Schachliteratur

Es gibt sie noch, die Personen, die Schachbücher lesen und kaufen. In vielen Sprachen existiert die Niche der heimlichen Strategen. „Teaching old dogs new tricks“ oder ist es eher „teaching young dogs old tricks“. Das ist eine empirische Frage. Nicht nur Zeitungen für sogenannte BildungsbürgerInnen haben noch kleine Spalten zumeist mit Schachproblemen. Manchmal findet sich Schachspielen sogar als Schulfach. Lesestoff zum Schachspiel findet sich reichlich. Schach in der Literatur ist jedoch verschieden von der Schachliteratur, die sich mit Strategien und Tempi befasst.

Das Lesen von Schachliteratur mit Meisterpartien hervorragender Spielenden ist vergleichbar dem Lesen einer Partitur einer Symphonie oder Oper. Das Kino spielt sich dabei überwiegend im Kopf ab. Gelegentliche unvermittelte Gesten oder Ah-laute sollten den Spielenden ihrer Verzückung wegen entschuldigt werden. Vielleicht sollten die Schulen diese Kulturtechniken mehr vermitteln. Macron‘s Vorschlag Theaterspielen mehr in den Schulen zu vermitteln erscheint in diesem Vergleich als ein Entgegenkommen an die „Generation der sich ständig selbst inszenierenden“. Mehr Spielen ist aber schon mal ein wegweisender Vorschlag.

Schachbücher 2024

Transparent Publishing

New technology pushes transparency of publishing, journalism and science to new levels. Through the hyperlink structure of texts it is easy to link back to the sources of a text. What used to be long lists of references at the end of a text or in footnotes has become directly accessible through weblinks. Only paywalls may or may not restrict the fast and easy access to original sources. In writing online, this is a major additional feature of publishing in the last few years. Some online journals allow this for quite some time now, but there are lots of printed versions that stick to the read and be stuck approach of publishing.
In teaching I have been an advocate of “read the original sources” as the basic source of inspiration for authors. The transparency of the thought process and the evidence provided in whatever form should be traceable. In publishing this transparency allows to exclude the copying of thoughts or unreflected referencing.
However, the task to check for the validity of weblinks and the updating is an additional task. 500+ blog entries with an average number of 2 weblinks per blog entry makes this a job of its own. Testing of 1000 weblinks is something you need a software or plugin which alerts you to “broken links”. The maintenance of a webpage, therefore, increases substantially as the content increases. Reorganisations of webpages make the follow-up of links sometimes quite hard. Projects like the general archives of the web and webpages are very important to ensure the transparency of publishing in the short, medium and long run. The archives of today look more like machine rooms than the splendid archives or libraries of the past and present.

Heroines

In youth we are open for a wide range of influences. Heroines in children’s literature, picture book or cartoons look back on a long history as successful influencers. Creation, transmission and criticism of stereotypes are all part of the scientific reflection on heroines and heros. Nowadays, influencers have taken over picture books through the use of more compelling videos.
In the 1950s,1960s and 1970s picture books or cartoons dominated the influences before mass media like television became more absorbing, addictive and powerful influencers. Children’s books are passed on from one generation to next generation. The French-speaking world (and beyond BBC reference) has witnessed the success of the illustrated booklets of the young “Caroline” (Hachette) and “Martine” (Casterman) exploring the world. Parents passed on their collection to children and had their own parents read the stories to their grand children.
Well, that’s how intergenerational transmission of cultural heritage has worked for a long time. It describes the basic social mechanism. Nevertheless, new forms of influencing emerged with new technologies. Successful illustrated narratives like “Caroline” and “Martine“ were adapted as television series as well. In France you could chose your side of either explorations with Caroline and her group of animals or the adventures of Martine.
Ideally it would be an occasion for the families and friends to discuss pros and cons of each character and, thereby, become aware of what is a stereotype, at least at a later stage of the life course. Gender stereotypes have evolved and to observe 2 boys colouring Martine images in public (Brussels book fair 2024, image below) was a positive surprise. It almost felt like a real world experience of the AI-enabled Barbie explorations.

