From 1958 to 1989, 'Socialist University', published by the University of Jena, was the premier organ of the East German university system. Its entire archive -- also searchable! -- is online here. Of course, it's all in German, but I'll try to translate some passages here and there as time permits.
The Greek economy is in free fall, having shrunk by 20 percent in the
past five years. The unemployment rate is more than 27 percent, the
highest in Europe, and 6 of 10 job seekers say they have not worked in
more than a year. Those dry statistics are reshaping the lives of Greek
families with children, more of whom are arriving at schools hungry or
underfed, even malnourished, according to private groups and the
Last year, an estimated 10 percent of Greek elementary and middle school
students suffered from what public health professionals call “food
insecurity,” meaning they faced hunger or the risk of it, said Dr.
Athena Linos, a professor at the University of Athens Medical School who
also heads a food assistance program at Prolepsis,
a nongovernmental public health group that has studied the situation.
“When it comes to food insecurity, Greece has now fallen to the level of
some African countries,” she said.
Oh, and the economic theory that German policymakers conveniently invoked as a fig leaf for their pursuit of Germany's economic interests cited as intellectual support has been largely debunked:
see their enormous influence on the European debate, it is worth
quoting an extract from a speech by Olli Rehn, the European Commission’s
economic chief, to the Council on Foreign Relations in June 2011.
“Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff have coined the ‘90 per cent rule’,”
he said. “That is, countries with public debt exceeding 90 per cent of
annual economic output grow more slowly. High debt levels can crowd out
economic activity and entrepreneurial dynamism, and thus hamper growth.
This conclusion is particularly relevant at a time when debt levels in
Europe are now approaching the 90 per cent threshold, which the US has
Mr Rehn presumably did not read the original papers, which were more
ambivalent in their conclusions, as academic papers tend to be. Policy
makers, such as Mr Rehn, are always on the lookout for economic theories
that seem plausible and accord with their deep beliefs. In Europe, most
of them have little exposure to macroeconomists who think out of the
box. Clearly, most policy makers find it counter-intuitive that
governments should spend money in a recession. It is against their own
experience, especially if they come from northern European countries.
They may have read the history of the Great Depression, and yet they
find that a Keynesian
response is less plausible than pro-cyclical austerity. If two of the
world’s most respected economists then come along and tell them that
their gut instincts have been right all along, this is the conservative
policy maker’s equivalent of birthday and Christmas coinciding. At last,
the message they always wanted to hear.
And, of course, is not even resulting in significantly lower debts, since austerity-driven economic contraction increases sovereign debt:
Though the cumulative level of government deficits fell last year,
mainly because of Germany swinging into a budget surplus, many countries
have continued to reel from the costs associated with recession.
Spending cuts and tax increases have helped to reduce deficits across the 17 EU countries that use the euro, but the region's debt burden rose after economic growth flatlined and fewer companies and households paid taxes.
the four countries that accepted financial assistance, Portugal and
Spain saw their deficits swell in value terms and in proportion to the
size of their economies. Portugal's deficit increased to 6.4% of GDP in
2012, from 4.4% the year before; Spain's jumped to 10.6% from 9.4%.
managed to make further inroads in cutting its borrowings, but the
deficit rose to 10% of its annual GDP from 9.5% as the country remained
mired in a deep recession. Only Ireland, widely viewed as the poster
child of austerity, saw its deficit fall under both criteria – it stood
at 7.6% of GDP against 13.4% the year before.
Of course, only those ranting, irresponsible...populists* (pronounce with scorn) feel the need to continuously draw attention to these facts.
History is not going to be kind to Angela Merkel. Wait, let me qualify that: Non-German historians are not going to be kind to Angela Merkel. But then again, hypocrisy is only human:
A Moral Principle met a Material Interest on a bridge wide enough for but one.
‘Down, you base thing!’ thundered the Moral Principle, ‘and let me pass over you!’
The Material Interest merely looked in the other’s eyes without saying anything.
‘Ah,’ said the Moral Principle, hesitatingly, ‘let us draw lots to see which shall retire till the other has crossed.’
The Material Interest maintained an unbroken silence and an unwavering stare.
‘In order to avoid a conflict,’ the Moral Principle resumed, somewhat
uneasily, ‘I shall myself lie down and let you walk over me.’
