Archive for the ‘Tête-à-Tête’ 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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

Nesthaekchen – Once Popular Children’s Books

Monday, December 11th, 2017

 

Nesthaekchen is a German term for the baby of the family. Else Ury (1877 – 1943) wrote close to forty books for children of all ages, including her immensely popular 10-volume Nesthaekchen series. The series was published between 1918 and 1925 during the days of the Weimar Republic (between the end of the German Empire in 1918 and the beginning of Nazi Germany in 1933.

In her Nesthaekchen series, Else Ury describes the adventures of Annemarie Braun – the baby of the Braun family – from childhood to old age. Ms. Ury was not only one of the most productive female German writers of her time, she was also one of the most successful. Millions bought her books, heard them read on the radio, attended her receptions and read her newspaper columns. As a child, I received one Nesthaekchen volume for Christmas and another for my birthday until I owned them all. In other words, it took me years before I had read the entire series. Still, I have the fondest memories of reading those books, curled up on the couch and deeply engrossed in Annemarie Braun’s life.

Volume 5 of the Nesthaekchen series by Else Ury - Nesthaekchen's Backfischzeit (Nesthaekchen's Teen Years) - Photo J. Elke Ertle, 2017, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Volume 5 of the Nesthaekchen series by Else Ury – Nesthaekchen’s Backfischzeit (Nesthaekchen’s Teen Years) – Photo J. Elke Ertle, 2017, www.walled-in-berlin.com

The Nesthaekchen series continues to be re-published. Since 1945, with every new release, the stories were modernized so that today’s editions contain only 70 to 80% of Else Ury’s original text. During her lifetime, more than one million Nesthaekchen books were printed, and over seven million have been printed to date.

Synopsis of the Nesthaekchen Series

The Nesthaekchen series follows Annemarie Braun, the youngest of three children in the family, from age of 6 to grandmotherhood. Her father is a physician. Her mother is a homemaker. The family, which includes Annemarie’s parents, her two older brothers, a cook, a maid, a nanny, the family dog and a canary, lives in an upper-class neighborhood of Berlin. During WWI, Dr. Braun is dispatched to France as a medical officer while her mother is trapped in England, having missed the last departure for Germany. In 1923, Annemarie marries a young doctor, Rudolf Hartenstein, and raises a family of her own. Her youngest daughter, Ursel, marries the son of a coffee plantation owner, moves to Brazil and makes Nesthaekchen a grandmother with all its joys and hardships.

 

To read about Else Ury’s life and untimely death, click http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/else-ury-life-and-ghastly-death/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.

 

Don’t Forget St. Nikolaus Day – December 6!

Monday, December 4th, 2017

 

Don’t forget to polish your shoe today. When I was a child I was so keyed up that I could barely sleep during the night of December 5 to December 6. Why? Because I was awaiting St. Nikolaus (St. Nick). By then, I had completed my tasks: I had buffed my boot until it glistened in the soft ceiling light and placed it beside the bedroom door. (Just one boot – I didn’t want to appear greedy.) I also had carefully penned my wish list and tugged it into the empty boot for St. Nikolaus to pass along to the Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas). Sometime during the night, when I was asleep, St. Nick would come, take the wish list and fill the boot.

In the morning of December 6, I found out whether St. Nikolaus had left small treats in my boot – chocolate, fruit, nuts, tiny toys – or whether he had left me a switch. He left treats for good little girls and switches for naughty ones. The big question always, “How much did St. Nick know?”

St. Nikolaus didn't forget! Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

St. Nikolaus didn’t forget! Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Legend Surrounding St. Nikolaus

St. Nikolaus lived in the 4th century in Myra, today’s Turkey, and performed many miracles. He was a pious priest who cared for the poor and was known for his kindness and generosity. Worship of St. Nikolaus began in the Greek church in the 6th century. Two hundred years later, it spread to central and southern Europe. http://www.deutsche-lebensart.de/Nikolaus.html

St. Nikolaus is not Santa Claus

Though they often wear similar garments, St. Nikolaus is not Santa Claus. The latter is called Weihnachtsmann (Father Christmas) in Germany. When Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/a-man-called-martin-luther/ wanted to reduce the importance of both – St. Nikolaus and the Weihachtsmann as gift bringers – he replaced them with the Christkindl (Christ Child). The custom of the Christkindl bringing the gifts is more rooted in the Catholic south of Germany than in the north. To this day, you will find gift bringers with many different names across the German-speaking region of Europe. But despite their different names, they all resemble more or less the same folkloric characters.

