german culture

Foundations in Germany – Stiftungen

Foundations in Germany - Stiftungen
© Pixabay

Made to Last – German Foundations

Recent years saw a continuous rise in the creation of privately run foundations in Germany. In 2015 alone, 583 foundations have been created. As it is, the Bundesrepublik is home to a large amount of this kind of organizations, even though some of the foundations are in fact not foundations.

Why’s that? Well, in Germany, the term “foundation” is not protected by trademark law. This means, that any given entity is allowed to call itself foundation and thus surround itself with an air of public benefit. Big companies often operate organizations that engage in charitable activities, called foundations, that legally speaking are not. Sometimes those institutions are companies themselves or even part of the larger conglomerate. In organizational law, however, what defines a foundation is very clear.

Foundations can come in all legal forms and colors, but most German foundations are created under the private law. Earlier on, I explicitly used the term public benefit as opposed to a non-profit. While the German “Gemeinnützigkeit” is often translated with “non-profit (status)”, the two are technically not the same thing. As non-profit literally describes an organization or an enterprise as being designed to not make a profit, the German word “Gemeinnützigkeit” states that the so named entity or undertaking is created to benefit the general public or part of it. In conclusion, German foundations can indeed be a non-profit, while not benefiting the public. Though, in Germany, roundabout 95% of all foundations are charitable.


Eternal Foundations?

While most foundations are created to exist eternally, they can be created in the form of an endowment trust that is shrinking over time until it is dissolved. If you’re wondering how an organization can purposely be created to fulfill its destiny forever, let’s take a look at how they are operating in Germany. Should you ever consider starting a foundation in Germany, you’ll need a whole lot of money. Let’s pretend we want to start the “smarterGerman Foundation for International Education”. If our capital is below 50.000 Euro, the state will not allow us to proceed. Many experts say your funds should be in the area of a million Euro if you really want to make a dent. The reason is actually quite simple. In its daily business, the smarterGerman Foundation does not spend money out of its original capital stock. In order to guarantee the foundation to continue its good work indefinitely, we take the capital, put some of it in the bank and invest the rest. The return on our investment will then be used to keep the capital stock stable (The worth of money fluctuates through i.e. inflation, but to enable the foundation to run eternally, we have to protect the capital stock so that only the amount of money our foundation can spend changes.) and of course, to further the purpose of our institution – because every foundation is bound to have one or more (rather) purposes. Of course, foundations are allowed to spend money on operations and management, meaning, they are allowed to have a staff. So, you see that in contrast to many American foundations, German ones seldom have to organize charity events as the build up is usually a very different one.

Though the capital stock of our foundation is not supposed to reduce, it is quite common to increase it in order to achieve higher return rates. And should you wonder at this point, where all the money comes from to start privately run foundations, let me tell you that the next ten years will see more than 3 billion Euro passed on in Germany – privately owned money, that is. Thus, in order to start our smarterGerman Foundation, we should start saving.

german language

German Auxiliary Languages – Weltdeutsch

Auxiliary Languages - Weltdeutsch
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The 19th and 20th century saw a spike in the development of the so-called constructed languages. Especially “Auxiliary Languages” were created, as the different colonial powers aimed to erect empires and the western conquerors felt the need to turn their respective language into a “lingua franca”, particularly among their colonial subjects. Auxiliary Languages were meant to enable the communication of people from different countries, not speaking the same mother tongue. English and Spanish are basically the most used Auxiliary Languages in Europe and the Americas today, while Greek and Latin would count as ancient Auxiliary Languages.

The Origin of Weltdeutsch

Even though a late bloomer in the colonial game, the German Empire, of course, had to have its own global language. Thus, in 1915, when World War I was still viewed with optimism and the outlook of an Empire spanning across vast regions of the world, Weltdeutsch (World German) was invented. You see that the creation of auxiliary languages was heavily influenced by contemporary politics. Linguists quarreled about the best language to base their product on and the German ones were eager to argue, that the early German successes in the Great War meant that the German language was the obvious choice, as e.g. English would be somewhat obsolete as the Empire was in decline.

