Siegessaeule – Berlin’s heftiest Lady

May 22nd, 2017

 

The Siegessaeule (victory column) is a prominent monument in Berlin, Germany. Including the sculpture on top, it measures 220 feet. A 285-step spiral staircase inside the column takes visitors to a viewing platform with spectacular views of the Reichstag http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-reichstag-prominent-berlin-landmark/, the Brandenburg Gate http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlins-brandenburg-gate/, the Berlin Television Tower http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlin-television-tower/ and the Soviet War Memorial. In 2008, then US presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke in front of the monument. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/president-barack-obama-to-visit-berlin/

History of the Siegessaeule

The Siegessaeule was designed by Johann Heinrich Strack and constructed to commemorate the Prussian victory over the Danes. But by the time the column was inaugurated in 1873, Prussia had also won the so-called liberation wars with Austria and France. Therefore, the original plans for the column were revised, and the monument was elongated and crowned with a 25-foot statue of Victoria, the Goddess of Victory.

The Siegessaeule sits on a four-sided base of polished red granite, which is decorated with glass mosaics and large bronze panels depicting the Prussian victories over Denmark, Austria and France of the late 1900s. In 1945, the French removed those reliefs and took them to Paris in an effort to erase those memories. But in 1987, on the occasion of Berlin’s 750th anniversary, France returned the panels to be reinstalled. A circular portico tops the base of the monument and supports four (originally three) fluted columns.

 

Berlin's Siegessaeule, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Berlin’s Siegessaeule, photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The Siegessaeule once stood in the Koenigsplatz (now Platz der Republik) in front of the Reichstag. In 1939, the Nazi government removed the monument to its current location in the Tiergarten, a large public park. Since each of the three columns already represented previous victories, Hitler had a fourth column added, anticipating his own impending victory. The relocation was part of a plan by Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer, to transform Berlin into Germania, Hitler’s vision of a Berlin that is the capital of the world. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/germania-hitlers-utopian-quest/ Speer’s plan was never realized, of course, but because of its relocation the Siegessaeule survived World War II with very little damage. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/albert-speer-designed-for-ruin-value/

The statue of Victoria at the top of the monument was designed by Friedrich Drake and weighs 38 tons. Berliners affectionately call her Goldelse (Golden Lizzy) or the “heftiest lady in Berlin.” Five major roads cut through the Tiergarten and intersect at an immense roundabout that is known as Grosser Stern (Great Star). The Siegessaeule stands in the middle of this roundabout and is accessible to pedestrians through four tunnels.

The "Goldelse" on top of the Siegessaeule. Photo © J. Elke Ertle. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The “Goldelse” on top of the Siegessaeule. Photo © J. Elke Ertle. www.walled-in-berlin.com

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

 

 

 

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Time – an unappreciated dressmaker

May 18th, 2017

Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations.

— Faith Baldwin

Time's sewing kit is rarely helpful. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Time’s sewing kit is rarely helpful. www.walled-in-berlin.com

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

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Paternity for Euro Sign Disputed

May 15th, 2017

 

The euro sign is “€.” Since 12 December 1996, this symbol is the currency sign used for the euro, the official currency of the Eurozone in the European Union. But who created that symbol? Following the European Commission’s announcement that the “€” was the winner in a currency sign design contest, a controversy arose. Two different camps claim paternity for the euro sign: An unnamed team of four experts and the graphic designer, Arthur Eisenmenger, former chief designer of the European Economic Commission.

The euro sign denoting the official currency of the Eurozone in the European Union. Photo courtesy of wikipedia. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The euro sign denoting the official currency of the Eurozone in the European Union. Photo courtesy of wikipedia. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Potential Father of the Euro Sign # 1

According to the European Commission, thirty-two proposals for the euro sign were submitted as part of a design competition. Ten of the submittals were selected and presented to the public by way of a survey. Jacque Santer, then president of the European Commission, and Yves Thibault de Silguy, commissioner in charge of the euro, picked the winning design from the public’s top two favorites during an internal meeting. The € was the winner, a design supposedly created by a team of four experts whose identities have never been revealed.