Does Nikolaus come again on Christmas Eve?

No, it is the Weihnachtsmann (Santa Claus) who comes on Christmas Eve, and he comes in the afternoon, not the evening. German children do not have to wait until Christmas morning to open and play with their gifts. In many families, Santa comes in person, asks the child to recite a poem and then bestows his gifts.

(I still check my boot every December 6 morn. Although poor old St. Nick did manage to misplace my address a couple of times over the years, his memory is still pretty good.)

 

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.

Marlene Dietrich – Bisexual Femme Fatale

Monday, November 27th, 2017

Marlene Dietrich was one of the few German actresses and singers to achieve International fame. Born Marie Magdalene Dietrich in 1901, she started contracting her two first names to form “Marlene” when she was only eleven years old. Her mother, Josephine, came from an affluent Berlin family, and her father was a police lieutenant who died when Marlene was only ten.

Marlene Dietrich was known for her androgynous film roles and her bisexuality. She successfully marketed her “exotic” looks, although I always perceived her as severe and unapproachable rather than exotic. Her trade marks were her low and sensual voice, long and slender legs, top hats and tails and men’s tailored suits. She often performed the first part of a show in a body-sculpted dress and changed to top hat and tails for the second half of the performance. Dietrich’s vocal range was actually rather limited. She was a contralto.

The Career of Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) had an unusually long career, which started in Berlin and Vienna in the 1920s when Dietrich acted on stage and in silent films. Her performance as Lola in The Blue Angel (1930) brought her International fame. Joseph von Sternberg directed that motion picture and created the life-long image of Dietrich as a glamorous and mysterious femme fatale by using light and shadow to their optimal effect. In The Blue Angel, Dietrich played a seductive cabaret singer who causes the downfall of a schoolmaster.

The same year, Marlene Dietrich left Germany for Hollywood and successfully starred in several other movies directed by von Sternberg. In the late 1930s, Dietrich, who openly opposed the Nazi regime, created a fund together with Billy Wilder and others to help Jews and dissidents escape from Germany. In 1937, she even put her entire salary earned for the filming of Knight Without Armor ($450,000) into escrow to help refugees. In 1939, she became an American citizen and renounced her German citizenship. In 1944 and 1945, she performed for Allied troops in Algeria, Italy, Great Britain and France during USO tours and even went into Germany with Generals James M. Gavin and George S. Patton. During those last war years, Marlene Dietrich recorded Lili Marleen, which had been previously popularized by Lale Andersen. To hear Dietrich sing Lili Marleen, click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2cF9j815xrI.

Marlene Dietrich received several honors from the United States, France, Belgium and Israel for her work in improving morale at the front during the war. Although she still made occasional films following World War II, Dietrich spent most of the 1950s to the 1970s touring the world as a live entertainer.

 

Marlene Dietrich in 1951 at age 50. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Marlene Dietrich in 1951 at age 50. www.walled-in-berlin.com

In her sixties and seventies, the health of Marlene Dietrich deteriorated. She became increasingly dependent on painkillers and alcohol. A fall in 1973 injured her left thigh. A year later she fractured her right leg. Dietrich’s career ended in 1975, when she fell off the stage and broke her thigh during a performance in Sydney, Australia. She subsequently withdrew to her apartment in Paris and spent the final eleven years of her life bedridden and alone.

The Private Life of Marlene Dietrich

Unlike her professional persona, which was carefully crafted, Marlene Dietrich’s personal life was largely kept out of the public eye. In 1924, she married film producer Rudolf Sieber and had a daughter with him. Although the couple stayed together for only 5 years, they never divorced. Dietrich, who was bisexual, had a reputation of romancing her co-stars as well as other prominent figures. Gary Cooper, Greta Garbo, John Wayne, Edith Piaf, Yul Brunner, Errol Flynn, George Bernard Shaw, John F. Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, James Stewart and others are said to have been among her conquests. Her husband knew of her affairs, accepted them and had a long-time lover himself.

 

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.

 

US Global Image Plummets Big-Time

Monday, November 20th, 2017

 

Anholt-GfK, a renowned international market research firm, just released the results of its November 2017 global image survey. The bad news is that, within the last year, the US plunged from first place to sixth place in terms of its perceived reputation around the world. Of the 50 countries assessed in the survey, Germany achieved the top score, followed by France and England. Japan and Canada tie for fourth and fifth place. http://www.gfk.com/insights/press-release/germany-reclaims-top-nation-brand-ranking-with-usa-dropping-to-sixth-place/

Global Image Branding

Perceptions matter. These days, perceptions seem to matter more than facts at times. Just as product brands conjure up good or bad images among consumers, global branding refers to the perceptions people form about nations. The Anholt-GfK index is designed to help governments understand, measure and influence global perception by promoting positive aspects of their country.