The Development of Wede

In fact, Weltdeutsch was not one specific language, but the name for a number of different projects for the development of an auxiliary language based on German. A simplified version of German, created as “the language of all peoples”, had already been published in 1913. After the Nobel Prize Winner Wilhelm Oswald first proposed Weltdeutsch, a man named Adalbert Baumann published “Wede”, an auxiliary language solely based on German. It was widely simplified and drew from several German dialects. In 1916, he already published an even simpler version of the Wede. His basic idea was that language users should write exactly as they spoke. The conjugation was limited to the use of “tun” (do) and the new article “de” replaced the former German articles “der”, “die” and “das”. Wede had its foundation in the deeply nationalistic beliefs of Adalbert Bauman, who was convinced of German superiority. Thus, it is not surprising, that his work stepped into the spotlight once more in the Third Reich. In 1928, Baumann had reworked his Wede into the more internationally labeled “Oiropa Pitshn”.

Colonial German and Kitchen German

Also in 1916, another variant of Weltdeutsch was published. Colonial officer Emil Schwörer had developed Kolonialdeutsch (Colonial German) as a Pidgin language (even though a designed Pidgin is an oxymoron) particularly designed to be used in the German colonies, more specifically in German South-West Africa, a colony on the territory today belonging to Namibia. Schwörer incorporated his knowledge of African contact languages of the region and proposed a specific vocabulary. He thought, that it was necessary to “organize” the German language in order for it to be used in the bright German future (meaning, that he was quite sure there would be more colonies and more international exchange that would call for a German Auxiliary Language). He wrote that German was simply too hard for other people and despite its untouchable status should be simplified. His Pidgin language was never more than a proposal and was thus never implemented in the German colonies. Nevertheless, there are still about 15.000 Namibians who speak a kind of pidgin German. The so-called “Küchendeutsch” (Kitchen German) was developed in the relationships of the African servants and their German masters. But as most of the speakers of Küchendeutsch are past the age of 50, the language will most likely perish.

german politics

Angela Merkel – The last Defender of the Free World

Angela Merkel - The last Defender of the Free World
© Pixabay

Four more years. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she is going to run for another term in office heading into 2017 and the upcoming election in September. So far, no real threat in the form of an opposing candidate has emerged. Not that it would really matter, as Germany’s political landscape doesn’t seem to offer anyone who could really challenge her. To find a coalition able to form a government might, however, prove more challenging. Still, political experts are united in their projections that Angela Merkel indeed will be Chancellor for four more years. But there is another job that Merkel might have to do. Following numerous media outlets after the election of Donald Trump as US-President, Angela Merkel is now the last defender of the so-called Free World – or if you are not into Cold War-Terminology: the Liberal West. Why is that? With an open populist who has ties to a bunch of right-wing groups moving to the White House, right-wing parties on the rise all over Europe and a number of less than stable national economies, it’s understandable why the eyes of the US-Media turn to Angela Merkel as a voice of reason – but the defender of the Liberal West?

An American Point of View?

Interestingly enough, the domestic view on the chancellor is quite different. Also, there are different views on Germany and Angela Merkel all over Europe and the so-called Free World. The discussion is a very compelling one, as it shows the core differences of foreign, security and military policies and positions between the United States, Western, and maybe Eastern Europe. But this is not the place to discuss the reality of such a thing as the “Free World”.

The German worldview is fundamentally different from what one could call the American position that is based on the idea of exceptionalism. Thus, the German reaction to US-Media articles suggesting a “passing of the baton” from Barack Obama to Angela Merkel had to be something along the lines of: “No, thank you. That is not our place.” But this kind of sentiment, though sounding utterly pragmatic, could actually be a little off.

Winds of Change

Angela Merkel herself has rejected the notion of her leading the Liberal West as ridiculous. Though, at roughly the same time she dictated to US-President elect Donald Trump the terms of a working relationship: its foundation being the often quoted civil liberties of western societies – freedom of speech, press, religion and so forth. Her first act of defense in light of a potential threat to those values? Further, one could argue that Germany has a certain responsibility for the Western World and Europe in particular. It is the richest economy in Europe and the most influential party of the EU, especially after Great Britain voted to leave the organization. Germany came out way ahead of the financial crisis. It’s hard stance on keeping the austerity policy going and the changes made to its domestic social policies, including the introduction of dumping wages, more than a decade ago are partly responsible for the bad shape of a lot of the other European economies in countries such as Greece, Spain, and Italy.

