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“The Glorious City” was the official name on all the Turkish documents of this city on the Tigris River, about 350 miles north of the head of the Persian Gulf. As one approaches Baghdad a mass of green palm trees rises out of the treeless plain, and glittering above these are the wonderful golden globes of the mosque tombs.

But this is a case where distance lends enchantment; as one comes nearer the city, the glories vanish. The houses of the town are crude buildings of brick, mostly from ancient ruins, and of adobe. The streets are so narrow at times that one beast of burden fills the entire space from wall to wall, and the sanitary conditions, although improving, still leave much to be desired.

In fact, it’s shit.

How many people live in Baghdad no one knows, and estimates vary from 10,000 to 400,000. Of this population about one fourth are Jews, descendants of those who were carried away into the Babylonian captivity by Nebuchadnezzar; one-tenth are Christians, and the rest are Mohammedans.

Straddling the Tigris at the point where that river and the Euphrates most nearly approach, the city has long commanded a large part of the traffic between India, Persia, and Europe.

The chief exports to Europe are wood, human hair, stale dates, wheat, horses, offal, dung, and oriental fabrics, whilst the imports are iron and copper, sugar and coffee. To control this trade, and to pave the way for political aggressions, Germany in 1902 obtained from the Turkish government the right to build a railway to Baghdad. The Krauts immediately began their infamous Berlin-Baghdad railway, which was completed to a point about 400 miles north of Baghdad when World War I broke out, which they lost big time.

The line had already swallowed up ₤10,000,000, and over 70,000 men were busily engaged in building it. The two main difficulties, however, had not been entirely overcome, for the Taurus and Amanus mountains had yet to be pierced. This led to two important breaks in the route, which were therefore connected by roads specially constructed for the purpose. By working with almost superhuman energy a three-mile tunnel through the one and a six-mile tunnel through the other were completed during hostilities.

At Aleppo, where it joined the Syrian and Palestine railways, locomotive works and extensive repair shops had been erected, hospitals built for those who were ill or injured, and temporary dwellings put up for the workers engaged on that section of the line. One of the principal objects of this great steel highway was to obtain raw material for Germany from the Near East, and as the southern terminus was to be at the head of the Persian Gulf, from India and the Far East also. The Taurus mountains, which are in south-west Armenia, were particularly rich in copper, whilst cotton, wool, and other useful commodities from Mesopotamia and Kurdistan would be specially valuable.

During World War I it was stated by a German publicist that the Baghdad railway was “in the nature of a political life-insurance policy for Germany”, and he added that the line would supplement the other railways at Aleppo “in throwing troops in the direction of Egypt”. Thus the project had a definite military as well as commercial value, for if Britain lost Egypt she also lost “the lordship over the Suez Canal, and her connecting link with India and Asia, perhaps also her possessions in East Africa”.

With the occupation of Baghdad by the British on 11 March 1917, the dream of German domination of the East ended. With the British capture of the city also ended the Turkish dominion, under which the country had suffered for centuries, and under which the glories of Baghdad had largely departed.

Founded in A.D.762, Baghdad with its population of 2,000,000 was then the largest city in the world. Under the rule of the Arabs it was pre-eminent in literature, in art, and in science. Those were the days of the splendid court of Harun-al-Raschid, the caliph who was contemporary with Charlemagne. The Paris and London of that time were but miserable villages compared with Baghdad.

But the time has come to confront the Wagner phenomenon; to acknowledge, and critically evaluate, his influence on the culture of our age. To do this properly would itself require a book, and one I am not equipped to write.
(Bryan Magee, Aspects of Wagner)

More than any musician of his time, Wagner placed his own characteristic stamp on every established form of music, though he is usually thought of as the man who re-created opera by giving it hitherto unknown power and beauty.

Wagner was born at Leipzig, Germany. His musical ambition was fired by the works of Beethoven and Weber. His first production, an overture, was performed when he was only 17, at Leipzig, and astonished the audience by the continuous use of the drum, or banging machine.