Global Image Survey

In its most recent survey, Anholt-GfK measured how 50 countries throughout North and South America, Western, Central and Eastern Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa are perceived worldwide. The firm conducted 20,185 interviews in 20 panel countries with adults aged 18 and over. Their global image index is comprised of six dimensions:

The Anholt-GfK Global Image Survey measures how 50 countries are perceived worldwide. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The Anholt-GfK Global Image Survey measures how 50 countries are perceived worldwide. www.walled-in-berlin.com

  1. People (global opinions of the country’s reputation for competence, openness and friendliness and other qualities such as tolerance),
  2. Governance (global opinions of the country’s government competency and fairness, as well as its perceived commitment to global issues),
  3. Exports (global image of the country’s products and services),
  4. Tourism (global interest in visiting the country and the draw of its natural and man-made tourist attractions),
  5. Investment and Immigration (global power to attract people to live, work or study in the country measured and the perceptions of the country’s quality of life and business environment),
  6. Culture and Heritage (global perceptions of the country’s heritage and appreciation of its contemporary culture).

 

Of the 50 countries measured in this study, only the US saw its overall score drop this year. It slid from first place in 2016 to sixth place in 2017. Particularly, the “People” and “Governance” dimensions showed a sharp decline. By contract, Germany moved up in its global image from second place in 2016 to first place in 2017. France jumped from fifth place in 2016 to second place in 2017. England and Canada saw no change, and Japan made it into the top five rankings for the first time. According to Professor Simon Anholt, policy advisor and creator of the Anholt-Gfk study, the decrease in America’s image in the governance category suggests a “Trump effect,” triggered by President Trump’s policies and his “America First” message.

 

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.

Claire Waldoff – Quintessential Ur-Berliner

Monday, November 13th, 2017

 

Often referred to as an Ur-Berliner (the epitome of a Berliner), Claire Waldoff (1884-1957) was one of Berlin’s most popular cabaret singers and entertainers during the 1910s and 1920s. She sang in the straight-down-to-the-point Berlinisch – the Berlin dialect – known to combine heart with unabashed bluntness. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlinisch-dialect-of-the-berliner In reality, Claire Waldoff wasn’t from Berlin at all. She arrived in the city when she was in her early twenties and took to Berlin like a fly to flypaper. You might say, she became a Berliner to the core.

Claire Waldoff’s Rise and Fall

Born as Clara Wortmann in Gelsenkirchen, a town in the northern part of Germany’s industrial area, Waldoff was the eleventh child in a family of 16. She wanted to become a physician, but the family didn’t have the money to pay for her studies. As an alternative, she she chose singing and acting. In 1906, Claire Waldoff visited Berlin and was immediately captivated by the city’s cosmopoletan style and temperament. Initially, she played in some minor roles until she landed a singing engagement at a nightclub, called Roland von Berlin. That was in 1908. In a dress bought on credit, flaming red hair, gravelly voice, one eyebrow mockingly raised, cursing and smoking cigarettes on stage, she became a star overnight. Her friends included many prominent artists, such as Marlene Dietrich, with whom she performed on stage.

Audiences loved Claire Waldoff. She usually wore a simple blouse along with a tie and slacks. One of her famous songs was Ach Jott, Wat Sind Die Maenner Dumm (Oh, God, How Stupid Men Are). For a first recording on Gramophone, click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3keVMxe71U

After coming to power in 1933, the Nazis quickly banned Claire Waldoff’s appearances because many of her composers and lyricists were Jewish. Besides, they considered her songs too suggestive. It was also no secret that Waldoff lived and operated a gay-lesbian-salon with her long-time lesbian partner, Olga “Olly” von Roeder. Following World War II, Claire Waldoff lost all of her savings in the West German monetary reform of 1948 and was forced to live on a meager pension, provided by the City of Berlin.

Claire Waldoff Remembered

A monument, created by Reinhard Jacob, and located in front of the Friedrichstadt-Palast immortalizes Berlin’s sassy cabaret singer. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/friedrichstadt-palast-berlins-top-revue-theater/

Claire Waldoff monument, located in front of the Friedrichstadt-Palast, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Claire Waldoff monument, located in front of the Friedrichstadt-Palast, Berlin. 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.