L’Albatros

Charles Baudelaire has immortalized the albatross in his poem entitled “L’Albatros”. For me it appears like a poem about the beauty of the sea and sea life. The marvelous creatures that populate the sea and its surroundings sometimes seem strange to us. The albatross with its large wings unable to move properly on earth is one of these special animals. They are threatened by human beings in their very survival up to extinction even. A dedicated website to “Les fleurs du mal” with multiple English translations of the same poem may give us the impression that all those who translated the poem wanted to feel this little moment of sublimation like a poet just forgetting for a little while the weight of our earthly existence. The gospel tells us a similar story of life up in the air. It must be so much better to be free and not to be bound to restrictions of gravity. As gods would prefer to stay away from earth just somewhere up in space. The albatross and the sea keep teaching us lessons beyond their physical appearance. (Image bird “dodo” now extinct, model in Berlin Natural History Museum 2024)

Mehr vom Meer

Wir sollten uns mehr um das Meer kümmern. Länder ohne Küsten finden meistens wenig Gründe, warum sie sich um das Meer bemühen sollten. Es ist doch so weit weg. Weit gefehlt. Erderwärmung erhöht die Meerestemperaturen und das wiederum beeinflusst massgeblich die Regenfälle im Inneren der Kontinente. Wir sitzen buchstäblich alle zusammen in einem Boot. Historisch betrachtet war das Meer mindestens seit der Antike Teil des machtpolitischen Kalküls der Beherrschung der Welt und der sie Bewohnenden. Wirtschaftliche Interessen waren ebenfalls Bestandteil der Erkundung und Eroberung des Meeresraums. Die Hansestädte in Europa bieten dazu noch heute gute Beispiele. Nach dem Sklavenhandel sind heute die Überseekabel und Rohstoffe des Meeres die begehrten Schätze des Meeres. Der Artenreichtum der Tiefsee wird erst seit kurzer Zeit intensiver erforscht. Externalisieren von Kosten des Umweltschutzes zu Lasten unserer Meere hat noch wenig Berücksichtigung in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft gefunden. Tourismus- und Migrationsströme zum Meer, auf dem Meer und über das Meer stellen uns vor große Herausforderungen. Wir werden sicherlich mehr über das Meer reden müssen, und das ist keine Mär. Image aus „Europa und das Meer“ (DHM).

Das Meer

Wir haben vielfältige Beziehungen zum Meer. Diese reichen von romantisch geprägten Gefühlen zum Meer, den Wellen und den Fischen bis zur wissenschaftlichen Befassung mit den Meeren, Mangroven und dem Klimawandel. 71% der Erdoberfläche besteht aus Meeren. Das sollte den Festlandbewohnenden eigentlich klar machen, wie wichtig Meere für unseren Planeten sind. „Ocean Literacy“ nennt die UNESCO das. Neben Lesen, Schreiben und Rechnen sollte die Literalität auf unsere Ozeane ausgedehnt werden bevor es zu spät ist. Verschmutzung der Meere passiert hauptsächlich im Verborgenen. Lediglich Beobachtung aus dem Weltraum kann die weitläufigen Routen der Verschmutzenden zumindest teilweise nachverfolgen. Vielleicht hilft die Rückkehr zu der romantischen Sicht auf die Meere eines „William Turner“ zu einer höheren Wertschätzung der Meere, dem Licht und den Wellen.
Die kleine Sammlung von Gedichten „Das Meer“, erschienen im Reclam Verlag, ist eine gute Reisebegleitung für Begeisterte des Meeres. Darin findet sich eine Vielzahl von renommierten Schreibenden, die ihre Faszination des Meeres zum Ausdruck bringen. Mein momentaner Favorit ist Wolfgang Borchert darin (S.41-42) „Muscheln, Muscheln“.
Muscheln, Muscheln, blank und bunt,
findet man als Kind.

