Thursday, January 24, 2008

Race and Politics in the Shadow of Davos 2008 - Germany & Switzerland

Last updated: January 28, 2007

I think one of the most difficult challenges facing today’s bloggers, citizen journalists, and new media producers is keeping pace with breaking news events around the globe and sharing that information with our readers in a timely fashion. I often feel a need to apologize to my readers when I have not published to Jewels in more than a fortnight as I try not to exceed a period of more than 14 days between posts. So I am sorry to not have updated Jewels since the beginning of January but hey, this month got off to a beast of a start into the New Year 2008 and we still have a week to go before the month is over.

I’ve decided to try something new at the blog to help remedy this continuity problem. I’m starting an ‘End of the Month Roundup’ of news articles and blog posts that have caught my attention starting with today and working backwards to the 5th of January. I shall begin with a focus on how the German press is covering various international and national news stories, including a heated political campaign in the central German state of Hessen (Hesse) that would put the “race question debate” of the Clinton vs. Obama U.S. presidential campaign to shame. More of my ‘End of the Month Roundup’ posts for January 2008 shall follow over the next couple of days (couple of days = at least a week). I will spare readers my usual lengthy commentary & analysis, suggesting that you dig right into these juicy news stories that follow and enjoy.

Question: What hot button European issue will most likely not be on the agenda at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2008 in Davos, Switzerland?

Answer: Germany’s Political Scene in 2008. From alleged racist campaigning in Germany to the collapse of world financial markets to NPD (Germany's neo-Nazi political party) economic woes to bitter struggles with immigration and integration. Spiegel International Online, the English language version of the popular German news magazine Der Spiegel, has it covered.

Spiegel editor David Crossland, an ‘Auslander’ (foreigner) who was born in Bonn, Germany to British parents and has spent most of his professional life as a journalist in Germany describes the following in the opening paragraphs of his excellent op-ed “Germany’s Homegrown Intolerance” published to the site on January 18th:

"Germany is not a country of immigration," Roland Koch said this month as he sought to revive his campaign for a third term as governor of the western state of Hesse by calling for a crackdown on "criminal young foreigners."

The statement, borrowed from former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, is untrue. Some 15 million people, or just under a fifth of the German population, have an immigrant background. The real message is: "We don't want Germany to be a country of immigration."

"Foreigners" -- they're often called that here even if they and their parents were born here -- get that message loud and clear in their everyday lives. That steely look of disapproval in shops when a customer expresses an enquiry in accented or broken German. The difficulty of finding an apartment to rent if your surname isn't Müller.

Just speaking English can get you into trouble on a Berlin S-Bahn train. A number of youths, presumably of far-right persuasion, glared at me during a recent ride through the east of the city. One muttered "piece of shit," while another shouted "nigger!" before rushing out -- and I'm white.

I'd hate to be living here if I had brown or black skin. Statistics on racist assaults prove that parts of eastern Germany are no-go zones for ethnic minorities. (Read more…)

The Spiegel article “German Xenophobia As Our Readers See It” is interesting in that it is one of those rare instances where I have seen a leading German news magazine publish extensive reader feedback on this sensitive subject, in English. Several countries are struggling with these same issues today and Germany is no different albeit political, business, and high-profile public figures here are loathe to admit that it is a very BIG problem for lots of people living and working in the country, foreigners and Germans alike. Here is the comment from an Asian professional working in the southern German State of Bavaria:

Dear Spiegel Online,

I am an Asian scientist working in Munich. I lived in China and Singapore before I moved to Germany. I was offered a pre-doctorate position in Singapore from a private research institution with full pay before I came to Germany. But I still decided to look for a position in Germany, because I wanted to live in Europe. The major motives for such a move were firstly, the freedom of expression that European countries offer; secondly, the superior infrastructure of the German research system; and thirdly, the European values of tolerance and integration.

I was not disappointed at all when it comes to freedom of expression and the infrastructure in Germany. But I was utterly shocked when it comes to integration and tolerance. I never suffered explicit racist attacks like those which happened in eastern Germany. But I was exposed to a subtle yet stubborn kind of racism on a daily basis. This mostly takes the form of social exclusion -- I always felt that I am not and will never be allowed to become a normal member of society, despite holding a promising academic record and decent linguistic skills.

