Fall 2008 | Issue 17

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A Magazine from the American Academy in Berlin | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008



Ten Years

of Berlin Prize


In this issue:

H.G. Adler

Leora Auslander

Patty Chang

Robert Finn

Kenneth Gross

Lawrence F. Kaplan

Lawrence Lessig

Daniel Mendelsohn

Sam Nunn

Adam Posen

Dennis Ross

David Warren Sabean

Volker Schlöndorff

A Magazine from the American Academy in Berlin | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008



Ten Years

of Berlin Prize


In this issue:

H.G. Adler

Leora Auslander

Patty Chang

Robert Finn

Kenneth Gross

Lawrence F. Kaplan

Lawrence Lessig

Daniel Mendelsohn

Sam Nunn

Adam Posen

Dennis Ross

David Warren Sabean

Volker Schlöndorff

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 1


The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Courtesy of the artist and the guggenheim Museum

Rachel Rabhan, Dream Warriors: Jacob vs. the Angel

8 sam nunn details the strategic necessity of

working together to rid the globe of nuclear


14 volker schlöndorff offers an intimate

glimpse of a youth spent transfixed in

Parisian cinématèques.

18 leora auslander explains approaching

history through domestic objects often


22 lawrence f. kaplan argues that the

Surge plan in Iraq was honed on the

ground, years before it became official


29 daniel mendelsohn envisions an

alternate life for his Uncle Shmiel and

Aunt Ester. An unpublished excerpt from

The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million.

N1 On the Waterfront

The Academy’s newsletter, with the

latest on fellows, alumni, and friends, as

well as happenings in and around the

Hans Arnhold Center.

34 patty chang explains her fascination

with a Chinese actress and a mistranslated

encounter with Walter Benjamin in 1928.

38 lawrence lessig stumps for sensible

copyright reform amidst booming

electronic creativity.

43 kenneth gross visits the myriad stages

of Berlin and reports on the city’s dramatic


50 dennis ross discusses both sides of

the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – and why

stalemate is so often the result.

57 h.g. adler (1910–1988), the

modernist Czech novelist who

survived Theresienstadt and Auschwitz,

re-imagines a family’s dark ousting. A new

translation by alumnus Peter Filkins.

64 david warren sabean probes the ways

Western kinship has oddly shifted family


70 adam posen reframes Germany’s

distracting obsession with being the


74 robert finn breaks open some

mysteries surrounding Central Asia

and argues for the region’s incipient

geopolitical importance.

81 Donations to the Academy

2 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

We gratefully acknowledge The Halle Foundation’s

special grant in support of the

anniversary issue of the Berlin Journal.

Director’s Note

A New Optics


The Berlin Journal

A magazine from the Hans Arnhold

The American Academy

in Berlin

Center published twice a year by

Executive Director

the American Academy in Berlin

Gary Smith

Number Seventeen – Fall 2008 CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE


Publisher Gary Smith

Philip Blood

Editor R. Jay Magill Jr.

Chief Financial Officer

Managing Editor

Jens Moir

Katharina Pilaski

Associate Editors

Laura Kolbe, Bettina Warburg

Am Sandwerder 17–19

14109 Berlin


Tel. (49 30) 80 48 3-0

Coralie Wörner, Berit Ebert

Fax (49 30) 80 48 3-111

Design Susanna Dulkinys &


Printed by Ruksaldruck, Berlin

Copyright © 2008 The American



14 East 60th Street, Suite 604

New York, NY 10022

Academy in Berlin

Tel. (1) 212 588-1755

ISSN 1610-6490

Fax (1) 212 588-1758

Cover: Detail of a sculpture by

Berlin-based Japanese artist

Chiharu Shiota; hundreds of shoes

stuck to a building in Berlin Mitte.

Photo (from 2008-09-25) courtesy of

John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images.

Honorary Chairmen Thomas L. Farmer, Henry A. Kissinger,

Richard von Weizsäcker

Chairman Richard C. Holbrooke

Vice Chair Gahl Hodges Burt

President Norman Pearlstine

Treasurer Karl M. von der Heyden

Trustees Barbara Balaj, John P. Birkelund, Manfred Bischoff,

Diethart Breipohl, Stephen Burbank, Gahl Hodges Burt,

Caroline Walker Bynum, Gerhard Casper, Mathias Döpfner,

Marina Kellen French, Michael Geyer, Richard K. Goeltz, Vartan Gregorian,

Andrew S. Gundlach, Franz Haniel, Karl M. von der Heyden,

Richard C. Holbrooke, Stefan von Holtzbrinck, Josef Joffe, Michael Klein,

John C. Kornblum, Regine Leibinger, Lawrence Lessig, Nina von Maltzahn,

Erich Marx, Wolfgang Mayrhuber, William von Mueffling,

Christopher von Oppenheim, Norman Pearlstine, David Rubenstein,

Volker Schlöndorff, Fritz Stern, Tilman Todenhöfer, Kurt Viermetz,

Manfred Wennemer, Klaus Wowereit (ex-officio), Pauline Yu

Honorary Trustee Otto Graf Lambsdorff

Senior Counselors Richard Gaul, Franz Xaver Ohnesorg,

Bernhard von der Planitz, Karen Roth, Yoram Roth, Victoria Scheibler

To appropriate an insight from Walter Benjamin’s

essay “Moscow”: more quickly than Berlin itself, one learns

to see America through Berlin. To someone arriving in

the German capital, the city seems calm and untroubled. More

Wings of Desire than Symphonie einer Großstadt. Its architectural

incoherence is in part the consequence of warfare, but also

of battles over building heights and cosmopolitan aesthetics

in a city rich in Schinkel and Knobelsdorff, and, meanwhile,

Scharoun, Rossi, and Piano.

“What is true of the image of the city and its people,”

Benjamin continues, “applies also to the intellectual situation:

a new optics is the most undoubted gain from a stay.” Yet Berlin

is a city in flux, “always becoming, and never is,” as critic Karl

Scheffler observed in 1910. Berlin’s fondness for the unfinished,

openness, and reinvention oft seems American, whether

in its emulation of Chelsea galleries in the Zimmerstrasse,

the splattering of graffiti reminiscent of Manhattan subways

decades ago, the entrepreneurial dynamism spawning schools

of governance, universities of energy, and underground clubs.

Scheffler saw in Berlin’s ambitious urban culture of modernity

the desire to meld “the cultural conscience of Europe with

America’s sense of reality.”

Americans are confronted with many Americas in Berlin;

we learn to observe and judge Europe, but also to experience

America through many optics. A stay in Berlin becomes a

touchstone for every American scholar, writer, and artist –

just as Berliners are reminded by their rich diversity of the

Whitmanesque breadth of our country.

The Academy welcomed its first class exactly ten years ago

thanks to the resourceful determination of Richard Holbrooke

and the distinguished Germans and Americans he recruited

to establish an enduring post-Cold War American cultural

and policy presence in Berlin. The Academy, both private and

independent, has become a tribute to the generosity of many

who care deeply about the Atlantic bond, none more so than the

family of the great private banker Hans Arnhold and his wife,

Ludmilla, whose magnanimous commitment has greatly contributed

to the Academy’s viability and excellence.

We were gratified when Der Spiegel recently described the

Academy as “the most important center of American intellectual

life outside the United States.” In the coming decade

we will try to do justice to that high praise, to build upon

the optimism and striving for excellence that exemplifies

America’s Berlin.

– Gary Smith

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8 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New york

The Race Between

Cooperation and


A plea from the co-Chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative

By Sam Nunn

Adam Bartos, Soyuz TM 28, 8/13/1998, Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 9

At the dawn of the nuclear age,

after the devastation of Hiroshima

and Nagasaki, General Omar

Bradley said, “The world has achieved

brilliance without wisdom….We know

more about war than we know about peace,

more about killing than we know about


It might have surprised General

Bradley, if he were alive today, to know that

we have made it sixty years without another

nuclear attack. Thousands of men and

women worked diligently on both sides of

the Iron Curtain to prevent nuclear war, to

avoid overreacting to false warnings, and

to reduce risk.

We were good – we were diligent – but

we were also very lucky. We had more than

a few close calls. By far the most dangerous

was the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis,

but there were a number of other edge-ofdisaster

moments on both sides during

the cold war. Making it through sixty

years without a nuclear attack should not,

however, make us complacent. If we are to

continue to avoid a catastrophe, all nuclear

powers today will have to be highly capable,

careful, competent, rational – and, if

things go wrong, lucky – every single time.

We do have important global efforts

underway, and some important successes:

the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat

Reduction program, the Global Threat

Reduction Initiative, the Proliferation

Security Initiative, and the Global

Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

While these all mark progress and potential,

the risk of a nuclear weapon being

used today is growing, not receding.

The storm clouds are gathering: terrorists

are seeking nuclear weapons, and

there should be little doubt that if they

acquire a weapon, they will use it. There

are nuclear weapons materials in more

than forty countries, some secured by

nothing more than a chain-link fence. At

the current pace, it will be decades before

this material is adequately secured or

eliminated. Moreover, the know-how and

expertise to build nuclear weapons is far

more available today than ever before

because of an explosion of information

and commerce.

Add to this the fact that the number of

nuclear weapons states is increasing. A

world with twelve or twenty nuclear weapons

states will be immeasurably more dangerous

than it is now. It will also increase

the likelihood that weapons or materials

will fall into the hands of terrorists with

no return address. Cyber-terrorism also

poses new threats that could have disastrous

consequences if the command-andcontrol

systems of any nuclear-weapons

state were compromised.

With the growing interest in nuclear

energy, a number of countries are considering

developing the capacity to enrich

uranium as fuel. Yet this would also

give them the capacity to move quickly

to a nuclear weapons program if they so

chose. Meanwhile, the United States and

Russia continue to deploy thousands of

nuclear weapons on ballistic missiles

that can hit their targets in less than

thirty minutes, encouraging both sides

to continue a prompt-launch capability

that carries an increasingly unacceptable

risk of an accidental, mistaken, or unauthorized


With these growing dangers in mind,

former US Secretaries of State George

Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former US

Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, and I

published an op-ed in January 2007, and a

follow-up piece in 2008, in The Wall Street

Journal. It called for a different direction

for our global nuclear policy with both

vision and steps.

The four of us, and the many other

security leaders who have joined us, are

keenly aware that the quest for a nuclearweapons-free

world is fraught with

practical and political challenges. As The

There are nuclear weapons

materials in more than

forty countries, some

secured by nothing more

than a chain-link fence.

Economist wisely wrote in 2006: “By simply

demanding the goal of a world without

nuclear weapons without a readiness to

tackle the practical problems raised by it,

ensures that it will never happen.”

We have taken aim at the practical problems

by linking the vision of a nuclearweapons-free

world with a series of concrete

steps for reducing nuclear dangers

and carving a path towards a world free

of the nuclear threat. Without the bold

vision, the actions will not be perceived

as fair or urgent. Without the actions, the

vision will not be perceived as realistic or


While we do not believe that our

example is likely to inspire Iran, North

Korea, or al-Qaeda to drop their weapons

ambitions, we do believe that it will make

it more likely that nations will join us in

a firm approach to stop the proliferation

of nuclear weapons and materials and to

prevent catastrophic terrorism.

This will be a challenging process

that must be accomplished in stages. The

United States must keep nuclear weapons

as long as other nations do. But we will be

safer, and the world will be safer, if we are

working toward the goal of deemphasizing

nuclear weapons and keeping them

out of dangerous hands – and ultimately

ridding our world of them.

Strategic cooperation must become

the cornerstone of our national defense

against nuclear weapons. This is not

because cooperation gives us a warm and

fuzzy feeling, but because every other

method will fail. None of the steps we are

proposing can be accomplished by the

United States and our close allies alone:

–– Changing nuclear-force postures in

the United States and Russia to greatly

increase warning time and ease our

fingers away from the nuclear trigger.

–– Reducing nuclear forces substantially

in all states that possess them.

–– Moving toward developing cooperative,

multilateral ballistic-missile defense

and early-warning systems to reduce

tensions over defensive systems and

enhance the possibility of progress in

other areas.

–– Eliminating short-range “tactical”

nuclear weapons, beginning with

accountability and transparency among

the United States, NATO, and Russia.

–– Working to bring the Comprehensive

Test Ban Treaty into force in the United

States and other key states.

–– Securing nuclear weapons and materials

around the world to the highest


–– Developing a multinational approach

to civil nuclear fuel production, phasing

out the use of highly enriched

uranium in civil commerce and halting

the production of fissile material for


–– Enhancing verification and enforcement

capabilities – and our political

will to do both.

–– Building an international consensus

regarding ways to deter and, when

necessary, strongly and effectively

respond to countries that breach their

commitments. fi

10 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New york

Adam Bartos, Oleg Ivanovsky’s memorabilia, Moscow, 1996


believe that we cannot defend

ourselves against the nuclear threats

facing the world today without taking

these steps. We cannot take these steps

without the cooperation of other nations.

We cannot get the cooperation of other

nations without the vision and hope of a

world that will someday end these weapons

as a threat to mankind.

The most difficult and challenging step

is the need to redouble our efforts to resolve

regional conflicts that give rise to new

nuclear powers. The obvious candidates

can be found readily in Asia, Africa, and

the Middle East. We also must urgently

address the security concerns that give

existing nuclear powers the reasons or

excuses to keep their nuclear weapons operationally

on the front burner, which in turn

causes much of the world to believe that we

are not living up to our Nonproliferation

Treaty commitments.

There can be no coherent, effective

security strategy to reduce nuclear dangers

that does not take into account Russia – its

strengths, weaknesses, aims, and ambitions.

So, it is remarkable – and dangerous –

that the United States, Russia, and nato

have not developed an answer to one of the

most fundamental security questions we

face: What is the long-term role for Russia in

the Euro-Atlantic arc? Whether caused by

the absence of vision, a lack of political will,

or nostalgia for the cold war, the failure of

both sides to forge a mutually beneficial and

Welcome to the end of the

Cold War: battlefield nukes

are still in vogue and, for the

first time, both Russia and

NATO have reserved the right

to use nuclear weapons


durable security relationship marks a collective

failure of leadership in Washington,

European capitals, and Moscow.

During the cold war, the United States

spent trillions of dollars containing communism

and preserving freedom. Our

European allies – particularly Germany –

devoted a large portion of territory and

national treasure for the same purpose.

While the cost was immense, it paid off. We

preserved freedom, and we avoided a war

that could have escalated to a nuclear holocaust.

In our military defense of Western

Europe, nato was one of the most successful

alliances in history. Our members

shared the same security goals, and we

were all dedicated to containing communism

– even though we were not all democracies.

We had a clear perspective of our

vital interests, and for more than forty years

we were able to give priority to these interests

over other concerns that were often in

the headlines, but not vital.

Former US Secretary of State Dean

Acheson once defined foreign policy

as “just one damn thing after another.”

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote that the most

common form of human stupidity is forgetting

what one is trying to do. nato today is

a combination of both sentiments: it faces

one damn thing after another, but unlike

during the cold war, it seems that we are

not quite sure what it is we are trying to do.

We have not developed a sustainable postcold

war security strategy.

nato operations in Afghanistan are

crucial to the future of that country and to

the security and credibility of nato, but

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 11

Courtesy of the artist and Yossi Milo Gallery, New york

Adam Bartos, NPO Energomash, Moscow, 1996

success is doubtful without a larger economic,

political, and military effort. nato

has many important priorities, but I believe

the priority that must be at the top of our

list is to prevent the spread of weapons

of mass destruction and to prevent catastrophic

terrorism by keeping dangerous

nuclear weapons material out of the hands

of terrorists.

If we are to succeed in dealing with

the hydra-headed threats of emerging

nuclear weapons states, proliferation

of enrichment, poorly secured nuclear

material, and catastrophic terrorism, many

nations must cooperate. We must recognize,

however, that these tasks are virtually

impossible without the cooperation of

Russia. It is abundantly clear that Russia

faces these same threats and that its own

security is dependent on cooperation with

nato and the United States. Russia’s erosion

of conventional military capability has

led it to increase dependency on nuclear

weapons, including tactical battlefield

nuclear weapons. And now Russia has

declared – as nato did during the cold

war – that it may use nuclear weapons first.

Welcome to the end of the cold war:

battlefield nukes are still in vogue and, for

the first time, both Russia and nato have

reserved the right to use nuclear weapons

preemptively. Together, are we inadvertently

and unthinkingly headed back to the


Winston Churchill once said, “However

beautiful the strategy, you must occasionally

look at the result.” I believe that nato,

the United States, and Russia must look at

both the trajectory and the results of our

current policies.

As nato prepares for its sixtieth anniversary,

we must address a fundamental

question: In the years ahead, does nato

want Russia to be inside or outside the Euro-

Atlantic security arc? The Russians must

ask themselves that same question. If we

both answer “outside,” then our strategy

is simple: we both just keep doing what

we are now doing. If the answer is “inside,”

we and Russia must make adjustments in

strategy informed by answering, at least,

the following questions:

1. From a nato and US perspective, is the

early entry of additional members to the

alliance more important than gaining

Russia’s cooperation on reducing clear

and present nuclear risks – including

preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear


2. From nato’s perspective, does the

expansion of membership to distant

states obligate us to incur enormous

increases in defense budgets or to be

forever committed to cold war concepts

of deterrence, including the possible

first use of nuclear weapons? Are we

really examining the security implications

of expansion over the long term,

or has this become primarily a political


3. From a Russian perspective, is it wise

to keep pressuring its neighbors so that

they hurry to join the strongest alliance

available today – in the form of nato?

Ratcheting up the pressure in various

ways on Ukraine or Georgia does not

encourage those countries to work with

Moscow. Instead, it drives them to seek

nato’s protection. Is this what Russia

really wants?

4. Can the West, which stood together

coherently and tenaciously during the

entire cold war, manage to stand for fi

12 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

rule of law and human rights today

without giving the Russian people the

impression that we are lecturing them?

Can we accept Henry Kissinger’s advice

to avoid the “American tendency to insist

on global tutelage” while we work on

crucial issues with Russia that affect the

security of the US and our close allies?

5. Can Russia avoid the temptation to

employ its emerging energy superpower

status to achieve political ends? Will it

become a reliable and responsible market

participant following the rule of law?

6. Are we and Russia destined to continue

the assumption that Russia will

always be outside the Euro-Atlantic

security arc?

The common interests of the

United States, Europe, Russia, China,

Japan, and many other nations are

more aligned today than at any point in

modern history. I believe that we must

seize this historic opportunity and act


In an age fraught with the dangers of

nuclear proliferation and catastrophic terrorism,

global security always depends

on regional security. Twenty years after

the fall of the Berlin Wall, establishing a

more cooperative and productive relationship

with Russia will require leadership in

Europe and the United States. Historically,

Germany has been at the center of the

nato alliance; today it can play a unique

bridge-building role in encouraging nato

and Russia to begin to ask – and answer –

these questions.

The use of a nuclear weapon

anywhere will affect every nation

everywhere. The reaction of many

people to the vision and steps to eliminate

the nuclear threat comes in two parts: on

one hand they say, “That would be great.”

And the second thought is: “We can never

get there.”

To me, the goal of a world free of nuclear

weapons is like the top of a very tall

mountain. It is tempting and easy to say,

“We can’t get there from here.” It is true

that today in our troubled world we can’t

see the top of the mountain.

But we can see that we are heading

down, not up. We can see that we must

turn around, that we must take paths leading

to higher ground, and that we must get

others to move with us.

Anzeige – Berlin Journal – CSR Dachmotiv englisch – 210 x 135 mm – 27.08.2008, 14:15 Uhr

Nearly twenty years ago, President

Ronald Reagan asked an audience to imagine

that “we were threatened by a power

from outer space – from another planet.”

He then asked: “Wouldn’t we come together

to fight that particular threat?” After

allowing the scenario to sink in, President

Reagan came to his point: “We now have

a weapon that can destroy the world. Why

don’t we recognize that threat more clearly

and then come together with one aim in

mind: how safely, sanely, and quickly we

can rid the world of this threat to our civilization

and our existence.”

If we want our children and grandchildren

to inherit a world without the

threat of nuclear disaster, our generation

must begin to answer Reagan’s question

right now. µ

Sam Nunn is a former US Senator from

Georgia and the current co-Chairman of

the Nuclear Threat Initiative. This essay

is adapted from a speech he delivered

in Berlin at the Hotel Adlon on June 12,

2008, as a guest of the American Academy.


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14 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

A Moviegoer in Paris

Recollections from a youth awakened by the cinématèque

By Volker Schlöndorff

As much as these memories

sound very La Bohème, the experience

itself was as hard to live

through. Studying in Paris had nothing to

do with the sweetness of Pucini, nothing to

do with the “gay Paree” of American movies.

The whole thing was closer to the poverty

of the nineteenth century – to Mimi’s

tuberculosis and to Verlaine’s absinthe –

than to the happy anarchy of the late 1960s.

There were no empty rooms in Cité

Universitaire’s student housing, the bourgeoisie

didn’t rent to students, and group

living was not yet known, so we had to bunk

in cheap hotels. Or we rented cramped

quarters that used to shelter domestic servants

under the roofs of Paris. Agnes Varda

made her first movie, La Mouffe, in the rundown

old section of the city, where I had

found a room. The houses were decrepit,

held up by heavy beams leaning across the

street; the entire architecture looked like

the stage set of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Nailed onto a small door wedged

between two support beams, an enamel

sign read “Entre de l’Hotel.” In the shop

next to the entrance was a librairie Africaine.

Through its tarnished windows one

could barely make out masks and spears

lying around. A dark hall lead to a rickety

wooden staircase. An arrow pointed to an

office on the first floor. There you picked up

the key from an Algerian family that was

responsible for building maintenance and

room cleaning. Only North African guest

workers lived in this “hotel.” Two more

staircases led to the next story. On each

floor was a squat toilet so tiny that to actually

use it you had to balance yourself on

the floor, wedge your back against the pipe

behind you, and smash your knees against

the door. My room, at the end of the hall,

was furnished with an iron bed, a washtable

with bowl and pitcher, and a small

bureau. The window, which did not close

all the way, opened to the back yard. And if

you extended your arms, you could touch

both walls of the neighboring house.

The only place I could read was in bed.

We went to the libraries to study. There

was the impressive and intimidating

Bibliothèque Ste. Geneviève, which was

part of the Sorbonne; the much adored

library of the Centre Culturel Américain,

which was good for flirting; and last, but

not least: the sober reading room on the

Rue d’Ulm, which was like being inside the

hull of a steamship, its tireless iron-piped

heating system perpetually knocking and


The lectures at the university were

mandatory for me: the stipend I had for

400-Deutschmarks a month required I

attend – and that is what covered my living

expenses: 100 Deutschmarks went to the

hotel, the same amount went for meals in

the Israeli cafeteria at the university, and

the rest I could spend as I wished. I could

even save a little bit.

But the evenings were when my real

studies began: at 6:30, 8:30, and 10:30,

the Cinématèque Français on Rue d’Ulm

showed movies. I still have copies of the

yellowed programs from 1958–1960 with

all the movie titles and my notes scratched

all over them. There must have been a

thousand movies I saw during those two

years. The entrance fee was about one

Deutschmark. Soon enough, though,

I wouldn’t even have to pay that.

It was Lotte Eisner, the wonderful film

historian and colleague of Henri Langlois,

the director of the film museum, who

somehow noticed me. She introduced me to

Fritz Lang and hired me as an interpreter/

translator. This meant that I sat with my

microphone in the first row and tried to

follow the film’s dialogue. The scene titles

of German silent movies were easy; the

movies with sound were more difficult. But

Fritz Lang’s M and Josef von Sternberg’s

Der Blaue Engel were screened so often that

I did better with each showing.

A specialty was Kurosawa’s movie Ikuru,

which only existed as a copy of the Japanese

original with German subtitles. This classic

was screened so frequently that soon I

knew it by heart. To this day I can still recite

most of the dialogue. This story of a cancerridden

employee who wanted to do one last

thing became one of my favorite films. A

few years ago I wanted to purchase the

rights to remake it, but Steven Spielberg got

there faster.