Muscheln, Muscheln, bunt und blank,
fand man einst als Kind!

Disappeared

We talk a lot in abstract terms of the loss of biodiversity. In the Museums of Natural History, like the one in Berlin, we can follow the trajectory of extinction of species. The dinosaurs are for most children the greatest attraction. No surprise, they are the biggest ones we have had on our planet. But there is a huge collection of disappeared species represented in the museums which we admire as a lost treasure or species threatened with extinction. Evolution had also created this rather big bird-like creature of the “dodo”. It couldn’t fly anymore and was inhabiting the splendid island of Mauritius. Hungry colonists passing have most likely literally eaten up this rather defenseless animal. Many other extinct species can be admired now only in museums and children feel naturally attached to some species that seem to have human expressions. Panda bears and gorillas rank high on such a list, but also some fish, especially if they smile or look at you straight into your eyes. This should help us take biodiversity and biodegradation more seriously. Children feel intuitively attracted to animals as natural companions. Something we have lost as adults and most of do not even realize this as a deficiency. The Nobel price winning author frm Mauritius has published a collection of short stories „Avers“ which captures the spirit of the island and the loss of species. J.M.G.Le Clézio seems to look at us through the eyes of children or a disappeared species. Magic moments are an escape as well as reason for hope.

Natural History Museum Berlin 2024

Need of War

It seems like a horrific idea to talk about the need of war. We might have deemed it outdated to read about the terrible love of war or about the strategy of war. However, the time of war is back in Europe and Eastern Europe feels the real threat and Ukraine the bombs hailing from Russia. Why does Putin love war? The love of war is largely driven by domestic issues. Staying in power for unliked authoritarian leaders is easiest if they indulge in external conflicts. Dictators love war because it makes it easier for them to sustain leadership through brutal force within the country due to a proclaimed external threat or even outright engagement in war. Democratically elected leaders know that they will leave office eventually in a peaceful way (exceptions like Trump are rare). Dictators use any force or terror necessary to stay in power. The love of war is part of this.
Hence, the need of war goes without questioning, if a country in decline or at risk of decline tries to uphold an inefficient, belligerent regime. Beyond rational reasons, such regimes will abuse ideation about national pride, the national interest and anything pertaining to some supposed myths of nationhood to justify its need of war. The dictators have all failed eventually as resistance against this need of useless war is found out by enemies either within or externally. But thousands or millions of victims will suffer. The pressure against the need of war has to rise internally from opposition as well as from alliances of democracies that do not need war to motivate their people to achieve the best they are able to deliver.
Therefore, the defence of democratic rule is, at the same time, a fight against the need of war by some doomed regimes. After winning the war comes the difficult task of winning peace. This means to create a state of affairs and a state of mind that can do without the need of war. If the external threat diminishes the internal threats might rise and have to be contained as well. Lots of challenges, even for mature democracies. (Image: Berlin 2022-10)

