Archive for the ‘J. Elke Ertle’ Category

Three Girls and a Boy in the Nude

Monday, January 15th, 2018

 

I am referring to the “Drei Maedchen und ein Knabe (three Girls and a Boy)” sculptures in Berlin, Germany, of course. In case you were thinking of the human body in the buff, keep in mind that, as the Germans like to say, God created the human body and McDonalds formed it. I neither agree nor disagree with that statement. I am just repeating what I heard. Anyway, unlike many human specimen, these four life-size bronze sculptures are perfectly proportioned. Is that because they never dined at McDonalds? Who knows.

These sculptures were created by German sculptor and stone cutter, Wilfried Fitzenreiter, and currently sit at the water’s edge along the Spree promenade, across from the Berlin Cathedral. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/Berliner-Dom-Transforms-Multiple-Times/ One girl looks down St. Wolfgang Street. The other three youths watch the hustle and bustle on the River Spree.

Three Girls and a Boy were once located at the Palasthotel

Originally, the four sculptures frolicked around the fountain of the Palasthotel, located at Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 5, right behind the Berlin Cathedral. In those days, the hotel – despite being located in East Germany – was closed to East German guests because it showcased many western products. Western merchandise was rarely made available to the East German public. Instead, the East German government frequently hosted distinguished foreign guests at the Palasthotel, which accepted only western currency.

The Palasthotel – part of the East German Interhotel chain – was also an important player in the Stasi surveillance of many foreigners who entered East Germany. For that reason, the hotel got the nickname “Stasi-Nest.” On an ongoing basis, Stasi officers monitored guests of “special-interest” here, using hidden cameras and microphones in corridors, elevators, reception areas and in selected rooms. Approximately 25 to 30 rooms were equipped accordingly and reserved for such special-interest guests. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-stasi-and-how-it-worked/

Three Girls and a Boy moved to the Banks of the River Spree

In 2001, following German reunification, the Palasthotel was demolished because of asbestos contamination, and the four sculptures were temporarily stored. When the hotel was rebuilt in 2003, now part of the Radisson group, the fountain and the Three Girls and a Boy sculptures did not return. Instead, the foursome moved to their current location along the eastern bank of the River Spree in 2007. As an interesting aside, during demolition, a 550-pound American WWII bomb was found at a depth of 13 feet. The bomb had rested in the ground, undisturbed, for 55 years. It was defused on the spot.

Three Girls and a Boy (Drei Maedchen und ein Knabe) sculptures on the eastern shore of the River Spree. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Three Girls and a Boy (Drei Maedchen und ein Knabe) sculptures on the eastern shore of the River Spree. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. 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 Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

Berlin then and now – Incredible transformation

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

Berlin then and now. Watch this worldfilmheritage.com video and discover what East and West Berlin looked liked between 1954 and 1960, well before the Berlin Wall went up.

I vividly remember the destruction. Then read about Berlin’s incredible transformation:

http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlins-brandenburg-gate/

http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-reichstag-prominent-berlin-landmark/

http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlins-prestigious-humboldt-university/

http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlins-cafe-kranzler-in-name-only/

http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/soviet-war-memorial-in-treptow-park/

 

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 Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

Else Ury- Life and Ghastly Death

Monday, January 8th, 2018

Else Ury, author of the famous Nesthaekchen series, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/nesthaekchen-popular-childrens-books/ was the daughter of a prosperous Jewish tobacco merchant and grew up in a bourgeois household during the German Empire. The family lived in an upper-class neighborhood in the Kantstrasse in Charlottenburg, just around the corner from where I grew up. Although, by the time my family rented one of those flats, they had long been divided into three or four small working-class apartments. In many ways, the Nesthaekchen series echoes Ms. Ury’s life in the Kantstrasse, where she penned the books. Despite having attended a prestigious high school, she did not pursue higher education because it wasn’t customary then for women to go after advanced degrees. Else Ury never married, became a tremendously successful writer of children’s books and lived with her parents until their deaths.