It was the silent movies I loved the most.

They emitted something magical. The

actors were the ones about whose faces

Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard says

“We had faces!” They flickered like abstractions,

huge and silent on the screen in front

of hand-painted sets. And nearly all of them

were dead. The silence in the theater was a

deadly silence. The hum of the projectors

was like that of gears that grinded down

time. The passions and feelings of these

phantoms were thus even more intense and


Outside scenes were just as unreal in the

overexposure of old black-and-white copies,

regardless of whether they were made

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 15

Courtesy of Hanser Verlag and Volker Schlöndorff

in the birch forests, like in Gösta Berling’s

Sweden, city landscapes in Brooklyn, or

on the bridges of Paris. I wasn’t able to

memorize exact content or story lines;

I only remember the atmosphere, scene

sequences, various situations, and totally

disconnected views: the white in the eye of

the Andalusian dog, the deserted steppes

in Storm over Asia, the young and pudgy

Garbo who brushes her face against her fur

coat in Freudlosen Gasse, Fred McTeague’s

brutal mug in Greed, the rowboat on the

Marne in Renoir’s film, a slithering and

flexuous bride in Asphalt, a dew-covered

apple on a branch in Dowschenko’s Earth.

Here it was: lost and rediscovered time,

immortalized in the moment, the awakening

of an unquenchable desire that left a

nostalgia for some past era.

During these years I saw an average of

three movies a day. The traumatic experiences

occurred when I saw a movie the

first time: “On Thursday, May 21, 1959, at

10:30 in the evening: saw Faust for the first

time. Captivating, the elegance of a resolution

that permits one scene to flow visually

into the other,” I noted like a smartass.

“Astonishingly big close-ups, changing

with magical camera movements – driving,

crane, and even flight.”

Not one word about the actors, whom

I discovered much later – namely, on

March 20, when Faust was screened again.

Now I noticed the tender and proud face

of Gretchen, played by Camilla Horn;

the wonderful affectation of Mephisto,

played by Emil Jannings; and the down-toearthness

of Gösta Ekman’s Faust.

Other movies impressed me more.

I wanted to discover a new world, one I

Volker Schlöndorff circa 1956

did not yet know: The New Babylon, for

example, by Kosinzew and Trauberg. Or

the artistic extreme of Stroheim’s Blind

Husbands, his Wedding March, or Buñuel’s

L’age D’or. And always that deep Germanic

tragedy of fate found in Fritz Lang, the

wickedness of Pabst. But then on one hot

summer evening came Nosferatu. It was

July 2, 1960, at 10:30pm, and my blood

froze in my veins for the misery of those

poor, eternally fleeing souls.

For the first time, I was not just an

observer, but really inside the movie. I had

this feeling soon again in Letzter Mann,

regardless of Jannings’ histrionic performance.

What drew me in was the free-roaming

camera that went through the revolving

door; what moved me was the old man on

the tiled bathroom floor. He could have

been the brother of Watanabe in Ikiru, or of

– I just realized this – Willy Loman, Arthur

Miller’s salesman.

I didn’t have a lot to translate in Letzter

Mann; there was just one scene title. How

literal Murnau’s movie style, how true

his melodrama – this is something I

understood only later. I experienced these

movies in a state somewhere between fi

16 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

wakefulness and dreaming. Others in the

audience must have felt the same, because

when the lights went on, their silence was

sustained. Only by low whispers and fluttering

blinks did we slowly return to the reality

of the shabby movie theater. In the bright

light it was we who looked like ghosts.

It was a tight-knit community, but one

nonetheless divided into sects. Sitting in

the first row – with legs outstretched– were

the purists, the film historians. This group

was further divided into those that followed

the socio-political ideas of Georges Sadouls,

and those that insisted on experiencing

movies simply, according to a purely aesthetic

criteria. A few Germans appeared

regularly: Enno Patalas, Frieda Grafe,

and Ulrich Gregor, all of whom borrowed

their criteria from the Frankfurt School,

Rudolph Arnheim, and Siegfried Kracauer.

Lotte Eisner was their idol, and it was she

who introduced us.

In the first third of the movie theater

were the Cahiers du Cinema people, who

always arrived in a small group – collars up,

closed coats, arms crossed, sitting with conspiratorial,

dogmatic sternness. Truffaut

was there only on occasion. But Jean-Luc

Godard, Claude Chabrol, Eric Rohmer,

Charles Bitsch – they were there quite often.

Michel Delahaye and Louis Marcorelles

were individualists, outsiders that sometimes

came with the Cahiers people and

sometimes with the rival clan of the Positif

people, all centered around Pierre Rissient

and Michel Ciment. They sat with deliberate

coolness, sunk deep into their seats,

legs hanging over the back of the row in

front of them. They celebrated the sensuality

of the movie, the adventurousness of the

great Western filmmakers, and the women,

who were not just beautiful but, of course,

“heavenly, sublime, eternal, fantastic, phantasmagorical,

otherworldly” – no matter if

they were Louise Brooks, Rita Hayworth,

Ida Lupino, or Gloria Graham.

As long as it was dark in the movie

theater, we were all under a spell, like the

school class in Fellini’s Amarcord – the

theater, a dark womb. But as soon as the

lights went on, the rude insults began

to fly. They called each other troglodytes,

cavemen, lobotomized idiots, traitors, and

criminals, because they differed in their

analyses of the movies and their authors.

This intensified into show fights and dialectical

theater battles whenever the director

Henri Langlois and his companion Marie

Meerson introduced esteemed guests after

a movie: Abel Gance, Fritz Lang, William

John Malkovich, Dustin Hoffman, Volker Schlöndorff, and Michael Ballhaus on

the set of Death of A Salesman

Filming of Michael Kohlhaas, 1968: Volker Schlöndorff, David Warner

Wyler, Raoul Walsh, Nicholas Ray, and, one

time, even Jean Renoir.

The great American filmmakers were

impressive because of their silence. They

didn’t have to add any message, testimony,

or “deeper meaning” to their movies. It

took years until they took the admiration of

their French intellectual fans seriously.

At one opening, the greats Fritz Lang

and Luis Buñuel were both present. Lotte

Eisner wanted so badly to introduce them.

She said to Buñuel, “Look, over there! It’s

Fritz Lang.” And standing next to Fritz

Lang, she gestured towards Buñuel. But

because one of them was blind and the

other one deaf, neither one of these masters

of sight and sound could acknowledge the

other. µ

Volker Schlöndorff, the renowned German

filmmaker, is a trustee of the American

Academy in Berlin. This adapted English

translation is from his new autobiography,

Licht, Schatten und Bewegung, (Hanser

Verlag, 2008). Translation by Tanja Maka

and R.Jay Magill, Jr.

Courtesy of Hanser Verlag and Bioskop

Courtesy of Hanser Verlag and VS DIF Collection


Culture creates

the closest bonds.

Wir freuen uns mit der American Academy

über das kulturelle Miteinander.

18 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

History from Things

How everyday objects lead one historian to her craft

By Leora Auslander

Shinique Smith, Untitled (Rodeo Beach Bundle), 2007

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 19

© Shinique Smith. Courtesy of the artist and Yvon Lambert New York, Paris, London

many other Jews, I could often distinguish

Jews from non-Jews by their carriage, clothing,

and speech styles, as we moved around

the world. I was also fascinated (and, of

course, hurt) by the frequently shocked

reactions of my non-Jewish friends when

they encountered my observance of a version

of Jewish dietary law. Why did how

one dressed, what one ate, whether one

shook hands or embraced (or didn’t touch

at all) upon greeting and parting, silently

and unconsciously build either unity or


It was to answer those basic – and,

I would later learn, complex – questions

that I became a historian. In retrospect I

should perhaps have chosen anthropology,

but as a teenager I didn’t know exactly what

that was. By the time I reached college I

was stubbornly committed to the historical

profession. And as a young Jewish woman

from suburban Boston who was fascinated

by difference, I chose to study a past that

reflected that interest: medieval Christian

Did kids who grew up protected by aggressive glass

or who looked through barred windows become different

from those who saw trees or plummeting pigeons?

At age fifteen I wanted to become

a historian; I can still remember

why. My family lived and traveled

abroad extensively, and I keep in my mind’s

eye the views from various bedroom windows:

the beautiful oak tree I saw from

my bed in our suburban New England

home; pigeons free-falling from a neighboring

apartment building in Paris’s 14th

arrondissement; shards of broken glass

atop the wall surrounding the house we

inhabited briefly in Mexico City’s Zona

Rosa; the red roses blooming, to my amazement,

in Montevideo’s mild winter; the feet,

wheels, and occasional hooves that passed

by our basement flat in London.

With each new home not only did these

intimate views change, but so did what I

experienced as I walked to school. In some

places I followed paths through a built

environment little more than a century old;

in others, that daily route took me in front

of buildings standing for seven or eight

hundred years. In some places, the humanmade

cohabited with the natural world; in

others it overwhelmed it. I came to wonder

as an adolescent about the impact of these

different views: were Europeans somehow

different from North and South Americans

because their built environment was so

old? Because there was no more wilderness?

How did encounters with a cathedral

influence a person’s sense of time, of place,

and of God? Did kids who grew up protected

by aggressive glass or who had to look

through barred windows become different

from those who saw trees or plummeting


Equally striking to me then was the

salience of the passing elements of material

culture and everyday life – clothing,

food, posture, gestures – that would make

people either belong to or not belong to a

certain group. Some things were national:

one could identify North Americans from

a block away on the streets of Mexico City,

Tel Aviv, Paris, or Aachen. They didn’t

dress, walk, stand, or gesture in the same

way as those who had grown up in those cities.

Some of the affinities and boundaries

between people were transnational. Having

grown up in a Jewish household, and sometimes

in neighborhoods where there were

Western Europe. Its distance from the contemporary

United States was one source of

attraction; another was the relative paucity

of written sources. That I found the scarcity

of documentary texts a positive feature of

the medieval period may appear perverse,

since it obviously limits the issues that can

be addressed.

When historians seek an answer to a

question, they most often turn to texts. The

nature and content of queries are also, of

course, profoundly but unconsciously influenced

by the primacy of the evidentiary

word. Once the research is done, the results

are also reported in prose. Historians

tend to pay relatively little attention to the

visual and spatial qualities of the texts they

generate. They may include images, but if

so, those will most often be illustrations

of the arguments made verbally; rarely are

visual materials used to convince. Graduate

students are trained to use an archive, decipher

challenging handwriting, and read

texts critically; they are not usually taught

how to interpret space, place, object, building,

or image. While these generalizations

hold for historians who lived during the

early modern and modern periods, they do

not for historians of the ancient and fi

20 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

medieval periods in Europe, nor for those

of pre-colonial Africa or South, Central,

and North America. Among Europeanists,

medievalists have tended to be far more

eclectic in their source base than most.

Studying Medieval and Renaissance

Studies at the University of Michigan as

an undergraduate, I was allowed to roam

among buildings, listen to music, enjoy

illuminated manuscripts and tapestries.

The distance from the world in which I

actually lived, however, became less appealing

to me as I grew older and more politically

engaged. After a year of graduate study as

a medievalist, I decided to leave academia –

permanently, I thought at the time – to seek

more direct engagement with material culture

and politics. I decided to learn a trade,

with an eye towards becoming involved in

union organizing and other forms of collective

action. I began working as a cabinetmaker

in a factory near Boston.

It was the early 1980s, and I assumed

that my co-workers would be contesting

hours, wages, and working conditions

through union organizing. I soon discovered,

however, that although they would

have appreciated improved material circumstances,

they were far more distraught

about the aesthetic failure of their labor.

They found the objects we made ugly,

devoid of artistry or imagination, and useless.

The workers’ response to this form of

the alienation of labor was not to organize

collectively but to stay in the factory after

hours, using the machines and stealing

wood to make things they considered

beautiful and useful. Two colleagues built

guitars – one acoustic, the other electric –

while another crafted a maple sled with

runner carved from bubinga, an African

wood. A fourth even redid the interior of

his ’72 Ford in mahogany veneer. It was

these objects that established respect

among the workers in the factory and

gave them satisfaction, these objects that

allowed them to talk with pride about their

mastery. I eventually moved on to other

cabinetmaking jobs, but my co-workers

at F. W. Dixon left me with the question

that continues to drive my work today:

what are people really doing when they

design, make, buy, sell, use, destroy, and

write about or sketch objects of style, that

is, objects that are not purely functional?

To put it simply: what do things mean? It

was the same question I had been asking

myself for decades.

So I went back to academia. And in trying

to puzzle out this question over my

career, I can say that I have come the closest

to something resembling a satisfying

answer by studying the work of scholars

of the mind, including psychoanalysts,

psychologists, and phenomenologicallyinclined

philosophers. They all start with

an assumption that there are certain traits

shared by human beings across time and

space resulting from our universal embodiedness.

Because we are all born small and

dependent, grow and mature relatively

slowly, and eventually die, and because we

exist in three-dimensions and possess five

senses, we share a common relation to the

material world. One crucial shared attribute

resulting from this form of embodiedness

is a need for objects: human beings

need things to individuate, differentiate,

and identify; human beings need things to

express and communicate the unsaid and

the unsayable; human beings need things

to situate themselves in space and time, as

extensions of the body (and to compensate

for the body’s limits), as well as for sensory

pleasure; human beings need objects to

effectively remember and forget; we need

objects to cope with absence, loss, and

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 21

death. These things carry such affective

weight that in virtually all societies, key

transitional moments – birth and birthdays,

coming of age ceremonies, weddings, and

deaths – are marked by the transmission

of objects.

“Transitional objects” – most famously

Linus’ blanket in the Peanuts cartoon – provide

a clear and familiar example of coping

with absence. These objects literally

embody absent parents until the child is

able to keep the parents securely present in

his or her mind’s eye. The panic generated

by even the temporary loss of these objects

is such that parents become as obsessed

with them as their children and look forward

to the moment when they will no

longer be needed. It is not so certain, however,

that people ever outgrow their need

to transmute into objects those they love.

These materializations of love objects only

change form. Adult psyches, facing permanent

loss by death, often lodge the mourned

person in his or her left-behind clothing.

This is an ambivalent relation, however. We

expect things to outlive us, embodying and

Historians seeking to understand the meanings of

migration, war, and natural disaster may find in the evidence

of things a guide to how such events were lived.

carrying a trace of our physical selves into

a future in which we are no longer present.

Yet the continued existence of intimately

used objects – pens, eyeglasses, jewelry,

toothbrushes – can be both cruel and comforting.

In the short-term they move us to

tears; in the long-term they provide a sensory

experience of continued contact. The

rings I never take off, which belonged to

my dead grandmothers, provide a daily connection

to them, as if our fingers could still

touch. A novelist’s account of a forsaken

lover taking a pair of scissors to a closetful

of left-behind clothes is an economical,

instantly comprehensible way to communicate

the character’s rage and despair.

The absent or dead do of course live on in

memory, but a dematerialized memory is

both fragile and unsatisfying to human

beings who are, after all, of flesh and blood.

Even in literate societies, people use (and

need) three-dimensional objects, as well

as familiar sights and smells, as memorycues

– souvenirs in the most literal sense.

Historians seeking to understand the

meanings of migration, war, natural disaster,

and even of urban renewal may find in

the evidence of things a guide to how such

events were lived by their protagonists.

Struggles against the loss of even terribly

dilapidated housing, claims for the restitution

of lost homes and lost property, and

dangers risked by refugees to carry “mere”

things with them would be more accurately

interpreted if historians took the psychological

meanings of objects and homes more

seriously. In my own work, most recently on

French and German Jews reclaiming their

ransacked possessions after World War II,

I have tried to honor the memories that

objects make and contain by doing so. µ

Leora Auslander is a professor of

European Social History at the

University of Chicago and the fall

2008 Berthold Leibinger Fellow at the

American Academy.

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22 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

The Colonels’ War

Prior to becoming official policy, the Surge plan in Iraq had been in operation for four

years – but nobody in Washington was listening

By Lawrence F. Kaplan

Courtesy of US Army

US Army meeting with Sons of Iraq leaders in southern Baghdad. Photograph by staff sgt. brent williams

For all the euphoria that has

accompanied the elevation of General

David Petraeus and the success of his

“surge” strategy in Iraq, for years prior, less

senior commanders – typically colonels,

commanding brigades, or battalions – had

been translating the essential tenets of

his counterinsurgency manual into facts

on the ground. Yet most of these success

stories, because they ran counter to the

earlier policy of “standing down” (handing

over control to Iraqi forces, often without

condition and regardless of consequence),

were purposefully discounted. As Colonel

Pete Mansoor, a member of Petraeus’ brain

trust, summarized the era before his boss

arrived in Baghdad: “Our forces were

poorly positioned, on large bases, unable to

protect the Iraqi people.”

The assertion contains a kernel of truth,

but just that. America’s problem in Iraq

was never a lack of military prowess. The

problem was confusion – at the top – over

how to use it. The laissez-faire policies

embraced by Generals Ricardo Sanchez

and George Casey created a self-defeating

tautology in the management of the war.

On the one hand, and because it was so

entirely disconnected from reality, the

guidance to “stand down” all but forced

commanders to innovate. With no strategy

to guide them because no strategy had

been offered, Army colonels operated on

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 23

their own, their brigades fighting their

own wars – some successfully, others

disastrously. One would patrol constantly;

another would never leave the wire; and

another would get things just right. On the

other hand, when innovations did result,

they would be minimized, ignored, or summarily


That is, until Gen. Petraeus finally

enshrined them in official policy. Alas,

The twisted road to the surge

begins, even by the account of

Petraeus supporters, two years before

he assumed command, in a small city

along the Syrian border in northwest Iraq.

Until recently, the better units in Iraq multiplied

in direct proportion to their distance

from the war managers in Baghdad, and

in 2005 that was very much the case in Tal

Afar, where the Third Armored Cavarly

stations across the province fell to insurgent

attacks, and Tal Afar itself fell under

guerilla control. On the western side of

the city, tension between Sunni and Shiite

tribes escalated into open warfare. The

remnant of the Shiite-dominated police

force launched brutal reprisals against

the population. Forces loyal to Abu-Musab

Zarqawi moved into the city, mounting

their own campaign of atrocities: killing

Courtesy of US Army


US and iraqi special operations preparing for an air assault. photograph by army specialist michael howard

he did so about four years too late. Hence,

the awful question that may double as the

epitaph of the US enterprise in Iraq: What

if there was one true path all along? If there

was, historians will trace it back through

Ramadi in 2006 and Tal Afar in 2005.

These places and others – Mosul, South

Baghdad, Sinjar – shared this: commanders

who walked away from Army doctrine,

becoming, in effect, strangers to their own


Regiment (3d acr) had planted itself in the

center of the city.

For a glimpse of what Iraq looked like

under the “stand down” strategy, one

need to have looked no farther than Tal

Afar, where, in 2004, the Americans did

exactly that. The city, like Fallujah before

it, quickly descended into a horror show.

With only 400 soldiers from the 25th

Infantry Division patrolling the roughly

10,000-square-mile sector around it, police

patients in the local hospital and beheading

hostages. Then, in September 2005, the

cavalry arrived.

Police headquarters in Tal Afar is located

on the grounds of a centuries-old Ottoman

castle, which sits on a large hill in the center

of the city. From its parapets, one can

usually see the entire city, but on this particular

wintry day in late 2005, it is pouring

rain, and even tanks slide in the mud.

The castle houses Tal Afar’s mayor, fi

24 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

MAnned us checkpoint. photograph by staff sgt. tony white

Najim Abdullah Jabouri. The power has

gone out, and it’s freezing and nearly pitch

black, but Najim seems relieved just to

be here. Only a few months ago, he says,

“Zarqawi was ejecting Shia from the city

and the sky; it was raining mortars.” Today,

3d acr has Tal Afar locked down, with

tanks on street corners and patrols crisscrossing

the city. “The American Army is

mediator and judge,” the mayor says. “It

is a higher authority than any institution

in Iraq.” So desperate, in fact, is the mayor

to block 3d acr from leaving that he has

penned a letter to President Bush, pleading

for the unit to stay. “We are under-trained,”

he explains. “[We’re] nowhere near the

situation where we can take care of our

own responsibilities.” One hears the point

constantly. But it’s given fresh punctuation

when the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi

Army open fire on each other outside the

castle gate.

Courtesy of US Army

Still, the violence in

Tal Afar has declined

sharply. Following 3d acr’s

operation to retake the city,

attacks dropped immediately

from seven per day

to one. At first the city’s

Sunni leaders refused to

cooperate with US forces,

citing the brutality of a

Shiite commando brigade

operating in the area. The

commander of 3d acr,

Col. H.R. McMaster, had

the brigade pulled back,

and he released detainees

the sheiks would vouch

for. In addition, explains

Lt. Col. Christopher Hickey,

whose Sabre Squadron

operates out of the castle

that houses police headquarters,

“I knew I needed

Sunni police to get information

from the population.”

After pressing local

leaders to encourage police

recruits, Sunnis began to

sign up; eventually their

ranks swelled an exclusively

Shia force of 200

into a majority Sunni force

of 1700. And, as Hickey

predicted, intelligence

tips began flowing in. The

regiment also poured millions

of dollars into the city,

funding water, electricity,

school, and cleanup projects.

At the same time, it

embedded advisers with

Iraqi army and police units.

Personnel lived among

Iraqi platoons and among

the population itself, having

fanned out across the

city and establishing 29

patrol bases – including

directly between warring

Sunni and Shiite tribes.

Having melted into a once-hostile

population center, the Americans became

an essential part of the landscape – their

own tribe, in effect. Seen from a helicopter

roaring above Nineveh province, telephone

wires provide the only evidence of modernity

among the ancient forts, castles, and clay

huts that dot the plain below. In this primitive

universe, it’s easy to confuse the door

gunners, their aviation helmets embla-

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 25

zoned with Superman logos, with the real

thing – which some Iraqis did: the Yazedi,

a regal and persecuted people living in

Ninevah, wedged between tribes of Sunnis

Arabs, Turkomen, Shia, and Kurds, initially

confused the arrival of the Americans with

the Second Coming.

To be sure, 3d acr, which a Pentagon

review of dozens of units in Iraq rated

as the most adept at counterinsurgency,

hardly counts as a typical unit. There is,

to begin with, the commander himself,

whom, but for the fact of his existence,

only a novelist could invent. Col. McMaster

is an Army legend three-times over – for

decimating a Republican Guard division

as a tank company commander during

the Gulf War, as the author of a canonical

text within the ranks (Dereliction of Duty,

a bestseller that scored the Joint Chiefs of

Staff for not challenging Lyndon Johnson’s

march to war in Vietnam), and now for

pacifying Tal Afar. With his raspy voice,

profane mouth, and head shaved bald, he

bears a closer likeness to the brusque officers

that Robert Duvall brought to life in

Apocalypse Now and The Great Santini than

to the tweedy scholar on the book jacket

that made him famous.

When it comes to the operational realm,

McMaster freely concedes to drawing

from the Army’s experience in Vietnam.

“The important thing that emerges from

Vietnam is that the political, economic,

and military have to go together,” he

says. “You have to isolate insurgents from

external support. …You have to provide

security for the population.” Which is

exactly what he did in Tal Afar, having

adapted the principles of counterinsurgency

in his unit’s tactics well before the

term returned to favor in Washington. In

an Army that spent three years launching

big-unit sweeps, hunkering down in

bases, relying heavily on firepower, and

otherwise heeding then ground commander

Gen. Thomas Metz’s admonition

not to “put much energy into trying the old

saying ‘win the hearts and minds,’” 3d acr

did exactly the reverse. In March 2006

President Bush devoted an entire address

to the remote outpost’s lessons, offering it

up as a model for his new “clear, hold, and

build” strategy.

Then an odd thing happened: nothing.

