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Germany: Unique Through Unity
|by Satis Shroff|
I was very happy when I received an official invitation from the State Ministry of Baden-Württemberg (BW) with the text: Minister Mr. Winfried Kretschmann would be delighted if you could represent our state Baden Württemberg as a member of the BW-delegation at the central celebrations on the occasion of the German Unity from the 2nd till the 4th of October 2013 in Stuttgart.
The programme comprised an official greeting by the Ministerpräsident of Baden-Württemberg and his wife Mrs. Gerlinde Kretschmann at the town council place. This was to be followed by a mutual Swabian Maultaschen luncheon. After that a tour to the Mercedes-Benz Museum which was to end with a reception given by the Landtags-president of BW Mr. Guido Wolf. The first day of the invitation was to end at the joyous area called the ‘Ländermeile’ where all the states of the German federation were to present their respective culture and specialities.
Well, it was a privilege and honour to receive this invitation. I and the other members of delegation were greeted heartily by Ms. Jasmin Harz (Ministry of the State of BW) at the Maritime Hotel, Seidenstrasse 34. It was great to say that I came from the ‘Green City Freiburg.’ Marlena Maerz 19, a Badische Zeitung reporter accompanied us, as she wanted to write about our impressions of the celebrations. But since she didn’t have the accreditation at the security check, she was obliged to report from outside the police cordon. The same thing happened to a journalist named Nicole from the renowned German mag Der Spiegel. Stuttgart had ordered tight security with the Bundesgrenzschutz, private security men and women, and the local police posted at regular intervals along the route. Even the boy and girl scouts had to stand at attention in front of, and inside, the Stiftskirche.
Red carpets had been laid around the church as walked on them and took our seats inside. We had to wait a bit for the VIPs Kretschmann (Green), the German Federal President Gauck and the Chancellor Merkel (CDU) to arrive. The church bells rang, the national hymn was played and the Stift’s philharmonic orchestra and everyone stood still. The German anthem was to play a big role on this day also in the Liederhalle (Hal of Songs). The mess began with the song ‘Nun singt ein neues Lied dem Herren’ with text by George Thurmaier 1965, and music by Loys Bourgeois 1551. The congregation was greeted by the Landes-bishop Dr.h.c.Frank Otfried July followed by a music premier by Kay Johannsen ‘In deinem Lichte sehen wir.’
The blonde, short-haired Stephanie Roser danced with Levent Gürsoy a theme with the title ‘Zeugnisse.’ Then came the reality part with the theme ‘Experiences of Lack of Solidarity,’ which was followed by ‘Not all youth have good perspective today’ supported by Klaus Sommer and Anja Olbrich and the Girls’Cantorei from the Domkirche St. Eberhard.
Archbishop Robert Zollitsch warned the people that ‘we shouldn’t take the German Unity for granted.’ What I found authentic was when Zollitsch, referring to the times of the holocaust, said, ‘When I was a 6 years old, I saw people who were 16 to 60 years being killed. I grew up in a concentration camp with my Grandma. We managed to escape to Hungary to an evangelical community. Wounds need time to heal but the scars remain. To build an Europe together we need a lot of energy and power. Experience has shown us that God helps us. It was the people who brought re-union to our two countries and we have to learn to have faith in God. Peace and God be with us.’
The theme ‘People with disabilities want to be in the middle of the society’ was presented by Bernd Schatz and Sandra Walther with the musical assistance of the Freiburger Domsingknaben and the rather leptosome but dashing Kappelmeister Boris Börmann who was conducting the choir, evoked Heimat-feelings in my heart, since my children also sing the same choir. Ach, the children grow up so fast.
Thereafter, the programme changed towards reconciliation in politics between Germany and France with the ‘Border as a Barrier’ presented by Alfons Ruf and Helga Wollbaum. A schoolgirl from the German-French School spoke about togetherness, and of hope, in her bi-lingual school. The difficult times after the end of the World War II, and life in Saabrücken. Many people in France had shown empathy their former foes in recent times.
The Freiburger Domsingknaben sang a song composed by Frederick W. Faber (1814-1863) ‘Es ist Weite in Gott’s Gnade.’
Germany and France: From Foreigners to Friendship was the next theme followed by ‚Herr, deine Gute’ sung by the Stuttgarter Kantorei.
What I personally found disconcerting was the fact that the Brits, French and Germans killed each other through the use of military technology in both the World Wars, and when it was over prayed to the same God in the graves and killing-fields of the dead soldiers and civilists. The same holds for Hindus (India) and Muslims (Pakistanis and Afghans), Sunnites against Shiites, Israelis versus Palestinians.
More songs in prise of God followed sung by the Freiburger and the Stuttgarter choirs. The sign of peace was enhanced with music by J. S. Bach (1685-1750): Dona nobis pacem from the h-major mass.
There was bright sunshine outside and we walked to the sound of Virgil Fox (1912-1980). Then it was time for Germany’s politicians to mix a bit with the masses. Chancellor Merkel said that even years after the unity of the two Germanys ‘there are still big differences between the East and West parts of Deutschland.’ In her opinion there’s still a lot to be done.