Symbol

What is it that makes an object a symbol? Probably, it is the widely shared perception of the meaning of a symbol that turns an object into a symbol. The etymology of the word symbol refers back to the Greek word σύμβολον. The earliest philosophical refer back to the Greek philosopher Aristoteles who deals with symbols when he writes about interpretations. Written words have become powerful symbols in the ancient world. We still have them all around us today. The interpretations of the words as symbols, however, may change considerably over time. Some symbols keep their designation and significance over centuries. Maps are well known to contain lots of symbols for roads, railways, tunnels or height. We learn about these symbols and interpret them in a specific societal context. Science is making ample use of symbols, e.g. chemistry. Different cultures define and apply their own symbols. Colonialism has been a form to impose symbols upon other societies. Throughout history symbols of power have changed as well. Each of those topics is an interesting field of application in itself. Young generations create their own symbols to establish a specific cultural identity or subculture. Urban spaces have been invaded by graffiti that tend to spread symbols as messages or symbols for their own sake.
Sociology has taken up the challenge to identify “status symbols” of groups of society. Possession of gold and silver have long ago been symbols of being rich. Maybe, even today such easily visible symbols play a role in how a person’s role is perceived in societies. Not only for priests etc. dresses have been applied as a symbol. Modern fashion is full of symbols as well. Interpretation of the meaning or even no meaning is an act of becoming conscious of the world around you. From the seriousness of symbols, we have come to the playing around with symbols as expressions of ourselves.
No matter whether we use the word, like water, we all know the chemical symbol H20. An image or art work using the symbol in whatever form will be decoded by us accordingly. However, the meaning we attach to water depends on the environment as well as specific context we (or the artists) are using it in. Cross-cultural competences consist in the awareness that symbols grow out of contexts and need to be interpreted accordingly. It needs a lot of openness, willingness to learn about differences and careful consideration in our everyday world to handle symbols. Doing culture is doing symbols.(Image of art work by Anderegg, Andi taken in 2016)

NS München

The documentation centre in Munich of the National Socialist time and crimes has an encompassing collection of documents on display. As the prime centre of the Fascist movement in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s Munich was the home to party elites from the first months of the movement that became the epicentre of the dehumanizing policies we can follow throughout Europe (Topography of Terror, Berlin). The historical research in both documentation centres complement each other in many respects. Understanding the beginnings of the Fascist movement remains important to today. Fascist movements need to be stopped before terror even against neighbours takes hold. Records of the evolution of membership, men’s and women’s movements later on, attacks of the parliamentary system all have to be taken into account to be able to stem the Fascist tide at that time and today again.
Materializing” is the current exhibition, which can be visited in part online. How can we deal with the “Shoah“? Polish artist have a long experience to cope and deal with the unimaginable horrors, the Nazis and the “Wehrmacht” committed in Poland.
Memories have to find a place, a piece, a word, a sound or an emotion to materialize. In that sense yesterday joins today and is preserved as learning and warning for tomorrow.
In addition to the much discussed “Wehrmachtsausstellung“, the work by Jochen Böhler provides ample evidence to debunk the myths of war without crime. This holds for the past and for the present. (Source: Böhler, 2019, S. 59-68, Die Wehrmacht und die Verbrechen an der Zivilbevölkerung während des deutschen Überfalls auf Polen 1939, Image below).

Topography of Terror

The documentation centre “Topography of Terror” in the middle of Berlin is easy to reach. The “Potsdamer Platz” is nearby and so is the “Kulturforum” with its galeries, museums and the “Berliner Philharmonie”.  The documentation centre gives easy access to the historical evolution of Nazi-dictatorship from the earl beginnings, the horrific terror spread across Europe and first insights into the prosecution of criminal acts in the immediate post-war period. The Beyond the  exhibition with audio-guide there is an easily accessible specialized library for personal or scientific research. The accompanying program of book presentations and discussions (image below) complements the busy show rooms. The external “walk through history” allows to grasp the main proceedings of the terror regime.
For special interest or research questions it is a very useful starting point. Hours in the library have to complement the research. Good to see that so many students walk through the documentation centre not only in groups from the neighbouring schools. The interest to understand when and how the terror started will allow us to better guard against those right-wing extremists who use a lot of techniques of propaganda well known and exposed in this documentation centre of the terror of the Nazi-regime.