Rather than enshrine the lessons

of the city in a coherent approach to the

war, officials in Washington and Baghdad

argued that US forces were supposed to

be moving out of the cities, not into them.

In any case, the counterinsurgency template

in Tal Afar could never be duplicated

outside of Tal Afar. But it could – and it

was. Anbar province, which America’s

Baghdad-centric policy always regarded as

something of an outlier, offered a prime

example. In August 2006, Marine colonel

Peter Devlin authored a subsequently

leaked report – “State of the Insurgency in

Al-Anbar” – which described al-Qaeda as

an “integral part of the social fabric” and

cautioned that “nearly all government

institutions from the village to provincial

levels have disintegrated or have been

thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated

by al-Qaeda in Iraq.” Applying textbook

methods of counterinsurgency to Anbar’s

capital, the 1st Brigade Combat Team,

1st Armored Division (1-1AD) reversed

the trend.

It’s now the second week of

December 2006, yet apart from a palm

tree strung with Christmas lights outside

the headquarters of 1-1AD, Ramadi

shows no trace of the season. But at the

house of Sheik Abdul Sittar, nothing can

interrupt the festive spirit, or the sheik.

Waving a lit cigarette, the former al-Qaeda

ally has been advertising his fealty to the

American cause for nearly an hour now. He

insists his militia be set loose alongside the

Marine river patrols that ply the Euphrates

each night. “We burn the terrorist boats

now!” Sittar shouts. Army Colonel Sean

MacFarland, a lanky man from upstate New

York with an uncommonly self-effacing

demeanor for a brigade commander, gently

declines the offer. “Then give me one helicopter,”

the sheik suggests. “We will fight

in Baghdad!” Encouraged by MacFarland’s

chuckles, Sittar claps excitedly. “After

that, we fight in Afghanistan, we fight in


Alas, Sittar’s military challenges run

somewhat closer to home. Even as he

offers MacFarland his transcontinental

assistance, the sheik’s walkie-talkie

crackles and panicked tribesmen on

the other end relay news of insurgents

besieging them at a nearby police station.

MacFarland gestures quietly toward

a captain across the room, who hurries

outside. “We’ll bring in air,” MacFarland

assures the sheik, who’s so busy shouting

and being shouted at that it isn’t clear

he actually hears the soft-spoken colonel:

“So, um, get your men inside so we

don’t hit them.” In the space of a couple

of minutes, radio antennae relay a flurry

of coordinates; one of the Marine F-18’s

always on station above Ramadi banks

toward the insurgents; a 500-pound bomb

incinerates them; smoke swirls. As Sittar

paces the courtyard with his walkie-talkie,

broadcasting orders for an operation his

American counterpart has already brought

to a decisive end, MacFarland surveys the

sand-blown landscape. “The sheik’s a little

bit of a warlord,” he shrugs.

No one directed the colonel to recruit

hitherto enemy sheiks to the American

side, much less to raise a local force with

their tribesmen. He just thought up the

idea and did it. MacFarland has courted

such figures relentlessly. When 1-1AD

arrived in Ramadi in the summer of

2006, six cooperative tribes and twelve

hostile ones welcomed the brigade. By

December it boasted the support of fifteen

and the enmity of just three. Of the tribal

leaders whose allegiance MacFarland

has gained, Sittar wields by far the most

America’s problem in Iraq was never a lack of military

prowess. The problem was confusion – at the top –

over how to use it.

power. The sheik heads up an alliance

called the “Awakening,” a collection of

Anbar tribes who have thrown in their

lot with the Americans. Seated beneath

the Awakening’s gilded flag, which he

designed and which features a sword,

scales of justice, and less explicably, a

coffee pot, he recounts his three arrests

by the Americans. How, then, was he

converted to the cause of his one-time jailers?

Sittar credits al-Qaeda’s excesses in

Ramadi – including the murder of two of

his brothers (Sittar himself was murdered

in 2007) – and the fact that “the old US

leadership here was a disaster, but now the

Americans work with us.”

Another of Ramadi’s powerful sheiks,

Ahmed Bezia – who, unlike Sittar, favors

Western attire and has built himself a

full-scale replica of 1600 Pennsylvania

Avenue, albeit painted salmon – explains

that, in a gathering of Ramadi’s elders, the

sheiks signed a document pledging, in

Ahmed’s words, “that any US losses are

tribal losses.” And, indeed, later at his fi

26 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

headquarters, MacFarland displays a map

of Ramadi color-coded to reflect tribal

boundaries. Pointing to the Western outskirts

of Ramadi, he explains, “We were

hit almost every day in these places before

[the alliance], but we haven’t been hit

there in months.” Pressed on the wisdom

of essentially handing Ramadi over to

militias with no allegiance to the central

government in Baghdad, MacFarland says

simply, “There is no government here.”

At the time, Gen. Petraeus’s

yet-to-be published counterinsurgency

manual advised recruiting

police forces from the local population,

but MacFarland had already taken the

practice to its furthest boundary in

Ramadi, where tribes even had their

own police stations. The success of the

strategy could be gleaned in the number

of recruits swelling the ranks, which

contained 140 officers in May and by

December boasted over 2000. To check

on their progress, Lt. Col. Jim Lechner – a

squat, bulldog of a commander whom

MacFarland plucked from a tank and

installed as his deputy and chief diplomat

– leads a patrol to Ramadi’s al-Jazeera

police station.

A few months ago a suicide bomber

ignited an oil-truck at al-Jazeera’s gate,

drenching the station – along with its

Iraqi and American tenants – in burning

fuel. 1-1AD would soon christen a

new station here, but, in the meantime,

Ramadi’s police chiefs have gathered for

a meeting down by the river, about a mile

away. Lechner sets off on foot, proceeding

down a dirt road that winds through

a dried-up orange grove and toward the

bank of the Euphrates, where a dozen or

so police chiefs wait in a circle of plastic

chairs. They set on Lechner, complaining

that Baghdad refuses to pay their latest

recruits. “I am Sheik Sittar’s cousin,” one

shouts. “I represent him!” The chiefs

crowd closer, but Lechner seems unfazed.

“This is nothing, a tantrum,” Lechner says.

“I’ve had a hundred of them throw their

weapons in the dirt.” Even this low-grade

riot conceals progress: in a war where

police recruiting drives often do not generate

a single applicant, the day’s uproar

comes as the result of a recruiting glut.

In Tom Ricks’ book Fiasco, 82nd

Airborne Division commander Maj. Gen.

Charles Swannack recounts how he cautioned

that “al-Anbar province wasn’t

ready for [a counterinsurgency campaign],

and may [never] be, because they didn’t

want us downtown.” Taking a cue from

McMaster, though, MacFarland has

upended Swannack’s admonition, putting

nearly all of his combat forces in the

downtown of Anbar’s most dangerous

city. The logic is straightforward: the path

to defeating an insurgency runs through

the population, without whose support

insurgents can be forced to fight in the

open. Securing control of the population

depends, in turn, on guaranteeing its

physical security and – through social programs,

civic assistance, and the like – its

“hearts and minds.”

Another patrol through Ramadi neatly

illustrates how the theory works. The

areas where 1-1AD has yet to erect combat

outposts (cops) contain no trace of life

whatsoever. En route to cop Falcon in

western Ramadi, the landscape resembles

one of those aerial photos of Berlin in

1945. Only, seen from the ground, the

devastation appears even more thorough.

Then something unreal happens: a block

of utter devastation gives way to a block

that bustles with shops, women carrying

bags of groceries – the everyday vibrancy

of a living community.

cop Falcon, which consists of a couple

of abandoned homes and a row of tanks

parked in a bulldozed clearing, oversees

the avenue, guaranteeing its security and

functioning as a magnet for daily life. In

the days after the cop was first established,

explains Captain Michael Bajema, “we had

taxis full of gunmen, fifty at a time, coming

at us.” But the violence receded once the

next cop went up a few blocks away. It’s

a familiar pattern: the insurgents contest

each new cop – MacFarland has built 24 in

all – but eventually fall back to areas with

no American presence. Now, says Bajema,

“people tell us where ieds are, who planted

them, everything.” Since 1-1AD’s arrival,

enemy attacks have declined by 40 percent,

ied attacks by 60 percent. Tellingly, the

violence now centers around the only two

neighborhoods where the brigade has

yet to install cops – a shrinking zone, as

Americans now control 80 percent of the

city, compared to the 15 percent when 1-1AD

first arrived.

What McMaster accomplished

in Tal Afar and MacFarland

achieved in Ramadi eventually

will become the basis for a theater-wide

counterinsurgency strategy that, by

early 2008, begins to generate indisputable

battlefield successes. With the

operational clock in Iraq and the political

clock in Washington so badly out of

sync, however, time had nearly run out in

the United States. Where all this leads is

clear. Writing in Parameters, the journal

of the Army War College, Col. Stuart

Herrington (Ret.), notes that “having

wasted more than three years (until 1968)

pursuing a flawed strategy, the Pentagon

lost the support of the American population,

and was not given the time to get it

right, even when it was clear that General

Creighton Abrams’ pacification and

Vietnamization approach might have


Herrington does not blame the

American public, but rather the three

wasted years that collapsed its will. In Iraq,

too, the Army leadership wasted more

than three years pursuing a flawed strategy

– this, even as it refused to acknowledge

that commanders like McMaster

Then something unreal happens: a block of utter devastation

gives way to a block that bustles with shops, women

carrying bags of groceries – the everyday vibrancy of a

living community.

and MacFarland had been employing the

correct approach from the outset. By the

time the generals noticed, it was too late.

With the American public exhausted, the

solution to the war in Iraq could no longer

be found in the realm of technique, or anywhere

else. µ

Lawrence F. Kaplan is the editor of World

Affairs and the author of a forthcoming

book about four US Army brigades in

Iraq. He was a David Rubenstein Foreign

Policy Forum Distinguished Visitor at the

American Academy in spring 2008.

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 27




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Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 29



An alternate ending for Aunt Ester and Uncle Shmiel

By Daniel Mendelsohn

Courtesy of the artist and the guggenheim museum

Rachel Rabhan, The Garden of Eden: Adam + Eve

30 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Lost:

A Search for Six of Six Million,

traces the author’s journey

over four continents,

thirteen countries, and five

years, as he tried to learn

precisely what happened to

his great-uncle Shmiel Jäger

and his family, a family of

Jews living in eastern Poland,

during the Holocaust. In

the following passage – cut

from the final manuscript

and published here for the

first time – Mendelsohn

interrupts his historical

account of Shmiel and his

wife, Ester, to imagine, briefly,

an alternative fate for the


Shmiel, of course, we know a little

by this point. In the prime of his life

he was haughty, a bit of a show-off, a

man who liked to be noticed, who enjoys

being a somebody in the town, the head

of the butchers’ cartel, a man who doesn’t

mind if people’s nickname for him is the

Król, the king, a person who very likely

thought, until the very end, that returning

to Bolechow from New York was the best

decision he’d ever made. He was tall, as

was (we now know) his second daughter,

Frydka. Later on, as we also know, things

became difficult, and to this difficult period

belongs the Shmiel of the letters, a vivid

if perhaps a slightly less appealing figure

than the earlier, more grandiose figure, a

middle-aged and prematurely white-haired

businessman and the brother, cousin,

mishpuchah to his many correspondents

in New York, with whom he was reduced,

as time went on, to pleading, hectoring,

cajoling rather desperately and, it must

be said, a little pathetically as he tried to

find a way to preserve his family or, indeed,

even a small part of it, the children, even

one daughter, the dear Lorka. (Why her?

Because she was the oldest? Because she

was the favorite? Impossible to know, now.)

I can now report that

almost nothing remains

of this woman, apart from

a handful of snapshots

and the fact that someone

had said she was very warm

and friendly.

Still, at least it’s possible to hear

Shmiel’s voice, through the letters. Of

his wife, our great-aunt Ester, very little

remains, now – at least in part because

years ago, in my grandfather’s Miami

Beach, I didn’t want to talk to a woman

called Minnie Spieler who (as I learned by

accident, thirty years later) was Ester’s sister.

Having now talked to every living person

still alive who had the opportunity to

see and know her, however obliquely, I can

now report that almost nothing remains of

this woman, apart from a handful of snapshots

and the fact that someone had said

she was very warm and friendly; a woman

who, I can’t help thinking as I contemplate

the utter erasure of her life, would, in the

normal course of things, have died of (let’s


pressearbeit rednervermittlung


Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 31

say) colon cancer in a hospital in Lwów

in – I’ll won’t be overly generous here –

1973, at the age of 77, having only once

made the long and difficult journey to the

United States, in (say) 1969, a trip made

not without certain exasperating bureaucratic

frustrations typical of Communist

Poland, the country in which Bolechów

ended up, frustrations about which she

and Shmiel (who at 78 is a bit stooped and

quite deaf and, although nobody knows it

yet, riddled with the pancreatic cancer that

will kill him two months after they return

home to Bolechów) will have everyone

laughing uproariously at my mother’s

kitchen table on Long Island during

the big family reunion that my mother

organizes, that day in 1969, to welcome

to America the storied Uncle Shmiel and

Aunt Ester, Uncle Shmiel who went back

to the old country!, my grandfather always

says of his beloved older brother, laughing

with a little incredulous shake of his head;

the big welcome that my mother hosts

that day, with the platters of smoked fishes

and the glasses of whiskey and schnaps

and my grandfather and Shmiel sitting on

_City 27.08.2008 the sofa 16:29 in the Uhr living Seite 2 room and choking

with laughter over some shared memory

of their childhood, or about something

poor gluttonous Uncle Julius, the nebukhl

of the family, has said as he wolfs down

stuffed cabbage in the kitchen; a visit

during which – because I am only nine at

the time, because I haven’t yet been bar

mitzvahed and pricked by a strange curiosity

that will, one day, change my life – I

avoid these old people and their irritating

because I haven’t yet been

bar mitzvahed and pricked

by a strange curiosity that

will, one day, change my life –

I avoid these old people and

their irritating tendency to

clasp and clutch me.

tendency to clasp and clutch me and to

remark, gasping a little stagily, that when

Shmiel was a little yingling of my age he

looked just like me; a remark that Uncle

Shmiel overhears with no little pleasure

on this particular occasion and, having

heard it, raises his white head and looks

to see where I’m standing and, finding

me, gives me an indulgent, knowing look

with the eyes that are the same blue as

mine before turning his head and returning

to the conversation he is having with

my grandfather in a Yiddish that I do not


So there is very little that remains of

Aunt Ester on the face of the wide world

today – a face much of which I have looked

at from above, during the trips I made

to find something out about her – very

little of what Aunt Ester had been during

the 46 years she lived, 46 years in which

she was born and grew up and fell in

love and married and bore four children,

46 unknown and, now, unknowable years

before she disappears from sight during

the first few days of (almost certainly)

September, 1942, when – for of course this

is what really happened – she was dragged

from her home and loaded onto a cattle car

that bore her to Belzec and the gas. µ

Daniel Mendelsohn, a Richard C.

Holbrooke Distinguished Visitor at the

Academy in spring 2008, is the Charles

Ranlett Flint Professor of Humanities at

Bard College in New York.

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Notebook of the American Academy in Berlin | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

On the Waterfront

News from the Hans Arnhold Center

N1 Academy Notebook: George

H.W. Bush is awarded the

2008 Henry A. Kissinger

Prize – the personal laudatio

by Dr. Kissinger

N5 Academy Notebook: Three

new Trustees at the American

Academy in Berlin

N6 Sketches & Dispatches: Reports

on visits from Bill Baker, Mitch

Epstein, Michael Stolleis, Paul

Krugman, and a celebration of

trustee Nina von Maltzahn

N11 Life & Letters: Academy

Fellows and their projects,

plus a preview of the spring

2009 class, recent alumni

books, and the fall calendar

Honoring George H.W. Bush

The 2008 Henry A. Kissinger Prize — and the personal laudatio

Mr. President,

President von

Weizsäcker, distinguished

guests, when I look at

this assemblage and see so many

friends, colleagues, and comrades

of joint efforts, I am deeply

honored to be able to say a few

words about our honoree.

When my family left

Germany in 1938, it would have

been an impossible dream to

think that their son would one

day participate in a ceremony

honoring a former president

of the United States, whom he

knows personally and admires,

in the presence of a former president

of Germany, whom he also

greatly admires – and yet it has


It is a symbol of what has been

achieved by several generations

who made their dreams become

reality. Among those people,

nobody has contributed more

than our honoree today. The task

of any national leader – or the

leader of any organization – is to

help move his society from where

it is to where it has never been.

This movement is often described

as the difference between idealists

and realists, but the art of

leading societies depends first

on understanding the necessities

» continued on Page N2

Henry A. Kissinger, Richard C. Holbrooke,

Gabriela von Habsburg, and George H.W. Bush

© Hornischer

Epstein’s Berlin

A native New Yorker discovers the German capital

Bacteria and the Bridge

Nobel prize winner fights for Dresden’s cultural heritage

Since he came to the

American Academy as

a fellow in January, he

hasn’t seen too much sun.

Instead, he’s seen many other

things: the Olympic Stadium,

the Tempelhof Airport, and the

German Treasury Department,

where the Imperial Air Ministry

once sat before it became the

House of the Ministries of the

gdr and, following reunification,

the Treuhand. Places where the

Jewish-American discovers the

multiple layers of Germany’s past

and present. The photographer

explored the city, read a pile of

books, did Internet research, and

talked to people. And he has done

what he didn’t want to do: photograph

Berlin. At first, he was just

grateful to get the opportunity to

escape the routine, to get to some

space between himself and his

» continued on Page N8

Günter Blobel is outraged.

Tonight at the

American Academy in

Berlin, the Rockefeller University

cell researcher disproves the

prejudice that scientists are dry,

calculating people with no sense

of humor.

The reason for Blobel’s

anger has the harmless name

“Waldschlösschenbrücke,” a

24-meter-long, four-lane highway

that is supposed to relieve

the traffic on Dresden’s other

bridges. As it would lead through

the idyllic Elbe river valley, however,

dispute over the project is

dividing the city.

Blobel, a Nobel Prize winner

who immigrated to the US,

is a declared – and likely the

most influential – opponent of

the planned bridge. Ever since

he witnessed the destruction

» continued on Page N7

N2 | Academy Notebook | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

• Academy Notebook •

All photos © Hornischer


Honoring George H.W. Bush

» continued from N1

and then moving to goals beyond

the immediate.

I mention this because

President Bush, throughout the

decades in which I have observed

public life, has made an extraordinary

contribution to this task.

I heard him say once that when

he came home from school after

some sporting event and told

his mother what he had accomplished,

his mother said that

there is no “I” in the word “team.”

He has contributed to the elevation

of our society not only by the

actions which I will describe in a

moment, but also by the quality

of his personality. He described

his convictions as follows:

“Everything I learned from history

and from my father, Prescott

Bush, along with everything I

valued from my service in the

Navy, reinforced the words ‘duty,’

‘honor,’ and ‘country.’ I believe

one’s duty is to serve the country.

It was difficult for me to give dramatic

speeches on my vision for

the nation. I was certain, however,

that results which could lead to

a more peaceful world would be

far better than trying to convince

people through rhetoric.”

This conviction is exactly why

we are here tonight.

There is some discussion

among historians about who won,

or who was most responsible

for winning, the cold war. But

there can be little debate about

who led the transition from the

cold war to the world in which

we live today. When President

Bush took office he faced not

only the challenge of German

unification, but also a crisis over

the future of Sino-American relations.

President Bush faced the

challenge of balancing the necessities

of a long-term relationship

with the imperative to stand for

our convictions with respect to

human rights, human dignity,

and democratic values. Without

the fortitude, patience, and wisdom

that President Bush showed

in that period, we would not today

be in a world where we can participate

in a continuing dialogue

with a growing China.

Almost simultaneously, he

had to deal with a strange evolution

in Russia – strange in the

sense that nobody expected

that the Soviet system would

» continued on Page N4

1. George H.W. Bush,

Hans-Dietrich Genscher,

and Klaus Wowereit

2. George H.W. Bush,

Nina von Maltzahn,

and Sue Timken

3. Richard C. Holbrooke,

George H.W. Bush,

Henry kissinger,

Sue Timken,

and William timken, Jr.

4. David Rubenstein,

Richard von Weizsäcker,

Richard C. Holbrooke,

and George H.W. Bush

5. otto graf lambsdorff

and gahl hodges burt

6. Robert M. Kimmitt

and C. Boyden Gray

7. George H.W. Bush

and richard C. holbrooke

News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Academy Notebook | N3

All photos © Hornischer

2. 3.


5. 6.

N4 | Academy Notebook | News from the Hans Arnhold Center


disintegrate in the manner that

it did. At that moment, when

it suddenly became obvious

that Eastern Europe could be

liberated, German unification

suddenly became a possibility.

This unification had long been

our goal, though nobody knew

precisely by what road we would

reach it. Nobody could predict

how the various elements of the

international community would

react. Yet President Bush succeeded,

first by winning enough

of President Gorbachev’s confidence

to permit a dialogue about

a topic which had been inconceivable,

practically unmentionable,

and provocative.

And then arose the problem

of the future of Germany. In

1871, when Germany was unified,

Disraeli said: “This is a

greater event for the future

of Europe than the French

Revolution.” Suddenly there

emerged in the center of Europe

a unified nation that was stronger

than many of its neighbors

and was therefore difficult to

fit into the international community.

But now, after the fall

of the Wall, a similar situation

arose: one had always believed

that Russia identified its security

with a physical border. It was

not clear how one would move

from the collapse of the Wall to

the unification of Germany. And

it was not clear, either to us or

to our allies, how Russia would

react. To keep all these elements

moving in the same direction,

and to do it on the basis of cooperation

and friendship with

the German government, so

that unification became not the

action of foreign nations deciding

Germany’s fate but rather

the action of Germans avowing

their future and integrating into

an international system – that

was a unique performance in

diplomatic history.

This was followed not just by

the collapse of the satellite system

but by the disintegration of

the Soviet Union itself, leaving

us with a new problem: how to

deal with a nation that had lost

300 years of its history but at the

same time was an integral part of

the future of Europe and of transatlantic


President Bush could have

retired on these achievements,

but history had its own timetable.

Almost simultaneously with

those events, the disintegration

of the state system in the Middle

East began when the Iraqi dictator

Saddam Hussein invaded

Kuwait. As with all these issues,

they look inevitable in retrospect,

but they were complex

and at first ambiguous. Under

President Bush’s leadership, it

proved possible to create a coalition

to achieve consensus on war

aims and to end aggression in

a manner consistent with the

resolutions of the United Nations.

Almost all of history since that

time has, therefore, had its origin

in the presidency of our honoree.

As he said in the quotation

that I mentioned earlier,

President Bush did not choose

to encompass his presidency in

great rhetorical flourish. Indeed,

he thought that rhetorical flourish

was a kind of derogation

of duty. But as we assembled

here know, the unification of

Germany and the unification of

Europe would have been much

more difficult without the initiatives

taken in Bush’s presidency.

The directions that were set in

our relations with China and

Russia are still those that need

to be pursued. The beginning

of the disintegration of the state

system in the Middle East cannot

– and could not – be rectified in

any relatively short time period,

but it remains before us as a common


So, Mr. President, thank you

for giving me this opportunity to

pay tribute to a great American

and to pay tribute to a common

destiny that can never be

completed. We will have to work

together, sometimes agreeing,

sometimes disagreeing, but

always convinced that the perpetuation

of our values and the

achievement of our ideals are

not simply personal tasks, but

the efforts of generations. Let

me thank you, Mr. President,

for what you have contributed to

the generations assembled here.

Please allow Mr. Holbrooke and

me to give you this award, which

is being presented by its designer,

Gabriela von Habsburg. Thank

you, Mr. President.

On July 3, 2008 President

George H.W. Bush was

awarded the second annual

Henry A. Kissinger Prize at

the Hans Arnhold Center. The

American Academy in Berlin

would like to express its sincere

gratitude to Special Envoy

C. Boyden Gray, who underwrote

the evening, and David

Rubenstein, who personally

arranged for our honoree’s

travel to Berlin.

