Joni Mitchell may have said it best: You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone. Or going.
When news first surfaced in November of last year that the Frohnau radio tower in northern Berlin was to be demolished, a few nostalgic residents spared owner and Deutsche Telekom subsidiary Deutsche Funkturm GmbH (DFMG) no critical words. But the gathering of thousands of spectators for Sunday’s demolition painted a much more accurate picture of the emotional significance of Berlin’s second-tallest man-made structure.
The blustery day only enhanced the impending drama of the scene: like devotees to a great pilgrimage, observers streamed into the yellowy no-man’s land behind Frohnau where the Berlin Wall once stood, plodding through muck and mud, weaving past dirt piles and dead reeds. Look-out points gradually formed: ridges in fields, mounds and trenches filled with people in colourful winter jackets, hats, hoods, gloves. Bikes and cameras. All eyes slowly settled on the 358-metre tower which, for many, had always stood there.
Construction on the Frohnau radio tower first began in 1977. Upon completion, the mast would host a radio transmission system to facilitate communication between West Berlin and West Germany. The first transmission to Gartow, Lower Saxony was sent on June 1 1979. The 20-square-metre room near the tower’s top became the highest closed man-made space in the EU.
That was a title it held up until Sunday. At 1:10 pm against a grey-padded sky, an explosion could be seen toward the base of the tower, then the sway of its pinnacle as the lower section of the structure twisted out beneath the greater 200 metres of metal and wood it had supported for the last 30 years. Within eight seconds, the gaunt, red-and-white-striped mast disappeared into the wooded landscape below.
For many, it was the execution of an icon – an object many West Berliners remember as the first sign of home on a trip from the north. A symbol of independence and pride, if for no one else, then for Frohnauers. But like most executions, while some observed in discomfort, others watched in eager anticipation. The Frohnau radio tower had stood as one more tired relic of the Cold War – a sometimes painful reminder of the historical divide that existed within the country.
With operational costs set around €50,000 a year, however, the tower’s fate was more a product of pragmatism than politics. And if nothing else, nostalgic mourners of the Frohnauer Funkturm have myriads of photos and YouTube video to help them remember just how it all went down.
Today German tabloid daily Bild ran a story that claimed to confirm the long-standing speculation that Adolf Hitler had only one testicle. As is our custom at The Local when dealing with Bild coverage, we went looking for the facts behind the story. Our search revealed that UK tabloid The Sun actually broke the story – which was quoted by a number of news organisations around the world, including Bild (though without attribution).
The problem, though, is that in their eagerness for a few Hitler-driven clicks, these news sites failed to mention a source for the information.
The Local called The Sun in London and they passed us off to a freelancer who provided some details, but he didn’t exactly make things clear. When we pressed for more, the freelancer got testy and said, “It was good enough for The Sun.” Of course. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.
So while emasculating an evil dictator seems harmless enough, we’d rather let The Sun deal with all the bollocks about Hitler.
Miscellaneous: August 5th, 2008 by JS
Barack Obama’s recent visit to Berlin had the phones at Local HQ ringing hot, such was the huge international interest in the speech by the Democratic candidate for the US presidency. Follow this link to hear our editor Marc Young tell Wisconsin Public Radio how the Obama message went down among Germans – and why Germans remain opposed to sending more troops to Afghanistan:
Listen to the full interview here.
Miscellaneous: August 1st, 2008 by JS
Raising living standards in the former East Germany has been a long and painful process, still incomplete nearly two decades after the country was reunited. One factor that has slowed economic development has been poor transport links in the former communist east. The Wall Street Journal has an
interesting reporton how one city has seen business boom since the arrival of the Autobahn:
Wismar was one of the earliest German cities to benefit from the A20, and it probably won’t be the last, if recent economic data are any guide. Its home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany’s poorest, may be entering an economic turnaround because of the highway that traverses it, Germany’s first new autobahn since World War II.
Miscellaneous: July 22nd, 2008 by JS
Some say Germany lacks a celebrity culture of the kind that exists in the United States – an egalitarian world-view and a dose of intellectual snobbery means that the cult of fame has never taken off here in the same way. All to the good, you might think, if you’ve been dismayed by the trials of the ‘famous for being famous’ Hiltons, Lohans and Richies of this world. But the founding editor of German Vanity Fair, Ulf Poschardt, tells the New York Times that a dose of celebrity is just what Germany needs:
I think we need to create our own independent sense of glamour, not self-consciously, but because we should stop this superegalitarianism and be more open to difference. I don’t mean we should have pomp, but the state here has the power to make everyone the same. It’s a democratic ideal, but it was also a fascist idea.