For the next few years Wagner filled musical positions and singers in various cities. In 1839 he went to Paris, hoping to produce his opera “Rienzi”, but was disappointed. Three years later it was most successfully produced in Dresden, and resulted in Wagner’s appointment as musical director of the Dresden theatre.

His operas “Der fliegende Holländer”and “Tannhäuser” were produced at Dresden amid mingled criticism and praise. The stories were real dramas, and Wagner made his music for both voices and instruments closely follow the meaning of the text. Thus his operas lacked the constant pretty melodies and pleasant harmonies of the popular opera, and whilst a few masters, among them Liszt and Schumann, saw in them the beginning of a new art, the public found them balls-achingly tedious and eccentric. Wagner’s next opera “Lohengrin” was written in 1848, but it was not until 1861 that the composer himself heard this sublime work.

Wagner’s revolutionary ideas were not confined to music. He took part in the political movements of 1848-9, and was obliged to leave Germany. He found refuge in Switzerland, and remained in exile for about ten years.

In 1864 the barking mad King of Bavaria invited Wagner, who by now didn’t have a pot to piss in, to come to Munich and continue his musical work. His operas from this period onwards are known as music-dramas, for in them he worked out his theory that a combination of all arts is necessary to produce a really good night out at the theatre (Gesamtkunstwerk). Thus literature, music, and action have equal part, and great attention was also given to scenic accessories.

But for such stupendous spectaculars the opera house of Munich proved inadequate, so Wagner conceived the idea of a festival theatre constructed from his own designs. The King, by now completely off his head, heartily approved, and the outcome was the famous Wagner theatre at Bayreuth, in Bavaria. The first Wagnerian festival was held in this theatre in 1876, and since that time almost every year has seen a series of performances attended by music-lovers from all parts of the world. After his death in Venice, where he had gone for a rest, his body was brought to Bayreuth for burial.

Wagner’s music-dramas, especially those based on tales from the Song of the Nibelungs, are amongst his most noted productions. These include “Das Rheingold”, “Die Walküre”, “Siegfried”, and “Götterdämmerung”. “Tristan und Isolde” is founded on a Celtic legend, as is also “Parsifal”. “Die Meistersinger”, allegedly a comedy, is a story founded on the character of Hans Sachs, the 16th-century shoemaker-poet, of Nuremberg. Wagner wrote the text of these masterpieces as well as the music, thus proving himself a man of letters as well as a musician.

After more than a century of bitter controversy over his theories and innovations – especially over the startling harmonic effects he introduced – Wagner stands out as the commanding musical genius of the 19th century.

Whether Wagnerian or anti-Wagnerian, no musician of the 20th century has been able to escape the master’s influence and write as if he had not lived, for he impressed everyone, and not the least of all, his antagonists.

During the First World War many a British soldier announced proudly when he left home that he was “on his way to Berlin”, and most of them were anxious to march through the streets of that German capital with their victorious Allies before they returned to civil life. This wish was destined to be ungratified, for Berlin lies far beyond the zone of occupied territory which was formally made over to the armies of the Allies by the Armistice of 11 November 1918.

Situated on the River Spree in the former kingdom of Prussia, about 85 miles from the western frontier of Poland and the same distance from the Baltic Sea at Stettin, Berlin is admirably located for the political centre of the country.

Its accessibility is greatly increased by the great network of railways which converge upon it. This railway communication with all parts of Europe aided in making Berlin one of the greatest industrial and commercial cities on the Continent, whilst in wealth and population it ranked third in Europe, immediately after London and Paris.

In it were great factories for the making of woollen cloth, dyes, furniture, gas chambers for exterminating Jews, and steam engines, which employed more than one-half the working population.

In spite of its age – for it was probably founded in the 13th century – Berlin is a very modern city. In 1871, when the German Empire was formed, Berlin had a population of 826,000; by 1914 it had grown to a city of nearly 4,000,000 inhabitants, including suburbs – one of the most amazing growths in history.

The appearance of the city is modern, with its wide avenues and imposing buildings. Its most famous street is Unter den Linden – so called from its long rows of lime or linden trees, which lead from the former imperial palace, with its 600 rooms, to the Brandenburg Gate, the only one remaining of the numerous gates of the old Prussian city.