New Academy Trustees

Lawrence Lessig, Pauline Yu, and Richard Karl Goeltz

News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Academy Notebook | N5

At the spring 2008

board meeting in Berlin,

the Academy welcomed

three new members: Lawrence

Lessig, Richard Karl Goeltz, and

Pauline Yu.

Until now, just three alumni

have rejoined the American

Academy as trustees: Barbara

Lawrence Lessig

Balaj, Caroline Walker Bynum,

and Michael Geyer. But with the

addition of another, Lawrence

Lessig, a 2007 J.P. Morgan Fellow,

the Academy’s board welcomes

one of the nation’s preeminent

legal experts on constitutional

law, contracts, and the regulation

of cyberspace. A professor

at Stanford Law School, Lessig

was named one of Scientific

American’s “Top 50 Visionaries”

and is the founder of two groundbreaking

institutes: Stanford Law

School’s Center for Internet and

Society, which explores the evolving

field of legal doctrine surrounding

the technical innovations

of the Internet; and Creative

Commons, a nonprofit organization

that seeks to promote innovation

and online discourse by

promoting copyright licenses that

allow others to disseminate and

expand upon a creator’s original


Prior to coming to Stanford,

Lessig was the Berkman

Professor of Law at Harvard

Law School, the director of the

Berkman Center for Internet

and Society, and a professor at

the University of Chicago Law

School. He has contributed

regular columns to the Financial

Times, Wired, Red Herring, and

cio Insight and is the author of

four books on technology and

society, including the bestselling

Free Culture: How Big Media

Uses Technology and the Law to

Lock Down Creativity (Penguin

Press, 2004). Lessig earned a

BA in economics and a BS in

management from the University

of Pennsylvania, an MA in philosophy

from the University of

Cambridge, and a JD from Yale

Law School. While Lessig’s work

has taken him to many institutions,

he says of his time as an

Academy fellow: “There is no

better opportunity to work and

understand, anywhere.”

Pauline Yu is deeply familiar

with the executive work

necessary to the success of

Pauline Yu

institutions that foster humanistic

scholarship and creativity.

Since July 2003 she has been

President of the American

Council of Learned Societies

(acls), an institution established

in 1919 to support the

humanities and social sciences

Richard Karl Goeltz

through individual fellowships,

conference grants, and scholarly

exchange. “I’m delighted to be

joining this very distinguished

Board,” Yu says of her Academy

trusteeship. “I’ll be especially

interested in exploring how to

bring even more outstanding

scholars – particularly in the

humanities – to the Academy,

where the opportunities for

unfettered yet engaged research

are extraordinary.”

Immediately prior to her

assuming the lead role at

acls, Yu served as Dean of

Humanities in the College

of Letters and Science at the

University of California, Los

Angeles, and as a professor

of East Asian Languages and

Cultures. She has written and

edited five books and dozens

of articles on classical Chinese

poetry, comparative literature,

and literary theory, and she has

received fellowships from the

Guggenheim Foundation, acls,

and the National Endowment

for the Humanities. Having

completed her undergraduate

degree in history and literature

at Harvard University, Yu

now serves on the university’s

Board of Overseers, as well

as on the Board of Trustees

of the National Humanities

Center, the Board of Directors

of the Teagle Foundation, the

Scholars’ Council of the Library

of Congress, and the Board of

Trustees of the Asian Cultural

Council. She received both her

MA and PhD in Comparative

Literature from Stanford


The Academy is pleased to welcome

another representative wellversed

in the world of business:

Richard Karl Goeltz, who was

Vice Chairman, Chief Financial

Officer, and member of the

Office of the Chief Executive of

the American Express Company

from 1996 to 2000. Prior to

that, he was Chief Financial

Officer and board member of

the NatWest Group from 1992

to 1996. An economics graduate

of Brown College and Columbia

University, Goeltz also held

various finance positions at The

Seagram Company Ltd., including

Executive Vice President of

Finance from 1986 to 1992.

“Close, constructive relations

between Germany and the

United States,” Goeltz says of his

new role at the Academy, “are

requisite not only for the two

countries but also for the global

community. The American

Academy in Berlin provides a

vital, effective forum for debate

and scholarly analysis, enhancing

mutual understanding, respect,

and cooperation along many

dimensions.” Currently serving

on the Board of Governors for

the London School of Economics,

Goeltz also serves on the Board of

Directors of the Opera Orchestra

of New York, formerly as president,

and is an overseer of the

Columbia Business School. He

also serves on the boards of Delta

Air Lines, Aviva, Warnaco Group,

Inc., the Federal Home Loan

Mortgage Corp (Freddie Mac),

and the New Germany Fund.

The Academy wishes to extend

a warm welcome to all three new

members of its board.

N6 | Sketches & Dispatches | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

• Sketches & Dispatches •

Singing Her Praises

The American Academy honors Nina von Maltzahn

She is a silent donor. Nina

Freifrau von Maltzahn

supports both the Sing-

Akademie zu Berlin and the

Curtis Institute, one of the

world’s leading music schools.

Located in Philadelphia, Curtis

has turned out greats such as

composer Leonard Bernstein and

pianist Lang Lang.

But Freifrau von Maltzahn

is a patron who does not like to

take much credit: “I’m rather

unobtrusive,” she says. On the

evening of June 5, however, she

stood at the center of attention

at the American Academy in

Berlin, which has since 1994

been strengthening the transatlantic

relationship by promoting

intellectual and cultural

exchange. At the reception and

dinner in her honor were former

Federal President and co-founder

of the Academy Richard von

Weizsäcker and Brandenburg’s

Secretary of the Interior, Jörg

Schönbohm, among dozens of

other Berlin luminaries.

Before the dinner and the

Curtis musicians’ concert, featuring

the music of Bernstein,

Handel, and Schumann, Frau

von Maltzahn stood on the ter-

race of the American Academy’s

Hans Arnhold Center welcoming

guests. Everyone knows

each other in the house where

her mother, Ellen Maria

Gorrissen, was raised, and

which now bears the name

of her maternal grandfather,

Hans Arnhold.

Freifrau von Maltzahn was

born in New York, where she

lived for some time before

attending boarding school in

Switzerland. And while she has

been living in Uruguay for the

past thirty years, since becoming

involved at the Academy

as a trustee, she visits Berlin

more often.

On Thursday evening she

was honored primarily for her

generous support of the Curtis

Institute, a first-time guest of the

Academy. Asked why she supports

the Institute, Freifrau von

Maltzahn raved, “I love music,

I love young people!”

By Florian Höhne

Der Tagesspiegel

June 7, 2008

Translated by Sonja Janositz

© Hornischer

Mikael Eliasen and Rinnat moriah

Dinner guests at the june 5 celebration

Florian Höhne interviewing Nina von Maltzahn

News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Sketches & Dispatches | N7

Jefferson’s Wish

Bill Baker is out to save American media


n 2007 American newspapers’

advertising revenues,

which constitute nearly half of

their budgets, declined 5.6 percent.

But Internet advertising, a

comparatively new phenomenon,

is already a $21 billion business.

And while only 43 percent of

Americans say that they read a

newspaper yesterday, the average

US citizen spends between

four and five hours daily on the

Web. This raises two related questions:

have traditional forms of

media become outmoded? If so,

how can they regain a foothold in

American civic life without altering

their fundamental character?

In a May 27 speech at the

American Academy, from his

peak atop the American media

landscape, Bill Baker, the longtime

head of the Educational

Broadcasting Corporation (ebc),

gave a stern forecast of the fate of

the American press. He advised

that both public and privatesector

journalism need to adapt

to the technology and economy

of the century, while looking to

the past for models of frankness,

courage, and integrity. Thomas

Jefferson once rhetorically asked

whether he would choose a “government

without newspapers”

or “newspapers without government,”

Baker recited. Jefferson

concluded, “I should not hesitate

to prefer the latter.” Baker

would like to see Jefferson’s wish

fulfilled that information, not

authority, be the cornerstone of

free societies.

For 21 years Baker has led the

ebc, championing public broadcasting

despite the fiscal challenges

that surround journalism

in the twenty-first century. At the

ebc’s helm he has created a number

of award-winning programs,

including the Charlie Rose Show

and the local series City Arts,

which received both a Peabody

and an Emmy. Baker is also

recognized as one of the most

prolific fundraisers in America:

he has created a $1 billion endowment,

the largest in public television


But even this cannot stave off

the danger to free speech that

has occurred over the last decade,

Baker says. This threat comes

from a nexus of influences: the

economic pressures of media

outlets by advertisers, the hulking

expense of having a team

of reporters and bureaus, and

the fragmentation of the media

landscape: 500 cable channels,

thousands of blogs, and online

classified ads, a traditional source

of newspaper revenue. In such

an environment, he argues,

democratic fostering is lost to the

drum of ideological voices, each

vying for influence and attention.

The days of Edward R. Murrow,

whose reasoned voice stood up to

Senator Joseph McCarthy during

the Red Scare, have given way

to partisan pundits. In such an

environment, investigative journalism

has been pushed aside;

it’s too expensive and requires too

many resources. And so the more

that giant, deregulated media

comes to represent the interests

of shareholders and serve its corporate

parent companies, Baker

says, the less room for fact-based,

less “entertaining” investigative


Especially in times of war,

Baker reminds, the media faces

the challenge of seeking an

appropriate balance between the

preservation of secrecy that saves

human life and the preservation

of free discourse that allows free

societies to flourish.

Baker pointed out another fact

of today’s media landscape that

is cause for alarm: the number

of truly different media outlets

is rapidly shrinking. In radio, for

example, the largest conglomerate,

Clear Channel, owns 1,200 stations

nationwide, often nationally

syndicating content. Baker cites

the case of one AM news station in

New Haven, Connecticut, that no

longer has a single news reporter

on staff. All of its news is instead

rebroadcast from its source – in

Syracuse, New York.

Baker’s current work seeks to

refocus investigative journalism

to serve the public over profit. The

online news agency Pro Publica,

begun by the Wall Street Journal’s

former managing editor Paul

Steiger, is a model organ for doing

so. But there are others, and Baker

has been leading an online project

at Channel Thirteen to see why

America’s decline in newspaper

readership is countered by a flourishing

reading public in Europe;

some 72.4 percent of Germans, for

example, read a newspaper each

day. Recovering true freedom,

diversity, and vitality of the press

in the US might require herculean

effort, Baker says, but its essential

role in the survival of democracy

makes the task a fundamental one

for our time.

Bacteria and the Bridge

» continued from N1

of Dresden in February 1945

as a Silesian refugee child, the

doctor has had a strong connection

to the city. He donated his

entire Nobel Prize award funds

for the reconstruction of the

Frauenkirche and for the building

of a new synagogue.

“Cell Culture” was the title

of the lecture he gave at the

American Academy. It consisted

of two parts – appropriate for a

researcher split in his passions

for both science and art. The

white-haired, bow-tied 72-yearold

first spoke about his lecture

topic: cell research. Blobel starts

with a quote by Berlin pathologist

Rudolf Virchow about how

all life on earth resulted from

a “primordial cell,” whose

offspring have multiplied diligently

for the last four million

years. “Everyone of us is four

million years old,” Blobel says.

One might also say that the

entire planet is one single “cell


Blobel then shows a few film

vignettes to an astonished audience:

a white blood cell hunts

and then devours a small bacteria

pile like a slimy monster.

“Ten times more bacteria than

cells are living in and on our

bodies,” he says. Most impressive

is the animation of the

bacterium flagellum. The end

of the microbe is formed like a

whip and consists of thousand of

proteins. It is powered by a nanomotor,

a biological machine powered

by hydrogen.

Then Blobel changes from

English to German, and instead

of computer animation he

shows some old black-and-white

photos: sheep grazing upon the

Elbe’s meadows, behind them

the silhouette of demolished

Dresden. Germany should not

turn into a “highway system”

between Poland and France,

Blobel says. Building a bridge

would destroy the Elysium of

the Elbe meadows. He quotes

Saxony’s former chief conservationist

Heinrich Magirius: “The

bell of the Frauenkirche reverberates

so because of the vastness

of this river landscape.”

The construction of the

bridge began in November 2007.

On July 3 unesco will decide

whether to revoke Dresden’s

designation as a site of world cultural


By Hartmut Wewetzer

Der Tagesspiegel

June 12, 2008

Translated by Tanja Maka

N8 | Sketches & Dispatches | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

Epstein’s Berlin

» continued from N1

great project “American Power,”

which he has been working on for

five years. But maybe, he says at

one point, and smiles with irony

and amusement, it was just a

trumped-up justification for not

having to take pictures and then

being able to take pictures. He

realized, however: now I know


Mitch Epstein is not somebody

who sets out and takes snapshots.

That wouldn’t work anyway; his

camera could hardly fit in any

pants pocket. The 55- year old

works with a huge plate-camera

on a high tripod, “the kind that

was invented in the nineteenth

century.” The bulky – and expensive

– camera forces him to concentrate

and to be exact. Only two

pictures fit onto one plate, and

when he looks through the lens,

he sees everything upside down.

“Thus,” he says, “one pays more

attention to the formal configuration.”

The camera forces him to

work conceptually – and yet to be

simultaneously open to surprises,

like the other day when he stumbled

upon elephants between the

Plattenbauten in Lichtenberg.

Mitch Epstein speaks the way

he photographs: with a great

deal of consideration, striving

towards accurateness, “towards

honesty,” as he says. He does not

give many interviews. But when

he does, he gives them properly:

he takes almost the entire day.

He used adhesive strip to tape

the 1.78 x 2.34-meter prints of

his Berlin pictures on top of each

other to the wall of his altbau

apartment in Kreuzberg, which

serves as his studio, setting up

high spotlights to illuminate

them correctly. With the help

of his assistant, he rolls out the

pictures bit by bit. From right to

left, from left to right. It is as if he

would expose the layers of Berlin,

cleaving a book, page by page.

Epstein’s pictures are like movies:

huge, dramatic, tragic, comic,

touching. Often the human

element, which he emphasizes

first and foremost, is expressed

without any humans. In the Crisis

Conference Room of the German

State Department, for instance, in

the former vault of the Imperial

Bank, he was delighted by the

water bottle and the name tag in

the corner: “Herr Dodi, Studiosus-

Reisen.” Right between the

weathered, crooked gravestones,

overgrown by ivy at the Jewish

Cemetery Weißensee, the gnarly

trunks and branches, between

all the greens and browns, sits a

white laptop, which one discovers

only by a mere second glance; a

researcher had set up his office

there; here, the present, planted

in history. In Epstein’s studio in

Kreuzberg the small bouquet of

buttercups on the little table in

Courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New york / Galerie Thomas Zander, Köln

Mitch Epstein, Tempelhof International Airport, Berlin, 2008

News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Sketches & Dispatches | N9

the oriel seem, too, like a personal

stroke of the brush, like a still life

of a working place.

His cinema gleams with

strong colors. Epstein is a fan of

Fassbinder, who worked at a time

when color print was regarded

simply as brassy and commercial.

True art showed up in black-andwhite

in the ’70s. Today, Epstein,

whose pictures can be seen at the

Museum of Modern Art and at

the Getty Museum, is regarded as

one of the pioneers of the genre.

Epstein’s cinema has certainly

nothing to do with Hollywood. It

is too quiet. Too demanding. The

artist demands from the beholder,

as well, “that he does his homework.”

The titles tell no more than

the location. To be able to “read”

the pictures, as Epstein says, the

beholder has to know the story

behind the motif. It is of no coincidence

that books are an important

medium in his photography,

which unfold sequentially. They

are as uncomfortable as his camera:

they don’t fit in any purse.

In 2001 Epstein came to

Germany for the first time to

print a book with Gerhard Steidl,

who has published all of his books

since. He exhibits at Thomas

Zander’s gallery in Cologne. What

impressed him with Germany

was the serious discussion of its

own history, but also of its art. In

Berlin, the American Academy

opened many doors for him. He

shows up at heavily secured and

sensitive locations, such as the

German Ministries, with his

archaic-looking equipment, ready

to shoot. Germans seem to regard

the bulky equipment as a sign of

the seriousness of his endeavor.

In Washington, however, he

arouses suspicion, can’t even get

close to the Capitol – and forget

getting inside. The impartiality

characterizing Americans’ attitudes

toward the photographer

in the 1970s has disappeared.

Today, he says, he is eyed with

great distrust, like when he was

being interrogated by the fbi:

“One always has to prove his


By Susanne Kippenberger

Der Tagesspiegel

May 4, 2008

Translated by Sonja Janositz

Against the Prevailing

World Opinion

A scholarly dispute in honor of trustee Fritz Stern

is no way

back to innocence.”


At the end of a long

and lively discussion, Fritz

Stern returned to the sentence

Michael Stolleis had offered at

the very beginning of his lecture

“Teaching International

Law under the Swastika.” For an

American, this sentence today

has special meaning, noted the

German-American historian,

“in times when one has to deal

– under very different premises –

with the question of how the law

is interpreted – and misinterpreted.”

Stern demurred that he

would leave out detail, but named

as an example John Yoo, the

former legal advisor in the Bush

Administration who justified the

American practice of torture.

This year’s Fritz Stern Lecture

at the American Academy in

Berlin lead to an enlivened debate

about the relationship between

law and politics, about the tendency

of lawyers to corrupt under

power, and about new beginnings

and continuities in transnational

legal developments in the twentieth

century. The legal historian

Michael Stolleis, director of

Frankfurt’s Max Planck Institute

for European Legal History,

however, limited his focus to a

precisely outlined chapter in the

history of German public law. But

this limitation opened up broad

space for reflection.

In 1933, Stolleis explained,

public international law in

Germany was a scholarly field

shaped by professors, many of

whom were Jewish. They were

murdered or, like Hans Kelsen,

Erich Kaufmann, and Georg

Schwarzenberger, pressured to

emigrate. For legal scholars who

stayed in Germany, public international

law became a particularly

attractive discipline because

it offered – in the context of the

gradual dissolution of the Treaty

of Versailles and Germany’s

withdrawal from the League of

Nations – the possibility of practical

effectiveness, of dealing with

“a sequence of relevant events

in public international law” and

allowed at the same time a “window

on the outside world.”

Until the Munich Agreement,

German experts of international

law were – as Stolleis responded

to an inquiry by Berlin European

constitutional law expert Ingolf

Pernice – naturally part of the

universal Gelehrtenrepublik

(republic of letters). In 1934

Rostock-based constitutional

lawyer Edgar Tatarin-Tarnheyden

wrote that “the welfare of the

German people can lie in respecting

international law.” Friedrich

Berber had a very different

approach: he sought to bring public

international law into the service

of National Socialist foreign

policy, emphasizing in 1939 that

international law should no longer

be the “playground of internationalist

and pacifist ideologies.”

Nevertheless, there were

islands on which the classical

tradition of the academic field

was cultivated until the end of the

National Socialist dictatorship –

outside of the law departments,

where career-focused junior

researchers had become subservient

to the regime. Stolleis

emphasized the role of the Kaiser

Wilhelm Institute for Foreign

Public Law and International

Law in Berlin, where men like

Helmuth James Graf von Moltke,

Hermann Mosler, and Berthold

Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg

worked as experts on humanitarian

law, under the leadership of

Viktor Bruns.

Stolleis concluded his lecture

by quoting from the essay “Der

Streit um das Völkerrecht,” written

in the fall of 1944 by Viktor

Bruns’s successor, Carl Bilfinger.

In the essay, Bilfinger dealt in

an elegiac tone with the Allies’

“postwar plans.” He articulated

the hope that Germany might

not be entirely excluded in a

still-dark postwar world by,

for example, being part of the

establishment of “regional and

particular systems, in the sense

of Großraum systems,” through

interstate institutions and cooperation.

At that time, the extent

of the crime and the subsequent

international disparagement of

Germany were not entirely clear

to Bilfinger.

“It is not my intention to take

the position of a judge here, and

to judge the generation of my

father, the experts of public

international law, the directors

of institutes, and editors of

scholarly journals,” Stolleis said.

“Historians are neither judges

nor prophets. But in hindsight,

it becomes recognizable that

with the founding of the United

Nations, with the Universal

Declaration of Human Rights,

and the Nuremberg Trials, there

has truly been a new beginning.”

By Alexandra Kemmerer

From the Frankfurter

Allgemeine Zeitung

June 3, 2008

Translated by Tanja Maka

N10 | Sketches & Dispatches | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

A New Gilded Age?

Paul Krugman sees echoes of the past in today’s economic crisis


n 2006, significantly before

widespread agreement that

the American economy was

suffering, New York Times columnist

and Princeton economics

professor Paul Krugman offered

what seemed a deliberately

contrarian assessment: average

Americans were on target when

they rated the American economy

as “fair to poor.” While the gdp

rose, the Dow floated over 12,000,

and unemployment declined,

Krugman set out to explain why

many Americans were reporting

economic discontent. He cited

troubling indicators that pointed

to the widening gap between the

nation’s wealthy and poor. He

concluded: “Not only can few

Americans hope to join the ranks

of the rich, but no matter how

well educated or hardworking

they may be, their opportunities

to do so are actually shrinking.”

This year, as the spectres of

energy, lending, and real-estate

crises haunt the American economy,

Krugman’s warning seems

portentous. On May 21 he joined

the American Academy in Berlin

to explain how growing inequality

is affecting the future of the

US economy, and what government

can do about it. He was in

Berlin for the release of his new

book The Conscience of A Liberal

(W.W. Norton, 2007), which

had just appeared in German

as Nach Bush: Das Ende der

Neokonservativen und die Stunde

der Demokraten (Campus Verlag).

In the world’s wealthiest country,

Krugman reminds, 47 million

Americans have no health

insurance. The top 1 percent of

the population owns 38 percent

of the nation’s wealth. And while

the ceo of America’s biggest

corporation, Wal-Mart, earns

$23 million a year, the average

wage-earner for that company

earns just $19,000. The result

of this disparity has been the

slow eradication of the American

middle class. This, Krugman

believes, is the fault of politics:

“Middle-class societies don’t

emerge automatically as an economy

matures,” he says. “They

have to be created through political


No other advanced industrial

nation has seen anything like

the economic disparity that has

developed in the United States

From Bali to Copenhagen

Climate change policy and national interests


limate change is

the most dire problem

mankind has ever faced,

says Thomas Heller, a professor

of international legal studies at

Stanford University and a bmw

Distinguished Visitor at the

Academy last spring. The irony of

this situation is that the negative

effects we face stem from the very

accomplishments we prize – and

to which the less-developed world

still aspires. Heller has worked

on climate policy in several capacities,

including as an advisor in

drafting the Kyoto Protocol. And

in sketching the international

climate change regimes from

Kyoto, through Bali, and on to

Copenhagen, he has also charted

the progression of global deals

on climate change for what they

really signify.

While climate change policy

is a hard sell – costs are incurred

today but the results would come

much later – the general global

deal on climate change policy

has already been agreed upon:

a long-term goal of carbon reduc-

over the past three decades. And

the current gap, Krugman says,

actually looks much as it did in

the pre-New Deal economy. After

the 1920s the US experienced

what economists call the “Great

Compression”: the shrinking

of the rich-poor divide, or the

political creation of a middle

class – the one of Krugman’s

1950s childhood. But the economic

world we see today is, he

says, “so vastly different that it’s

no longer recognizable.” This,

even though the US now has

an immensely more productive

economy than it had at midcentury.

The benefits of that

increased productivity, however

– vast economic growth – have

nearly all gone to the wealthy.