In the beginning, I regarded social rejection as a result of linguistic insufficiency. Therefore I spent a large amount of time improving my German. At the moment my spoken German is close to fluency. But I was completely disappointed about the results of my effort. Instead of feeling more integrated in the society, I actually discovered even more xenophobia around me, because now I understand what is written in newspapers and on street placards. Also, I became aware that people throw me angry looks when I mispronounce German, or give me suspicious looks on the U-Bahn. It is a constant battle on my side to handle such things. I am determined to move to another country once I finish my studies. It is hard to leave such a good working environment behind, but I see no hope for real integration here.

I have spoken with other colleagues of mine, who are either foreigners or have a foreign background. Many of them suffer the same kind of social rejection. There are very few things we can do except opting to leave the country when we finish our training. But it is detrimental to the intellectual progress and economic growth of Germany when even people of higher education fail to integrate into the society.

I am not saying that there should be any kind of favoritism towards intellectual foreigners, or that there should be immediate and absolute equality among Germans and foreigners. What I hope to see is more cultural sensitivity and inter-cultural communication. People should start to understand that foreigners are assets, not threats. And the only ones who can push for cultural sensitivity and exchange on a large scale are the mass media and the government.

-- Name withheld

Here is a comment from Page 8 of the article (there are 9 web pages of readers comments) where a person from India describes her experiences in East Germany (Cottbus and Berlin):

Dear Spiegel Online,

I read Mr. Crossland's opinion piece and I do agree that Germany needs to change its attitude towards foreigners.

I am a student from India currently pursuing my Master's here. I have been living in Germany for two years now -- 11 months in Cottbus, and the rest in Berlin. While it is true that I have met some wonderful human beings in my two years here, it is also true that by and large we, the foreigners, are regarded way too suspiciously.

Fortunately for me, despite my dark skin, I have not faced any pushed-into-a-corner kind of incidents that I keep hearing about. That may be because I take things in my stride, go out of my way not to offend people or simply because I choose to ignore things most of the time. But I experienced a couple of incidents when the ugly face of racism was bared to one and all. And every time I am shocked anew before a helpless rage takes over me, which I need to glaze over with indifference for my own survival here.

Once in Cottbus, during a hip-hop night at a student bar, which of course attracted the black students from our university, someone threw a stink bomb inside the bar forcing all of us to run towards the exit, eyes hurting and throats constricting due to the nauseous gas. While we were waiting outside for the smell to diffuse, a man with his hood up ran up the stairs, screamed "Ausländer raus!" ("Foreigners out!") and ran away before we could react.

And the other time, a club in Prenzalauer Berg, the happening district of Berlin, denied us entrance because there were three black people amongst us (well, four if you count me). We were just told that they have the right to deny anyone they want and that the club was filled to its capacity. The funny part is they did not even try to wait for us to get out of sight before they let others in.

It would be easy to handle if it is only a certain bunch of people -- say the neo-Nazis -- out to get you. What makes it difficult is the fact that the average people that you meet have so many prejudices against you that everything you do, even before you do it, is written on the debit side of the balance sheet. If my friend, who is white, crosses a street when the light is red, she is in a hurry. And if I do the same, someone is waiting to say "schwarze Schlampe" ("black slut") or something similar.

And you would think that in a university, things might be different. But oh no! It gets worse there. You have to start battling prejudices from the word go. If you come here from the developing world, you are here to squander the precious resources of Germany, while all along you want to stay on in the country by hook or crook.

Don't get me wrong. I am not trying to say I have nothing but bad experiences in Germany. I have had times when the unexpected generosity and helpfulness of strangers reduced me almost to tears. To be fair, perhaps, things are not so different anywhere else.

I came here with an open mind and I see what I see. Tomorrow I will leave because I can afford to. But I see around me a lot of people who will hang on, despite racism, despite prejudices, despite everything. And if something is not done right now, I am afraid it may be too late. History already showed us what could happen if we let malcontent grow.

-- Name withheld --
Read more at Spiegel Online (International edition).

Update Jan 27th: The proverbial poop has hit the fan over at Der Spiegel (Spiegel Online) re: David Crossland's article and the red hot reader feedback. Checkout the January 25th update article "More Readers Weigh-In: How Xenophobic is Germany?"

Update Jan 28th: The elections for the German states of Hessen (Hesse) and Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony) were completed yesterday and the race for Ministerpräsident (Governor) of the State of Hesse ended in a literal dead heat. The strategy of using of the "racial/ethnic card" in the campaign by Hessen's two-term serving governor Roland Koch has blown-up in his face and will most likely (hopefully) cost him the election.

Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lost more than 12% of the votes garnered in the 2003 state elections allowing the Social Democratic Party (SPD) to pull within 0.1%. Neither party has an absolute majority and a coalition with their traditional political partners (the liberals - FDP, The Greens - Die Grünen) is not enough to give either party a clear victory. Hessen, the financial capital of Deutschland (think Frankfurt and Wiesbaden), is in political chaos AND German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Grand Coalition government over in Berlin is beginning to wobble badly. Read more about the post-election coverage at Spiegel Online:

Blow for Merkel: Kock Slumps in Hesse Vote as Immigration Campaign Backfires, 01/28/08
The World from Berlin: Koch Gets Face Slapped for 'Nasty' Campaign, 10/28/08
Angela Merkel 'Stands by Her Man' in Hessen: Merkel Defends Battered Koch, 10/28/08

Here is an excerpt from an opinion piece titled "The End of Fear and Loathing in Hesse" by Charles Hawley:

When two young men with foreign heritage (foreign = Greek and Turkish) beat up a German man in a Munich subway just before Christmas, he jumped on it. He immediately said that Germany has "too many criminal young foreigners." He also said that Germany is "not a country of immigration" -- even though his party had just split with its past denial and included the sentence "Germany is a country of integration" in its platform at the beginning of December. Koch also suggested that foreigners learn that "the slaughtering (of animals) in the kitchen ... runs counter to our principles."

It was a classic CDU campaign, only the most recent in a long history of such over-the-top, anti-foreigner campaigns the party has used in the past to draw attention and votes. Helmut Kohl did it during his very first campaign for chancellor back in 1982, promising to offer generous incentives to encourage foreigners -- many of them imported in previous decades to work in Germany's booming factories -- to go home. Koch's 1999 signature campaign was followed soon after with a debate on "Leitkultur" or "leading culture." Many of the CDU contributions to that debate made it clear that foreigners were at best to be tolerated in Germany, but certainly not to be welcomed.

Read the complete editorial "The End of Fear and Loathing in Hesse" at Spiegle Online.

Blog author's note: italics, parenthesis, and bold emphasis added to some original text in article excerpts quoted above

Related articles and resources for German politics

Critique Against Racist Campaign: German Immigrants have had Enough 01/10/08
Xenophobic Campaign Backfires: Voters Shunning Roland Koch, 01/18/08
Internal NPD Documents Reveal Chaos: Germany’s Right Wing Extremists in Disarray, 01/24/08
Opinion: Germany’s Homegrown Intolerance by David Crossland, 01/18/08
As Welcome As Satan in Heaven: German Xenophobia As Our Readers See It, 01/22/08

Spiegel Online category – German Politics
Spiegel TV Online (German language only)

Switzerland’s Political Scene: Some of my more astute readers may remember that the country of Switzerland had a similar political campaign in October 2007 that was fueled by racial, ethnic, and immigration fear-mongering. With all the attention focused on the World Economic Forum 2008 in Davos, Switzerland one has to wonder if the rising tide of racism and xenophobia in Europe will be discussed. I doubt it. Below are listed a few press articles about Switzerland’s ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ national elections.

Update January 25th:

Koluki (Ana) who authored the essay in my Dec 2007 post about the EU/Africa Summit in Lisbon has drawn my attention to a very important development in the Swiss national elections of 2007 that I had obviously missed.

Ricardo Lumengo, an Angolan immigrant who entered Switzerland as an asylum seeker in 1982, is the first ever black African to be elected to the Swiss Parliament (Swiss National Council). Lumengo, who studied law at the University of Fribourg and is a member of the Social Democratic Party (SP), is the MP representing the town of Biel near the Swiss capital city of Bern.

After a crushing defeat of the Social Democratic Party in the October 2007 elections by the right-wing nationalist Swiss People’s Party (SVP), Mr. Lumengo had this to say to the Sunday Times Online (UK) shortly after his victory:

There is tension in the air says first black MP as Swiss take a turn to the right”(Excerpts)

“We do not like it that people abroad see us as against foreigners. I am proof that not all of Switzerland thinks like that,” said Mr Lumengo, who trained as a lawyer in Switzerland and completed the tests for his Swiss passport in 1997.

