german media

Fake-News in Germany and their Impact in public

Fake-News in Germany and their Impact in public
© Pixabay

After closely following the course of the US-Election, a couple of new terms entered my vocabulary – terms such as “Filter-Bubble” or “Fake-News”. And as Americans are always a little faster than most Germans in all things social media, I was not surprised when Fake-News and Filter Bubbles made the, well, news in Germany as well. But I wondered: Is that a thing in Germany too?

Fake-News in Germany?

The short answer: Absolutely. “News” proclaiming outright falsehoods or simply changing or falsifying actual facts in order to support certain sentiments are meandering through networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat and even made it to messenger apps such as Whatsapp, by sparking police investigations into the authors of specific items.

While the Fake-News-Discussion in the USA blew up to enormous proportions, including justifiable suspicions of clandestine operations by foreign secret service agencies, I asked myself: What kind of Fake-News do pop up in German social media? Who profits and who might launch them or at least push them ahead?

How to identify Fake-News in Germany

In case you are unclear about how to identify a news report as a purposeful falsehood, let me give you a few hints: It might be a cliché, but in Germany, truthful news tends not to be narrated in an (overly) exaggerated fashion. Furthermore, it is always a good idea to check the author and the respective website’s imprint for information. When it doesn’t really become clear who runs the site, it’s wise to be critical about its contents. Apropos contents: usually real news can be found on more than one news site. Are there different versions of the news (and not only copies of the exact same statement) on the web, it makes the report more plausible. In the case of images, it can help to reverse search an image using Google or other search engines in order to clarify whether a picture or film is actually showing the reported news or whether it has other origins.

Who uses this Tool in Germany?

Following inquiries of politicians from all major parties of the spectrum, it seems that only the right-wing AfD is deliberately pushing and using Fake-News to further their agenda and to mobilize possible supporters and voters. Research revealed that some of the high-ranking party officials even have strong (even proprietary) ties to multiple websites that are either hotbeds or active sources for such false information.

What are the main Topics?

Consequently, the most frequent topics of these deliberate falsehoods revolve around the refugee crisis, the fear of Islamic terror, and general Anti-Muslim as well as xenophobic sentiments – often including attacks on the established political parties and the government. In detail, this means reports of masses of refugees being secretly brought into the country by the government, false terror threats, and stories of (white German) women and children being raped by barbaric gangs of refugees. Actual incidents, such as the Berlin-Attack or the mass assaults on women in Cologne and Hamburg on New Years Eve 2015, do, of course, not make the situation any less difficult. But it’s not only the AfD and its supporters that spread Fake-News in Germany. There is a whole haystack of unrelated Fake-News providers out there. Often, respective site owners don’t actually care about the truthfulness of their site’s contents, as their sites are a mere business to generate income through ads.

The good news is that numerous media outlets, federal and state officials and municipalities, as well as actors from the civil society, are engaging in defusing the explosive that is Fake-News. Whether their efforts will succeed in assuring a more rationally and truthfully fought election campaign in 2017 remains to be seen. Website-owners such as companies like Facebook and Twitter have yet to prove that they will make good on their promises to fight the distribution of Fake-News in their networks.

Fake-News in Germany and their Impact in public
german politics

Voting in Germany – Elections – Wahlen

Voting in Germany - Elections - Wahlen
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Elections seem to be really trendy at the moment. 2016 had a rather big one and 2017 will see important elections in the Netherlands, France, and Germany. So, we thought we’d take a look the German electoral system. In the light of recent events, it’s particularly interesting to compare it to the US-System.

The Federal Structure of Germany

First of all, it’s important to know that the German political landscape consists of more than two major parties. Parties that pretty much constantly play a role in recent German politics are the conservative CDU (and its sister the CSU), the social-democratic SPD, the green party, the (neo-) liberal FDP, the socialist party “Die Linke”, and the right-wing newcomers from the AfD. Germany is split up into 16 federal states with different voting laws. Though those differences are minor in nature, e.g. concerning the legal voting age in communal elections etc.