So who’s to blame? Krugman

says it’s conservative economic

legislation. The gap between top

managerial pay and employee

compensation has skyrocketed,

he says, since the dawn of the

Reagan Revolution. Another

important factor, Krugman

believes, is the mid-century

conservative reaction to the civil

rights movement. This is because

resistance to civil rights caused

tion by 2050 to 80 percent below

1990 levels, a 20–40 percent cut

in the “Annex 1” state (US and

Europe) emissions by 2020, and

the “graduation” of emerging

markets into making comprehensive

caps on carbon. Further

steps include the deepening and

expansion of carbon markets, as

well as the creation of large technology

innovation funds. These

would provide compensation for

poor countries that may not emit

but that need aid in adapting to

modern standards.

many white Southern voters to

abandon the Democratic party,

joining the Republicans while

recasting its platform around an

agenda of traditional values – and

thus neglecting their own economic

class interests. While this

is the argument that has been

repeated by, among others, economist

Thomas Frank in What’s the

Matter with Kansas?, President

Lyndon Johnson said to a young

aide after the he signed the Civil

Rights Act of 1964, “We have just

lost the South for a generation.”

But that just might be changing,

Krugman says. Voters’

minds are now more often decided

by perceptions of the economy

than by so-called questions of

values, as they were during the

1990s’ culture wars. “Elections

are won by the economy,” he says,

“and this one will be no different.”

Regardless of who wins the US

presidential race, Krugman foresees

a moratorium on liberalized

trade agreements, such as nafta,

as struggling middle-class

Americans sense that their wellbeing

and economic parity have

suffered because of globalization

and job outsourcing. Either candidate

will have to do something

to get America back on an equal

economic playing field. And this

all begins, Krugman says, with

universal healthcare.

Still, “the global deal is a

lousy deal,” Heller says. He

predicts that rich countries will

take national action, creating

their own domestic legislation.

Denmark, for example, is investing

heavily in wind energy in

order to dominate the market

early on. Other nations do the

same: create climate-policy incentives

in the national interest. But

this means that when the major

nations meet at Copenhagen in

November 2009, they will package

their domestic programs,

rather than negotiate new ones.

If Copenhagen is to be effective,

Heller says, nations will have to

find much more room for cooperation

than they are now.

News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Life & Letters | N11

• Life & Letters •

Alumni Books

Recent and forthcoming releases

Andrew Bacevich

The Limits of Power: The End of

American Exceptionalism

Metropolitan Books

(August 2008)

Daniel Boyarin

Socrates and the Fat Rabbis

University of Chicago Press

(Spring 2009)

Edward P. Djerejian

Danger and Opportunity: An

American Ambassador’s Journey

Through the Middle East

Simon & Schuster Threshold


(September 2008)

Nicholas Eberstadt

The Poverty of ‘The Poverty Rate’:

Measure and Mismeasure of Want

in America

AEI Press

(Fall 2008)

Peter Filkins


The Journey (by H.G. Adler)

Random House

(Fall 2008)

Joy Haslam Calico

Brecht at the Opera

University of California Press

(August 2008)

Martin Indyk

Innocent Abroad: An Intimate

History of American Peace

Diplomacy in the Middle East

Simon & Schuster

(January 2009)

Pierre Joris

Aljibar II (bilingual edition, with a

French translation by Eric Sarner)

Editions PHI

(Spring 2008)

Brian Ladd

Autophobia: Love and Hate in the

Automotive Age

University of Chicago Press

(November 2008)

Lawrence Lessig

Remix: Making Art and Commerce

Thrive in the Hybrid Economy

Penguin Press HC

(October 2008)

David Levering Lewis

W.E.B. DuBois: A Biography

Henry Holt and Co.

(December 2008)

Charles Molesworth

(with Leonard Harris)

Alain L. Locke: Biography of A


University of Chicago Press

(November 2008)

THomAS Powers

The Military Error: Baghdad and

Beyond in America’s War of Choice

New York Review Books

(August 2008)

Paul A. Rahe

Soft Despotism, Democracy’s

Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, and

Tocqueville on the Modern Prospect

Yale University Press

(Spring 2009)

Elizabeth Sears (with

Charlotte Schoell-Glass)

Verzetteln als Methode. Der

humanistische Ikonologe William

S. Heckscher

Akademie Verlag

(June 2008)

Dana Villa

Public Freedom

Princeton University Press

(August 2008)

Helmut Walser Smith

The Continuities of German

History: Nation, Religion, and

Race across the Long Nineteenth


Cambridge University Press

(April 2008)

Rosanna Warren

Fables of the Self: Studies in Lyric


W.W. Norton

(September 2008)

Dimitrios Yatromanolakis

Sappho in the Making: The Early


Harvard University Press

(March 2008)

Aris Fioretos

Das Maß eines Fußes: Essays

Carl Hanser Verlag

(September 2008)

N12 | Life & Letters | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

Profiles in


The fall 2008 class of fellows

Joel Agee

Joel Agee arrived in East

Germany in 1948; he was eight

years old. He came along with his

two siblings, his mother, and his

stepfather, Bodo Uhse, a German

exile writer who would become a

leader of social reconstruction in

the Soviet sector.

Growing up in communist

East Germany was not easy for the

young Agee. He recounts in his

memoir Twelve Years: An American

Boyhood in East Germany (2000)

that school was a gray factory overseen

by blunt Marxist doctrinaires

hostile to talent. He was truant

and failing classes. Bricklaying

soon replaced his formal education,

a change that the boy Agee

actually welcomed.

His young adulthood during

the explosive 1960s became exponentially

more strange: he found

himself in a baseball game with

the Castro brothers in Cuba, crying

in a café with Bob Dylan in the

East Village, getting shot, experimenting

heavily with psychedelic

drugs, and then, temporarily, losing

his wife, infant daughter, and

his mind. Agee’s tortured, soulsearching

journey is heroically

recounted in his 2004 memoir

In The House of My Fear (2004), a

book that plunges so forcefully

back into that ecstatic decade that

critic Andrei Codrescu called it

“the account of the Sixties we so

long bemoaned the lack of.”

One of America’s most

cherished autobiographers and

German literary translators,

Agee’s essays have appeared

in, among other publications,

Harper’s, The New Yorker, and

The Yale Review. He has received

a Guggenheim Fellowship

and a grant from the National

Endowment for the Arts; his

translations of Heinrich von

Kleist’s Penthesilea and Hans

Erich Nossack’s Der Untergang

respectively won the 1999 Helen

and Kurt Wolff and the 2005 Lois

Roth prizes. In 2007 Agee was a

finalist for the esteemed Oxford-

Weidenfeld Translation Prize.

While at the Academy this

fall, Agee will be working on a

novel that inhabits a land between

fiction and fact: it’s about a boy

living in Mexico in the mid-1940s

with his expatriate German

stepfather, his American mother,

and a Mexican maid, exploring

national mythos and identity

from the child’s point of view.

Leora Auslander

What will posterity make of our

hastily composed e-mails, our

scrawled notes tacked to the

refrigerator door – or even the

geometry and aesthetics of the

door itself?

Implicit in Leora Auslander’s

work is the assumption that there

is much indeed to be made of

such things; the acts and paraphernalia

that surround our history

become our history – or at

least the physical evidence of its


Auslander, a professor of

Modern European Social History

at the University of Chicago, has

embarked time and again on

novel strategies for uncovering

truth about the past through its

objects. Her 1996 book, Taste and

Power: Furnishing Modern France,

detected the latent political and

cultural values that registered in

popular French furniture, from

the age of absolutism to modern


Last year Auslander published

another historical investigation,

this time analyzing how “goods,

habits, and rituals” fostered a

spirit of republicanism in modern

Britain, North America, and

France. Her forthcoming project,

which compares twentieth-century

Jewish culture in Paris and

Berlin, will deepen the material

historian’s acquaintance with the

German capital. Weaved throughout

the project is the theme of

an anguished loss of homeland,

particularly since “home” is such

a hybrid creature – half material,

half ineffable. It is in that space

that Auslander will again begin

to cajole life, ideas, wishes, and

fears from the domestic artifacts

of passed European lives.

Patty Chang

In one of the artist Patty Chang’s

short films, she French kisses

her mother and her father while

they chew a raw onion. In another,

panic streaks across the artist’s

face as live eels squirm inside her

blouse. In a recent work, she toys

with the idea of Shangri-La, flying

to the real city on the Chinese-

Tibetan border to reconstruct a

model fantasyland out of wood

and mirrors. Boundary crossing,

stereotypes, uneasiness, taboo,

physical and emotional discomfort:

these are the weapons in

Chang’s artistic arsenal.

Schooled as a painter at

UC-San Diego, Chang moved

to New York in 1995 and began

doing performance art and film,

such as Fountain (1999), in which

she sips water off of a mirror as if

to drink her own image, projecting

the act into the gallery space.

Many of her early films revolve

around Chang herself; they have

accordingly been described by

Holland Carter of The New York

Times as “hair-raisingly narcissistic.”

The Times also went

on to call her “one of our most

consistently exciting young artists”

in 2006. Her latest work,

Touch Would, is a multilayered

video project that delves into the

tangled interlace of translation,

From left to right: Ha Jin, Thomas Holt, Leora Auslander,

mistranslation, interpretation,

and performance.

A 2008 finalist for the

Guggenheim Museum’s prestigious

Hugo Boss Prize, Chang has

staged solo shows in cities such

as Madrid, Visby, and New York,

where she lives and works. Chang

has taught at the Skowhegan

School of Painting and Sculpture

in Maine, and her work has

been recognized by many cultural

organizations, including

the Rockefeller Foundation, the

New York Foundation for the Arts,

and the Louise Comfort Tiffany


Heidi Fehrenbach

That Heidi Fehrenbach is at the

American Academy in Berlin

during the first US presidential

campaign to include an African-

News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Life & Letters | N13

American Democratic candidate

seems apt: Fehrenbach, whose

three of four grandparents were

German, has long been probing

racial ideologies and their post-

1945 incarnations in both the US

and Germany. Her book Race after

Hitler: Black Occupation Children

in Postwar Germany and America

(2005) addresses the ways in

which tense race relations among

US occupying soldiers – and

black-white relationships within

the German population – aided

democratization, and postwar

transitions in conceiving race and

gender in the US and Germany.

Awarded a Guggenheim fellowship

for 2007–2008 and

a Haniel fellowship at the

American Academy in fall 2008,

Fehrenbach will work on her

project “From War Children to

Our Children: How World War II

Remade the Family and Fostered

Children’s Rights.” The book will

comparatively study the broad

effects of racialized war and post-

Juliet Floyd’s research picks

up Dr. Johnson’s torch: her interest

is in the nature of objectivity

– how it arises, why we should

care about it, and how we are

to construe it philosophically.

Floyd has focused on the intersection

of philosophy of logic,

language, and mathematics, as

well as on the history of twentieth-century

philosophy, particularly

on topics in epistemology

and the philosophy of logic and


placing the history of attempts to

formalize rationality within the

context of twentieth-century intellectual

history. She has already

begun the effort by co-editing

(with Sanford Shieh) Future Pasts:

The Analytic Tradition in Twentieth

Century Philosophy (2001).

Devin Fore

By the late 1920s German artists

found themselves in a peculiar

position: Western civilization was

becoming more mechanized and

© Hornischer

Joel Agee, David Sabean, Devin Fore, Patty Chang, Daniel Visconti, Juliet Floyd, Heide Fehrenbach

inadvertently in shaping postwar

German notions of race.

“The election of the first black

US president,” Fehrenbach has

written, “would mark the end of

an American history characterized,

from its earliest revolutionary

days, by race-based criteria

for inclusion in, and exclusion

from, the American body politic.”

Whatever the outcome of the

2008 US Presidential race, then,

the swift rise of Illinois Senator

Barack Obama will be marked

as a shift in the American racial

imagination that Fehrenbach has

long studied.

Currently a professor of history

at Northern Illinois University,

Fehrenbach specializes as well

in the social and cultural effects

of Nazism and WWII, postwar

experiences of occupation and

war military occupation, which

impacted international child welfare

work and national norms of

family constitution in Europe and

the United States.

Juliet Floyd

In an attempt to positively refute

the immaterialist philosophy

of Bishop Berkeley, Dr. Samuel

Johnson famously kicked a big

stone and exclaimed, “I refute

it thus!” So much for subjective


But things were more complicated

than Dr. Johnson anticipated,

and philosophy would continue

to wrestle with the notions of

objectivity and immateriality for

the next several centuries. After

all, the number-one assumption

of science is that there is a real

world out there to study.

A professor of philosophy at

Boston University since 1996,

Floyd’s extensive writings have

examined the unique interplay

of figures as diverse as Kant,

Frege, Wittgenstein, Gödel, and

Quine. She has also written on

the objectivity and nature of rulefollowing,

the fate of empiricism

in the 1950s, and on the historical

significance of attempts at the

mathematical rigorization of

intuitive notions such as meaning,

truth, proof, reference, and


Her current project, which

she will continue while in residence

at the Academy, concerns

Wittgenstein’s reactions to the

limitative results of Gödel and

Turing in the 1930s and 1940s.

Pursuit of this subject will aid

an even more ambitious project:

industrial, not less. Around the

Continent, artistic movements

reveling in objects, products, and

mechanical power and precision

held sway. Yet images of the

human body – abandoned as an

old-fashioned or pre-industrial

subject matter – were steadily

returning as motifs and subjects

for German art. Critics of the time

hailed this move as a “return to

order,” while later scholars have

often judged this neo-realism as

mere reactionary nostalgia. Fall

2008 Anna-Maria Kellen Fellow

Devin Fore begs to differ. He will

set out to prove in his monograph

“Return to Order” that German

Realism’s devotion to the body was

new and important – even more so

than its practitioners realized.

» continued on Page N14

N14 | Life & Letters | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

Fore’s semester at the Academy

is nothing if not ambitious, as he

simultaneously undertakes a second

monograph: “All the Graphs”

investigates the invention of

“documentary” by the Russian

avant-garde. Now taken for granted

as an everyday form of media,

scholarship, and entertainment,

“documentary” was not so much

born as detonated, rocking the

Russian art world with ever-more

vigorous and ambitious manifestos

and projects. Corps of artist-

“factographers” combed factories

and cities to document “technical

culture,” often glorifying their

subjects in the process.

Fore, an assistant professor

at Princeton, embarks on these

monographs with a tone of familiarity:

he has already translated

seven essays and manifestos of

the Russian avant-garde, with

titles like “The Biography of the

Object” and “Art in the Revolution

and the Revolution in Art.” No

stranger to Germany, Fore has

previously studied in Berlin

through a Whiting Foundation

Fellowship in 2002, a Social

Science Research Council fellowship

in 2001, and, prior, at

Humboldt Universität. For Devin

Fore, then, “Return to Order” and

“All the Graphs” are a bit like the

reappearance of the Realist body

in Weimar Germany: projects

that hover a step backward while

truly moving forward.

Thomas Holt

In 1900 the African-American

essayist and fiction writer Charles

Waddell Chesnutt predicted

that racial distinctions in the

United States would soon cease

to exist. In a “miscegenated”

nation, he said, there “would be

no inferior race to domineer over;

there would be no superior race

to oppress those who differed

from them in racial externals.”

However we rate the progress

of civil rights or the decline

of racism in the past century,

Chesnutt’s prediction of a raceless

America has proven incorrect,

or, at best, hasty. Race still exists

in the American consciousness,

and the spectrum of skin color on

American faces is broader than

ever. Citigroup Fellow Thomas

Holt, long a seminal figure in

the academic study of perceptions

of race, is now investigating

what it has meant to be of mixed

race, and why this interstitial

status has been a wellspring of

racial anxiety, mythology, and


Professor Holt’s project,

“Racial Death or the Death of

Racism: The Problem of Race

Mixture,” will add to his impressive

academic output over a distinguished

career. A former president

of the American Historical

Association, Holt now teaches

in the history department at the

University of Chicago. Before

his first lectureship – in 1972, at

Howard University – Holt was

deeply involved in the politics

and policy of social equality,

having worked for several years

with the US Office of Economic

Opportunity and the Office of

Education, where he consulted

on migrant and seasonal farmworker

programs and emergency

school aid.

History, Holt believes, is as

necessary to the human mind

as its awareness of the present.

Reading Heidegger’s Being and

Time as a lesson for the sociologist

and historian, Holt writes:

“Indeed, one cannot even conceptualize

an individual consciousness,

a self continuous from one

time point to another, without

a concept of history, of memory.

To think ‘I am’ requires ‘I was,’

which needs in turn a narrative

of ‘they’ and/or ‘we.’” The dissolution

of racial otherness – the

dissolution of “we” – gives “miscegenation”

its troubled position in

the American psyche.

Ha Jin

Ha Jin speaks both Chinese and

English fluently. He has written

both prose and poetry stunningly.

In other words, Jin possesses at

least four different ways of communicating

with the world. With

this enviable literary toolbox,

he has been steadily teaching

the power of literary expression

– and publishing his own – since

the late Eighties. Currently a

professor of English at Boston

University, Jin has most recently

authored the novels A Free Life,

War Trash, The Crazed, and a volume

of poetry entitled Wreckage.

It has been eight years since

Ha Jin published a collection of

short stories, The Bridegroom,

which has been translated into

seven languages and won both

the Asian American Literary

Prize and the Townsend Fiction

Prize. This fall Jin returns to the

genre of the short story with “The

Magic Fall,” the working title of

a new collection of interwoven

stories set in Flushing, New York,

where nearly half of the residents

of the actual city identify themselves

as Asian-American; many

are recent immigrants to the

United States. It is in this turbulent,

struggling community that

the twelve stories of “The Magic

Fall” will follow a varied cast of

characters, each defining his or

her race, home, and loyalties.

Until recently, most of Jin’s

work has been set in his native

China, from which he emigrated

permanently after receiving

his doctorate from Brandeis

University. His writing’s shift

to American settings mirrors

this geographic mutability. Jin

remarks that perhaps the English

word “home,” with its double

sense of one’s origin and one’s

current abode, captures this more

expressively than other languages

(such as Chinese) that make

stricter linguistic distinctions.

“Now when we talk about home,

it’s an issue of return. It’s also a

matter of arrival. If a home can

be created… then home is in the

process of becoming.”

David Sabean

It is difficult to imagine a research

topic that could engage civil,

criminal, and canon law, theology,

sociology, biology, politics, pop

and high culture all at once. So it

may come as a surprise that ucla

history professor David Sabean’s

capable foray through all of them

is in pursuit of such an uncomfortable

subject: incest. His monumental

project, “Kinship and

Incest Discourse in Europe and

America since the Renaissance,”

argues that changes in social,

political, and family structures,

and attitudes toward incest move

in a synchronized interrelationship:

a change in any one of these

signals a change in all.

Take the early nineteenth century,

for example: with many new

ways of amassing wealth besides

patrimonial inheritances, it

became less important to protect

the integrity of the father-to-son

line and more important to network

with other families in cooperative

alliance. Thus households

might have groups of siblings

and cousins brought up together;

both affection and desire could

ensue. Add to the mix the rise of

the novel and the Hegelian assertion

that the self could be discovered

by seeing one’s reflection in

another, mirror-like person, and

suddenly it becomes clear why

novels and tales of brother-sister

incest abounded.

In the twentieth and twentyfirst

centuries, “incest” in the

popular or artistic imagination

is most often synonymous with

sexual relationships between parents

and children. Freud provided

the background and buzzwords,

but this does not entirely explain

why the discourse about Oedipus

and Electra has hung around so

long. If primary cultural structures

such as law, economy, and

religion are indeed tied to our

concept of incest, then Sabean’s

scholarship on incest might provide

unexpected revelations about

the assumptions and institutions

that structure our everyday lives.

Angela Stent

Tension between Russia and

Georgia over the separatist

enclave of South Ossetia resulted

in clashes between the two

countries’ armies last August.

Diplomacy soon followed, lead

by French President Nicholas

Sarkozy, and the US sent medical

supplies and monetary aid. But

News from the Hans Arnhold Center | Life & Letters | N15

the ordeal caused a renewed coldwar-era

suspicion of a revanchist

Russia anxious to flex its military

might. Further consequences for

the Russia-nato relationship are

sure to follow.

It is exactly on these sorts of

problematic situations – tensions

between post-Soviet Russia and

the West – which Angela Stent

has focused for her entire career

in government, academia, and the

private sector. Currently the director

of the Center for Eurasian,

Russian, and East European

Studies at Georgetown University,

Stent has held positions on the

US State Department’s Policy

Planning Staff and on the

National Intelligence Council.

A specialist on both Soviet and

post-Soviet foreign policy, Stent,

a member of the Council on

Foreign Relations, is specifically

concerned with the European –

and, above all, German – relationship

with Russia. Her expertise

has resulted in myriad articles

and numerous books, including

the thoroughgoing Russia and

Germany Reborn: Unification, the

Soviet Collapse and the New Europe


Stent’s work at the Academy

this fall will be a book project

called “Dueling Narratives: How

the United States, Europe, and

Russia Interpret the Collapse of

the ussr and the Rise of the Post-

Soviet Era.” The project will analyze

what the West has learned

from its involvement during and

after the ussr’s collapse, raise the

question of why ties are no less

strained than in 1991, and make

some cautious predictions for the


Daniel Visconti

Daniel Visconti’s orchestral

piece Storm Windows takes its

title from a poem by Howard

Nemerov. As the orchestra

plays, a narrator reads: “People

are putting up storm windows

now, / Or were, this morning,

until the heavy rain / Drove them

indoors…” The calming habits

that seem to show humanity’s

victory over forces of nature

are halted, postponed, then

destroyed altogether. Soon lawns

are flattened, window glass shattered.

But the storm’s destruction

allows a new kind of communication

to exist: “something

of / A swaying clarity.”

It is this new clarity that

Visconti’s compositions attempt

to bring forth, working from the

rubble, detritus, and storm-wreck

of more habitual and conventional

forms of music. Dan Visconti,

this year’s Leonore Annenberg

Fellow in Music Composition,

spent years as a jazz and rock guitarist,

and traces of these genres –

as well as blues, gospel, and other

forms – remain detectable.

At 26, Visconti has already

received numerous accolades for

his work, including awards from

bmi and ascap, the American

Academy of Arts and Letters, and

the Society of Composers. In

the past three years, he has had

three major orchestral pieces

commissioned: Overdrive for

the Minnesota Orchestra, The

Breadth of Breaking Waves by the

Annapolis Symphony, and Some

Day the Sun Won’t Shine by the

New York Youth Symphony. The

forcefulness and energy of his

compositions are practically palpable:

when describing his music,

reviewers call it “bristling,” “dazzling,”

and an “assault on the


The potency of Visconti’s compositions

demonstrates again the

power of music to communicate

uniquely among the arts. Late

in Storm Windows, Nemerov’s

speaker interrupts his account

of the rainstorm with a parenthetical,

bemused and bemusing

aside: “(Unspeakable the distance

in the mind!)” Should this be the

case, it is the great task of composers

– including Dan Visconti –

to express it.

Sneak Preview

The spring 2009 fellows

The Academy looks

forward to welcoming

an outstanding class of

scholars, writers, and artists to

the Hans Arnhold Center this

spring. Donald Antrim,

author of Must I Now Read All of

Wittgenstein?, becomes the second

Mary Ellen von der Heyden

Fellow of Fiction. He will be

joined by Holtzbrinck Fellow

Adrian LeBlanc, author of

Give It Up and a professor at the

New York University School

of Journalism. Bosch Fellows

in Public Policy this spring are

journalist Charles Lane of

the Washington Post, and Susan

Pedersen, professor of history at

Columbia University. Edward

Dimendberg, professor of

film and media at the University

of California, Irvine, joins the

Academy as the spring 2009

Daimler Fellow. Historians at

the Hans Arnhold Center will

be Anna-Maria Kellen Fellows

Mitchell Merback of The

Johns Hopkins University

and, continuing, Devin Fore

of Princeton University. The

Academy also welcomes Ellen

Maria Gorrissen Fellows Jed

Rasula, professor of English

at the University of Georgia,

and Juliet Koss, professor

of art and art history at

Scripps College, in Claremont,

California. The George H.W.