Else Ury during the Nazi years

When the Nazi party came into power, Else Ury’s writing career came to a sudden end. In 1935, she was barred from the Reichsschrifttumskammer (Reich Literature Chamber) and  forced to cease publishing because she could not prove Aryan heritage. Other members of her family had already been barred from practicing their professions. By 1939, Else Ury’s life in Germany had become untenable. Stripped of their possessions, Else and her mother were forced to leave their beautiful home and relocate to a Judenhaus (a ghetto house where Jews were awaiting deportation). Her mother passed away one year later. In 1943, Else Ury was deported to Auschwitz and gassed the day she arrived.

Else Ury and her most troublesome Nesthaekchen volume

During Else Ury’s lifetime, Nesthaekchen und der Weltkrieg (Nesthaekchen and the World War), the fourth volume of the series, was the most popular. The book refers to World War I. Following World War II, the Allied Control Board, in charge of determining which books were suitable for publishing, viewed her narratives as glorifications for Germany’s role in World War I and placed the book on the censorship list. The publisher subsequently pulled the volume from circulation, and it wasn’t reworked and republished for many years.

Else Ury Remembered

Until 1992, the general public knew little of Else Ury’s fate. That changed abruptly when Marianne Brentzel, another German author, reconstructed Ms. Ury’s life through photographs and letters. The work bore the shocking title, Nesthaekchen kommt ins KZ (Nesthaekchen is sent to the concentration camp). https://www.welt.de/geschichte/zweiter-weltkrieg/article112708668/Als-Deutsche-Nesthaekchens-Mutter-ermordeten.html In 2007, Brentzel published a biography of Else Ury entitled, Mir kann doch nichts geschehen (Nothing can happen to me). Now, the public became keenly aware of the fate of its once favorite author. Since then, a memorial plaque has been affixed to the façade of the apartment building in Kantstrasse 30 where Else Ury penned the series. In 1998, a shopping arcade was dedicated to her. The colonnade is located beneath the Stadtbahn – Berlin’s elevated train – between Bleibtreustrasse and Knesebeckstrasse, close to where Ury was raised. A Stolperstein (stumpling stone) http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlins-stolpersteine/ was installed in front of the former “Judenhaus,” in Solingerstrasse 10 to which Ury and her mother had been relocated in 1939. And the well-known memorial and educational site, Haus der Wannsee Konferenz, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlins-house-wannsee-conference/ hosted an exhibition that featured the life of Else Ury and included the suitcase she took to Auschwitz.

 

Memorial plaque affixed to the facade of Kantstrasse 30 in Berlin, where Else Ury penned Nesthaekchen. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Memorial plaque affixed to the facade of Kantstrasse 30 in Berlin, where Else Ury penned Nesthaekchen. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

My recollections of the Nesthaekchen Series

I never knew that Else Ury was Jewish or that she had been gassed in Auschwitz until my eye fell on the memorial plaque on a visit to Berlin. That was in 2017. The Nesthaekchen books were my all-time favorite reading during my early teens. What made the series so special to me was the fact that Nesthaekchen’s childhood played out in my own neighborhood. I fully expected to see her walk down my street one day. Although I wasn’t born until after World War II and did not grow up among the privileged, I completely identified with Annemarie Braun and envisioned my life to play out exactly like hers when I grew up. To my delight I learned that reprints of the series are still available.

 

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 Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

New Beginnings – Let’s go 2018!

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

 

New Beginnings – Eyes forward. Mind focused. Heart ready. Let’s go 2018!

New Beginnings - Eyes forward. Mind focused. Heart ready. Let's go 2018! Photo: USS Midway Museum, 2017, © J. Elke Ertle. www.walled-in-berlin.com

New Beginnings – Eyes forward. Mind focused. Heart ready. Let’s go 2018! Photo: USS Midway Museum, 2017, © 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 Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

Berlin Clock – Most Unusual Clock in the World

Monday, January 1st, 2018

The Berlin Clock, also called Set Theory Clock or Mengenlehre Uhr (Mengenlehre=Set theory, Uhr=clock in German) is located in Berlin’s busy Europa Center, not far from the famous Kaiser Wilhelm Gedaechtniskirche http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke/ertle/iconic-kaiser-wilhelm-memorial-church/. The clock, which looks more like a modern sculpture than a timepiece, defies conventional methods of telling time. It tells the time using the Mengenlehre or Set Theory rather than numbers.