Different Types of Elections

Which brings us to the different types of elections. There are, of course, elections for the Bundestag, the German parliament, which in turn picks the Chancellor. There is a 5% hurdle that bars too many smaller parties from entering parliament, thus preventing the creation of a working government to be overly complicated up to impossible. The coalition with the most seats in the Bundestag can form the Government. On the ballots, voters can make two kinds of crosses. With the first vote they are supporting a specific candidate from their electoral district, who in the case of success is being sent to the Bundestag. The second cross is a direct vote for one of the listed parties. Basically, the direct party-votes decide the proportions of the seat arrangement in the Bundestag. If a party has amassed fewer votes then district candidates, the candidates go through to the Bundestag anyway. This means that the number of representatives in the Bundestag may change with every election. As in other EU-Countries, non-citizens are not permitted to vote the Bundestag they are however allowed to vote the local assembly. The Bundestag is elected every four years and, interestingly enough, there is no limit of terms for the German Chancellor.

Fun fact: The Bundeskanzler (Chancellor), though being the government leader and the most powerful politician in the country is not the highest political office when it comes to protocol. Officially, the President (Bundespräsident) and the President of the Bundestag outrank the Chancellor. In reality, the office of the President is only a formal one, which almost doesn’t bestow any powers onto the person holding it. The President of the Bundestag is more of a manager of the Bundestag.

Federal Elections

Of course, Germans also elect their respective federal parliaments. Organizational forms and names can vary from state to state, but overall the election process, as well as the function of parliament and government, are roughly the same. Still, state-ballots can look a lot different than the ones for the Bundestag. Regularly, citizens are prompted to vote in a referendum on specific state matters, whereas referendums are rarely ever held on a national level. The state parliament-terms last for five years and state elections are seldom held on the same date, which essentially means that there often are fluid slight power shifts throughout a government term.

Further elections include the aforementioned local elections, in which vote members of communal assemblies and representatives for state parliaments. And as all other EU-Citizens, Germans take part in the election of the European Parliament every five years.

In the end, German campaigns and elections are a lot less entertaining than American ones, but then again that might not be a bad thing as it seems that even such spectacle cannot raise voter turnout significantly.

Voting in Germany - Elections - Wahlen
german politics

The major German Parties – Part Two

German Party Politics
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CSU – Christlich Soziale Union Bayerns

The CSU is a particular case in German politics. On the federal government level, the party is part of the CDU/CSU fraction and thus of the German government. It acts as sister party to the CDU, but is more traditionalistic, conservative and currently takes a hard drift towards the right. The CSU is only running in Bavaria and has been ruling the Federal State since its foundation in 1945 (except for four years in the 1950’s). The CDU forwent from creating a fraction in the Bavarian parliament and in turn the CSU backs its policy on the federal level, plus it is repeatedly awarded government offices. Currently, though, the CSU behaves as sort of an opposition within the government as it consistently opposes the chancellor openly.

Die Linke – The Left

Die Linke is the most successful left-wing political party in Germany. It’s a fusion of two major left parties. The Left was created in 2007 when the largest western German and the successor to the GDR’s SED-PDS merged. The SED-past of many members and of the party itself was often a source of criticism of the party’s policies. Die Linke itself is furthermore caught in a constant struggle between the moderates and the more radical members. Some of the party’s internal issues can lead back to its history. In some eastern German states, Die Linke used to be comparatively stable and was even part of state governments. On a federal level, the left never made it past the opposition. While the moderates have long tried to make the party an option for a coalition of SPD, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen and Die Linke, the AFD surprisingly manages to steal many of Die Linke’s votes in eastern Germany.

FDP – Freiheitlich Demokratische Partei Deutschlands

The liberal FDP is a good example for the changeability of the German political landscape in recent years. Founded in 1948, the party was elected into all German parliaments since 1949, until 2013, when it didn’t manage to make the 5% threshold of the Bundestag. This event threw the party into a deep crisis, from which it, since then, is trying to recover. Traditionally acting as the number one junior partner for the CDU, the FDP managed to reach a few successes in polls and state elections, feeding hopes for the party to return to the German parliament in 2017. 