2016 brought about enormous changes on the global political scale and 2017 promises to be another year of continuous change. It does seem likely, that in 2018 Angela Merkel will be the only stable and moderate major leader in Europe. However ominous the job title of Defender of the Liberal West might be, she might have to step up to do whatever that is.    


Brexit – From a German Perspective

Brexit - From a German Perspective
© Pixabay

Granted, the outcome of the referendum on the issue of Great Britain leaving the EU is already a few months old. Still, we thought it might be worthwhile, to sum up, the matter from a German perspective. To be frank, the whole process that led up to the referendum seemed rather absurd to me, and I dare say to the majority of Germans following the news. Figures such as Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson created a resemblance to the 2016 election campaign in the USA, but maybe that’s due to our typical politician being more of a bland character. Up to the last weeks before the vote, most people I talked to and I guess even most of our political experts did not believe the so-called Brexit could be possible. Boy, were we proven wrong.

If I were to generalize, which I am, I’d say that the majority of Germans tends to be pro-European and pro-EU. While we have our share of euro-sceptical parties, even the biggest of them, the AFD, was not being able to achieve success solely on this issue. Only after turning into an outright right-wing party, the AFD became a lot more successful. Meanwhile, the new party of AFD-Founder Bernd Lucke, still running on the anti-Euro issue, has faded to insignificance.

Back to Brexit

The closer the referendum came, the more German media outlets acknowledged that it could happen and began to speculate on its possible consequences. What would it mean for visiting friends and family in the United Kingdom? Or just for that weekend trip to London? What would the British leaving the EU mean for our economy? For Germany’s role in Europe? In general, there was this fear of Britain just moving into a greater distance, without actually moving at all. Then again, supporters of the European idea were afraid that the Brexit would strengthen Germany’s leading role in the EU even more. A role, that, in their eyes, had not been beneficial for all of Europe but had been somewhat responsible for the economic division of north and south within the union, especially within the Eurozone.

When the votes were finally cast, we were shocked, to say the least – some maybe even angry. European economic experts and scientists had stated that the United Kingdom would suffer terribly under Brexit, while the EU would be damaged, though not severely. European Parliament officials were quick to stand together and pledge the unity of the EU’s remaining members.

As for Britain, I was wondering about the social and political atmosphere it took to allow the referendum to go out the way it did. And, to be honest, I was wondering about the outright stupidity and falseness of some of the claims made by UKIP and other pro-Brexit organizations and individuals – as well as the way they ran the campaigns. Of course, some people were well informed and had made up their mind. Nevertheless, the viral videos of individuals who had no clue whatsoever what they were voting for, or even what the EU was, was heartbreaking. As somebody not living in the UK, I cannot assert that I would know what actually happened.

But taking the British people and the British media into account that inhabit my social bubble, I feel a bit scared because I cannot exclude something like this happening in Germany, one of the very few countries who would most likely survive a collapse of the European Union relatively unharmed.

german language

Unserdeutsch – The only Pidgin German

Unserdeutsch - The only Pidgin German
© Pixabay

Unserdeutsch – Definitely the most exotic Version of German

Due to its geographical position in Europe and its size, Germany is home to a diverse structure of dialects. Some of those dialects derive from old Germanic dialects so different they could count as languages. It’s actually not that hard to imagine that there were numerous very diverse languages in this country when you come from northern Germany and meet someone from a remote Bavarian village. Some of the differences between the various dialects still are quite big, in grammar as well as in phonetics. But by far the most exotic version or dialect of the German language is called Unserdeutsch (basically: Our German). And it’s spoken in Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Nuns and Colonies

The German empire was not only late to the colonial “game”, it also wasn’t by far as successful as its rivals from the British Empire to France or the Netherlands. Known most for the appalling genocide of genocide of the Herero people in Namibia, German colonial campaigns in Africa are pretty much common knowledge. But there was another large colony with the illustrious name of Kaiser-Wilhelm-Land. This territory was comprised of the northeastern part of Papua New Guinea as well as a couple of archipelagos. From around 1885, the territory became the protectorate of a German colonial company, but after the company did not perform as expected, it became an official German colony in 1899. At the beginning of the first World War, Kaiser-Wilhelm-Land was occupied by Australian forces and was handed over to Australia after the war ended.