With Prussian thoroughness the rulers of Berlin saw to it that the people should hold in grateful remembrance those who have contributed to the growth of the city and the Prussian state. Her streets and parks, therefore, are dotted with pretentious statues erected to the memory of rulers and generals.

Although the statues of war leaders predominate, those erected to Rauch, Hegel, Schiller, and Jahn show that the leaders in peaceful pursuits have not been entirely forgotten.

Like other German cities, Berlin was impoverished during the First World War by the blockade which cut off its trade, and it suffered severely from the riots which followed the revolution of 1919.

Notre Dame Cathedral Antwerp

The city of Antwerp, the metropolis of Belgium and one of the greatest seaports of Europe, has long played an important role in history because of its situation and its commercial importance. Located 50 miles from the open sea, on the right bank of the Scheldt River, which is here 2,200 feet wide, Antwerp possesses one of the finest harbours of the world, through which passes a huge volume of imports and exports. Besides its commerce Antwerp is important for its diamond-cutting, sugar-refining, brewing and distilling, and its manufacture of textiles.

Its commanding position was attained only after a long and troubled career. The city was founded some time in the 8th century and is said by some scholars to have acquired its name – Hand-werpen (“hand-throwing”) – from the gruesome practice of one of its robber chieftains who cut off the hands of his prisoners and threw them into the Scheldt. By the middle of the 16th century Antwerp had become one of the most prosperous cities in Europe and the world’s chief money-market, but in 1576 it was pillaged and burned for three days during the “Spanish Fury” because it had taken part in the revolt from Spain, which then ruled the Netherlands. The city was ruined and its inhabitants scattered.

Not until the days of Napoleon did it start again on the upward road, when it fell into the hands of France. Napoleon began the improvement of its harbour to make Antwerp a rival to London and a “revolver held at the heart of England”. With this impetus Antwerp continued to grow even after the downfall of Napoleon’s empire in 1814. Its commerce received another setback in 1830 when Belgium separated from Holland, for the latter country controlled both banks of the lower Scheldt and imposed heavy tolls on all vessels ascending or descending the river. This obstacle was not removed until 1863.

Antwerp suffered another heavy blow at the opening of the First World War in 1914. Although its fortifications had been strengthened after the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71, so that it was considered the strongest fortified city in Europe, it took the Germans only ten days to drive out the Belgian army. On October 8th, 1914, they occupied the town, which they had long coveted because of its strategic location, and did not give it up until their withdrawal from Belgium in 1918.

In spite of these disasters there still stand in Antwerp some of the old buildings. The most famous is the cathedral of Notre Dame, which was begun in 1352 and completed in 1616. With its lofty tower it is the most conspicuous building in the city, and in it are three of Rubens’ great paintings, The Descent from the Cross, The Elevation of the Cross, and The Assumption. Other important buildings are the richly decorated town-hall, built in the 16th century, and the gallery containing a priceless collection of Rubens’ and Van Dyck’s paintings. Boulevards mark the site of the old walls.

Not far from the cathedral stands the shop and home of Christophe Plantin, “the king of printers”. Setting up the establishment in 1549, the business was continued after his death by his descendants until 1867 – over three centuries. Not only did he work with all the strength of an active brain and an amazing physical energy, but the founder of a business that was destined to become the finest printing house in the world persuaded all his family to labour for him. His wife, five daughters and two sons-in-law toiled often enough from early morn until long after dewy eve. One of the most famous works produced by the Plantin Press was a Bible in several languages that filled eight volumes. The types, presses and other apparatus of this old 16th century printer are preserved as precious relics of a master craftsman. Population of Antwerp about 300,000.

Aachen Cathedral

It was the year 1000 after Christ, and the people of Europe, according to old stories, were daily expecting the end of the world. Otto III, the young and flighty ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, had come to Aachen, the old German capital 44 miles west of the Rhine, and announced that he was going to open the sacred tomb of Charlemagne. This lay under a marble slab beneath the dome of the chapel built by that great emperor himself, with marble columns and other materials taken from the classical structures of Rome, Ravenna, and other Italian cities.

