Archive for the ‘Walled In Berlin’ Category

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.

If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

History is being written right now. The story it tells is up to you.

–John E. Lewis

If not you then who? If not now then when? www.walled-in-berlin.com

If not us then who? If not now then when? 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.

 

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.

 

Values are like Fingerprints

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

Values are like fingerprints. Nobody’s are the same, but you leave them all over everything you do.

— Elvis Presley

Values are like fingerprints. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Values are like fingerprints. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Truth about the Human Tongue

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Sad truth about the human tongue – It takes only three years to learn how to use it, but it takes a lifetime to learn where and when to use it.

— Anonymous

The human tongue - It takes a lifetime to learn where and when to use it. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The human tongue – It takes a lifetime to learn where and when to use it. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Best Argument against Democracy

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

 

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.

— Winston Churchill

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965). www.walled-in-berlin.com

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965). 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.

Friedrichstadt-Palast – Berlin’s Top Revue Theater

Monday, November 6th, 2017

 

With 700,000 visitors annually and a seating capacity of 1,895, the Friedrichstadt-Palast is by far the most popular theater in Berlin and the largest and most modern show place in Europe. Located in Berlin’s central district of Mitte, it is also the last large historic landmark structure dating back to former East Germany. Today, major galas and events take place here, whiche include the Berlinale and the German Film Awards. Celebrities, such as Mikhail Gorbatchev, George Bush Sr., Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel, have attended events in its walls. Marlene Dietrich, Udo Juergens and Liza Minnelli have performed on its stage.

The Checkered Past of the Friedrichstadt-Palast

The theater’s history goes back to the 19th century. In 1867, it opened as a market hall near Schiffbauerdamm, approximately 650 feet from its current site. For economic reasons, the venue closed again seven months later. Over the next fifty years, the building served as a food depot, a replenishment center for the Prussian Army, a circus arena and a nightclub. In 1919, following World War I, it re-opened as Grosses Schauspielhaus under the direction of theater genius Max Reinhardt. Revues by Erik Charell set the pace for the Roaring Twenties.  During the Nazi era, the theater was renamed Theater des Volkes (Theater of the People). In 1945, it was seriously damaged during repeated air attacks and eventually abandoned and taken over by the City of Berlin. In 1949, the city renamed the theater Friedrichstadtpalast (no hyphen). Due to structural problems, the building had to be closed in 1980 and demolished the following year.

Today’s Friedrichstadt-Palast

The current Friedrichstadt-Palast was rebuilt at Friedrichstrasse 107 and opened in 1984, five years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/the-day-the-berlin-wall-fell/ Since then, it has not only retained but broadened its reputation as a revue theatre that offers some of the most spectacular shows and technical marvels in reunified Germany.

Vestibule of the Friedrichstadt-Palast. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. walled-in-berlin.com

Vestibule of the Friedrichstadt-Palast. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. walled-in-berlin.com

Venues at the Friedrichstadt-Palast

The Friedrichstadt-Palast offers diverse programming from children’s shows and guest performances to festival galas. It specializes in complex shows that incorporate cutting-edge lighting and stage technology, over a hundred performers, and stylized acrobatic numbers. A ballet company, a show-band and a children and youth ensemble are in permanent residence. The ballet company includes 60 dancers from 26 countries worldwide. Its show band includes 16 musicians. And the children and youth ensemble consists of 250 Berlin children ranging from ages 6 to 16.

Current Show at the Friedrichstadt-Palast – THE ONE

The shows at the Friedrichstadt-Palast tend to be suitable for international audiences. Currently playing is THE ONE, a Las Vegas-style revue featuring song, dance, special effects and acrobatics. The show does not have an explicit narrative. Instead, it leads the viewer on a dreamlike journey through time in search of the person that means everything to us – THE ONE.

THE ONE grand show playing at the Friedrichstadt-Palast. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. walled-in-berlin.com

THE ONE grand show currently playing at the Friedrichstadt-Palast. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. 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.

 

Recognizing the True Value of a Moment

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

 

Often, we don’t recognize the true value of a moment until it has become a memory.

— Anonymous

 

Savoring the True Value of a Moment, Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Savoring the True Value of a Moment. 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.