simply to be helpful or to be useful. 

But, it also means (and is often felt by Germans to mean) service in the sense of servitude, subjugation or subordination of one person to another person, to the one served, assisted or helped. Especially if one is serving exclusively the individual needs, wishes or interests of another person, one can feel a loss of independence and autonomy. One is captive, no longer free. 

However, if a common goal or common purpose is being served, something for the good of all, then serving is understood as positive. This might provide an indication for why contemporary Germans avoid using the term dienen, and prefer the English word service, or a combination of a German and an English term (i.e. Kundenservice = customer service).

The German term beraten, on the other hand, means to give someone advice about what they should do. The root is Rat, which means counsel. To beraten with another means to discuss and consider together, to hold council on a specific issue, situation or problem. A Berater is a consultant. 

The original definition of beraten means to take precautions, in the sense of food and provisions in a household: Hausrat (household things), Vorrat (supply, reserve, stock), Gerät (tool, utensil, appliance, device). Beraten (to give advice, to consult) is oriented, therefore, towards a future action, something to be done. Beraten serves the purpose of preparing someone for a future or possible situation. 

Jesse Owens and Lutz Long

Berlin, 1936, the Olympic Games. The great American track and field athlete, Jesse Owens, wins the gold medal in the 100 meter, the 200 meter, the 4×100 meter dash, as well as in the long jump.

What many people don’t know, however, is that the silver medalist in the long jump, the German Carl Ludwig “Lutz” Long, had given Owens the kind of advice that only a true colleague, and friend, would give.

Going into the 1936 games Long had been the reigning German champion and holder of the European record. The Nazi hierarchy – and the German people – had anticipated gold for Germany.

In the qualification round Owens had fouled twice in a row by stepping on the white board delineating the jump-off point. A third foul would have disqualified him. Jesse Owens would have failed to advance to the final round. The crowd, the millions listening by radio, and especially Owens himself, were unsettled.

After that second fault, Lutz Long walked over to his competitor and advised him to simply imagine the foul line to be located one foot closer than it actually was, saying that he just had to avoid fouling a third time, and that his third jump would easily be enough to advance to the next round.

Some sources claim that Long went so far as to lay down his white towel marketing where Owens should leap from, ensuring that he would not foul a third time.

Jesse Owens took the advice given to him by that German, advancing to the final round, and then setting a record which would hold for decades. Lutz Long took the silver.

Immediately after the medal ceremony, when Owens and Long stepped off the podium – and in full view of Adolf Hitler and many of the highest ranking National Socialist officials – Lutz Long, the German, smiled, shook hands with Owens, then hooked Jesse’s right arm into his left and proceeded to walk with him around the track, smiling, talking, congratulating.

1936. Tensions in Europe were very high. The German regime was espousing a crude racial theory. And in the United States, an African-American like Jesse Owens was treated as a second-class citizen, at best. With the world watching, and in conscious defiance of his own government, Lutz Long, a German, reached out to his archrival to give a small bit of helpful advice. Unsolicited.

Postscript: After the 1936 Olympic Games Jesse Owens was celebrated triumphantly in the U.S., only then to be forgotten for two decades, and to struggle financially, until the 1950s brought him a presidential appointment as American Ambassador of Goodwill by Dwight Eisenhower, and with it lucrative celebrity endorsements as well as a long, healthy, happy life.

Lutz Long, his German friend, died in battle against the Western Allies in Italy at the age of thirty. Fast forward the video above to 1:38 mins:

“You could melt down all of the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating for the twenty-four carat friendship I felt for Lutz Long at that moment.” Jesse Owens

Max Weber – Bureaucracy

Ever heard of Max Weber (1864-1920)? He was a German sociologist, historian, jurist and political economist. Weber is among the most important theorists on the development of modern Western society. he saw himself not as a sociologist, but as an historian. What did Weber write about bureaucracy:

That it constitutes the most efficient and rational way to organize human activity. Bureaucracy means systematic processes and organized hierarchies, which are necessary to: maintain order, maximize efficiency, and eliminate favoritism.

Nibelungentreue

A German with extensive experience living and working in the U.S. made this comment:

“I more observed that you make easier commitments in some cultures, and somewhere it takes more time. Then, in some cultures you can adjust when the boundary conditions dramatically change, and in others you stick to your word whatever happens. I guess that probably is the concept of Nibelungentreue, which has both positive and negative implications.”

About Nibelungentreue see what Wikipedia has to say here.