Timeless Values

The declaration of human rights is more than 200 years old. However, the need to stand up for the defense of these rights needs many people to act accordingly. Political parties and courts are not strong enough to be the only defendants of democracy and human values. Solidarity across generations is another part of the struggle to defend democracy. In addition to the broad movement of “Omas gegen rechts”, the age distribution has been further enlarged with the “Uromas gegen rechts”. This most likely the generation with first hand life experiences from Nazi Germany and they should have reached an enlightened view of the horrors caused by the Nazi-regime. Unfortunately there are still some who continue to be prisoners in a fascist “brown” cage of mischievous memories. The great grandmother who was present at the demonstration was clear in her statement to stand up against right-wing extremism. (Image: With the permission of the lady I am happy to have evidence of the presence of super-agers at the demonstration in Berlin).

Berlin 2024-2-3. Demonstration

Fighting Fascists

On february 3rd 2024 Berlin has seen the Parliament (Bundestag in the old Reichstag building) surrounded by young and old to raise their voice against the rise of right wing extremism in Germany. The broad alliance against extremism finds grassroots support from a very broad and diverse community. 1700 organizations have joined forces to send a strong signal that they are ready to act against the inhuman propaganda and persistent hate speech. The creativity to express the discontent in clear messages is impressive. Civil society is showing that diversity offers multiple benefits to find new ways to unite people. Great that European flags and balloons in Ukrainian colors where present as well. A movement of solidarity was felt with these people and that provides a strong message for the months ahead with so many elections taking place at the local, regional, national and European levels.

Berlin 2024-2-3

Memory Flashes

The title of the exhibition in the Museum of Photography in Berlin was “Flashes of Memory”. The collaboration of the Kunstbibliothek with the “Yad Vashem – The World Holocaust Remembrance Center” prepared a photographic memorial of the murder of 6 million of human beings with Jewish origin or family ties. The images represented in the exhibition constitute a carefully curated selection of the photos taken as part of Nazi propaganda, the secretly produced photos by inmates and the Sowjet and American soldiers who prepared documentation of the horrors. It becomes clear throughout the different sections of the exhibition that the motivation of the photographer introduces more than just an individual perspective on the scene.
In the age of fake news and fake images it becomes more and more important to be able to read and interpret photos, taking into account the motivation of the photographer and its influence on the photo taken. In order to limit the spread of mischievous representation of the past, it is good to know that the use of AI as image creation does not allow with simple prompts to produce false documentation. It needs more sophistication and more human intervention to trick the algorithms. Additional use of photoshop will, however, increase the risks of abuses. Hence, it will be more important as of now to be able to differentiate images according to sources and authors. Our trust in photos has been shattered, and this is an important lesson in itself. It is a huge task for schools and adult learning to re-build the competence to distrust photos and images at first, then deconstruct the messages and motivations.
Flashes of memory” is in some way linked to the “struggle of memory” exhibition. Both, obviously deal with the way historical events are and have to be present in our “collective” memory. Memories come back in flashes, sometimes, certainly for victims. Conscious and unconscious selections of images might come back at times and haunt victims for years. The correction of biased messages, is an important task for historians, social scientists and artists alike. It is all too easy and common to forget (Luhmann, 1996 Reality of mass media) and the difference between “Documentation” and “Decoration” (Lewis, 2001) or simply illustration needs to be scrutinised always anew. “Bildung” has some common roots (only four letters really) with “Bilder” in German language. It may be “une liaison dangereuse”, but the spurious link can also be turned into an educational or learning approach.
A permanent exhibition based on the material used in the exhibition would be a real asset to accompany and learn about the flashes of memory. A reading list of literature was also available at the exhibition (see image below) encouraging to dig deeper into this immensely important topic.