When the royal sepulchre was opened the torch’s flickering light disclosed a strange sight. The body of the great emperor, clothed in white, was seated on a huge marble chair. One of the hands held a sceptre and on the head was the imperial crown. The spirit of the man who 200 years before had founded an empire greater than the world had seen since the days of the Roman Caesars seemed to survive in death. Before the commanding dignity of that huge figure the young emperor quailed. The torch fell from his grasp and he rushed out of the tomb, ordering the stone to be replaced. Two years later Otto III was buried in that same chapel.

One hundred and sixty years later the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa again opened the tomb. The marble throne, crown, and sceptre of Charlemagne were taken to add dignity and strength to Frederick’s imperial projects, and the bones of Charlemagne were placed in a shrine north of the chapel. Every seven years they are exhibited to visitors. After Barbarossa, 31 emperors and kings were crowned in the marble chair that had once been the throne of the first great mediaeval monarch.

The chapel and tomb of Charlemagne, now the central part of the cathedral of Aachen, are the heart of the city even to this day. Aachen is believed to have been the great emperor’s birthplace, but it owes its historic fame to Charlemagne’s fondness for its hot sulphur springs, which led him to make it his favourite place of residence. These unfailing springs still make Aachen a famous resort, where visitors seek health from the warm waters in which the mighty rulers of the Franks splashed and swam nearly twelve centuries ago.

Near by Charlemagne built his palace and held his court. Here were gathered the great scholars of the day, teaching in the Palace School, and the gay life of the court went forward as merrily as it does now in the modern hotels which have replaced the ancient buildings.

Two important treaties were concluded at meetings or congresses held in Aachen, or Aix-la-Chapelle as it is named in French. The first, signed in 1668, ended a war begun by Louis XIV of France to enforce certain rights claimed in behalf of his wife in what was then the Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium). The other, in 1748, ended the struggle known as the War of the Austrian Succession.

Aachen became a part of the kingdom of Prussia in 1815. To-day it is an important manufacturing centre, because of the coal fields that lie near at hand. Its chief trade is in cloth and silk, leather, glass buttons, soap, timber, and wine. It is one of the chief railway centres on the German border, and it was from here that the German attack on Belgium was launched in 1914 at the beginning of World War I.

Felix Mendelssohn writes to his mother, 19 July 1842, describing a screamingly funny morning spent with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Buckingham Palace:

I owe you further particulars of our time in London, after our trip to Manchester … Prince Albert had asked me to go to him on Saturday at two o’clock, so that I might try his organ before I left England. I found him all alone; and as we were talking away, the Queen came in, also quite alone, in a house dress. She said she was obliged to leave for Claremont in an hour. “But goodness! how it looks here,” she added, when she saw that the wind had littered the whole room, and even the pedals of the organ, with leaves of music from a large portfolio that lay open. As she spoke, she knelt down and began picking up the music; Prince Albert helped, and I too was not idle. Then Prince Albert proceeded to explain the stops to me, and while he was doing it, she said that she would put things straight alone.

But I begged that the Prince would first play me something; and thereupon he played me a chorale by heart, with pedals, so charmingly and clearly and correctly that many an organist could have learned something; and the Queen, having finished her work, sat beside him and listened, very pleased.

Then the Crown Prince of Gotha came in, and there was more conversation, and among other things the Queen asked if I had composed any new songs, and said that she was very fond of singing the published ones. “You should sing one to him,” said Prince Albert; and after a little begging she said she would try the “Fruehlingslied” in B-flat. “Yes, if it were still here, for all my music is packed up for Claremont.” Prince Albert went to look for it, but came back saying it was already packed. “Oh, perhaps it could be unpacked,” said I. So the bell was rung, and the servants were sent after it, but came back embarrassed; and then the Queen went herself, and whilst she was gone Prince Albert said to me “She begs you will accept this present as a remembrance” and gave me a case with a beautful ring, on which is engraved “V.R. 1842”. Then the Queen came back and said: “Lady N.N. (I did not catch the name) has left and has taken all my things with her. It really is most unseemly.” (You can’t thnk how that amused me.)