Despite a disastrous showing by his left-wing party, which lost 9 of its 43 seats, Mr Lumengo became an MP for Biel, a bilingual town also known as Bienne, near the capital, Berne. He said: “I have had a good experience in Switzerland for 25 years but the situation has changed and I feel I would have difficulties if I came now. There is a tension, a conflict now between foreigners and Swiss. Other politicians are talking irresponsibly by suggesting that foreigners are responsible for all the country’s problems. We, the Socialists, are worried that this is the wrong direction for the country.”

Mr Lumengo said he hoped that his election as an MP would be “a symbol showing many things”, including that Switzerland was not a racist country. “There are people who are building another Switzerland, a Switzerland of tolerance and a Switzerland of dialogue,” he said.

The Times Online reports after speaking with the right-wing Swiss Peoples Party President Ueli Maurer:

But Ueli Maurer, the SVP president, said that its increased support gave the party approval to rule out talks on joining or even cooperating further with the European Union. “The idea of EU accession should at last get out of everyone’s heads,” Mr Maurer said. The first casualty is likely to be an attempt by the EU to persuade Switzerland to raise its favourably low corporation tax levels. An SVP spokesman said: “We think that the election was confirmation that the Swiss people do not want to join the EU.”

Read the full article of October 23rd at the Times Online. The Times article is in stark contrast to the post “Do the election results show the Swiss have become racist?” published at Pajamas Media last October. The article was written by Robert Mayer of the popular political blog Publius Pundit.

The list below has been updated to include articles and blog posts about Ricardo Lumengo including a link to his personal website (French, German), video interview by the Swiss TV network SF1 and an interview published to

Ricardo Lumengo is a young, promising African-European politician who will be working hard to make positive changes in a country that seems to be desperately clinging on to its “traditional ways” in an evolving and expanding Europe. He will be the “Black Sheep” to watch south of the German/Swiss border. We can only hope that Berlin will be paying close attention too.

Related articles and resources for Swiss politics

The Independent (UK)
Switzerland: Europe’s Heart of Darkness? 09/07/07

The New York Times
Immigration, Black Sheep, and Swiss Rage – 10/08/07

The Times Online (UK)
‘Black sheep’ cartoon ignites bitter row on racism before Swiss elections, 10/10/07
Postcard from Pomy – Bye-Bye Black Sheep, 09/21/07

The Economist – Certain Ideas of Europe blog
The black sheep of Swiss politics, 09/03/07 (Switzerland)
Swiss People’s Party is accused of racist campaign, 08/30/07

Spiegel Online International edition (Germany)
White Sheep, Black Sheep: Bringing rancor to a Swiss Election, 10/17/07

Related articles and resources about Swiss MP Ricardo Lumengo

Swiss MP Ricardo Lumengo’s personal website (French, German)

Bio for Ricardo Lumengo at the Swiss Federal Assembly (Parliament)

The Times Online (UK)
There is tension in the air says first black MP as Swiss take a turn to the right”, 10/23/07

Reuters Africa
Former refugee becomes first black Swiss MP, 12/03/07

SF1 (Swiss TV network) – Archive Sendung von 22.19.2007
Von Angola ins Bundeshaus (see video report at bottom of webpage)
“Black Sheep” in Swiss parliament (streaming media Real), 11/12/07

Africa Link Switzerland – Dec 2007 newsletter
Ricardo Lumengo makes history from Asylum House to House of Assembly

First Black Citizen Elected to Swiss Parliament is Angolan, 10/24/07

Swiss Reviews
Swiss Voters Elected “Black Sheep”, 10/28/07

Pajamas Media – guest post by Robert Mayer
“Do the election results show the Swiss have become racist?”, 10/22/07

Politics of Switzerland

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Koluki said...

Very interesting roundup.
I followed the story in Switzerland. It was all very depressing, but nevertheless this happened there!

E-Nyce said...

BRE, you never have to apology for not posting often. You're reports are always very in-depth, giving us much to review and consider.

To many these stories of intolerance in Europe may seem new and shocking. But only to those who have not lived there. I've heard such stories since the 70s, although always people said the intolerance was lighter than that in the US at the time.

I wonder though: Is only half (less than half?) of the story being told?

In Germany, where even primary school students are taught direct truth about WWII and the Holocaust (unlike in the US, where some states do not include slavery in their history textbooks even for secondary school), I would imagine that an "intolerance for intolerance" is fostered, if not culturally then institutionally.

Perhaps you can give a report on how Germans are themselves fighting discrimination?