Even though the German rule over this part of Papua New Guinea was relatively short, it had a few long lasting effects: among others, the emergence of Unserdeutsch, also known as Rabaul Creole German (named after the town of Rabaul). It is the only Creole language that is based in German. Unserdeutsch was created by children around 1900 in the capital of Kaiser-Wilhelm-Land. The children of German colonialists and adventurers with local women were raised in a catholic mission on the edge of town. The nuns taught the children German, which they mixed with English and the local language of Tok Pisin in their everyday life. As the nuns stayed in their mission even after the colony changed rulers, they taught quite a lot of pupils who gave the language to their kids. Today there are around 100 speakers left, most of whom migrated to Australia after Papua New Guinea became independent in 1975.

Our German

Unserdeutsch is only spoken, not written. The language is basically a simplified variant of German. But still, there are numerous differences to the superordinate language. There is only one article (de instead of der/die/das) and the plural is formed by putting “alle” (all) in front of a noun. “Die Männer” (The men) becomes “Alle Mann” (All man). Further, the interrogative pronoun is placed at the end of the sentence.

Unserdeutsch is especially exotic because there are only very few people left that actually speak it. We spoke about Namibia earlier and you might wonder whether there is an equivalent language to Unserdeutsch in the former German colony. There is. It is called Küchendeutsch (Kitchen German) or Namibian Black German. The name Küchendeutsch clearly indicates who its speakers used to be: slaves or employees of the German masters.

Küchendeutsch is still spoken by about 15.000 people, as opposed to the very few Unserdeutsch speakers. Apart from the linguistic differences, there is also a systematic distinction between the two languages. Küchendeutsch is classified as a pidgin language, whereas Unserdeutsch is categorized as a Creole-Language. A Creole-Language usually derives from a pidgin language when it becomes a native language.  

german music

Electronic Music in Germany

Electronic Music in Germany
© Pixabay

The early Years

When it comes to electronic music, Germany is not only an early adapter but a country of pioneers. German technicians and musicians such as Karlheinz Stockhausen were among the first to develop, build and use electronic sound generators or synthesizers in the 1960’s and 70’s. In the beginning, the first tinkering with electronically created sounds wasn’t much more than modulating a sinus tone. Even though the roots of electronic music lie in the reinvention of classical music, artists from other genres were quickly drawn in by the new possibilities. The most important band in this aspect, but also one of the most important German bands in general, was Kraftwerk. The new technological possibilities heavily influenced their work, while their work was enormously influential on countless other musicians, artists and people in general. One of the best-known examples that prove Kraftwerk’s impact on music is that a sample from one of the bands songs was essential in the quasi-invention of hip hop by Afrika Bambaataa.

Development in the 1990’s

In the 1980’s the sound of synthesizers, drum machines and electronic keyboards coined the “Neue Deutsche Welle”, basically Germany’s version of wave music. But as electronic music was not only “invented” in one place, the development of technologies and opportunities didn’t just occur in Germany. Entering the age of global communication, the international exchange became quicker and quicker. Different subcultural and social circumstances benefited the quasi-simultaneous creation of techno and house music in different places. Though they might not have been the only ones, Chicago, Detroit, London, Paris and Berlin were the central breeding grounds for this new kind of music. The 1990’s brought a whole novel culture of music, dance and party. Techno and its musical relatives quickly turned from underground art to a massively popular phenomenon. In Berlin, the Love Parade was invented – a techno parade that witnessed an extreme growth of participants in a short amount of time. Soon more than a million people celebrated the annually held parade. But this wasn’t the only electronic music spectacle. As the demand for raves grew, more and more gigantic techno parties were held in arenas and large music clubs all over the country. At the same time, the large music labels understood that there was a lot of money to be made with electronic music and the genre and its sub-genres soon became a huge market. This, of course, took its toll on the music itself, generating varieties of pop-techno, pop-trance or pop-house music, opening electronic music even further to the masses. From a musical standpoint, this lead to a great simplification of an already simply designed kind of music. Results were highly successful sub-genres like Eurodance, which in retrospect was in the uttermost cases badly made, horrible music.