Set Theory and the Berlin Clock

Set theory is a branch of mathematics that deals with the properties of well-defined collections of objects. A set is considered a collection of objects with something in common. That common element might be prime numbers, birds that visit a feeder or the group of colleagues in a department. In other words, a set is a collection of definite, distinguishable objects that can be conceived as a whole. The Russian-born, German mathematician Georg Cantor invented set theory between 1874 and 1884. It has become a fundamental theory in mathematics.

In 1975, the Berlin Senate commissioned inventor and watchmaker, Dieter Binninger, to create the Berlin Clock. The unorthodox timepiece was originally located on the Kurfuerstendamm at the corner of Uhlandstrasse and was moved in 1996 to its present location.

How the Berlin Clock displays the time

The Berlin Clock uses set theory and a system of colored lights in four rows to display the time in a 24-hour format.   The first row contains four fields. Each of these fields represents five hours. The second row holds another four fields. Each of these fields stands for a single hour. In this way, the clock can display a full 24-hour day. http://www.europa-center-berlin.de/en/the-sights/set-theory-clock.html

Each yellow and red field in the third row stands for five minutes. The red fields in the third row represent completed quarter-hours (15, 30 and 45 minutes past the hour). In the fourth row, each field represents a single minute. Because the third row consists of eleven fields and the fourth row consists of four fields, a total of 59 minutes can be displayed. It is unnecessary to show 60 minutes because they make a full hour. The round light at the top of the clock blinks every second. Can The current time, therefore, can be determined by sequentially multiplying and adding up the lit fields on the Berlin Clock.

Berlin Clock, Budapester Str. 45. Time displayed: 10:31 am. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.org, attributed to Muritatis

Berlin Clock, Budapester Str. 45. Time displayed: 10:31 am. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.org, attributed to Muritatis

Can you Read the Time on the Clock in the Photo?

Looking at the photo of the Berlin Clock above, two fields are lit in the top row. Five hours times two equals 10:00, or 10:00 AM. The second row is not lit so that we do not add additional hours. Two fifteen-minute fields are lit in the third row, adding 30 minutes and bringing us to 10:30 AM. A single segment is lit in the fourth row, adding another minute. In other words, the photo was taken at 10:31 AM. Did you get it? Wasn’t that amazing?

 

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 Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

Power and the People it Attracts

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

 

Power always attracts people with no moral values.

— Albert Einstein

 

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 Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

Fliegenpilz – Iconic Toadstool Brings Good Luck

Monday, December 25th, 2017

 

The Amanita muscaria, also called Fliegenpilz in German, is the most iconic of all mushrooms. It has long been considered a symbol of good luck, and in many European cultures it is intertwined with the Yuletide Season. In Germany, there is a long-standing tradition of bringing symbols of good luck to friends and relatives during the month of January. Aside from the Fliegenpilz, these classic bringers of good fortune and success include the four-leafed clover, chimney sweeps, horseshoes and piglets.

When did the Fliegenpilz become a symbol of good luck?

With its white-spotted, bright red cap, the Fliegenpilz is the most illustrated mushroom in the world. In many European countries, especially in Germany and Austria, Christmas decorations often feature the bright red mushrooms. Since the early 1900s, clay, cork, chocolate and plastic versions of the mushroom decorate Christmas trees, advent arrangements and festive serving trays.

Fliegenpilz (Amanita muscaria) as a bringer of good luck during the Yuletide Season. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Fliegenpilz (Amanita muscaria) as a bringer of good luck during the Yuletide Season. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Is the Fliegenpilz poisonous?

The Fliegenpilz is classified as a toadstool. That means it is a poisonous or inedible mushroom. Although classified as poisonous, reports of human deaths resulting from the mushroom’s ingestion are extremely rare. But the Amanita muscaria does contain powerful compounds that produce altered states of consciousness upon ingestion. In the mid-1960s and 1970s, these mood-altering compounds were identified as ibotenic acid and muscimol, two substances that produce muscle twitching, dizziness, visual distortions and altered auditory perceptions.