AFD – Alternative für Deutschland

A lot has been written and said about the AFD. In its short existence, it managed to stir the political pot in the country, pulling voters from all other parties as well as the so-called protest-voters, and people who did not previously vote. Additionally, the AFD allied with the racist and islamophobe PEGIDA-movement. Since its foundation in 2014, it managed to get into 8 State Parliaments as well as into the European Parliament. The party started out as a mono-topical anti-Euro movement, but quickly turned into a hardline conservative and then an openly far-right party. But, maybe owed to the AFD’s relative youth, the party still doesn’t appear as a united body. Particularly in western states, the party seems a lot more moderate than in the eastern states. Compared to its youth and size, the AFD is extremely successful in making itself heard.

NPD – Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands

The NPD, founded in 1964, is the unofficial successor to Hitler’s NSDAP. The party’s program is openly racist, and it has many ties to Neo-Nazis all over Germany. Just like Die Linke, it is under constant surveillance by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Over the course of its existence, there have been numerous attempts to have the party dissolved and prohibited by the constitutional court. Recently the NPD suffered heavily under the rise of the AFD and has now lost all seats in state parliaments.

Check out Part One here!

German Party Politics
german politics

The major German Parties – Part One

The major German Parties - Part One
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There are numerous differences between the Anglo-American style of democracy and the German way of organizing legislature, but one of the most obvious ones is the number of relevant parties. Now, it’s of course not a valid method to put the British and the American model on the same end of the range of democratic systems, but for the sake of argument, let’s do it anyway. Aside from the very different democratic institutions, both systems share the presence of two major parties, with all other existing parties being virtually nonessential. From afar it’s quite easy to forget that there are green parties in England or the United States, for example. Germany, however, has a tradition of a high number of visible and audible parties that struggle for election into the parliament, with usually about four to six parties ending up there. Even though the past decades saw only a few changes regarding who is making up the house, there still were changes. While there are thousands of political parties throughout Germany and some of them even make it to local or federal state governments and parliaments, let us take a look at only the most “important” ones – the parties that shaped the history of the Federal Republic of Germany (especially after the Reunification in 1990).

The SPD – Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands

The social democrats are the oldest, still active major political party in Germany. It even predates the first German Republic, the Weimarer Republik, and recently celebrated its 125th anniversary. Even though our current government consists of a so-called “great coalition” of the SPD and the CDU, the social democrats have been the biggest rivals of the CDU since its foundation in 1945. Famous German chancellors such as Helmut Schmidt and Willy Brandt have risen from the Ranks of the party. But it seems as if the glorious times of the SPD are behind the party. Even though it is part of various Federal State governments and the current German one as well, it hasn’t been the leading part of a national government in quite a while and has been continuously losing votes on all fronts for years.

The CDU – Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands

The Christian Democrats are Angela Merkel’s party. Before Merkel, who could run for her fourth successive term in 2017, the last CDU-chancellor was Helmut Kohl, who served three consecutive terms. One could safely assume, that the CDU was the steering power in German politics since before the Reunification. While the SPD could be the German equivalent of the US-Democrats, the CDU would serve as our version of the Republicans. Therefore the CDU is a conservative party, though one has to say that both CDU and SPD moved towards each other in recent years, making it more difficult for voters to spot the differences between the two. While the CDU, successor to the Zentrum-party which the National Socialists in the Third Reich forbade, has been the most successful party for a while now, the last couple of years saw its influence on a Federal State level dwindle. Today, there is only one Federal CDU-Government left in Germany.

Bündnis 90/Die Grünen – The Green Party

When Green Party delegates were first elected into the German parliament in 1983, they caused quite an upheaval. Everything from their looks to their agendas was troublesome to the traditional inhabitants of the sacred halls of German politics. The party, which is in itself a fusion of two green parties, was a direct result of growing anti-nuclear and anti-pollution protest movements in the 1980’s as well as social movements from the 1970’s. While the party developed into a rather social and left-wing party, it also drew more conservative members in its earlier days. Starting out as a protest party, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen became the go-to junior partner for the SPD. Over the course of the last two decades, the party underwent some broad changes and distanced itself from its earlier incarnations. Today the green party even runs the government in Baden-Württemberg, a traditionally conservative state. Though, one has to say that this green head of state is probably more conservative than some CDU-members.

