Germany’s Stolen (Degenerate) Art Problem

The German Nazi Past seems always to be lurking around in the background of German life. Over the past few weeks the German Past has once again emerged from the shadows, suddenly all too evident in the glare of headlines all around the world.

In a story that the German news magazine Focus first broke in the first week of November 2013, it was revealed that a cache of more than 1,400 artworks confiscated by the Nazis had been discovered in a cluttered apartment in Munich’s Schwabing district. The inhabitant of that apartment turned out to be 80-year-old Cornelius Gurlitt, whose father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, despite having a Jewish mother, was an art agent commissioned by the Nazis to cleanse German museums and galleries of so-called “degenerate art” (entartete Kunst). Continue reading

German anti-smoking laws – Rauchverbot?

no smoking icon

Germany and I have a long history when it comes to cigarette smoke. Ever since my first visit to Germany — oh those many years ago — I have loved the many differences and unique characteristics of life in Europe as compared to the USA… except for one thing. Smoking.

For many years it was almost impossible for a non-smoker like me to avoid “Qualm” — clouds of cigarette smoke almost everywhere you went. Back in the 1970s and ’80s, just about the only non-smoking zones were on German trains in the “Nichtraucher” cars. Continue reading

Homeschooling verboten

I know I just recently wrote about the German School System, but a 2009 German court decision on homeschooling put that unique aspect of German education in the spotlight. A Bremen couple who have been trying to get permission to homeschool their two young sons had all their legal arguments rejected. A Bremen superior administrative court (Oberverwaltungsgericht) told Dagmar and Tilman Neubronner (and their two attorneys) that they must send Moritz and Thomas to a normal German school and not teach them at home.

Berlin classroom

A secondary school classroom in Berlin. Students in Germany have to learn in a classroom, not at home. PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

Unlike most European countries, including next-door neighbors Austria and Switzerland, Germany requires that children attend school, and outlaws homeschooling except in rare cases. The Bremen court ruled that the Neubronners had not demonstrated that they qualified for such an exception. This state ruling followed a November 2007 German federal court (Bundesgerichtshof) decision that termed homeschooling a form of parental child abuse! Most would-be German homeschoolers laid low after that, but not the Neubronners. They soon become Germany’s most famous (or notorious) Heimschul-Familie, determined to fight the Bremen state law (as in all of Germany’s 15 other Länder) that forbids homeschooling. Continue reading

Germany, Tom Cruise, and Scientology

I just happened to read an article today in the International Herald Tribune entitled “Germany drops attempt to ban Scientology” (Nov. 21, 2008, no longer online, but see this 2011 International New York Times article: Book Excerpt: Inside Scientology). Having also just seen TV ads promoting the upcoming Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie, the whole Scientology-and-Cruise thing came flashing back. (Cruise had problems getting permission to film his Hitler assassination plot movie at certain historic locations in Berlin in 2007.)

For the uninitiated (i.e., most Americans) that may seem to be a rather odd headline, but the enmity between the German government and the so-called Church of Scientology has a long and bitter history Continue reading