Bush/Axel Springer Fellow,

Donald Kommers, is a professor

of political science and

law at the University of Notre

Dame and the author of

Black, and Gold: Germany’s

Constitutional Odyssey. And

while Leonore Annenberg

Fellow in Music Composition,

Daniel Visconti, will continue

his residency from the fall,

the new Guna S. Mundheim

Fellow in the Visual Arts will

be Amy Sillman, a New Yorkbased

Call for


The American Academy is accepting applications from scholars, writers, and professionals

who wish to engage in independent study in Berlin during the 2010–2011 academic

year. Most fellowships are for a single academic semester and include a monthly

stipend, round-trip airfare, partial board, and comfortable accommodations at the

Hans Arnhold Center. Only US citizens or permanent residents are eligible to apply.

Applications are due in Berlin on October 15, 2009. After a rigorous peer review

process, Berlin Prizes will be awarded by an independent selection committee and

announced in the spring of 2010. For further information on the fellowship program,

please visit the Academy’s website (www.americanacademy.de).

N16 | Life & Letters | News from the Hans Arnhold Center

fi Calendar

From concerts, readings, forums, and

lectures, the Academy’s fall semester offers

a myriad of new perspectives on American

intellectual and cultural life. Herewith,

a listing of events in and around the Hans

Arnhold Center.


9/2 Presentation of the Fall

2008 Fellows

Introduced by the honorable

William R. Timken, Jr. – US

Ambassador to Germany

9/4 Romanticism Resurgent:

Religion, Medical

Science, and the Rise of


Richard Sloan, Nathaniel Wharton

Professor of Behavioral Medicine,

Department of Psychiatry,

Columbia University Medical

Center, New York; moderated

by Dr. Stefan Etgeton, Head of

Department for Health and

Nutrition, Federation of German

Consumer Organisations

9/25 Blood Work: Fables of

Identity, Science, and Race

Thomas C. Holt, James Westfall

Thompson Distinguished Service

Professor, University of Chicago;

moderated by Patrick Bahners,

Cultural Editor, Frankfurter

Allgemeine Zeitung


10/6 A Conversation with

Jagdish Bhagwati

Jagdish Bhagwati, University

Professor of Economics and Law,

Columbia University; moderated

by Jürgen Stark, member of the

Executive Board and the Governing

Council, European Central Bank

Location: European Central Bank,

Frankfurt am Main

10/7 In Defense of


Jagdish Bhagwati, University

Professor of Economics and Law,

Columbia University

Location: Magnus-Haus Berlin

10/14 A Tr ansatl antic Str ategy

for the Greater Middle


Kenneth Pollack, Director of

Research and Senior Fellow, Saban

Center for Middle East Policy,

Brookings Institution; moderated by

Volker Stanzel, Political Director,

German Federal Foreign Office

10/15 The American Future: A

History – The Campaign in

the Light of the Past

Simon Schama, University

Professor of Art History and History,

Columbia University

10/16 Writing about the US

Immigrant Experience

Ha Jin, Professor of English, Boston


10/22 Touch Would

Patty Chang, Artist, New York;

moderated by Anette Hüsch,

Curator, Hamburger Bahnhof –

Museum für Gegenwart

10/27 Aesthetics, Mathematics,

and Philosophy: Is there

an Intersection?

Juliet Floyd, Professor of Philosophy,

Boston University; moderated

by Jochen Brüning, Professor of

Mathematics, Humboldt-

Universität zu Berlin, and

Executive Director, Hermann

von Helmholtz-Zentrum für


10/29 American Academy Guest

Malcolm McLaren, Music Manager

(Sex Pistols), Artist, Designer,

and Musician, London

10/30 Folding Enterprises

Sarah Oppenheimer, Artist, New


10/31 Vol. 02 – The End of Oil –

The Economics of A Post

Energy Era

Keynote speeches by Sigmar Gabriel,

German Federal Minister for the

Environment, Nature Conservation

and Nuclear Safety, and Matthew

R. Simmons, ceo, Simmons &

Company International; hosted by

Süddeutsche Zeitung

Location: Hamburg


11/3 Who Runs the World?

Parag Khanna, Director, Global

Governance Initiative and Senior

Research Fellow, American Strategy

Program, New America Foundation

Location: Internationaler Club im

Auswärtigen Amt, Berlin

11/4 America Votes: Die


Location: Bertelsmann Residenz,

Unter den Linden 1

In cooperation with cnn, n-tv, rtl,

Audi, and Bertelsmann

Invitation only

11/5 Business Roundtable

Adam Posen, Deputy Director,

Peterson Institute for Economics,

Washington, DC

Time and place TBA

11/6 Multi-Americanism and

the Future of Global


Parag Khanna, Director, Global

Governance Initiative and Senior

Research Fellow, American

Strategy Program, New America


11/17 Thoughts on Incest:

Shifting Discourses since

the Renaissance

David Sabean, Professor of History,

University of California, Los

Angeles; moderated by Michaela

Hohkamp, Professor of History,

Freie Universität Berlin

11/18 In the House of My Fear:

A Memoir of Sanity Lost

and Recovered in the l ate

1960s, Set in Cuba, New

York, London, Ibiza, and

Some Str ange Pl aces in the


Joel Agee, Writer, New York

11/20 Intimate International

Rel ations: World War,

Post war Families, and the

Humanitarian Origins of

Intercountry Adoption

Heide Fehrenbach, Presidential

Research Professor and Professor

of History, Northern Illinois

University; moderated by Gisela

Bock, Professor of History, Freie

Universität Berlin

11/24 Russia and the West –

A Way Forward

Angela Stent, Professor of

Government and Foreign Service

and Director, Center for Eurasian,

Russian and East European Studies,

Georgetown University

11/– Energy and Geopolitics

Daniel Yergin, Chairman,

Cambridge Energy Research

Associates (cera)


12/8 Commemorating

Death, Obscuring Life?

Conundrums of European

Jewish History after the


Leora Auslander, Professor

of European Social History,

University of Chicago

12/9 Russia and the West –

A Way Forward

Angela Stent, Professor of

Government and Foreign Service

and Director, Center for Eurasian,

Russian and East European Studies,

Georgetown University; moderated

by Brigitte Georgi-Findlay,

Professor of North American Studies,

Technische Universität Dresden

Location: Festsaal, Rektorats-Villa

der TU Dresden

12/11 In Honor of Elliott Carter:

A Concert marking his

100th Birthday

Gary Hoffman, Cello; Karl-Heinz

Steffens, Clarinet; and Michael

Friedlander, Piano

12/15 Guardian of the


Stephen Breyer, Associate Justice,

United States Supreme Court;

moderated by Dieter Grimm, former

Justice, Federal Constitutional Court,

former Rector, Wissenschaftskolleg

zu Berlin, and Professor of Law,

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Supplementing its core programs at the

Hans Arnhold Center and downtown Berlin

is a series of several additional talks by

Academy fellows in Baden-Württemberg,

co-organized with partner institutions in

that German state. More information on

the Baden-Württemberg Seminar is available

at www.hca.uni-heidelberg.de

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 33

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34 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Courtesy of the artist

From Touch Would–The Product Love, or Die Wahre Liebe, 2008

Touch Would

A 1928 homonym spurs cinematic reinterpretations

By Patty Chang

Sound film was invented in the

1920s. It became a sensation with the

1928 Warner Brother’s hit, The Jazz

Singer. But new sound technology posed a

problem for studios’ international distribution

in the new global marketplace: while

language could easily be changed in silent

films by splicing in new inter-titles, it was

not as simple for sound film. It would be

years before sound dubbing was perfected.

In the interim, studios had to find a

way to stay on top of the international film

market: they made Multiple Language

Version (mlv) films. For these, directors

re-shot the same film narrative in different

languages. If actors were multilingual,

they would star in the different versions of

the films. And in 1930, Chinese-American

actress Anna May Wong starred in an

English version of the film The Flame of

Love with an English-speaking leading

man, a German version with a German

leading man, and a French version with a

French leading man.

I imagine the three films being projected

simultaneously side-by-side in a cinema,

the three versions being repetitions,

but not precisely so. What is lost between

the different languages in the films? Does

the dialogue fall into synchronicity? Or is

there an annoying repetition or uncanny

déjà vu? Does the actress move differently

as a French speaker? It fascinates me that

in each film she performs the other for that

culture, but as a trilogy she is the center.

There is a wavering energy in being ambivalently


For a variety of reasons, I could only

locate the English version of the film. So

to pass the time, I researched. And in one

biography, I came across some quotations

by Walter Benjamin.

In 1928 the two had actually met:

Benjamin interviewed Anna May Wong –

at the time a film starlet playing popular

melodrama – for the German literary magazine

Die Literarische Welt.

In the article, which details their meeting,

Benjamin asks Wong, “With what

form of representation would you express

yourself, if film was not available to you?”

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 35

Courtesy of the artist

From Touch Would–The Product Love, or Die Wahre Liebe, 2008

I imagine the three films being projected simultaneously

side-by-side in a cinema, the three versions being repetitions,

but not precisely so. What is lost between the different

languages in the films?

She answers with the expression “touch

wood,” as in the superstitious expression

“knock on wood,” to prevent an unwanted

event from occurring. In the original text,

though, “touch wood” is printed in English

as “touch would.”

What are the chances Walter Benjamin

actually believed that Anna May Wong

meant to say touch would become her form

of expression if film were not available

to her? Moreover, why would Benjamin,

whose work has had enormous influence

on film theory and contemporary culture,

write about an Asian-American film starlet

working in Berlin?

In my 2006 video A Chinoiserie Out of

the Old West, I had three scholars translate

this Benjamin article; they all translate this

“touch” part differently. One of them has

Wong saying that if film were not available

to her, touch would become her form of


In wordplay, Freud speaks of the breakdown

of meaning to be a relief of the conscious

mind and a subverting of the rules

of language and meaning. He theorizes

that “the unconscious takes the opportunity

of a word or phrase to intrude a meaning

that has been repressed.” This slip

interrupts our everyday reality and opens

imagination to a whole other world existing


After considering all the possible meanings

of touch wood/would, the tone of the

text changes. A break is created. I become

confused and unsure of the intentions of

the article. I become more conscious of

being deceived by the meaning presented.

I, too, question if Anna May Wong really

did mean to say “touch would.” Perhaps

she was purposefully enjoying the mischievous

distortion of her speech because

it played with the ironic inversion of the

cultural critic as witness to her otherness.

Or maybe Benjamin did it on purpose to

spite her. Having been known not to put

up with intellectual inferiors, perhaps he

was having a jab at her self-importance of

being a movie star by implying that the

film star is only a prostitute. My response

is a physical suspicion, as confusion is fi

36 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

often physical. Like film, the conscious and

the unconscious cohabitate, waver back and

forth, intentions unclear.

The meeting of Wong and Benjamin

and their point of contact as a Freudian slip

makes tenuous and wavering the relationship

of theory over medium, intentions over

coincidences, conscious over subconscious.

Another narrative is forever hovering, even

if it is not visible, as a simultaneous and

alternative narrative.

In the Chinoiserie video, the translators’

confusion of touching as a form of expression

brings to my mind the idea of sex

workers’ roles as “professional touchers.”

It also problematically frames Benjamin’s

Freudian slip as a subconscious desire

for Wong, or more generally, the West’s

subconscious desire for the East. In this

context, the use of “professional touchers”

in the form of sex workers could be standins

for Wong, and the use of translators

could be stand-ins for Benjamin. Marx

claimed that “prostitution is only a specific

expression of the general prostitution of the

laborer.” From Brecht to Godard to Leftist

Chinese cinema, the prostitute has been

used as a symbol of the problems of ailing

modern society.

Touch Would: The Product Love, or Die

Wahre Liebe is my attempt at making a

pornographic film starring the characters

Wong and Benjamin, in China. Die Wahre

Liebe was a working title of Bertoldt Brecht’s

play The Good Person of Szechuan (1943). In

this play, three gods come to earth to find

out if there are any good persons left. They

meet a prostitute who is good, and they give

her a gift of money in order to continue her

good deeds. With this money, she opens

a shop and immediately discovers the difficulties

that come with continuing her

generosity while being a business owner.

To solve this problem, she creates a malecousin

character who arrives to do any bad

deeds she, as a good person, cannot imagine

doing – becoming, in effect, two people.

An ethical question behind The Good

Person of Szechuan is how a person could

stay “good” in a capitalist society (or, as

they prefer to say in China, “market-driven

society”). The actress who plays Wong in

Touch Would is a restaurant owner in her

non-acting life. She juggles, on the one

hand, her ultimate desire in life to be an

actor, with being a business owner within

the changing economic landscape of China.

Both the characters of Wong and Benjamin

are played by Chinese television actors. By

requiring Chinese actors to perform both

By requiring Chinese actors to perform both the roles of

Anna May Wong and Benjamin, the video reverses the common

practice in early Hollywood of having all-white casts portray

Asian characters in “yellowface.”

the roles of Anna May Wong and Benjamin,

the video reverses the common practice in

early Hollywood of having all-white casts

portray Asian characters in “yellowface.” It

also situates the making of a pornographic

film and soap opera within Wong’s authentic

culture, thereby translating it from a

Chinoiserie into a Western. µ

Patty Chang is a New York-based video

and performance artist and the fall 2008

Guna S. Mundheim Fellow in the Visual

Arts at the Academy.

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38 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Courtesy Jablonka Galerie, Köln/Berlin. Photo: Joe Traina and Beth Phillips

James Rosenquist, The Hole in the Center of the Clock – Night Numbers, 2008

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 39

Down by law

Copyright and creativity in the age of YouTube

By Lawrence Lessig

In early February 2007 Stephanie

Lenz’s 18-month-old son, Holden, started

dancing. Pushing a walker across

the kitchen floor, Holden started moving

to the distinctive beat of a song by Prince

(that’s the current name of the artist formerly

known as Prince), “Let’s Go Crazy.”

Holden had heard the song a couple of

weeks before, when the family was watching

the Super Bowl. The beat had obviously

stuck. So when he heard the song again,

he did what any sensible 18-month-old

would do: he accepted Prince’s invitation

and went crazy – in the clumsy but insanely

cute way that any precocious 18-monthold


Holden’s mom, understandably, thought

the scene hilarious. She grabbed her camcorder

and captured the dance digitally. For

29 seconds she had the priceless image of

Holden dancing to the barely discernible

Prince playing on a radio somewhere in the


Lenz wanted her parents to see the film.

But it’s a bit hard to e-mail a 20-megabyte

video file, even to your family. So she did

what any sensible citizen of the twenty-first

century would do: she uploaded the file to

YouTube and e-mailed her relatives the link.

They watched the video scores of times, no

doubt sharing the link with friends and colleagues

at work. It was a perfect YouTube

moment: a community of laughs around a

homemade video, readily shared with anyone

who wanted to watch.

Sometime over the next four months,

however, someone not a friend of Stephanie

Lenz also watched Holden dance. That

someone worked for Universal Music Group.

Universal either owns or administers some

of the copyrights of Prince. And Universal

has a long history of aggressively defending

the copyrights of its authors. In 1976 it was

it’s a bit hard to e-mail a 20-megabyte video file,

even to your family. So she did what any sensible

citizen of the twenty-first century would do:

she uploaded the file to YouTube and e-mailed her

relatives the link.

one of the lead plaintiffs suing Sony for the

“pirate technology” now known as the vcr.

In 2000 it was one of about ten companies

suing Eric Corely and his magazine 2600

for publishing a link to a site that contained

code that could enable someone to play

a dvd on Linux. And in 2007 Universal

would continue its crusade against copyright

piracy by threatening Stephanie Lenz.

It fired off a letter to YouTube demanding

that it remove the unauthorized performance

of Prince’s music. YouTube, to avoid

liability itself, complied.

This sort of thing happens all the time.

Companies like YouTube are deluged with

demands to remove material from their

systems. No doubt a significant portion

of those demands are fair and justified. If

you’re Viacom, funding a new television

series with high-priced ads, it is perfectly

understandable that when a perfect copy

of the latest episode is made available on

YouTube, you would be keen to have it taken

down. Copyright law gives Viacom that

power by giving it a quick and inexpensive

way to get the YouTubes of the world to help

it protect its rights.

The Prince song on Lenz’s video, however,

was something completely different.

First, the quality of the recording was terrible.

No one would download Lenz’s video to

avoid paying Prince for his music. Likewise,

neither Prince nor Universal was in the

business of selling the right to video-cam

your baby dancing to their music. There is

no market in licensing music to amateur

video. Thus, there was no plausible way

in which Prince or Universal was being

harmed by Stephanie Lenz’s sharing this

video of her kid dancing with her family,

friends, and whoever else saw it. Some

parents might well be terrified by how

deeply commercial culture had penetrated

the brain of their 18-month-old. Stephanie

Lenz just thought it cute.

Not cute, however, from Lenz’s perspective

at least, was the notice she received

from YouTube that it was removing her

video. What had she done wrong? Lenz

wondered. What possible rule – assuming,

as she did, that the rules regulating culture

and her (what we call “copyright”) were

sensible rules – could her maternal gloating

have broken? She pressed that question

through a number of channels until

it found its way to the Electronic Frontier

Foundation (eff), on whose board I sat

until the beginning of 2008.

The eff handles lots of cases like this.

The lawyers thought this case would quickly

go away. They filed a counternotice, asserting

that no rights of Universal or Prince

were violated, and that Stephanie Lenz

certainly had the right to show her baby

dancing. The response was routine. No one

expected anything more would come of it.

But something did. The lawyers at

Universal were not going to back down.

There was a principle at stake here.

Ms. Lenz was not permitted to share fi

40 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

this bit of captured culture. They would

insist – indeed, would threaten her with

this claim directly – that sharing this home

movie was willful copyright infringement.

Under the laws of the United States, Ms.

Lenz was risking a $150,000 fine for sharing

her home movie.

I want you to imagine the conference

room at Universal where the decision was

made to threaten Stephanie Lenz with a

federal lawsuit: four or more participants,

most of them lawyers billing hundreds

of dollars an hour. All of them wearing

thousand-dollar suits, sitting around looking

serious, drinking coffee brewed by an

assistant, reading a memo drafted by a firstyear

associate about the various rights that

had been violated by the pirate Stephanie

Lenz. After thirty minutes, maybe an

hour, the executives come to their solemn

decision. A meeting that cost Universal

$10,000? $50,000? (when you count the

value of the lawyers’ time, and the time

to prepare the legal materials); a meeting

resolved to invoke the laws of Congress

against a mother merely giddy with love for

her 18-month-old son.

Picture all that, and then ask yourself:

how is it that sensible people, people no

doubt educated at some of the best universities

and law schools in the country, would

come to think it a sane use of corporate

resources to threaten the mother of a dancing

infant? What is it that allows these lawyers

and executives to take a case like this

seriously, to believe there’s some important

social or corporate reason to deploy the

federal scheme of regulation called copyright

to stop the spread of these images and

music? “Let’s Go Crazy”? Indeed! What has

brought the American legal system to the

point that such behavior by a leading corporation

is considered anything but “crazy”?

Or to turn it around, who have we become

that such behavior seems sane to anyone?

In the copyright “wars,” of which

this scene is but a minor skirmish, rightthinking

sorts mean not the “war” on

copyright “waged” by “pirates,” but the

“war” on “piracy,” which threatens “the survival”

of certain American industries. This

war has an important objective. Copyright

is, in my view at least, critically important

to a healthy culture. Properly balanced, it is

essential to inspiring certain forms of creativity.

Without it, we would have a much

poorer culture. With it, at least properly balanced,

we create the incentives to produce

like all metaphoric wars, the copyright wars are not actual

conflicts of survival. Or at least, they are not conflicts

for survival of a people or a society, even if they are wars

of survival for certain businesses or, more accurately,

business models.

great new works that otherwise would not

be produced.

But, like all metaphoric wars, the copyright

wars are not actual conflicts of survival.

Or at least, they are not conflicts for

survival of a people or a society, even if they

are wars of survival for certain businesses

or, more accurately, business models. Thus

we must keep in mind the other values

or objectives that might also be affected

by this war. We must make sure this war

doesn’t cost more than it is worth. We must

be sure it is winnable, or winnable at a price

we’re willing to pay.

I believe we should not be waging this

war. I believe so not because I think copyright

is unimportant. Instead, I believe in

peace because the costs of this war wildly

exceed any benefit, at least when you

consider changes to the current regime

of copyright that could end this war while

promising artists and authors the protection

that any copyright system is intended

to provide.

I published a book called Free Culture

just as my first child was born. And in the

four years since, my focus, or fears, about

this war have changed. I don’t doubt the

concerns I had about innovation, creativity,

and freedom. But they don’t keep me awake

anymore. Now I worry about the effect this

war is having upon our kids. What is this

war doing to them? Who is it making them?

How is it changing how they think about

normal, right-thinking behavior? What

does it mean to a society when a whole generation

is raised as criminals?

These are not new questions. Indeed,

they are the questions that late head of the

Motion Picture Association of America,

Jack Valenti, asked again and again as

he fought what he called a “terrorist war”

against “piracy.” It was the question he

asked a Harvard audience the first time

he and I debated the issue. In his brilliant

and engaging opening, Valenti described

another talk he had just given at Stanford,

at which 90 percent of the students confessed

to illegally downloading music from

Napster. He asked a student to defend this

“stealing.” The student’s response was simple:

yes, this might be stealing, but everyone

does it. How could it be wrong? Valenti

then asked his Stanford hosts: “What are

you teaching these kids? What kind of

moral platform will sustain this young

man in his later life?”

This wasn’t the question that interested

me in that debate. I blathered on about the

framers of our Constitution, about incentives,

and about limiting monopolies. But

Valenti’s question is precisely the question

that interests me now: “What kind

of moral platform will sustain this young

man in his later life?” For me, “this young

man” represents my two young sons. For

you, it may be your daughter or your nephew.

But for all of us, whether we have kids

or not, Valenti’s question is exactly the

question that should concern us most. In a

world in which technology begs all of us to

create and spread creative work differently

from how it was created and spread before,

what kind of moral platform will sustain

our kids, when their ordinary behavior is

deemed criminal? Who will they become?

What other crimes will to them seem


Valenti asked this question to motivate

Congress – and anyone else who would

listen – to wage an ever more effective

war against “piracy.” I ask this question

to motivate anyone who will listen (and

Congress is certainly not in that category)

to think about a different question: what

should we do if this war against “piracy”

as we currently conceive of it cannot be

won? What should we do if we know that

the future will be one where our kids, and

their kids, will use a digital network to

access whatever content they want whenever

they want it? What should we do if we

know that the future is one where perfect

control over the distribution of “copies”

simply will not exist?

In that world, should we continue our

ritual sacrifice of some kid caught downloading

content? Should we continue the

expulsions from universities? The threat

of multimillion-dollar civil judgments?

Should we increase the vigor with which we

wage war against these “terrorists”? Should

we sacrifice ten or a hundred to a federal

prison (for their actions under current law

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 41

are felonies), so that others learn to stop

what today they do with ever-increasing


In my view, the solution to an unwinnable

war is not to wage war more vigorously.

At least when the war is not about

survival, the solution to an unwinnable war

is to sue for peace, and then to find ways to

achieve without war the ends that the war

sought. Criminalizing an entire generation

is too high a price to pay for almost any

end. It is certainly too high a price to pay

for a copyright system crafted more than a

generation ago.

This war is especially pointless because

there are peaceful means to attain all of its

objectives – or at least, all of the legitimate

objectives. Artists and authors need incentives

to 28.08.2008 create. We can 12:01 craft a system Uhr Seite that 1


does exactly that without criminalizing our

kids. The last decade is filled with extraordinarily

good work by some of the very best

scholars in America, mapping and sketching

alternatives to the existing system.

These alternatives would achieve the same

ends that copyright seeks, without making

felons of those who naturally do what new

technologies encourage them to do.

It is time we stop developing tools that do nothing more than

break the connectivity and efficiency of this network. It is

time we call a truce, and figure a better way. And a better way

means redefining the system of law we call copyright so that

ordinary, normal behavior is not called criminal.