Mr. Kretschmann (Green) said that the Federal Government should give the necessary assistance to all the fed states to carry out their respective financial projects. It has, and will be, lopsided as ever with Bavaria and BW financing the poorer fed states. But Kretschmann didn’t have an answer for the donor states (BW and Bavaria) that are permanently playing the role of the eternal donors to the other poorer states in the German federation.
During the central celebrations on the Day of German Unity the motto ‘Unique Through Unity’ became reality with ample speeches, theatre, dances and multi-medial performances everywhere in Stuttgart. We drove to the Culture and Congress Centre Liederhalle where the state-father of Baden-Württemberg Mr. Winfried Kretschmann gave a speech. Thereafter, he handed a symbolical baton to the head of government of Lower Saxony Mr. Stefan Weil (SPD), who’s administrative period begins in November.
The Federal President Joachim Gauck 73, began his speech with the history of the two Germanys in East and West, that had a common cultural heritage and history, but were separated due to power-political reasons. A case of capitalism versus communism ensued. It took time to grow and come together, and cost us perseverance, resistance and stamina. However, it was worth the effort: 23 years later after the unification we live in Deutschland where democracy and solidarity plays a big role. We know through the East and West Germany history, as well as the history of Baden-Württemberg, how enriching it is when an entire country develops out of many parts.
Joseph Hayden’s ‘Kaiserquartett’ haunted the performances in the Liederhalle. President Gauck said, ‘We have to believe in what we can do, and do what we believe.’ He demanded more activity from the forthcoming government in a world full of crises and break-ups. ‘Germany is not an island,’ he said and demanded that Germany should work more towards solutions and share its burden in politics, economy and military conflicts. Furthermore, he said that Germany should not make itself small, not go around risks and solidarity. He expressed his wish that Germany should fight for security of data in connection with the NSA espionage affair. (At the moment France is shocked and disgusted at NSA’s activities). The politicians should keep a balance between security and freedom, and data-security should be just as important as ecological protection.
In the evening we, from the BW-delegation, were invited to a reception by the Oberbürgermeister to take part in the cultural shows and culinary specialities from Stuttgart and its partner cities. DUNDU, a group of action-performers from Stuttgart, initiated the programme. There was non-stop music on the first-floor performed by Hope Theatre Nairobi & Friends. In the festival hall you could hear the strings of the harp, played by Johanna Geuppert. On the second floor was a speaking theatre of the music-theatre-class (Stuttgart Music School). The walking act, with the magician Riklini, was rather long, followed by Pater Noster, a variety show staged by Duo desolato.
The reception of the Öberbürgermeister took place in the Big Hall with the furious Interpretation Orchestra of Culture, and the beautiful Murphy Singers. I thought we’d landed in Crazy Horse Paris: here was beauty and aesthetic. The title of the piece was ‘Auf de schwäb’sche Eisebahne.’ ‘Welcome to Stuttgart’ turned out to be a greeting by Fritz Kuhn, the Green Oberbürgermeister (mayor) of Stuttgart was interesting but didn’t have the quality of a Herr Gauck, but since he was from Stuttgart, he had a certain and cheekiness. He pleaded to the Berlin politicians, who were also present, to bring at least 5-days for a cultural visit to Stuttgart.
‘Let the magic work on you’ was the motto of Falabares meet CoK, a contact jugglery. Falabares tried to make us speechless without using a language and to make us amazed with soap bubbles. The next attraction was ‘We are the World’ sung by the chic Murphy Singers, accompanied by the Orchestra of Cultures.
Fritz Kuhn had the last word and off we went to the reception on the third and fourth floors HANZ, a young blonde man with asymmetrical haircut, moderated and organised the programme. The delegation had a photo session with the Landtagspresident Guido Wolf MdL at the open-air arena of the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
Being a German of Nepalese descent, it was an excellent opportunity for me to experience how Stuttgart celebrated the German Unity Day. It was also a good occasion to meet the Federal President Dr. Joachim Gauck, Winfried Kretschmann (Green) and to see the Chancellor Merkel in action. To enjoy the Swabian Maultaschen (dumplings) at the Schillerplatz with Mr. Kretschmann, dinner with President Gauck at the Hebel Hall, and with Fritz Kuhn, Stuttgart’s Green mayor. It was a privilege and honour and I’d like to thank Frau Jasmin Harz and the other ladies and gents from the State Ministry (Stuttgart) for making this unforgettable event possible. It was a pleasure to meet and exchange views with the delegates from other parts of the country.
There were also emotional moments in the Liederhalle, when pictures were shown on the screen: of Germany in smoke and ashes, the construction of the Berlin Wall, the memorable images remain carved in our memories. East and West were represented by the moving music, how a nation was divided (Mauerbau) and how the two nations were united after the fall of the Berlin Wall (Mauerfall). These pictures combined with the music evoked strong emotions and moved you to tears, as they did in the case of the many delegates from the former GDR and BRD. It was a perfect scenario and script. We are a nation, was the message. Zusammen Einzigartig. Unique through Unity. This motto was understood by the delegation members who carried them in their hearts.
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