As to der Schweis, well, it took them 50 years to join the UN. Maybe in another 50 years they'll join the 21st Century. They not completely hopeless, I hope.

Blackgirl On Mars said...

As usual, thank you for the work that you do.
This all sounds so resoundingly familiar. In fact, I was on a right-wing site the other day and wasn't surprised that it used Denmark as its shining example of a nationalist and anti-immigration country. Sigh.
Keep up the GREAT work & once again, thanks for the work that you do.
blackgirl on mars

BRE said...

Aw shucks, you guys are making me blush and that's tough for a black man to do. Thank you for your nice compliments and continued support, thank you very much.

E-nyce you brought up some good points. In regards to how German youth (and adults) are educated about their history here is my point of view:

True there is a great deal of focus on the subjects of WWI and WWII in the German education system, German literature, cinema, radio and television productions. Some of the best film doucmentaries I have ever seen about WWI and WWII, the German Wehrmacht (military forces), and the NS regime (National Socialist Party, aka Nazis) were produced and aired right here in Germany.

I'm afraid that many of these film and television documentaries never make it across the Atlantic to U.S. and Canadian audiences (not sure about Mexico, Central and South America). This is a pity because the German documentaries about these terrible wars (including the historical periods before and after the wars) reveal oft times astounding information that must be invaluable for historians and the global public in gaining a better understanding about the 19th and 20th centuries here in Europe.

The historical archives in Germany about these periods are extensive and include precious eyewitness accounts from people who lived through these wars and the aftermath. Many of these witnesses are now quite elderly or have died. For example, Spiegel Online reports in their latest edition that the last known German WWI veteran has just died in Hanover at the age of 107 years. Spiegel also published an article about the recent discovery of mass graves in Poland and the Ukraine and Belorus (Belorussia) that have been identified by a few remaining elderly (and very brave) eyewitnesses in these countries. These eyewitnesses were children at the time of the mass murders (10's of thousands of people, maybe more) and they have been silent about these events for more than 60 years. The fear that drove them into such a long silence was not of the Germans but of their own countrymen! Here is the URL link to the magazine's online archives about World War I & II:,1518,k-6695,00.html

If you review my posts about black and African history in Europe (Feb-Apr 2007) and the post dated October 2, 2007 titled "Black Women Speak Out Against Racism and Discrimination in Europe" you will see that a German history teacher and German university student are less than impressed with how the sensitive issues of race and ethnicity in Germany and the historical role that minorities and "foreginers" have played in German history is handled by educators and the media here. This of course is not only a problem in Germany but is a relatively widespread problem throughout Europe.

Black History Month is coming up in February and I plan to write and publish new posts on the subject then. Hopefully my close buddies Lesley-Ann (Black Girl on Mars) in Denmark and Adrianne up in Sweden and other blog authors in Europe and elsewhere are also planning to write on the subject of black and African history in Europe next month. If so, let me know and we can do a Mardi Gras thing, a Fat Tuesday black history blog carnivale.

Lastly, drill down into the Spiegel Online International archives for more information about German history, politics, news and stuff. The English language version of Der Spiegel has been online for a couple of years and the magazine's archives should be quite extensive. Just click on the English language category headers at the top of the magazine's homepage and dig, dig, dig.

Blackgirl On Mars said...

I would love to do a Black History Month tribute...I'm open to cooking something up together for sure, or at least coordinating our efforts in some productive way.
Keep up the Excellent work! I feel so blessed to have your work to touch base with, to inform and educate. I feel very lucky.
the lab.

BRE said...

Dear Lesley-Ann,

Consider it a GO. You, I, and hopefully other blog authors in our neck of the woods will team-up for Black and African History Month in Europe Carnivale 2008. It should be great fun for one and all just like last year.

I will be in touch with you ASAP so that we may arrange a "call for papers" and decide how we want to distribute the work (central hosting site and/or cross-posting to our respective blogs). The editor/publisher of the popular African Loft blogger community has offered his support if we decided to go ahead with the project this year.

So yes Darling, it's a Go! It is a Must Do thing!

E-Nyce said...

BRE, thanks for the leads. In fact, I already knew about them and have used them, particularly about Black/African's contribution to European history and culture. I think I first reached your blog, in 2005, on a related topic. Ha! I've been reading Spiegel, in English of course, since I was 8! (Well, the pictures anyway. Right next to the issues of National Geographics.)

Extensive German history does indeed make its way to the more-West. It's just that it doesn't merge into popular mindset, just sits in the halls of academia.