It is time we take seriously these alternatives.

It is time we stop wasting the

resources of our federal courts, our police,

and our universities to punish behavior

that we need not punish. It is time we stop

developing tools that do nothing more

than break the extraordinary connectivity

and efficiency of this network. It is time we

call a truce, and figure a better way. And

a better way means redefining the system

of law we call copyright so that ordinary,

normal behavior is not called criminal. We

need, in other words, more humility about


The twentieth century changed us in

many obvious ways. But the one way we’re

likely not to notice is the presumption the

twentieth century gave us that government

regulation is plausibly successful. For most

of the history of modern government, the

struggle was not about what was good or

bad; the struggle was about whether it was

possible to imagine government affecting

any good through regulation. Fears of

inevitable corruption, in part at least, drove

our framers to limit the size of the federal

government – not their idealism about libertarianism.

Recognizing the uselessness

of certain sorts of rules led governments

to avoid regulation in obvious areas, or to

deregulate when they saw their regulation

failing. These are the historical expressions

of regulatory humility, a habit of mind for

most of human history. µ

The above essay is adapted from Remix:

Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the

Hybrid Economy (Penguin 2008),

by J.P. Morgan spring 2007 Academy

fellow and current trustee Lawrence

Lessig, a professor of law at Stanford

University and co-founder of Creative



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© Freese/drama-berlin.de

Staged in Berlin

The author visited a variety of Berlin theaters in the spring of 2008.

Herewith, the findings

By Kenneth Gross

Scene from Die Ratten at Deutsches Theater

44 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

The stage is bare of furniture and

props – there is only a vast, rotating

wall at the back of the stage, yellow or

suffused in yellow light. Four actors – an

older and a younger woman, a shorter and

a taller man – speak all the parts. There is

a chorus of old men, a Persian queen, a battlefield

survivor, a king’s ghost, and a king,

who enters alone at the very end of the play.

I am watching Aeschylus’s The Persians,

translated by Heiner Mueller and directed

by Dimitir Gotscheff at the Deutsches

Theater. The only extant Greek tragedy on

a historical subject – produced in Athens

in 472 BC, only eight years after the events

it depicts – the play shows how the Persian

court awaits and then receives news of the

catastrophic defeat of King Xerxes’ invading

Persian fleet by much smaller Greek

forces at the battle of Salamis.

The actors deliver their lines with a

measured musical cadence, a choreography

of the voice, trying to catch the formality

of the original Greek but never sacrificing

immediacy or emotional resonance. Most

lines are delivered with the actors standing

still, gazing directly at the audience.

No voice is quite singular, transparently

individual. The older woman speaks for

the whole chorus of worried, terrified

mourning elders, registering the cost of

Xerxes’ aggressive pride, and even hinting

that the shame of this defeat might

lessen the power of kings. The words of a

single messenger are spoken by both men

together, a kind of minimalist chorus.

With an impersonality that gradually fills

with rage and bitterness, they speak of the

horrors of battle, and even more of the horrors

of the long march home. The subtle

sharing or dividing of roles suggests how

the fate of all Persians is bound together.

And then there are moments when some

more alien impulse breaks out – as when

Queen Atossa, despite the outward gravity

of her voice, gives vent to a wordless, almost

manic howl of glee (watched silently by

others) when she finds out that Xerxes is

still alive and that she will keep her crown.

Even more remarkable is when Xerxes

himself comes on stage at the end, stripped,

isolated, humiliated, an object of fear. He

speaks Aeschylus’s text, in which the king

acknowledges his terrible defeat and asks

the Persians with ceremonious insistence

to mourn their dead, make lament, and

History presses in more sharply here, history that is, in

turn, continually being re-interrogated, restaged, and

re-monumentalized in ways I can find variously fascinating

and baffling.

Ortega y Gasset makes much fuss somewhere speculating that Goethe,

glorious Goethe, mismanaged the project of realizing his selfhood,

that he was one of those “I”s who aren’t truly at one with themselves,

who in construing themselves betray the “I” they could/should have been.

make offerings to the gods. But the actor

delivers the lines with such focused rage,

tinged with hysteria, that we see Xerxes’

effort to recover, in the very moment of

defeat, his authority and his power to terrify.

He is a fanatic and thug in the guise of

a king, still unaware of his own hybris.

The show’s opening scene is a silent,

super-added clownshow, in which the two

male actors struggle over how to place the

rotating wall between them, starting with

polite adjustments, pushing it back and

forth with increasing heat, until they find

themselves chased and overtaken by the

speed and momentum of the wall itself. It

is less a topical reference to the Berlin Wall

than an emblem of how human beings set

in motion forces they cannot control. It is

a physical emblem of the fact that, in this

staging of the tragedy, there was no fate or

necessity other than a human one.

Xerxes at the end is no particular

political terrorist but a mirror of all: if the


This is as I recall it, though possibly I, who for the greater part of my life

have been involved in an adversarial relation with myself, berating, accusing,

demanding I be someone I’m not, shouldn’t be wholly trusted in this:

Ortega may well have meant something entirely else, (though what?)

Anyway, put things in perspective, go back past where it all starts,

past Heraclitus, Hephaestus, Baal, the bacteria-kings, to the inception,

when there were only some dream-strings, then a cosmos stuffed like a couch –

is it likely cosmos could have ever conceived of a butter-inner like “I”?

moment makes him inevitably a double

for George Bush in Iraq, he is also Hitler,

Stalin, or any number of minor tyrants

indifferent to the suffering of their people.

What strikes me is how much more immediate

and charged such mirrorings are

when performed in Berlin as opposed to

New York or London. History presses in

more sharply here, history that is, in turn,

continually being re-interrogated, restaged,

and re-monumentalized in ways I can find

variously fascinating and baffling.

The house that serves as the setting

for Nora (Ibsen’s A Doll’s House,

as directed by Thomas Ostermeier at

the Schaubühne) is no claustrophobically

comfortable bourgeois box. It seems rather,

in its stylish European modernity, a place

of danger, with its sharp-edged furniture,

rail-less wooden stairs suspended in space,

sleek glass walls, and shifting floor levels.

Positioned on a rotating stage and always

glimpsed from new angles, this house has a

menacing life of its own.

Nora (played remarkably by Anne

Tismer – part of the oddness of theatergoing

here is never to have heard the names

of obviously well-known artists) shows

her hysteria, physical energy, and anxiety

more openly than in any traditional ver-

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 45

Or that some maundering “I” would come up with mind, and then words? –

(oh, the prickling serifs, the barbs) – and that words would be used to test cosmos,

make certain it worked correctly? Could a self-swallowed black-hole

skidding and slipping on gravity’s dance-floor have ever dreamt that?

No surprise then that reality, having to know how sadly contingent it was,

would plot vengeance: a “thinker,” yes, who’d contrive a cunning conundrum:

an “I” not good enough for its “I,” inflicted on the vastest “I” in the stacks.

How could a barely competent, underachieving universe not applaud that?

… Although, as I say and probably should repeat, this might well be all me …

sion I have seen. Violence is sometimes a

form of play in this house. You see it in the

games with toy guns that Nora continually

plays with her children, and in the

punk costume Nora wears to a fancy-dress

ball, which includes holstered pistols and

a t-shirt covered with fake blood over a

black miniskirt. Physical menace takes

more concrete forms as well. In one scene,

the couple’s friend Doctor Rank – here no

aging professional dying of syphilis, as

in Ibsen, but a young man dying of aids –

makes rough, mocking sexual advances

toward Nora. And at the end, rather than

simply leaving a baffled Torvald alone in

the house, this Nora shoots him with his

own gun. More memorable than even this

directorial reinvention is the play’s close.

Ibsen’s iconic image of Nora walking out of

the house and slamming the door, entering

into a new, freer world offstage, is a hard

thing to make persuasive for modern audiences.

In Ostermeier’s version, you see her

walking through the door, but then the set

rotates to show her standing on the other

side of that threshold. Stunned, as much in

shock as in triumph, she leans against the

door, slides down to a squat, and stays there

as the lights go down. The doorway marks

a house she cannot leave. It becomes a trap

rather than an escape hatch.

This production, staged first in 2004,

has become something of a classic on the

C.K. Williams

Berlin stage. If this is “director’s theater,”

the reshaping of the text to speak to the

present moment isn’t at all gratuitous. It

takes Ibsen’s play seriously, making its

hidden tensions more present and physical,

even as it probes the play’s dramatic limits,

the limits of Ibsen’s testing of the possible,

his sense of what can, or ought to, be visible

and invisible. In an equally remarkable

version of Hedda Gabler, Ostermeier uses

the rotating stage to let us see what is otherwise

always hidden – the body of the young,

proud, but morally trapped wife after she

shoots herself with her father’s pistol. She

is more alone even in death, since the other

characters, who cannot see her, don’t even

believe she has killed herself. They mistake

the gunshot for a game. The famous last

line – “People don’t do such things” – is

uttered with smugness and insouciance

rather than shock or horror.

The freedom and the need to

grapple with a classical repertoire is

for me part of the pleasure of theater

here. It puts the director’s own will on display

more nakedly. For all the excitement of

pieces like The Persians and Nora, however,

there are other cases where the updating

depends on a chilly, mechanical radicalism

– even a cruel, avant-garde kitsch – rather

than on a revisionary work bred into and

through the play.

Michael Thalheimer’s Hamlet at the

Deutsches Theater plays a game of relentless

darkening, but in a way that often

merely displays its own proud contempt

for the original play. Claudius is a cowardly

idiot who spends most of the time groping

or having sex with Gertrude, who is usually

completely uninterested in her son. Hamlet

is often just bored and disgusted – with

little “antic disposition,” little rage, sorrow,

wit, compulsion, even thought. The ghost,

stark naked and impassive, hauling a huge

sword, tells the story of his poisoning as

if in a dream, while Hamlet stands beside

him equally expressionless, uttering his

response like an automaton. He delivers

the “To be or not to be” soliloquy twice,

once in a loud, unmodulated shout, and

then in a kind of bored, rapid drone spoken

directly to the audience. The levels of violence

on stage seem all but arbitrary. The

climactic duel with Laertes is a perfunctory

slapping of wooden swords. On the other

hand, in the famous scene where the prince

invites Guildenstern to play a recorder that

he doesn’t know how to play, so as to frame

his attack on their poor powers of manipulation,

Thalheimer’s Hamlet forces the

instrument into both Guildenstern’s and

Rosencrantz’s mouths with such force that

they spit blood.

There are moments of revelation.

The actress playing Ophelia shows real

wounded passion in her lines, sane and

mad. It is brilliant to make Polonius into a

sly, anxious, and manic Stasi agent trying

to keep the world under control. Equally

fascinating is the way actors move back and

forth on a deep stage, into and out of darkness.

At the play’s opening, all the actors sit

in a line at the front of the stage, staring at

the audience in a kind of pained boredom

for perhaps five minutes before beginning

the opening court scene. It is stupefying,

an obvious trick, yet when the actors return

to this arrangement, corpses and all, at the

play’s end, the repetition makes it more

haunting. Throughout, one is reminded of

the potential emptiness of Shakespeare’s

Hamlet as a theatrical cliché, a dead robot

of melancholy. And something more dangerous:

a figure whose influence is somehow

implicated in the historical waste of a

civilization (the subject of Heiner Mueller’s

Hamletmaschine, whose influence is at

work here).

Still, what continues to baffle me is the

relentless abandonment of the play’s fi

46 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Photo: Arno Declair

Scene from Hedda Gabler at Schaubühne

own resources of language, thought, and

feeling, including its own ways of articulating

skepticism, rage, and contempt. No

appeals to Brecht’s “alienation-effect” or

Artaud’s “theater of cruelty,” even the idea

of a “post-dramatic theater” would be sufficient

to overcome my sense of wasted

means. It is as if someone were to give you

a beautifully designed weapon, equipped

with night vision, laser-guided aim, a

silencer, untraceable bullets, and fantastic

range, and you used it to club someone over

the head.

Thalheimer’s staging of

Gerhard Hauptmann’s Die Ratten

(The Rats), also at the Deutsches

Theater, feels different. The aim to

strip down is no less at work. The setting

described in the original text is the

depressed, crumbling, warren-like chambers

of a Berlin tenement. In this version,

we have an open performance space bare of

all detail, the floor elevated several meters

above the ordinary stage platform. It has

a low, deep ceiling, a good deal less than

two meters high, so the actors are forced to

move in an unnatural crouch, appearing

and disappearing from the darkened rear

of the stage. The visual game, the literalization

of the metaphor of house and stage as

rat-hole, is clear enough. You can’t mistake

the display of the director and designer’s

revisionary will. And yet what is more compelling

is the frightening ease with which

the characters live and move in that constrained

space; they have made it a world

they belong in, stalking and searching.

And perhaps because Hauptmann’s characters

are already so desolate and disconsolate,

victims of poverty, madness, ambition,

even of their own virtue, so full of cruelty

and vulnerability (one plot twist is the theft

and killing of a child) that the actors are

allowed emotionally to inhabit their roles

and their blunt, working-class language

without contempt, to give heat and blood

to their words – even if they also enact the

play’s potential for melodrama.

Among several versions of

Goethe’s Faust I see in Berlin, by

far the strangest is Gretchens Faust,

directed by and starring Martin Wuttke. It

is staged in a long, ornate, high-ceilinged

chamber in the Berliner Ensemble, the

walls faced in tall mirrors, the audience

seated in two rows around a long wooden

table and on a balcony that runs the length

of the room. On top of that table walks a

chorus of nine actresses, appearing by

turns as jailors and sylphs, ingénues and

witches, waitresses and cleaning women.

They are all incarnations of Faust’s alwayschanging

view of the women he desires,

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 47

flees, and betrays, displayed as the driving

forces of his career. They move and change

roles in endless dumb show. Almost all

speech comes from Wuttke, who utters

streams of verse-fragments from the plays,

assuming the voices of both Faust and

Mephistopheles. Black-clad and whitewigged,

he is fierce, gleeful, manically

persuasive, even if also, at moments, a

child and idiot. (Much of the audience, a

friend tells me, will remember Wuttke’s

much-lauded performance as the grotesque

Hitlerian gangster in Brecht’s The

Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui.) The mocking

dismemberment of character and language

is even more ruthless than in Thalheimer’s

staging of Faust, Part I (which I dislike

for some of the same reasons I dislike his

Hamlet). What makes Wuttke’s revisions

different is the show’s theatrical playfulness,

as well as one’s awareness of the

actor’s pleasure, even ecstasy, in inhabiting

his different voices and postures.

Scene from Spleen at Wilde & Vogel

At one moment Wuttke leaves the

chamber, calling loudly “Pudel, Pudel…” –

reminding us of the dog in whose shape

Mephistopheles first appears in Goethe’s

text. We hear him off-stage, crying out for

many minutes in the hallways, on the stairways,

even in the theater courtyard. It is

amazing to hear his voice through the windows.

Faust is at large in Mitte! He finally

does return with a small, black poodle who

walks up and down the tabletop and acquits

himself brilliantly among this company.


came to the American Academy

not to write not about human actors but

about the aesthetics of puppet theater.

Berlin, like many cities in Germany, has

numerous professional companies performing

both traditional and experimental

puppet shows for adult and child audiences

– assuming in the children an appetite

Photo: Helmut Pogerth

for curious invention, and in the adults a

readiness to take seriously both the puppets

and their own child-like appetites. It is

a smaller world than that of actors’ theaters,

mysterious and relentlessly idiosyncratic,

but with its own immense ambitions to

reinterpret inherited texts.

I go to see a puppet show of Tristan

und Isolde in a production by the Theater

Handgemenge, not knowing what to expect.

(The venue is a small but well-appointed

theater in east Berlin called the Schaubude –

in fact a former ddr state puppet theater, a

relic of a time when puppet theater, as in

many Eastern bloc nations, received considerable

state support and became a home

for serious artists, partly because it was

seen as a tool for education.) The show is

not Wagner’s opera but a staging based on

his source, the thirteenth-century poem of

Gottfried von Strassburg. It is played both

by realistic, fully-sculpted puppets moved

with hands and rods and by smaller shadowfigures

projected on a backlit screen. The

use of the puppets brings out the legendary,

idealized, and dream-like aspects of the

story of love and adultery. But these small,

stark figures are also eloquent in conveying

the bluntness, the wordless rawness, of the

desire that drives and pulls the two lovers.

This desire is ruthless and cruel; the couple

seems to hide nothing. Isolde’s husband,

King Mark, is the more touching, but also

the more frightening, for seeing everything

and yet doing nothing. In this version, any

violence remains uncommitted. Mark’s cruelty,

like that of the lovers, lies in the silence

by which they try to protect one another.

Director Tristan Vogt later tells me that the

puppets themselves somehow made this

directorial interpretation inevitable. The

puppets, he says, create a world in which

there are no secrets.

Puppets have a different relation to life

and death. They do not die and have no

human past or memory; they are close to

the realm of the inanimate. Their deathlessness

gives them a closer attachment

to the demonic, to things ordinarily out of

sight. Yet it is harder to make them lie. It

puts them beyond certain genres, tragedy

perhaps being one of them.

The puppet company Wilde &

Vogel performs a show based on

Baudelaire’s book of prose poems

Paris Spleen, directed by Hendrik Mannes.

At its center is a tiny marionette frog fi

48 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

© Freese/drama-berlin.de

with long legs, human breasts, and a devious,

insinuating smile. There is also an impish,

skeletal torso with long arms, wrapped

in gray rags; a larger, vaudevillian frog,

wielding ostrich plumes; a comic demon;

and the fierce creatures of a Kasper show –

all undertaking responses to Baudelaire’s

haunting, often grimly comical reflections

and stories. The puppets are all slightly

broken, slightly ruined. They are scattered

about the stage, and all set into motion by

a single puppeteer, Michael Vogel, who

remains alone and exposed to our view.

He handles the puppets with delicacy but

also freedom, coaxing them into life, picking

them up and leaving them aside as

necessary, then reanimating those he’d

abandoned. Even as he moves the puppets,

he also interacts with them, part actor and

dancer. At moments he dons the mask of a

ghostly female face or of a nude female torso,

which assimilate him more fully to the

material world of the puppets, even as they

make his human sexual identity more fluid.

You hear Baudelaire’s texts read by the

recorded voices of young children – poems

that describe a poor boy gaily playing with

a rat, jealously watched by a rich boy; a poet

who cruelly breaks a glass-seller’s panes;

two boys fighting in the mud over a piece of

bread; a melancholy clown standing at the

margins of a bright, noisy circus; the death

of a conspiratorial court fool; the moon’s

invasion of the poet’s sleep. The children’s

voices lend a curious impersonality and

transparency to these texts, as if the children

only sometimes know what they are


The puppets in their movements catch

the poems’ spirit of seductive histrionics

and violence, but never enact the texts literally.

They have their own strange games

to perform: dances, songs, explorations,

flights, frights, and battles, obliquely doubling

the stories. Some of the most astonishing

moments are those when a silent

puppet stands still and seems just to listen

to the voices of the children, only half comprehending

what they say. The puppets find

their way mysteriously into the poems and

make a home there. You never quite know

where the soul of the puppet or actor is.

Scene from Hamlet at Deutsches Theater

Brecht’s Dreigroschenoper,

directed by Robert Wilson at the

Berliner Ensemble, is the hardest

ticket to get – always sold out, even when

the run is extended by months. Can this

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 49

be because it is so strangely different from

everything else there is to see on stage? It

is so purely beautiful, a crystalline visual

and theatrical artifact, with the actors

in their stylish, if often grotesque, black

costumes silhouetted against backdrops

of saturated reds, blues, and greens. Only

the shifting patterns of linear white lights

define the different spaces of the action –

street, tavern, whorehouse, jail, gallows. In

their stylized make-up and perfectly choreographed

movements – keyed to small,

insistent impulses of sound – the actors are

themselves like puppets. It is a production

that is stripped down and abstract, yes, but

without the raw edges, the air of ruin, vulnerability,

and contamination so visible in

other performances I have seen. Is that why

I feel so little sense of any historical world

of crime or coercion beyond the edges of

the play?

wonder about the quantity of

stage-blood used on the Berlin stage.

I am made acutely aware here of

how fake blood can become its own kind

of empty gesture or kitsch, the more so

when it seems meant to mark some truth

about violence. So I become alert to places

where it seems used in a more calculated,

nuanced fashion. There is, for instance,

the blood on Nora’s fancy-dress costume,

which (a rare thing) acknowledges itself as

stage blood. One of the nastier characters

in Die Ratten, the thuggish brother Bruno,

seems to have a permanent nose-bleed

that gives him something like a red Hitler

moustache. (It makes me queasy, but I see

the point.)

Just before leaving Berlin, I see the

premier of Handel’s Belshazzar at the

Staatsoper unter den Linden, directed by

Christoph Nel, conducted by René Jacobs.

Based on the Book of Daniel, the piece

recounts how a tyrannical Babylonian king

is punished for his oppression of Jewish

captives and his defiling of sacred vessels

stolen from the Temple in Jerusalem.

Belshazzar was originally written as an

oratorio whose action is supposed to be

imagined, but here the singers act it out.

The set and stage-action have great simplicity

and economy – though Belshazzar

himself (Kenneth Tarver), as he stalks

about with exaggerated menace, wearing

an oversized crown and holding up

an iconic, single-bladed axe, looks like

a weird survivor from some German

Expressionist play of the early 1920s. One

very stark effect sticks in my mind. For

the famous “handwriting on the wall,” the

mysterious Hebrew words Mene mene tekel

upharsin, written by a supernatural hand

that appears to Belshazzar at his feast,

we see nothing word-like at all. Rather,

blood suddenly seeps out of horizontal

seams that run the length of the white

wall, slowly running down in a web of thin,

wavering lines. All the stranger that when

Kristina Hammarström, who sings Daniel,

repeats aloud the words she “reads” on

the wall, her notes sound not like Baroque

ornamentation, but rather like Handel’s

attempt to imitate the sounds of a cantor

in a synagogue, intoning the words of

scripture. µ

Kenneth Gross is a professor of English

at the University of Rochester and a

Shakespeare scholar. An Ellen Maria

Gorrissen Fellow at the American

Academy in spring 2008, he is currently

writing about puppetry.


Available at newsstands


50 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Mutual Mistrust

Cynical disbelief has become the central roadblock to an Israeli–Palestinian peace

By Dennis Ross

Today we face multiple limitations

that hamper peacemaking

between Israel and its neighbors.

Start with the Palestinians: the Palestinian

Authority (PA) holds sway in only part of its

territory. Hamas controls Gaza, rejects the

very idea of a two-state solution, and there

is no prospect any time soon of the PA reasserting

its control over the area. Any agreement

between Israel and the PA on peace

may have to include Gaza; no Palestinian

leadership would retain any credibility if

it looked like it was ready to forsake Gaza.

But such an agreement will likely exist for

some time only on paper.

This is an obvious limitation. But it’s not

the only obstacle – or even the most important

– to peacemaking between Israelis and

Palestinians. Rather, it is the disbelief that

exists on both sides. That the Israeli and

Palestinian publics no longer believe that

peace is possible ultimately weakens their

leaders. No political head is likely to take

on the history and mythology of Jerusalem

or of the grievances of refugees if he or she

believes that the public will reject proposals

for peace and change. That does not mean

these leaders cannot lead. It means they

must have some reason to believe that the

public will follow them when they do.