The major German Parties - Part One
Living in germany

Pentecostalism in Germany – Die Pfingstbewegung

Pentecostalism in Germany - Die Pfingstbewegung
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When I recently listened to a Podcast on the history of Pentecostalism in the United States, I couldn’t help but wonder how this global Christian manifestation fares in Germany. I have to admit, that while having a rather vague idea of what Pentecostalism means for the US, I did not know how far it spreads in the country I live in. I didn’t even know how to translate “Pentecostalism” to German. It’s “Pfingsbewegung”, in case you wonder.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Should you, like me, not be entirely sure what Pentecostalism actually is, let me briefly freshen up your knowledge. Pentecost refers to the descent of the Holy Spirit on to the early Christians as described in the New Testament of the Bible. In the portrayed incident, which happened on Pentecost, originally a Jewish holiday that is also celebrated in Christianity to this day (In Germany, we know it as Pfingsten.), the Holy Spirit bestowed some of God’s powers on to the twelve apostles. Now, at the dawn of the 20th century, a growing number of individual Christians and congregations in the USA seemed to have been praying for another descent of the Holy Spirit. Over time the expectation of a nearing second Pentecost grew stronger. In conclusion, Pentecostalism draws a direct line to the early Christian church and takes the Holy Spirit and godly empowerment quite literally. 

When a Pentecostal congregation experienced phenomena that resembled the descriptions of the original events in Jerusalem, word traveled quickly and people believed that the second Pentecost had arrived. From this point on, the new church spread fast and new congregations popped up all over the globe. Only one year after the new church began to spread, the first quasi-Pentecostal service was held in northern Germany.

Christianity in Germany

Before we return to Pentecostalism in Germany, let me quickly describe the makeup of Christian religion in Germany in the early 20th century. Back then, roughly 60% of the German population were part of one of the several evangelical churches. The majority of the remaining 40% belonged to the Catholic Church, but there were also orthodox churches and other Christian manifestations. As Pentecostalism derives from Evangelicalism, it is important to say, that the Evangelical churches were not organized in a superordinate organization at the beginning of the 20th century.

The new Pentecostalism in Germany

Thus, the “new” movement did not find itself confronted with a united Christian body in Germany. One organization that opposed the spreading of Pentecostalism in Germany was the pietistic “Gemeinschaftsbewegung” (Community Movement), another quite powerful Evangelical church. It was highly skeptical of the spiritualistic features of Pentecostal services, which saw the congregation members being literally animated by the Holy Spirit. In an official statement, the Gemeinschaftsbewegung basically accused the Pentecostal churches of heresy. In the Third Reich, many Pentecostal churches and associations, some of which had been prohibited, joined together in larger organizations. This development continued after World War II. Although the Pentecostal churches are organized in an overarching body, in German law they do not count as one religious Organization, as e.g. the Catholic or the Evangelical Church. In Germany, singular Pentecostal congregations mostly call themselves “Freikirche” (Free Church), in order to clarify that they are not part of the German Evangelical Church. Theologically, the affiliation to the Pentecostal movement does not mean the different churches and associations cannot differ in their doctrines. In Germany it quite usual for women to become Pentecostal pastors. It is hard to estimate the actual number of Pentecostals in Germany. The larger umbrella organizations count between 3.500 and more than 50.000 members.

Pentecostalism in Germany - Die Pfingstbewegung
Culture

Foundations in Germany – Stiftungen

Foundations in Germany - Stiftungen
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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.

Foundations in Germany - Stiftungen
german language

German Auxiliary Languages – Weltdeutsch

Auxiliary Languages - Weltdeutsch
© Pixabay

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.

Auxiliary Languages - Weltdeutsch
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.    

Angela Merkel - The last Defender of the Free World
Europe

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.

Brexit - From a German Perspective
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.  

Unserdeutsch - The only Pidgin German