Poschardt is quoted in an article by Michael Kimmelman profiling a show of papparazzi pics at the Helmut Newton Foundation in Berlin. Kimmelman makes the point that Newton, whose photos of models pretending to be celebs being photographed by paps are featured in the exhibition, had a less angsty attitude to celebrity than most Germans, “but then, he spent most of his life in places like Los Angeles and Monaco, not Germany.”
Miscellaneous: May 28th, 2008 by JS
Anyone with a mere smattering of German can see where Eija-Riitta Berliner-Mauer got her name from. But the 54-year-old Swede is not just named after the Berlin Wall, she reckons that she is married to it.
The woman, from a village in northern Sweden, has been well-known in her home country for some time, but a documentary about her presented at the Berlin Biennial means her odd story is gaining international attention.
Mrs Berliner-Mauer was diagnosed back in 1979 with a condition called Objectum Sexuality. People with this condition find inanimate objects sexually attractive.
The Daily Telegraph quotes Berliner-Mauer as saying:
“I find long, slim things with horizontal lines very sexy.
“The Great Wall of China’s attractive, but he’s too thick – my husband is sexier.” She described the tearing down of the wall as a mutilation of her “husband,” whom she married in a ceremony in 1979. More mind boggling is the fact that she claims to have a great sex life with the object of her desires.
A visit to Berliner-Mauer’s odd but well-maintained website is highly recommended.
Miscellaneous: April 28th, 2008 by JS
Many readers of The Local certainly know this already, but now the International Herald Tribune has cottoned on: Berlin is a red-hot destination for expats.
Some 13,000 Americans living in the German capital, moving there in their droves as Germans leave in search of jobs. They are drawn by the fact that the city is cool, cheap and international, the article says.
“The whole of Berlin’s bohemia – expatriate and German, arty and punk – share a similar attitude. Things are always provisional, experimental, cerebral. But what could have been a Teutonic bore is leavened with a comic exuberance.”
Miscellaneous: April 25th, 2008 by JS
Twenty-five years ago this week, journalists in Germany and Britain believed that they had come across the scoop of the century. What appeared to be the wartime diaries of Adolf Hitler had come into their possession. In fact, the diaries appeared to cover the whole period from 1932 to 1945.
Unfortunately for Stern magazine, for Britain’s Sunday Times and Newsweek, which had all bought the rights to serialize the diaries, it turned out that they had been written on school notepaper. The paper had been ‘aged’ using the embarrasingly crude technique of dipping it in tea – a technique very familiar to veterans of primary school art projects.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph, keen, no doubt to remind its arch rival of an inglorious epsiode in its past, has been marking the anniversary by running this article by the man who was deputy editor of the Sunday Times at the time. However, while it was embarrasing for the newspapers involved, it was a body blow to historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, the British Hitler expert who had told the papers that the diaries were credible.
Miscellaneous: April 22nd, 2008 by MY
It seems almost every week the New York Times has some sort of article on Berlin. Most appear to be written by some Manhattan journo parachuted in for a few days, who usually ends up praising how much the city is “like New York in the 1980s.” But occasionally the Gray Lady does have some copy from a local hack, who actually lives in Germany’s capital. If you’re tired of hearing about how hip Berlin is, you might want to check out this article on Clärchens Ballhaus – the epitome of anti-hip in the city. In fact, the former East German dinner club and dance hall is so untrendy it’s become wildly popular again:
There is no door policy at the nearly 100-year-old Clärchen’s Ballhaus, no bored-looking blond Berlin fashion design student dressed like an American Apparel ad surveying the late-night crowd. There is a coat check, run by the same nattily dressed mustached gentleman who’s been running it since the 1960s, when Clärchen’s was a dance hall in Communist East Berlin.
Miscellaneous: April 18th, 2008 by JS
An odd, suphurous smell wafting over large parts of southern England is being blamed by British meterologists on the Germans. The ‘Euro-whiff’ puzzled residents as they got up for work on Friday morning in an area stretching from the country’s south east to Devon county in the west.
The Times explains:
The ‘Euro-whiff’, as the Met Office is calling it, has been smelt in East Anglia, right across the southern counties and as far west as Devon since drifting across the Channel in the early hours of this morning.
Factories in areas of northern Germany and the Netherlands were the most likely cause of the whiff, which has described variously as like manure or sulphur, the cause of ‘rotten egg smell’. There had been no increase in air pollutants, the Met Office said.
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