Zwang durch Terror

Durch den Terror der Willkürherrschaft mit rassistischer Doktrin wurde aus Zwangsarbeit eine lebensgefährliche Arbeit. Überzogene Sanktionen bei Diebstahl, Plünderung oder Sabotage wurden von den Nazis mit öffentlichen Hinrichtungen (Erhängen, Gruppenerschießung oder Guillotine) geahndet (siehe Katalog zur Ausstellung Alltag Zwangsarbeit S.44-45). Straflager und Verlegung in Konzentrationslager gehörten ebenfalls zur regelmäßigen Erfahrung.
Die Zwangslage der dort zur Arbeit gezwungenen Menschen ist kaum vorstellbar und fassbar in unserem System der Beschreibung von Arbeit. Totale Subordination kann vielleicht in Ansätzen verdeutlichen wie diese Situation auf die Personen gewirkt haben muss. Fluchtversuche waren fast ausgeschlossen. Selbst die Verbindung zu den meist deutschen Frauen in Fabriken war unter hohe Strafe gestellt und intime Verhältnisse (bezeichnet als Rassenschändung) wurden für beide Seiten lebensbedrohlich oder endeten für die Zwangsarbeiter oft tödlich. Der Terror in dieser Zeit bestand in der kontinuierlichen Gefahr und Angst tatsächlich oder vermeintlich eine Anklage zu erhalten, die unkontrollierbare, weil selbstherrliche, Strafen nach sich ziehen konnte.
Image: Ausstellung Alltag Zwangsarbeit 2024-1 in Dokumentationszentrum NS-Zwangsarbeit, Berlin Schöneweide. 

Zwangsarbeit

Die Annäherung an das Thema Zwangsarbeit ist nicht einfach. Auch heute prangern wir zu Recht Zwangsarbeit egal wo auf der Welt an. Die mit weitem Abstand grausamste und umfangreichste Durchführung von Zwangsarbeit haben die Nazis in Deutschland und von ihnen besetzten Gebieten vollzogen. Neben den Schrecken der Konzentrationslager mit dem millionenfachen Mord an Menschen jüdischer Abstammung ist die Aufarbeitung der Verbrechen in Zusammenhang mit der Zwangsarbeit lange in den Hintergrund getreten. Selbst die Zeitzeugen wie Francois Cavanna (2020, S. 10-11) vertraten die Ansicht, dass im Vergleich zu den Ermordungen und Kriegsopfern ihre Erfahrungen und Leiden im Zusammenhang mit der Zwangsarbeit in den Hintergrund traten. („… cela me rendit plus modéré dans l’expression de mes souffrances. … nous ne pouvons que fermer notre gueule. Ce que je fais. »).
Neben der systematischen Ermordungsmaschine der Konzentrationslager in der NS-Zeit verdient das millionenfache Leid und die Terrordrohungen und Anwendungen der Nazi gegenüber den ZwangsarbeiterInnen eine angemessene Bedeutung. Das Dokumentationszentrum NS Zwangsarbeit in Berlin Schöneweide bietet dafür eine hervorragende Ausgangsbasis. Die Ausstellung ist für alle Altersgruppen geeignet. Behutsamer Einstieg für Schulklassen ab der 5. Klasse und zum Nachdenken anregend für Erwachsene mit Informations- und Lerninteresse. Das Ausstellungskonzept mit seinen vielfältigen biografischen Materialien von Zeitzeugen erleichtert, neben der Faktenfülle, einen emotionalen Zugang zum Thema. Online lässt sich beispielsweise die Verteilung der Zwangsrekrutierten die Arbeitsdienst leisten mussten je nach Stadtviertel oder sogar Straße verfolgen (Link Datenbank und Map).
Die Löhne für deutsche ArbeiterInnen und Ost-ArbeiterInnen aus den osteuropäischen besetzten Gebieten waren fast zehnmal höher. Die in westlichen Besatzungsgebieten zwangsverpflichteten Personen oder selbst anfänglich mit scheinbar höheren Löhnen als vor Ort (Organisation Todt) üblich angeworbene Personen erfuhren die spätere Abwertung ihrer Entlohnung. Es bleibt die Betonung auf Zwang, Terror und Einschüchterung bei der Zwangsarbeit meistens in menschenunwürdigen Massenbaracken aus industrieller Massenproduktion. Einstieg in die Erfahrung: NS Zwangsarbeit Dokumenteationszentrum.