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German gets diploma – 40 years after enrolling

After 63 semesters spanning nearly 40 years of studying, German engineer Werner Kahmann finally managed to get his university diploma. In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung he explained why it took him so long.

German gets diploma - 40 years after enrolling
Photo: DPA

When Kahmann, from North Rhine-Westphalia, started his degree at the Cologne University of Applied Sciences it was 1973, Willy Brandt was still the chancellor, Watergate was setting the international media alight – and he was a full four decades younger.

While most students – especially in Germany – take a few years to complete a degree, life got in the way for Kahmann, who told the paper that he “de-matriculated and re-matriculated three times between then and now.”

Kahmann’s student ID number was six figures long when he got his first card in 1973 – new students now have an eight-figure number.

“It was nice to have finally managed to get it done,” he added. Relief indeed, after sitting a grand total of 68 exams over his academic career.

“If I had moved to Cologne I would have just got my studying done,” but instead the 61-year-old father decided to commute in from the nearby town of Siegburg, where his girlfriend, football club and bowling team all kept him rooted at home.

The first time Kahmann put his diploma on hold, he broke his leg playing football. The second time, it was 1984 and his daughter was born so he took time out to help raise her. “Then in 2004 when student fees were introduced, I de-matriculated again.”

In 2011, the fee system changed and Kahmann found himself with his nose in a book one again. But this time, it was for real – he earned his diploma a year later, even though the university did not even run the course anymore.

There would be downsides to being a graduate though, he said. “Paying for public transport and not getting reduced tickets for the zoo,” being two of Kahmann’s complaints.

Despite taking so long, Kahmann has been working since 1978 as a freelance engineer and draftsman.

“My daughter told me recently that she, aged 27 and with a brilliant job, wants to go and study,” he said. “I just told her that she should see it through to the end.”

The Local/jcw

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JUDAISM

Ancient Jewish settlement to be brought back to life in Cologne

No city north of the Alps has been home to Jews for as long as the Roman settlement of Cologne. A recently discovered Jewish quarter is now being brought back to life.

Ancient Jewish settlement to be brought back to life in Cologne
The site of the construction in Cologne. Photo: DPA

If you are a tourist walking through the centre of Cologne, sooner rather than later, you'll come across a construction site located in the very best position, in the middle of the town hall square.

At the beginning of this millennium, the people of Cologne dug into the earth directly in front of their historic city hall and found a treasure from another millennium: the Jewish quarter.

Complete with a dance hall, a hospital, a bakery and a synagogue, the quarter contains the ruins of a settlement from the Middle Ages. It is a city within a city, a miniature world of houses huddled together. 

Of course, all that is left is ruins – one needs a bit of imagination to picture how the whole thing once looked. But experts from Germany and abroad agree: there's nothing like it anywhere else in the world.

Ancient tradition

No other German city has been associated with Jewish history for so long as Cologne. 

The first documented Jewish community dates back to the year 321, making it the oldest north of the Alps. 

But in 1349, the neighbourhood was destroyed and its inhabitants were murdered or expelled. Local Christians blamed Jews for the outbreak of the plague.

Currently, a museum is being built over the site on the town hall square. It will be a parallel world underground: visitors will be able to relive life in the Jewish quarter in the era of knights and minstrels on a 600-meter-long trail. The trail also visits the governor's palace from Roman times, which was rediscovered in the 1950s. 

The museum is called MiQua after the name for the Jewish ritual bath, Mikveh.

Exhibits will include artifacts found during the excavations; among them is a crescent-shaped, gem-set gold earring from the 11th century. 

The researchers also discovered a tablet dating back to the Middle Ages with the inscription “yt in ys neyt anders.” This could be translated as “Et is wie et is” (It is as it is) – a classic Cologne saying. 

The museum is scheduled to open in 2024, but through the panorama windows on the third floor of the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, also located on Rathausplatz, one can already follow the progress of construction work.

This year Jewish life will be celebrated across the country – the anniversary year '1,700 years of Jewish life in Germany' will be celebrated nationwide. 

Hamburg is organising a themed week entitled 'More than Little Jerusalem'; in Nuremberg the photo exhibition 'Germany's Emigrants' will be opened; and in Herxheim in Rhineland-Palatinate the play Judas by Lot Vekemans will be staged.

READ MORE: 9 hilarious gifts Judaism gave the German language

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