Then the Material Interest found a tongue, and by a strange
coincidence it was its own tongue. ‘I don’t think you are very good
walking,’ it said. ‘I am a little particular about what I have
underfoot. Suppose you get off into the water.’
After the collapse of East Germany, the question arose of what to do with all those East German books. East Germany had many publishing houses and a quite well-developed educational system. Nevertheless, a typical East German biography of Bismarck, say, was unlikely to be competitive with its West German (or non-socialist) counterpart. Not to mention the hundreds of university coursebooks on 'socialist' small-business management, town planning, early-childhood education, etc. Some of these books made their way to used booksellers, where I eagerly bought as many as I could, as I find them fascinating. Others, however, were unceremoniously dumped into the garbage or left to molder in storage.
Then came Peter Sodann, a German actor and theater director who grew up in East Germany. He started collecting these books to preserve a part of German history and culture. The 'Peter Sodann' library is now open in the small town of Staucha, in Saxony. It even has an online catalog, which is quite extensive. Apparently much of the cost of the library is covered by donations and by volunteer catalogers. Many of the books, the website states, remain in banana crates, waiting to be catalogged.
Given my fascination with East Germany, I will be planning a pilgrimage there shortly, and will report...
Maggie Koerth-Baker reports the pretty amazing fact that if you happened to get infected with Yersinia pestis-- the bacterium that caused the Black Plague -- today, you would have a 97% chance of surviving even without modern medical care. So why did it kill between 30-50% of Europeans in the 14th century? To find out, scientsts have been looking for ancient plague DNA:
In 2011, a team led by McMaster University paleogeneticist Hendrik
Poinar became the first to reconstruct a full genome for Black Death era
This was not a full and complete genome drawn from a single
bacterium inhabiting the body of a single victim. Instead, the genome
was patched together from bits and pieces of DNA in remains taken from London's East Smithfield cemetery.
The small chunks were lined up to create a whole, similar to the way
you make a panoramic photo by combining a series of different shots.
Hendrik Poinar calls it a "draft" of the genome, rather than a smooth,
polished work of biology.
The draft tells us a couple of things. First, the Y. pestis of the
Black Death era is related to modern Y. pestis. In fact, it's probably
the ancestor of all the strains of Y. pestis that exist today. Second —
and this is the weird part — there is really not much difference between
the old Y. pestis and the new. It boils down to about 100 genetic
changes, few of which seem to have given the bacteria enough of an
evolutionary advantage that they spread widely through the population.
Genetically, Y. pestis has barely changed. Its infection profile in
the real world, though, has changed massively. That suggests that at
least some of those small alterations in the genome must have been
extremely important. But which ones? And why? To answer those questions,
you could reverse-engineer the evolution of Y. pestis in the
lab. "We'd have an opportunity to test those changes, one at a time, and
find out," Poinar said. "... If we could do it in a form or fashion
that wouldn't terrify people."
So, who's going to join me in volunteering to be infected with ancient plague for Science? After all, with modern medical care, there's probably at least an 80% chance of survival. I like those odds!
I am surprised to find out that there is a museum dedicated to Eastern European design in Los Angeles called the Wende Museum:
So why would a museum that examines the histories of Eastern Europe
during the Cold War be located in Los Angeles? According to the museum,
“their location in California provides independence and critical
distance from current political debates in Europe, and also facilitates
the questioning of preconceived ideas about our past and present.
Moreover, the Museum’s physical remoteness from Central and Eastern
Europe has enabled it to attract significant artifacts and collections
that might otherwise have been destroyed as a result of emotional and
The Wende Museum was founded by Justinian
Jampol in 2002 with a mission to preserve the quickly disappearing
cultural artifacts and personal histories of Cold War-era Eastern Europe
and the Soviet Union.
In 1970, the German government received information that the controversial Austrian statesman may have survived the fall of Berlin and resettled in southeast Romania. The federal prosecutor secretly commissioned an anthropologist, gerontologist, and German photorealist painter to produce an age-progressed painting of the Führer for use on wanted posters.
Later investigation revealed that the supposed dictator was actually a Transnistrian yakherd, and the painting was quietly shelved, until now.
