From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

Die Tageszeitung 06.12.2008

It was in Buchenwald that he learnt the meaning of freedom, writer and Holocaust survivor Jorge Semprum explains on his 85th birthday. "In comparison to normal life, you eat and sleep less and die quicker. But the main difference is that you have a freedom of choice. In normal life people rarely need to make decisions. Society, family etc. take care of such things. But under the extreme conditions of the concentration camp, where everything is speeded up, and is sharper and stronger than anywhere else, decisions are of the essence. The decision to resist. The decision to offer solidarity. The decision not to surrender to an SS man for an extra ration of bread." Or indeed the "freedom to do evil. That was a fundamental experience for me, which determined and structured my personality."

Die Welt 08.12.2008

The paper prints the speech given by sociologist Victor Zaslavsky on receiving the Hannah Arendt Award for Political Thought. Zaslavsky spoke about the massacre at Katyn – the common characteristics of Communism and National Socialism (class murder and race murder respectively) and opportunism. "In the 20 months leading up to the German attack on the Soviet Union, over 400,000 people were imprisoned, deported or shot in Eastern Poland. The deportations were meticulously planned. All operations took place during a single night, to prevent news from spreading and allowing people to escape or hide. Alongside the thousands of NKVD agents and militiamen, communists and members of regional communist youth organisations as well as so-called local activists were deployed to identify, monitor and arrest the target groups. And the NKVD official in charge of deportation reported that the local Polish communists performed their duties with dedication, with the help of 15,000 'local activists'. No doubt they were also motivated by the prospect of seizing the property of the deportees."

Georg Heuberger, representative of the Jewish Claims Conference in Germany, explains what, in his opinion, constitutes fair restitution. And this is dependent on the museums confronting their history: "As far as I know almost every section of society has confronted their Nazi past. Dentists, accountants, chemists, lawyers... But where is the history of the museum from 1933 to 1945? What happened to the Jewish employees and directors from that time? How many museums have never examined their role as accomplices. This is another reason why provenance research is still in such poor shape."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 09.12.2008

While reading the diaries of Witold Gombrowicz, Serbian writer Bora Cosic stumbled across a passage from 1967 in which the Polish writer enthuses about the literary Nobel Prize laureate JMG Le Clezio – in terms not dissimilar to Thomas Mann's description of the young Tadzio: "Le Clezio (is) – it seems to me – threatened on two fronts,' Gombrowicz writes. 'The first danger is the way of life that has been bestowed on him, one that is all too paradisical and idyllic. Healthy, strong, suntanned amid the flowers of Nice, with a beautiful woman, prawns, reputation and a sandy beach... ' What a paradox! 'His novels breathe the impenetrable twilight of extreme desperation, while he himself, a young god in tiny swimming shorts, dives in the salty Mediterranean veneers."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 10.12.2008

Greenland is striving for independence. Danish author Jens Christian Gröndahl describes why the Danes were  - and still are  - so indifferent to the suffering and suppression of the Inuit. "Greenland was forgotten. It was too big and too wild to be assimilated in the self-image of a gently buzzing community of enlightened, emancipated children of farmers and workers. We only feel responsible for others in our Liliputian paradise because we look almost identical to one another and everyone fulfils their duty. Sadly, though, Greenland is just a weight around our necks, economically and otherwise. Not least because of the cost-intensive plagues which we inflicted on the Inuit population from alcoholism and unemployment to cultural poverty. Negotiations over the independence of the giant colony in the North will be a mere formality, because the little colonial ruler has long since written it off."

Die Tageszeitung 10.12.2008

He could certainly hear with his eyes, writes Cord Riechelmann on what would be the 100th birthday of the composer Olivier Messiaen. "Which is why Messiaen was often described as a synesthesiast - not incorrectly but imprecisely. He did not think of the relationship between sound and colour as visible. Messiaen knew from his studies of birds that the singers best versed in rhythm and melody generally have the plainest feathers, while colourful crowing cocks and male pheasants have a very limited repertoire of sounds. But this couldn't stop his thoughts on colour from turning into kitsch in the hands of New Agers and hippies.

Frankfurter Rundschau

Christian Thomas tries to fathom the extent of the crisis in Greece and the source of the enormous desire for violence. "The crime novelist Petros Markaris who lives in Athens spoke recently, without condoning the police or the politicians, of a 'certain tolerance' of the violence. ' This harks back to the uprising of the polytechnic students against the military junta all those years ago'. This anarchic act and political fantasy certainly has a fifteen-year old's death as an alibi, but it is also an attempt to relive the political myth of resistance and civil war. Greece's desire for violence in recent days has not only put Karamanlis's government in a tight corner, it has also put pay to the state's monopoly on violence."

Neue Zürcher Zeitung 12.12.2008

Heribert Seifert and Stephan Russ-Mohl look at the drop in foreign news coverage in the American media: according to a study by the Joan Shorenstein Center, there are only 140 US reporters working in foreign bureaus. But Seifert and Russ-Mohl are reluctant to interpret the figures as proof of the 'stupid American phenomenon'. "Further information presented recently for the Project for Excellence in Journalism indicates that the strong local orientation of the US media is not a result, as chief editors and media managers claim, of the public's wishes. While the newspapers are cutting their foreign coverage, there is a growing demand for it online." - let's talk european