The Rise of EDM

In the late 90’s the demand for large raves and dulled down techno rapidly sunk and so did its popularity. Eurodance and its successors such as Schlager infused with electronic beats kept on going for a while, but soon the international rise of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) began. This quite vaguely named musical genre is basically electronic/techno/pop created for large audiences. The stars of this development are internationally known acts such as David Guetta from France or the Kalkbrenner brothers from Germany.

The Status Quo of Electronic Music

Nowadays, electronic music like almost all music is globalized, meaning that even though Berlin is definitely one of the world’s capitals of electronic music hedonism, Germany cannot claim to be a harbor of pioneers of the trade. The technological development of musical instruments can be followed in concurrency to the development of electronic music itself. In the beginning, the instruments were analog electronic devices. They developed to cheaper and easier accessible instruments made up from digital technology and later fully migrated into computers, making it easy for anyone to create electronic music.

german sports

German Soccer Clubs: HSV & Hoffenheim

HSV & Hoffenheim
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The Bundesliga Dinosaur – Hamburger Sportverein

The Hamburger Sportverein or short HSV is a very special club indeed. It is the only founding member of the highest German soccer league, the Bundesliga, that has never been relegated to the second division in its 53 years of existence. And for a while, the Goliath of Hamburg’s largest soccer clubs, HSV and FC St. Pauli, celebrated this fact with counting the days of the clubs stay in the first division on a display in the stadium. But after the “Rothosen (Red Shorts is one of the HSV’s nicknames)” came very close to being relegated into the second division in the last couple of years, the club board decided to take the display down. In two of the last three seasons, the Hamburger Sportverein ended up 16th on the Bundesliga table, then having to play two relegation matches against the team placed third in the second division, the 2. Bundesliga. In both cases, the HSV came very closely to losing their unique attribute as the oldest member of the Bundesliga.

Past success and actual reality

In general, one has to state that the heydays of the Hamburger Sportverein are long past, even though they are still very much coining the self-image of the club and its fans. Athletically speaking, the HSV constantly has to struggle with its aspirations, fueled by past success, and the actual reality on the scoreboard. The heights of the clubs athletic triumph can be dated back to the 80’s, when the HSV managed to win national and international championships. From the late 90’s to the late 2000’s, the club was actually quite successful, but a sense of satisfaction could not be felt. Since then, everything pretty much went downhill athletically as well as financially. Numerous unsound investments had been made and the Hamburger Sportverein gave up some of its integrity to begin recuperation from these circumstances.

A billionaire’s DYI-Club – TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Even if you have never heard of Hoffenheim, you might have heard of SAP. It’s one of the biggest software companies on the planet and its applications are used in countless offices worldwide. No what do SAP and the soccer club 1899 Hoffenheim have in common? One man has been a crucial part of their success. Dietmar Hopp was raised in the small town of Hoffenheim, close to Heidelberg, and became one of the most successful businessmen out of Germany. He co-founded the SAP Company and financed the TSG 1899 Hoffenheim with millions of Euros from 1990 to 2008. Hopp, who played for the club as a child, took on a role that is comparable to a club owner in the English Premier League, even though the German soccer system doesn’t allow this type of ownership. With Hopp’s reign and money, the club rose through the ranks from the nether regions of amateur soccer to the Bundesliga in a very short amount of time. The TSG relegated to the first German division in 2008 and has not left it since – even though the club’s efforts have been subject to strong fluctuations.

HSV´s stepbrother

1899 Hoffenheim, which operates a stadium fitting more than thrice the population of its hometown, is seen by many of the more traditionalist soccer fans as something that doesn’t belong in soccer. In that aspect, it is somewhat the opposite of the HSV, a club with one of the longest traditions there are. In Germany, many soccer supporters are caught between the ideas and ideologies of a team sport as well as the narratives of teams that are successful by working together and overcoming the odds and the harsh reality of soccer being a highly profitable product, where money does indeed score goals. 1899 Hoffenheim is a prime example of the latter and thus being disliked by many.