As part of the Gleichschaltung of the German nation behind National Socialism, universities were gradually purged of political unreliables, and all university fraternities were progressively banned or co-opted into the National Socialist German Students' Union (g). The leading program of this organization can be found in the '10 Laws of German Student Life' (Zehn Gesetze des deutschen Studentums), promulgated in 1938. Here is my translation of them:
I. German student, it is not necessary that you live, but
rather that you fulfill your duty to your People (Volk)! Whatever you become,
do so as a German!
II. The highest law and greatest dignity of a German man is
honor. Injured honor can be expiated (gesühnt) only with blood. Your honor is your loyalty
to your People and to yourself.
III. Being German means having character. You are among those called upon to struggle
for the freedom of the German spirit (Geist)! Seek the truths that lie concealed in
IV. Lack of restraint and attachment are not freedom. There is
more freedom in service than in obeying your own command. Germany’s future depends on
your faith, your enthusiasm, and your fighting spirit.
V. He who cannot imagine new things will never achieve
anything. You cannot ignite that which is not already burning within you. Have
the courage to feel and show admiration and respect!
VI. A man is born a National Socialist, but is also trained
to be one, and, most of all, trains himself to be one.
VII. If anything is more powerful than fate, it is your
courage to bear it stoically. What does not kill you makes you stronger. Praised
be the things that make men hard.
VIII. Learn to live within a system! Obedience and discipline
are the essential foundations of any community and the beginning of all
IX. As leader, be unyielding in the performance of your
duties, decisive in standing up for what is necessary, helpful and good, never
petty in judgment of human weakness, large-minded in recognizing the needs of
others and humble in respect to your own!
X. Be a comrade! Be knightly and humble! Be a role model in
your personal life! Your moral maturity will be judged by your interactions
with others. Be one in thought and deed! Follow the Fuehrer’s example!
(Source: Justiz im Dritten Reich, Ilse Staff, ed., Fischer Verlag 1978, pp. 117-18).
There can be little doubt that these rules were posted above the writing-desk of many a student of law (especially law), history, accountancy, and medicine during the 1930s. Since most outsiders have learned only about the unfortunate consequences of National Socialism, they have a hard time understanding how so many apparently intelligent people believed in it. Some were opportunists and hacks, of course, but many National Socialists were sincere in believing that the core ideology was instrumental in achieving the glorious renewal of their Volk.
You can just get a glimpse of this in these rules. Some of them sound bizarre to modern ears, but others tie in to values that Germans have always at least claimed to hold dear: order, discipline, honesty, humility, sound character, self-control, and sincerity. Of course, brilliant misfits would mock these soppy-stern admonishments, but the National Socialists weren't interested in brilliant misfits, except to exile or kill them. They were interested in the much larger mass of people who were intelligent enough to get into university, but stolid in thinking and conformist in character.
To really understand why the great mass of conformists students might find these rules appealing to live by, it's important to understand how untranslatable lots of the words are. Words like Geist, Volk, Ehre, Kamerad, and Ordnung are, to Germans, like spectacular conch shells, layered with hundreds of years of elaborate, filigreed connotation. Translating them into English is like ripping the sea-snail out of its magnificent shell and exposing it as a moist, palpitating little gastropod. Some of these words (especially Volk or Kamerad) were, in fact, so central to Nazi propaganda that they remain under a brownish suspicion to this day.
Besieged in Stalingrad during the bitter winter of 1943, the German
6th Army sent home one last post before surrendering in February to the
encircling Red Army. An excerpt from one anonymous letter:
It's strange that one does not start to value things until one is about
to lose them. There is a bridge from my heart to yours, spanning all the
vastness of distance. Across that bridge I have been used to writing to
you about our daily round and the world we live in out here. I wanted
to tell you the truth when I came home, and then we would never have
spoken of war again. Now you will learn the truth, the last truth,
earlier than I intended. And now I can write no more.
There will always be bridges as long as there are shores; all we need
is the courage to tread them. One of them now leads to you, the other
into eternity -- which for me is ultimately the same thing.
Tomorrow morning I shall set foot on the last bridge. That's a
literary way of describing death, but you know I always liked to write
things differently because of the pleasure words and their sounds gave
me. Lend me your hand, so that the way is not too hard.