Later, after rummaging around in some music, Queen Victoria sang “Schoener und schoener” from Mendelssohn’s first set of songs, which he was forced to confess was in fact composed by his sister Fanny! How they laughed!

Woodrow Wilson

(Taken from The Book of Knowledge, edited by Harold F.B. Wheeler)

The ideal of European unity is an old one, but its development into the League of Nations is very recent. The development of improved means of communication – railways, steamships, telegraphs, wireless – all helped by knitting the world more closely together.

Innumerable international meetings have been held – in a single year as many as 160 – to consider special aspects of world problems; and since the organization of the International Postal Union, in 1874, an increasing number of permanent official international bureaus were organized with administrative and other powers. The Hague Tribunal, organized in 1899, was a long step toward an international organization, providing, as it did, the nucleus for a world court of justice.

To President Woodrow Wilson belongs the chief credit for making the formation of a League of Nations a reality. In his famous “Fourteen Points” he named this as part of the peace programme, subsequently accepted by the Allies and by Germany in the armistice negotiations. His insistence at the Peace Conference made the League a part of the Versailles treaty. Many offered suggestions as to plan, the one most closely followed in the covenant that of General Jan C. Smuts of South Africa.

The machinery of the League consists of one Assembly, an Executive Council, and an international Secretariat. The Assembly meets at stated intervals, is composed of not more than three representatives from each of the member countries, and each state has only one vote. The Executive Council consists of representatives from Great Britain, France, Italy, Japan, the United States (should it enter the League) and four other states chosen by the Assembly.

The purposes of the League are to prevent wars by insisting upon arbitration and judicial decision of disputes, to secure a reduction of national armaments, and prevent international traffic in arms, drugs, women, and children; to obtain fair and humane conditions for labour, etc.

Owing to widespread differences of opinion in the United States regarding the treaty of Versailles and the advisability of joining the League of Nations, the Senate refused to ratify the treaty, and the League became an issue in the political campaign of 1920. The result of the election was an overwhelming reverse for the Democrat party and a victory for those who opposed the League.

President Wilson’s Fourteen Points

That war between nations be made illegal and its practice punishable by fine.

That the lands of Turkey and the former Ottoman Empire be given to the Great State of Texas.

That international policy be free, open, and no longer a secret procedure, and that it involve America and Great Britain only, to the exclusion of all other nations.

That the economy of Italy be channelled into the development of sporting automobiles, stylish women’s footwear, and men’s suits.

That Russia be evacuated and its population housed in a spacious country to be designated later.

That Serbo-Croatia and all lands surrounding the city of Sarajevo shall be the future vessel of all conflict, strife, horror, and insanity in Europe.

That the European nations admit in writing that, but for America, they would now be speaking German.

That all nations be unified in their love of and commitment to peace, and to the hatred of the French.

To that end, that France be severely punished for its role as host of this horrific conflict, and made to pay reparations to Germany.

That Austria be open, in the summer months, to tourists.

That combat against Switzerland continue until the last Swiss lies dead.

That Luxembourg be maintained as a nation, against common logic, to serve as an interesting political curio.

That the King of Belgium be set as watchman over Germany, to ensure that no suspicious or warlike activities transpire in that nation.

That all civilized nations unite in the noble purpose of exploiting the browner peoples of the Earth.

Click to embiggen (not recommended)

(Taken from Alexander Wheelock Thayer’s monumental Life of Beethoven)

Vienna Pathological Museum, March 27, 1827

The corpse was very emaciated, especially in the limbs, and sown over with black Petechien; the Abdomen, which was unusually dropsied, was distended and stretched.