The Fliegenpilz has been consumed across much of Eastern Europe and Eurasia as part of religious and spiritual events when altered states of consciousness were desired. In addition, after parboiling, Amanita muscaria is eaten without apparent ill effects in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America. Apparently, parboiling weakens the toxicity of the mushroom and breaks down its psychotropic substances. Archaeological evidence traces use of the Fliegenpilz back for more than 3000-6000 years. http://www.sacredearth.com/ethnobotany/plantprofiles/flyagaric.php

Fliegenpilz (Amanita muscaria) in the wild with its distinctive white-spotted red cap. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Fliegenpilz (Amanita muscaria) in the wild with its distinctive white-spotted red cap. www.walled-in-berlin.com

How did the Fliegenpilz get its name?

The German name for Amanita muscaria is Fliegenpilz (fly mushroom). The name refers to the mushroom’s ability to attract and kill house flies. Small pieces of mushroom placed in milk or water attract flies. The flies quickly become inebriated, crash into walls and die. Initially, it was thought that a solvent, such as milk or water, was required to release the mushroom’s fly-killing compounds. New studies have shown, however, that thermal and mechanical processing lead to even faster extraction of those compounds.

 

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 Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin.

 

Relationship with Ourselves and Others

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

The relationship with ourselves sets the tone for every other relationship we have.

— Anonymous

Knowing yourself is key to a good relationship with yourself and others. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www. walled-in-berlin.com

Knowing yourself is key to a good relationship with yourself and others. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. 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 Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

Eiergrog – Magic Bullet for Frosty Days

Monday, December 18th, 2017

In the early days, there was no Eiergrog (egg grog). There was only grog, a mixture of hot rum and water. Over the years, the simple hot brew underwent many refinements and eventually became a popular drink among the Frisians, a Germanic ethnic group that is indigenous to the coastal islands on the edge of the North Sea. The people of the island of Helgoland went the extra mile and transformed the once simple grog into their potent signature drink, the Eiergrog, made from (you guessed it) egg yolk, rum, water and sugar.

A mug of steaming Eiergrog - hmmmm so good! Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

A mug of steaming Eiergrog – hmmmm so good! Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

History of Eiergrog

To prevent scurvy among the members of his seafaring crew, the 18th-century British admiral Edward Vernon provided his men with daily pints of dark rum. The only consequence was that they got drunk regularly. Hence Vernon – nicknamed Old Grog for the silk and wool cloaks he wore – issued Captain’s Order Number 349: From now on, all rum must be mixed with water, a little brown sugar and lime. None too pleased with the watered-down brew, the sailors named the drink after the admiral.

My Eiergrog Experience

On a recent trip to the Wadden Sea, which is the 4,000 square mile coastal intertidal belt that stretches along the coast line of the North Sea, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/allure-of-the-wadden-sea/ I was introduced to Eiergrog. On a horse-drawn carriage ride to the tiny island of Neuwerk, we nearly froze off our noses. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke/ertle/wattwagenfahrt-endless-discovery/ Icy winds penetrated our jackets, hats and gloves. By the time we reached Neuwerk http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/neuwerk-worth-a-staycation/ we craved something – anything – hot. That’s when someone mentioned Eiergrog. I have to say that, when you are freezing cold, Eiergrog does the job. Sip by sip it warms , is simply delicious and knocks off your socks  in the process. At least, the air did not seem the least bit icy on the way back to the mainland.

How to make an irresistible Eiergrog in 3 minutes

Needed per mug of Eiergrog:

1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/3 to 1/2 cup mild Rum (already warmed), and enough hot water to fill the mug. Important detail: Use room-temperature eggs to keep them from curdling when the hot liquid is added.

Preparing one mug at a time:

Separate an egg and place the yolk into the warm mug. (Save the egg white for another use.) Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and whisk vigorously until foamy. Slowly whisk in the warmed rum. Do this one spoon at a time to keep the egg from curdling. Top off with hot water and voilà, you just created an Eiergrog. All that is left to do is to raise your mug and say PROST! It’s definitely the magic bullet for frosty and festive days.

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 Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

A Very Small Man Can Cast a Very Large Shadow

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

 

A very small man can cast a very large shadow.

— Lord Varys

A very small man can cast a very large shadow. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

A very small man can cast a very large shadow. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. 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 Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.