This is not surprising, 'cause, as I noted, in the US some states try to remove or minimize certain "unsavory" moments in our history. Texas (you know, that state where Curious George was once governor) comes up in the news every few years because the education review committees "forgot" to include in history texts topics like slavery, and Spain/Mexico as original foreign settlers of the American West; and *including* the continual myths about the Alamo.

It's easy to list examples of intolerance. It's much more difficult to find stories of people fighting against their own culture in order to promote the interests of other cultures.

Which leads to my request:
I'm hoping that this year's focus of Black/African Month includes how Europeans themselves are fighting to ensure that such history is included into the public discussion and hopefully into the education system.

Michael Fisher said...

""Germany is not a country of immigration,"

Well, that's actually something former Minister of the Interior Zimmermann said in the early 1980's. A lie as always. Germany has always been an "Einwanderungsland". Just ask all them "Germans" in the Ruhrpot with all them Polish names.

BRE said...

E-nyce, you are not accusing me of being "biased" in my reporting about race and politics in Germany are you?......:-) I do get your point and you are right in that there are and have been a number of government, civic, and grassroots efforts from the German people and foreign residents who live in Germany to combat racism and xenophobia. I'm certain that the same is true for Switzerland and other European countries.

Unfortunately as several press and media reports point out and independent studies confirm, racism and xenophobia is on the rise at an alarming rate all across Europe at the beginning of the 21st Century. It makes one wonder if more can be done to combat the problem and if so, then what should be done and who must take the lead in each society?

When one carefully reads the feedback from the Spiegel Online readers almost all "foreign" commenters point out that they have great friendships with some Germans and have had many positive experiences here that help to counteract the racism and rejection that they have encountered. I can testify to that fact based upon innumberable examples from my own life experiences amongst the German people for more than two decades.

I try hard not to accuse or condemn any nation or people of being "racist and xenophobic" because such a statement would be untrue and in my case a betrayal to those people from other nations, cultures, racial and ethnic groups who have shown me great kindness, respect, and yes even love. You cannot paint an entire people with the same brush unless you yourself are a damn racist.... or a damn fool!

Therefore, I will take your advice and be sure to point out examples of both civic and government-sponsored efforts to reduce xenophobia and racism in Germany during our planned Black History Month in Europe Carnivale 2008.

Michael, what you doin' over here Dude? I thought that you would still be under heavy fire from your readers and commenters at The Assault on Black Folk's Sanity. Welcome back and hoping that you are doing well.

Re: German Poles in the "Ruhrpot" (English translation = industrial cities along the Rhine river):

Polish surnames in Germany are quite common,especially when one remembers that Germans had settled (and conquered) lands as far east as the Baltic States and Western Russia (see Kingdom of Prussia and East Prussia at Wikipedia). As you correctly point out, people were moving back-and-forth across that vast kingdom to carry out trade and seek new opportunities and adventure for more than two centuries. I'm sure that many people were fleeing all sorts of persecution in the eastern lands during the 17th-19th centuries as they migrated West into what is today modern Germany.

Mike, you may have read that I've promised to help organize another Black History Month blog project and you are welcome to join us if you have the time. Drop me a line (email) or leave a comment if you want to work with us on this challenging but fun effort next month (Feb-March 2008).

Are you sure? Yes I'm sure. Tight restrictions and heavy editorial oversight will be in place for all "contributions" to the BHME Carnivale in order to keep everyone honest and at their best. That includes you Yale, Harvard, Oxford, and Cambridge radicals and history hacks too.

BRE said...

Correction re: Rührpot in Germany

About 05:30 this morning while deep in sleep I realized that I had made a mistake about the Ruhrpott being a string of industrial cities along the Rhine river in Germany. Yes, I sometimes dream about my blog like writers and journalists dream about their books or news articles.

1. The Ruhrpott is not along the Rhine river but instead is a large area in central Germany that is bordered by three rivers: the Ruhr, the Rhine, and the Lippe.

2. The river Ruhr is spelled with a "u" and not an umlaut "ü".

3. It is true that the Ruhrpott (Rhine-Ruhr area) in Nordrhein-Westfallen (North Rhein-Westphalia) is the industrial heartland of Germany, an area with a population of more than 5.3 million people, the fifth largest urban population in Europe.

You can read more about the "Ruhrpott" (a deragatory term) at Wikipedia under "Ruhr area" (a more appropriate term).