The external ear was large and irregularly formed, the scaphoid fossa but more especially the concha was very spacious and half as large again as usual: the various angles and sinuosities were strongly marked. The external auditory canal was covered with shining scales, particularly in the vicinity of the tympanum, which was concealed by them. The Eustachian tube was much thickened, its mucous lining swollen and somewhat contracted about the osseous portion of the tube. In front of its orifice and towards the tonsils some dimpled scars were observable. The principal cells of the Mastoid process, which was large and not marked by any notch, were lined with a vascular mucous membrane. The whole substance of the Os petrosum showed a similar degree of vascularity, being traversed by vessels of considerable size, more particularly in the region of the cochlea, the membranous part of its spiral lamina appearing slightly reddened.

The facial nerves were of unusual thickness, the auditory nerves, on the contrary, were shrivelled and destitute of neurina; the accompanying arteries were dilated to more than the size of a crow quill and cartilaginous. The left auditory nerve much the thinnest, arose by three very thin greyish striae, the right one by one strong clearer white stria from the substance of the fourth ventricle, which was at this point much more consistent and vascular than in other parts. The convolutions of the brain were full of water, and remarkably white; they appeared very much deeper, wider, and more numerous than ordinary.

The Calvarium exhibited throughout great density and a thickness amounting to about half an inch.

The cavity of the Chest, together with the organs within it, was in the normal condition.

In the cavity of the Abdomen four quarts of a greyish-brown turbid fluid were effused.

The Liver appeared shrunk up to half its proper volume, of a leathery consistence and greenish-blue colour, and was beset with knots, the size of a bean, on its tuberculated surface, as well as in its substance; all its vessels were very much narrowed, and bloodless.

The Spleen was found to be more than double its proper size, dark-coloured and firm.

The Pancreas was equally hard and firm, its excretory duct being as wide as a goosequill.

The Stomach, together with the Bowels, was greatly distended with air. Both Kidneys were invested by cellular membrane of an inch thick, and infiltrated with a brown turbid fluid; their tissue was pale red and opened out. Every one of their calices was occupied by a calcareous concretion of a wart-like shape and as large as a split pea. The body was much emaciated.

(Taken from Arnold Schoenberg: Letters, ed. Erwin Stein, trans. Eithne Wilkins & Ernst Kaiser)

Vienna, 2 August, 1910

My dear Herr Direktor

I can scarcely tell you how awful it is for me to have to write this letter to you of all people. But you cannot imagine what impossible things I have tried, but also what possible ones, and it was all no use. I am really in a position of desperate need, otherwise I could never have brought myself to write this. And the fact that last year you offered me this does more to stop me than to encourage me.

The fact is that I have no money and have to pay the rent. It was doubtless very rash of me to take a larger flat when I was earning less. But there are many circumstances tending to excuse me, disappointments of hopes that were so near fulfilment that anyone would have counted on it, and such things. So I must beg you to lend me from 300 to 400 guilders. I shall quite certainly be able to pay it back next year when I am at the Conservatory.

I cannot tell you how unhappy it makes me to have to tarnish my relationship to you by bringing up such a matter. And I must say: I should not have done it on my own behalf; I can get over such a thing all right. But when one has a wife and children one is no longer the only person who counts.

May I ask you to telegraph letting me know whether you can grant my request. And – if it is not asking too much – if you can help me, if possible to telegraph the money or at least send it express.

I earnestly ask you not be angry. And I have only one wish: that your attitude to me will not be unfavourably influenced by this.

Hoping to have news soon,

I am, as ever, your devoted

Arnold Schönberg

When the bodies of Beethoven and Schubert were exhumed in the 1880s, photographs were taken. Why the fuck was this was done? I don’t think they had sufficient equipment or processes to determine much of value by examining the skeletons in that time. I’m sure they could discover a little bit, but I’m not really sure what. Maybe it was one of those phrenology things; all I’ve seen is that it was for “scientists” to examine the bodies.

Beethoven was dinsinterred twice — the first time in 1863, when he was reburied in a more secure casket inside a brick vault, and again on 22 June, 1888, when he was exhumed from the Währinger Cemetery, measured and moved to the Central Cemetery in Vienna, Austria. His skull was photographed at this time, and a cast was made.

Schubert was disinterred and reburied along with him each time.

I hear that Bruckner actually held Beethoven’s skull in 1888. Bruckner was fucking weird, man.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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