Today in Germany: A round-up of the latest news on Thursday

From tighter coronavirus measures to a special holiday tradition, here's the latest news on Thursday.

Today in Germany: A round-up of the latest news on Thursday
Hikers in Germany's frosty Schwarzwald on Thursday. Photo: DPA

Most Germans for tighter coronavirus measures

Almost every second German is in favour of stricter rules in the fight against the coronavirus. Although the regulations have recently been tightened further, 49 percent are of the opinion that the measures should be “tougher”.

That is 18 percentage points more than two weeks ago, according to the ZDF “Politbarometer” published on Thursday. 

According to the survey, 13 percent think the regulations are currently “excessive”, while 35 percent think they are “just right”.

READ ALSO: Merkel makes emotional plea for tougher curbs as Covid-19 measures in Germany break record

Lower Saxony withdraws relaxed restrictions

Lower Saxony is cutting the time period for planned coronavirus relaxations at Christmas, announced state premier Stephan Weil (Social Democrats) in the state parliament in Hanover on Thursday. 

The current contact restrictions are only to be relaxed from December 24th to 26th to 10 relatives plus children under 14. After that, only a maximum of five people from two households will be allowed to meet again over the rest of the festive period.

Parents can remove their children from attending classes as early as next week so that fewer children are sitting in classes.

Photo of the Day

Photo: DPA

Thursday marks the first day of the eight-day long Hanukkah. The Jewish holiday is celebrated around the world, and Berlin is no exception, as this picture of a giant Menorah (a traditional candle holder) being set up at the Brandenburg Gate shows.

Tesla can continue building factory

On Thursday, the US electric car manufacturer Tesla was allowed continue to clear forest land at its construction site in Grünheide near Berlin. It's slated to open and begin producing e-autos in the summer of 2021.

READ ALSO: 'Tesla isn't above the law': Gigafactory construction halted in Berlin for environmental reasons

This was the decision of the Administrative Court in Frankfurt an der Oder, which rejected an urgent application by the environmental associations Nabu and Grüne Liga for a temporary halt to the clearing. 

The court stated that the approval of the premature start of the approved tree felling work was lawful. However, the environmentalists had argued that it could destroy the habitats of protected species of sand lizards and smooth snakes in the area, or disturb them during their winter hibernation.

Germany drops probe against Nazi guard

Germany has dropped a probe into a former Nazi guard slated to become “possibly the last” suspect deported from the US for alleged complicity in the Holocaust, prosecutors said Thursday.

Friedrich Karl Berger, 95, had been accused of aiding and abetting the killing of prisoners as a guard at two concentration camps in northern Germany, in particular by overseeing a brutal evacuation march.

A court in March ordered his deportation from the US, where he has been living since 1959.

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Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the ‘die’ and carnival lingo

From the push to reform long-term unemployment benefits to the lingo you need to know as Carnival season kicks off, we look at the highlights of life in Germany.

Living in Germany: Battles over Bürgergeld, rolling the 'die' and carnival lingo

Deadlock looms as debates over Bürgergeld heat up 

Following a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday, the government’s planned reforms to long-term unemployment benefits are one step closer to becoming reality. Replacing the controversial Hartz IV system, Bürgergeld (or Citizens’ Allowance) is intended to be a fair bit easier on claimants.

Not only will the monthly payment be raised from €449 to €502, but jobseekers will also be given a grace period of two years before checks are carried out on the size of their apartment or savings of up to €60,000. The system will also move away from sanctions with a so-called “trust period” of six months, during which benefits won’t be docked at all – except in very extreme circumstances. 

Speaking in parliament, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said the spirit of the new system was “solidarity, trust and encouragement” and praised the fact that Bürgergeld would help people get back into the job market with funding for training and education. But not everyone is happy about the changes. In particular, politicians from the opposition CDU/CSU parties have responded with outrage at the move away from sanctions.

CDU leader Friedrich Merz has even branded the system a step towards “unconditional Basic Income” and argued that nobody will be incentivised to return to work. 

The CDU and CSU are now threatening to block the Bürgergeld legislation when it’s put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Monday. With the conservatives controlling most of the federal states – and thus most of the seats in the upper house – things could get interesting. Be sure to keep an eye out for our coverage in the coming weeks to see how the saga unfolds. 

Tweet of the week

When you first start learning German, picking the right article to use can truly be a roll of the “die” – so we’re entirely on board with this slightly unconventional way to decide whether you’re in a “der”, “die”, or “das” situation. (Warning: this may not improve your German.) 

Where is this?

Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

Residents of Frankfurt am Main and the surrounding area will no doubt recognise this as the charming town of Kronberg, which is nestled at the foot of the Taunus mountains.

This atmospheric scene was snapped on Friday morning, when a drop in temperatures saw Kronberg and surrounding forests shrouded in autumnal fog.

After a decidedly warm start to November, the mercury is expected to drop into single digits over the weekend. 

Did you know?

November 11th marked the start of carnival season in Germany. But did you know that there’s a whole set of lingo to go along with the tradition? And it all depends on where you are. First of all, the celebration isn’t called the same thing everywhere. In the Rhineland, it’s usually called Karneval, while people in Bavaria or Saxony tend to call it Fasching. Those in Hesse and Saarland usually call it Fastnacht. 

And depending on where you are, there are different things to shout. The ‘fools call’ you’ll hear in Cologne is “Alaaf!” If you move away from Cologne, you’ll hear “Helau!” This is the traditional cry in the carnival strongholds of Düsseldorf and Mainz, as well as in some other German cities.

In the Swabian-Alemannic language region in the southwest of the country, people yell “Narri-Narro”, which means “I’m a fool, you’re a fool”. In Saarland at the French border, they shout “Alleh hopp!”, which is said to originate from the French language. 

Lastly, if someone offers you a Fastnachtskrapfe, say yes because it’s a jelly-filled carnival donut. And if you’re offered a Bützchen? It’s your call, but know that it’s a little kiss given to strangers!