When the adopted euro sign was presented to the public, Jacques Santer explained that the inspiration for the € symbol came from the Greek letter epsilon, alluding to the cradle of European civilization. What’s more, the Greek letter epsilon looks very similar to the letter “E” in English, and the letter “E” happens to be the first letter of the word “Europe.” Therefore, the euro sign symbolizes both the cradle of European civilization and Europe itself. http://www.eurosymbol.eu/history Santer further explained that the parallel lines crossing the euro sign stand for stability of the euro.

Potential Father of the Euro Sign # 2

“Rubbish,” said Arthur Eisenmenger to Jacques Santer’s assertion. Eisenmenger, who supervised the development of the European Union flag and the “CE” symbol for European consumer goods quality control, claims that it was he who designed the euro sign. He said he came up with the idea just before he retired in 1974, long before the European Commission created a design contest. At the time he created the design, he was thinking of a generic logo for Europe, not a sign that stood for currency, Eisenmenger said. After all, he came up with the design twenty-two years before the euro became the currency of the Eurozone.

Following creation of the symbol, Eisenmenger said he sent his design to the European Commission in Brussels, but never heard back. The years passed. Then, in 1997, Eisenmenger turned on his television and, to his surprise, saw Jacque Santer present the world with the “new” euro sign. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/dec/23/euro.eu1 Santer explained in the broadcast that the sign fulfilled the competition criteria of creating a symbol of Europe, which was easy to write and recognize and was aesthetically pleasing. There was no mention of Eisenmenger as the creator of the euro sign.

Julien Bozzola, a French illustrator, who worked with Eisenmenger for thirteen years until the mid-70s, is also convinced that the euro sign would have been the creation of his former colleague. According to Bozzola, Eisenmenger was frequently working on various design versions of the letter “E” because his last name began with an E. Arthur Eisenmenger died in 2002 at age 87 without ever having been officially connected with the creation of the euro sign.

How the Euro Sign was chosen

One thing sounds odd in the case. To this day, the European Commission has considered the design process internal and does not disclose the information regarding the designer(s) of the euro sign. Although the names of the designers of the euro banknotes and coins are known, the names of the design contestants for the euro sign are kept secret. Some have conjectured that the Belgian graphic designer, Alain Billiet, might have created the winning design, but the assumption has never been confirmed. Jean-Pierre Malivoir, responsible for promoting the public image of the euro, said that it was impossible to say who designed the euro sign. He claims it was a team of graphic artists.

Will the real father of the Euro sign, the €, please stand up?

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

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mow-and-blow gardeners

May 11th, 2017

Mow-and-blow gardeners must be the Marxists of the gardening world because they tend to put all their efforts into curb appeal and none into weeding.

— J. Elke Ertle

 

Weeds and the personal touch. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Weeds and the personal touch. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

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Guenter Mittag – East German Economic Tsar

May 8th, 2017

Guenter Mittag was the third most powerful man in the former East Germany, after Erich Honecker, General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands – SED), http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/erich-honecker-berlin-wall-architect/ and Erich Mielke, Minister of State Security. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/erich-mielke-master-of-fear/ From 1976 to 1989, Mittag headed the Economic Commission at the Politbuero (Deutsche Wirtschaftskommission – DWK), advocating and implementing the state’s economic policies.

Guenter Mittag who headed the East German Economic Commission at the Politbuero from 1976 to 1989. Photo: Bundesarchivbild

Guenter Mittag who headed the East German Economic Commission at the Politbuero from 1976 to 1989. Photo: Bundesarchivbild

Guenter Mittag’s rise and fall

Born in 1926, Guenter Mittag joined the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands – KPD) in 1945. A year later, he became member of the newly created SED). In 1958, Mittag earned a doctorate with his dissertation “Problems of Socialist Development of the Transport System”. At the same time, he became Secretary of the Economic Commission at the Politbuero, the principal policymaking committee of the SED. From 1976 on, he headed the Commission.

Along with Erich Apel, Guenter Mittag designed the New System for Economic Management and Planning (Neues Oekonomisches System). The system was implemented in 1963 and replaced Walter Ulbricht’s http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/image-challenged-walter-ulbricht/ Five-Year Plans, which had been launched in 1951. The New System for Economic Management was to streamline and modernize the East German economy by reducing waste of raw materials, increasing mechanization, reducing food shortages and improving product quality. Above all, the new policies were to demonstrate East German competitiveness with the West German economic miracle. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/ludwig-erhard-and-the-economic-miracle/ The new system was also put into place to halt Republikflucht attempts (desertion from the Republic), which had plagued the East German economy prior to the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. But Mittag’s new system did not generate the expected results and was replaced in 1967/1968 by policies, which concentrated on building up East Germany’s high-tech industries.

Guenter Mittag was a central figure in the German planned economy from 1958 to 1989. Although he recognized sooner than his comrades that the centralized and monopolistic economic policies did not produce the desired results, he did not want to admit his plan’s failure and hid the facts by doctoring the balance sheets.  http://www.zeit.de/1994/13/total-gescheitert It was not until mid-1989 that Mittag proposed a radical change of course, but by then it was too late. Following German reunification in 1990. Guenter Mittag was among the first to be relieved of his duties.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

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Your dog – your biggest admirer

May 4th, 2017

Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.

— Ann Landers

Complete devotion - Photo © Sonja Brzostowicz, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Complete devotion – Photo © Sonja Brzostowicz, www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

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Erich Mielke – Master of Fear

May 1st, 2017

 

Erich Mielke headed the feared East German Ministry for State Security (Ministerium fuer Staatsicherheit – MfS) for over 30 years. The agency became known as the STASI. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-stasi-and-how-it-worked/ From 1957 until shortly before the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the Stasi was enormously powerful, making Erich Mielke the most influential man in East Germany, right behind Communist Party leader, Erich Honecker. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/erich-honecker-berlin-wall-architect/ One hundred thousand full-time agents and up to two million unofficial “citizen helpers” were under Mielke’s control. His agency stifled opposition by using assassination, kidnapping, execution, denunciation and intimidation to keep the 16.5 million East Germans in fear. In a 1993 interview, Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal said that the Stasi was “much, much worse than the Gestapo.”

Erich Mielke, head of the Stasi from 1957 to 1989. Photo courtesy of Bundesarchiv.

Erich Mielke, head of the Stasi from 1957 to 1989. Photo courtesy of Bundesarchiv.

Erich Mielke’s Pre-Stasi Days

Erich Mielke’s parents were founding members of the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands – KPD, making Erich a second-generation communist. Born into poverty in 1907 in Berlin, he joined the communist youth movement at age 15 and the KPD at age 20. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, when the Communist party and the Nazi party were frequently involved in violent armed conflicts, Mielke was member of the communist paramilitary forces.

Together with another member of the paramilitary forces, Erich Mielke shot two Berlin police captains in 1931. Their names were Paul Anlauf and Franz Lenck. Mielke escaped prosecution by fleeing to the Soviet Union. He was not tried for the murders until 1993 when incriminating papers were found in his home safe during a search. While in exile in the Soviet Union, Erich Mielke attended the Communist International’s Military-Political School and the Lenin School in Moscow.

From 1936 to 1939, Mielke served as an operative in Spain’s political police. Upon the defeat of the Spanish Republic, he fled to France, was imprisoned, but managed to escape to Belgium. His activities during World War II remain largely unknown. In 1945, at he end of the war, a law enforcement agency closely associated with the Soviet Secret Police ordered him to return to Occupied Germany. His assignment was to build up a security force in the Soviet occupation zone, which involved tracking down Nazis, anti-communists and hundreds of members of the Social Democratic Party. The number of arrests exceeded the number of available spaces in existing prisons so that eleven concentration camps were re-opened or newly established.

Erich Mielke’s Stasi Days

With the establishment of the Ministry for State Security in 1950, Mielke was appointed deputy director of the institution. In November 1957, he became the head of State Security. At that time, the Stasi had 14,000 full-time employees. By 1989 that number had increased to near 100,000. Along the way, Mielke helped Erich Honecker to topple Walter Ulbricht http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/image-challenged-walter-ulbricht/ as the party leader.

Erich Mielke’s Final Stasi Days

On 8 October 1989, Erich Mielke and Erich Honecker ordered the Stasi to implement “Plan X,” a plan to arrest and indefinitely detain 85,939 East Germans during a state of emergency. On 13 November 1989, a few days after the opening of the wall, Erich Mielke gave a speech at the Palace of the Republic (Palast der Republik) http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-palast-der-republik-lives-on/ and in which he said, “I love all – all people.” On 3 December 1989, Erich Mielke was expelled from the Socialist Unity Party of Germany (Sozialistische Einheitsparty Deutschlands – SED). Four days later he was arrested and imprisoned on remand in Hohenschoenhausen. http://www.walled-in-berlin/j-elke-ertle/berlin/hohenschoenhausen-prison-part1/ Soon thereafter he was released due to medical reason and arrested again three months later for “crimes against humanity” and “perversion of justice.” He was moved to several prisons in succession. In 1993, the by then 85-year-old Erich Mielke was sentenced to six years in prison for the murders of Captains Anlauf and Lenck in 1931. At the end of 1995, Mielke was released due to ill health. He died at the age of 93.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

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What is jealousy?

April 27th, 2017

 

Jealousy is an unfortunate affliction. It tends to well up the moment we realize that someone else took advantage of opportunities we missed or ignored.

— J. Elke Ertle

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

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Erich Honecker – Berlin Wall Architect

April 24th, 2017

 

Erich Honecker was an uncompromising East German politician who rose to the top leadership post in East Germany. After holding several lesser positions, he was elected First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands – SED) in 1971, a post which later morphed into General Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party. Erich Honecker held that position until just before the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989. It was during his leadership that the Berlin Wall was built in 1961. He is said to have been its prime architect and a proponent of the order “to fire” on border crossers. More than 1,100 border crossers died trying to escape the former East Germany during his years in office. http://www.dw.com/en/more-than-1100-berlin-wall-victims/a-1673538

Erich Honecker, First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party 1971-1989. Photo courtesy of Bundesarchiv.

Erich Honecker, First Secretary of the Socialist Unity Party 1971-1989. Photo courtesy of Bundesarchiv.

Erich Honecker – Communist to the core

Born in 1912, Erich Honecker was the fourth of six children in the family. By the time he was ten years old, he had already joined the children’s division of a Marxist youth organization. Two years later, Honecker entered the Young Communist League of Germany (Kommunistischer Jugendverband Deutschlands – KJVD). Following high school he worked for a farmer in Pomerania for a stint. Then he returned to his hometown to enter an apprenticeship as a roofer. He never completed that apprenticeship but entered the International Lenin School in Moscow instead.

At that point Honecker’s political career began in earnest. He entered the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands – KPD), but during the Nazi years, Communist activities became illegal. Honecker was imprisoned. Following his release in 1946, he helped form the Free German Youth (Freie Deutsche Jugend) and quickly became a leading member in the party’s Central Committee. As Party Security Secretary, he was the prime planner of the construction of the Berlin Wall.

Erich Honecker – Rise to the Top

In 1971, Erich Honecker initiated a political power struggle that ended with him replacing Walter Ulbricht http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/image-challenged-walter-ulbricht/ as the First Secretary of the Central Committee and as chairman of the state’s National Defense Council. Under Honecker’s command, East Germany began to normalize  relations with West Germany and became a full member of the United Nations. The latter was one of his greatest political successes.

Erich Honecker – Fall to the bottom

In the late 1980s, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/mikhail-gorbachev/ introduced several reforms to liberalize communism. Honecker refused to implement similar reforms in East Germany. Friction grew between the two men. At the national celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the East German state in October 1989, which were attended by Gorbachev, several hundred members of the Free German Youth suddenly chanted, Gorby, help us! Gorby, save us! The peaceful revolution had begun. Honecker’s leadership came to an end. He was forced to resign in October 1989.

Erich Honecker’s Final days

Following German reunification in 1990, Erich Honecker escaped to the Chilean embassy in Moscow. He was handed over to Germany a year later to stand trial for his role in the human rights abuses committed by the East German regime. Due to his illness proceedings were abandoned, and he was allowed to join his wife in Chile. In 1994, Erich Honecker died in Chile from liver cancer.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com

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Love is a state

April 20th, 2017

 

Love is a state in which a man sees things most decidedly as they are not.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

 

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