Why do the publics disbelieve? In the

case of the Israelis, several factors have

contributed. First, there is the failing of

the Oslo Accords. From their standpoint,

right or wrong, Israelis saw in Ehud Barak

someone prepared to meet Palestinian

needs, first in accordance with the Camp

David Accords, and then with the more

far-reaching Clinton parameters. Israelis

saw in Barak a readiness to make unprecedented

concessions on both withdrawal and

the sharing of Jerusalem. The Palestinian

response was not only rejection, but also

violence. The Palestinian response – or, to

be fair, Arafat’s rejection of Barak’s stance

and his support (or at least countenancing)

of violence – convinced the vast majority

of Israelis that the Palestinians were not

prepared for peace. Nothing has done

more to discredit the Israeli peace camp

within Israel than the combination of the

Intifada and the Arafat rejection of the

Clinton parameters. (In fact, most Israelis

concluded that if the Palestinians were

not prepared to accept the Clinton parameters,

then they were not prepared to accept


Another factor contributing to the

disenchantment of the Israeli public has

been Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from

Lebanon and Gaza. Though carried out

for two very different reasons, by two different

prime ministers (Ehud Barak and

Ariel Sharon), these withdrawals have

been regarded by the Israeli public as two

of a kind. Israel departed from Lebanon in

May of 2000, and the UN confirmed that

Israel had fulfilled its obligations under the

Security Council’s Resolution 425. Yet in

the eyes of the Israeli public, Hizbollah had

claimed a great victory: extending its power

in Lebanon. Making matters much worse,

Hizbollah provoked a conflict in 2006 by

crossing the border, kidnapping Israeli

soldiers, and, in the ensuing war, hitting

Israel with four thousand rockets.

If anything, the Gaza withdrawal

has soured the Israeli public even more.

Because this withdrawal was carried out

after Arafat was no longer on the scene, its

aftermath seemed to confirm all the worst

lessons of Lebanon. What’s more, whereas

there had been no Israeli settlers in

Lebanon, Gaza’s settler population fiercely

resisted Sharon’s attempt to pull them from

their homes. Many Israelis feared that this

could be a preview of what would happen in

the West Bank. Withdrawal was emotionally

difficult for the Israeli public, but many

took pride in accomplishing it.

They were shocked, then, that the effort

to do so was met with unabated hostility.

Palestinian rocket-fire from Gaza did not

Israelis may feel that Palestinians betrayed them by not

uniting against terrorism; Palestinians, however, counter

that Oslo actually strengthened Israeli occupation.

stop for a single day, making life miserable

for Israelis living in towns like Sderot – and

this was even before Hamas seized control.

When Hamas subsequently did take control,

the Israeli public concluded that withdrawal

from the West Bank would result in

yet another Hamas takeover. Moreover, as

every Israeli knows, Gaza lies along Israel’s

periphery, while the West Bank sits astride

Israel’s heartland. Rockets fired from the

West Bank would make every Israeli community

vulnerable on a daily basis – an

intolerable danger.

In short, Israeli disbelief has emerged

from a number of searing lessons. And

unfortunately, their perceptions are mirrored

on the Palestinian side – equally

genuine and equally powerful. For

Palestinians, Oslo’s failure is just as profound:

the Oslo Accords were supposed

to deliver the end of occupation. Israelis

may feel that Palestinians betrayed

them by not uniting against terrorism;

Palestinians, however, counter that Oslo

actually strengthened Israeli occupation.

Settlements did not stop post-Oslo; they

increased. Palestinians believed that the

Oslo Accords would slow or stop the presence

of Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza,

yet for most of Oslo they saw the opposite:

more settlements, more roads to serve

only settlers, and more limitations on

Palestinian freedom of movement.

Palestinians feel thus as betrayed as

their Israeli counterparts. While Israelis

believe they have had no choice but to

impose restrictions on Palestinians in

order to curb terrorism, Palestinians see

these restrictions as deliberately punitive

and unrelated to security. They see Osloimposed

obligations being flaunted by

Israel: prisoners not released, withdrawals

postponed, and territorial status fi

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 51

Anselm Kiefer, Jakobs Traum, 2008. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac Salzburg/Paris

52 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Liszt, Overheard

Jet-lagged, half-insomniac, I lie in a dim tower

in a foreign college as piano notes ripple up

the winding stair. It’s medieval here,

spliced Renaissance spliced late Victorian.

I’m an emigrant from my life. Now a violin

teases the piano, a cello breathes heavily on both –

an audience must be straining forward in a panelled hall.

How many years have I half-heard

a music meant for others? The chestnut trees

shrug epaulets and fringes in the night wind.

Black tulips sway. An arpeggio falls downstairs.

Your face surges, known and strange, its history drawn

by an Old Master who worked only in the dark.

Rosanna Warren

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Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 53


Childhood’s vanquished in clattering speed as the train

hurls through the dim, damp, befogged, waterlogged,

locked-in, locked-down coastal suburban landscape of the past –

shooting by my hometown station in such a blur

the name’s illegible…. Only in your arms do I wake up.

The city rasps below us. Two currents thrust

against each other, the East River struggles with itself,

its contradictions shoved in whorls the sun abrades.

And here, by your jungle plants, your carved black snake,

antelope horns, deer skull, statuettes, and stones,

we fall into another kind of math

where imaginary and natural numbers mate

and procreate new space, the bedclothes flung,

silvered light straining through the smudgy pane.

Rosanna Warren

constantly changed to Israeli advantage.

With the collapse of the Oslo Accords during

the Bush era, Palestinians have experienced

further draconian measures, with

devastating consequences for their economy,

mobility, and opportunity for anything

resembling a normal life.

Of course, Israelis see their security

measures – including a security barrier,

checkpoints, and undercover arrest operations

– as natural and essential counterterrorism

responses that have succeeded in

stopping suicide bombing attacks in Israel.

Yet Palestinians blame Israel far more than

Hamas or Islamic Jihad for their predicament.

With Palestinian per capita income

dropping 40 percent between 2001 and

2006 (as opposed to 25 percent during the

Great Depression), life became incredibly

difficult. For Palestinians, it was much

easier to focus on their anger and grievance

than on the possibility of coexistence. Most

concluded that Israel would never willingly

relinquish control.

Even the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza

did not impress Palestinians. Hamas, like

Hizbollah before them, claimed their violent

“resistance” was responsible for Israel’s

exit. Palestinians also claimed that the

Israelis were giving up unwanted territory,

Gaza – which Israel was transforming into

a besieged prison anyhow – in order to keep

the West Bank. Even though the Gaza withdrawal

happened after Mahmoud Abbas’s

election as PA president on a platform of

non-violence, Palestinians were not seeing

any improvements in their day-to-day

existence to reward them for their choice of

leader. Israel did little to manage the withdrawal

from Gaza in such a way that would

give Abbas implicit credit. In fact, nothing

was done to make withdrawal appear

to be linked to his calls for moderation or

his negotiations with Israel. Sharon had

decided to withdraw, and he did not want

Palestinians to tell him how to do so. In

Sharon’s eyes, his tough decisions vis-à-vis

his own hard-line constituency should have

been matched by similar toughness from

Abbas. Since Abbas was deemed too soft

on Palestinian extremists, Sharon refused

to shape the withdrawal in a way that

would have given him credit for the Gaza


Since Sharon was unprepared to

respond to Abbas while juggling his own

very real domestic challenges, the Bush

Administration needed to intervene. It

needed to see how important it was for a

new Palestinian leader, lacking the authority

and charisma of the icon he had replaced,

to show results. It needed to realize that the

Gaza withdrawal was a historic moment

that should be seized to re-establish belief in

peacemaking, and it needed to realize that

both Sharon and Abbas wanted vindication

for the consequences of withdrawal. But the

Administration, still governed by its neoconservative

disengagement instincts, was

unable to see this necessity. It squandered

the moment.

The Bush Administration sought to

create a new peacemaking dialogue, reengaging

in the peace process in January

2007, which led to the Annapolis conference

in late November of that year. But this,

too, became yet another missed opportunity

to restore popular belief in the peace process.

To be fair, US re-engagement in 2007

did not have the serendipitous timing of

2005; there was no Israeli action – such as

withdrawal from Arab lands – available as a

pretext for discussion. And whereas in 2005

Abbas had just been elected and had a clean

slate with the Palestinian public, by 2007

he had already lost much of his luster, having

delivered nothing on daily life or Israeli

behavior, and having been weakened by the

Hamas election in 2006. On the Israeli side,

Ariel Sharon had great standing and fi

54 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

authority in 2005; in 2007 Prime Minister

Ehud Olmert had very little of either. He had

been profoundly weakened by the mishandling

of the war with Hizbollah in the summer

of 2006, and the Israeli public had little

confidence in him.

So launching an initiative in January

2007 was bound to be far more difficult.

The circumstances should have put even

more of a premium on thinking the initiative

through and on achieving something

tangible. When publics have lost faith in

peacemaking for all the reasons noted above,

it is not simple to restore it. Loss of faith is

more profound than simple loss of confidence.

It will not be restored overnight, but

only gradually – and even then it takes tangible

demonstrations of change for it to take

credible hold. Had Secretary Rice focused

on producing groundwork for peace that

Israeli and Palestinian publics would have

noticed, she might have done much for longterm

peacemaking. Instead, she sought a

political horizon – with each side signing

up to the compromises they would make

on the core issues of the conflict – and she

did little to affect the day-to-day realities on

the ground that might have altered the two

publics’ perceptions. Only when it became

clear that she could not achieve the political

horizon did she change her approach a few

weeks before the Annapolis conference and

declare that the aim was now simply to use

the conference to launch negotiations.

Problematically, the conference never

drafted a “day after” strategy to show that

this new negotiating process would produce

change. In fact, both sides continued to see

more of the same. In the first two months

after Annapolis, there were several terrorist

attacks against Israelis in the West

Bank (actually connected to Palestinian

security forces), and Palestinians saw new

announcements of settlement construction.

Moreover, while large amounts of assistance

to Palestinians were pledged, nothing materialized

as real economic improvements.

When public skepticism required something

dramatic to revive belief, each public

saw more of what had made them cynical in

the first place.

So here we are. Over the course of 2008

there have been very limited economic

improvements for Palestinians and no

meaningful changes in employment or

mobility. Though the US and the EU have

trained a few security-force battalions for

AmAcademy_185x124mm 30.09.2008 17:08 Uhr Seite 1

the PA, the Israeli military and security

forces see little evidence of active counterterrorism

in the West Bank. At the same

time, political channels are slowly facilitating

change. But this process takes place

in private – divorced from public realities.

These talks have been serious, but they

do not translate because of the involved

leaders’ weaknesses and the absence of

an environment that would give them the

confidence to compromise without fearing

public backlash.

The next American presidential administration

must learn these lessons and understand

these setbacks if it hopes to prevent

another cycle of mistrust, mismanagement,

and cynicism. Peacemaking requires a

foundation and a public context that gives

negotiations a chance to succeed; the next

administration must operate on such a basis

if it is to give peace a chance. µ

Dennis Ross was Middle East envoy and

the chief peace negotiator in the presidential

administrations of George H.W.

Bush and Bill Clinton. He is currently a

counselor and Distinguished Fellow at the

Washington Institute for Near East Policy

and was a Distinguished Visitor at the

American Academy in spring 2004.

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Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 55


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Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 57

The Journey

By H.G. Adler

Courtesy Ubu Gallery, new york & Galerie Berinson, Berlin

Courtesy Ubu Gallery, new york & Galerie Berinson, Berlin

Paul closes the door to the apartment

behind him and thinks about

what he has left behind. Now Frau

Lischka no longer has any say and has to

keep quiet when her stairs are muddied.

Behind the door above, everything has

been left behind but not forgotten; it’s

there, simply there. No one can go back,

the stairs will not have their soundness

tested again, and who knows whether or

not these are the last steps that will be

allowed upon them. The rattle of keys

when the doors are locked sounds as familiar

as ever, it was the same burst of clanging

as ever, followed by the feeling of safety,

the apartment was still there, we would

see it again, healthy and unharmed, ready

to receive us. But now the key is pointless,

you might as well leave it in the mailbox so

you won’t have to take it along on the journey.

How ridiculous it was when one of the

messengers advised Paul to make sure and

lock up.

“Apartments left empty will gladly be


“Gladly looted?”

“Gladly looted. But you still have to turn

in your key.”

The stairwell pressed towards the doors,

it descended deeper and deeper as the

yelling came down the frightened hallway,

Down, go down! The stairs yelled out that no

one was allowed to climb them. Afraid of

break-ins, Frau Lischka had an ever watchful

eye. No one got past her ground floor

apartment without her noticing. “Where

are you going?... Ah, to the doctor!” Her

drunken husband would have let anyone

slip through, but his wife never tolerated the

door being left unlocked whenever she went

out. On Sundays the building remained

locked for the entire day, meaning that anyone

who did not have a key had to ring the

bell. That way nothing could be looted.

The streets were quiet, heartened by the

winter cold. The impact of the heavy steps

pleased them, for that stamped life into

them; otherwise the streets would have

been sunk in sadness. They were forbidden

streets meant to be avoided in order not to

violate their pavement. Thus the streets

were crossed out on the maps, no longer

existing for anyone. It was too risky, danger

lay in wait there, especially at night. But one

must not simply accept what is forbidden

once you are not worth anything. And so the

streets were there again and were much longer

and more beautiful than they had ever

been before. They rejoiced at being granted

life once again and didn’t ask to whom they

owed their good fortune. Zerlina said earnestly

to an intruder, “These streets are forbidden.”

But the stranger just smirked and

rubbed his hands. Because those words, so

often repeated, no longer meant anything,

for now the forbidden was allowed.

All that had been forbidden in the world

now meant nothing, for it had never been a

law but rather an arrangement that rested

on enforced custom. What was once taken in

stride now appeared all of a piece to the law,

which had the last word and did not allow

anything to contradict it. Life was reduced

to force, and the natural consequence was

fear, which was bound up with constant danger

in order to rule life through terror. You

experienced what you never had before. You

rejoiced over that which you were allowed,

but even this did not last for long, because

any such comforts only had to be noticed and

the next day they were taken away. Thus the

tender juicy meat was taken away since you

who are made of flesh need no meat. Then

they banned fat, for your belly was full fi

58 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Private Collection, courtesy Ubu Gallery, new york & Galerie Berinson, Berlin

Courtesy Ubu Gallery, new york & Galerie Berinson, Berlin

of fat. They denied you vegetables for they

stunk when they rotted. They ripped chocolate

out of your hands, fruit and wine as well.

You were told that there wasn’t any more.

Highways and byways were forbidden.

The days were shortened and the nights

lengthened, not to mention that the night

was forbidden and the day forbidden as well.

Shops were forbidden, doctors, hospitals,

vehicles, and resting places, forbidden, all

forbidden. Laundries were forbidden, libraries

were forbidden. Music was forbidden,

dancing forbidden. Shoes forbidden. Baths

forbidden. And as long as there still was

money, it was forbidden. What was and what

could be were forbidden. It was announced:

“What you can buy is forbidden, and you

can’t buy anything!” Since people could no

longer buy anything, they wanted to sell

what they had, for they hoped to eke out a

living from what they made off their belongings.

Yet they were told: “What you can sell

is forbidden, and you are forbidden to sell

anything.” Thus everything became sadder

and they mourned their very lives, but they

didn’t want to take their lives, because that

was forbidden.

Once everything in the world was forbidden,

and there was nothing normal left

to forbid, the height of unhappiness was

surpassed and everything became easier, no

one having to become anxious with lengthy

considerations about what to do next.

Everyone did what was forbidden without

a bad conscience, even though it was dangerous

and they were afraid. Yet since you

couldn’t do anything without feeling afraid,

you didn’t do everything that was forbidden.

Sad and fearful people suffered under these

conditions, but others hardly seem bothered,

each following his own disposition. If

there seems no end to the danger, then it

has accomplished its goal already; anything

excessive shuts people down more quickly

than a discreet act of kindness, through

which alone the simple truths of the world

can still be perceived. Because one could not

perceive this simple truth or at least had no

respect for it, everything fell apart. Nothing

more could happen and therefore orders

were merely carried out.

Their gaze swept over the rows of houses

and the street crossings as soon as their eyes

got used to the darkness, and soon they were

ready to escape, for they knew the area well

and there were plenty of good places to hide.

An escape was possible; it would not be too

hard, since there was no one near or far who

would hear them. But steps followed the

women and the brave messengers accompanying

them, and thus only their gaze stole

forth, sending thoughts and memories

ahead which thwarted cowardice sooner

than weary bodies that, with the weight of

all they carried, slunk along in order to avoid

their proscribed fate.

Was such servility really due to cowardice

alone? Old Leopold and fragile Ida

had been taken away and were waiting for

Caroline and the children in the Technology

Museum. Ida felt helpless and Leopold confused.

Both were incapable of handling that

which threatened one surprise after another.

What could be done for them? There was no

clear answer, but one had to stand by them

and not leave, because that was forbidden.

Disloyalty was forbidden, also reason was

forbidden, as it belittled the will to live.

Paul’s thoughts hardly went this far,

for already he had struggled too long to

vanquish the inevitable. After his battle suffered

its first and, he feared, decisive defeat,

he could no longer worry about every threat

that occured. Paul was extremely tired and

smiled at Zerlina, who smiled back. Then

Caroline smiled as well. When the others

saw this, they cheered up and also began to

smile, as one of them said:

“You’re right. It’s not so bad there. You

can eat pretty well. Almost every day there’s

meat and dumplings. But if they find money

or jewelry or tobacco, then you’re in trouble

and don’t get anything to eat.”

“It’s not so bad?”

“You’ll see, Frau Lustig. So many have

already stuck it out. Only a few are beaten.

But nobody has been beaten to death.”


“Yes, but it doesn’t mean anything. Only

the stupid ones are beaten. Whoever doesn’t

deliver or hides something forbidden. When

they get caught they’re the scum of the

earth... condemned....”

The voices defiled the street, therefore it

was better to keep silent and to quietly march

on with irregular steps. Legs marched now

over the bridges. Each wanted to walk along

the balustrade in order to gaze at the frozen

river. But here it was particularly dark, and

so there was hardly anything to see. Only

dirty flecks of foam flickered silver-grey

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 59

among the dolorous depths, and far off by

the dam, where the water never froze, the

thundering sound of the raging water could

be heard. Here was the island on which Paul

and Zerlina had often played as children.

There had also been a swimming school

that one could visit before such things were

forbidden. There had been carts belonging

to vendors who had colorful drinks

for sale, as well as colorful ices and cheap

candy, all of it meant to seduce folks with

delight and requiring only a small sacrifice

of money. Now the island was quiet and

empty, certainly no longer ready to receive

its regular visitors, and above all not the

forbidden ones, especially since the island

was now forbidden to everyone. It could no

longer be reached, the entrance to it was

closed, fenced in with barbed wire because

something had occurred there that was now

forbidden, and no one should know about it.

Now the island lay behind the wanderers,

sunken, an old playground to which no

path led any longer. The travelers no longer

thought about it, and the bridge was gone

as well. Slowly the piers gave way and collapsed,

sinking into one another and falling

almost soundlessly onto the ice. Then the

place was gone, the traffic disappeared, after

which there was a long road and everything

melted together, and yet another road, gone,

gone, everything forbidden now finished,

no longer there, not a single memory even

attempting to assert itself with a shudder,

the forbidden now completely dead behind

the gate that was sealed tight and would last

and was there and locked the forbidden up

for good.

Some halls of the Technology Museum

that lay in the adjacent building had been

cleaned out, nothing left in them but empty

booths and whitewashed walls. That was the

Private Collection, courtesy Ubu Gallery, new york & Galerie Berinson, Berlin

gathering place for those people who were

no longer wanted and yet who nonetheless

were still there, since anyone who is condemned

still exists before being destroyed,

just as there must be a place for it all to

occur, and so it all began here. Hundreds

of bodies lay squeezed tightly together in

the darkness which was only here and there

broken by the muffled light of an occasional

flashlight. But the night was constantly full

of the sounds of rustling and groans.

It was impossible to find Ida and Leopold

in the darkness. In surly fashion the nervous

commander from the office in charge

of new detentions recommended waiting

until morning.

“In six hours there will be enough light.

You’ll find them both then. No one gets lost


But all are already lost, and it is necessary

to make fine distinctions. Whoever comes

too late and has to be taken in should be

happy to find a little spot on which he can

rest. Now it is night and you have to make

sure to find a place to rest. But where? It

doesn’t matter, the main thing is that you

are there. The cross-eyed youth with the service

cap aslant on his head smoked one cigarette

after another. Wasn’t that forbidden?

For a commander nothing was forbidden,

and he could run off at the mouth. He could

fill the reeking hall with orders, as well

as with the anger that unconsciously and

without restraint accompanied the power

conferred on him, and which he could vent

on the prisoners in the museum at will.

Those formerly known as human beings

now appeared made of wax, but they were

still alive. As the morning dawned its grey,

they sat upon their bundles and rocked their

upper bodies to and fro, though they did not

pray. They had no future, nor was the past

recognizable within them any longer. “Here

you can’t remember anything.” fi

Born in Prague in 1910, H.G. Adler published 26 books of

poetry, short stories, novels, philosophy, and social science,

before his death in London in 1988. A survivor of Theresienstadt

and Auschwitz, he first drew acclaim for his encyclopedic study,

Theresienstadt 1941–1945, published in 1955. Adler, however,

had great difficulty in gaining acceptance for his literary work,

despite the help of Elias Canetti and Heinrich Böll. The Journey

was written in 1950 but not published until 1962. It soon disappeared,

however, having been issued by a very small publisher

unable to garner proper attention for it. The book was reissued

in 1999 to wide critical acclaim. Academy alumnus Peter Filkins

has translated this most recent version, published by Random

House in fall 2008.

Jindrich Štyrský (1899–1942) was a Czech Surrealist

painter, poet, collagist, photographer, editor, and graphic artist.

A founding member of the Czech avant-garde artists’ group,

Devetsil, he directed several of the group’s theater productions.

In the 1920s and 1930s Štyrský was considered a polemic and

radical critic of his generation. The vintage gelatin silver prints

reproduced here originally appeared under the then-prohibited

Edition des Surrealismus, in Prague, in 1941. Republished in

1945, On The Needles of These Days is known arguably as

Štyrský’s surrealist masterpiece. The images reproduced here

are from this book, are all untitled, and in the order of their

appearance from pages 16, 18, 52, 22, and 6.

60 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

The cross-eyed youth walked back and

forth among the cowering people. He was

almost completely dressed in leather. It was

forbidden to those whose lives had been

snuffed out to wear anything upon their

heads inside the halls, but Cross Eyes wore

a leather cap. In his right hand he swung

a leather whip with which he could strike

whenever it pleased him. And yet he didn’t

harm anyone, silent threats being enough

to satisfy him. Sometimes he murmured:

“Soon they’ll be here, so order must be kept.

No one can be sick.”

An old woman next to Ida lifted herself

up and stood in front of him: “What will it

be like, Herr Commander?”

Cross Eyes maintained his haughty

stance: “Don’t worry, don’t worry.”

The old woman wanted to sit down

again, but she lost her balance and fell

backwards over her bags. Others also sank

down. A young woman pulled together

some whining boys and girls and distracted

them with games. They sang and clapped

their hands.

Amid the singing a mad woman howled:

“Let me be! The soup scorched my tongue!

You can’t eat my soup! I want to get out! The

pope ordered it! Ha!”

The unhappy woman began to rant.

Since no one knew how to calm her down,

Leopold stepped in.

“I’ve been a general practitioner for years.

The woman is delusional. Her condition

is dangerous. She needs to be isolated and

to have a shot of camphor. She can’t come

along in this condition.”

Cross Eyes appeared out of nowhere.

“Mind your own business, old man! She’s

coming along. Regulations say so. Listen,

old woman! Get a hold of yourself! If

anyone hears this ruckus, it could mean

trouble for you!”

“The soup stinks! I want to get out! Let me

go, let me go! The pope called me!”

“Who does the old lady belong to?”

No one said a word. A stretcher was

brought out. Two young men loaded the

ranting woman onto it, though she desperately

tried to fight them off and bit

one of their hands so badly it bled. Other

attendants rushed to help the young

men, and Cross Eyes ordered them to

strap the raving old lady down on the


Someone yelled: “That’s an outrage!

That’s inhuman! No one declares war on

the sick!”

“Who says so? One can’t jeopardize the

whole group.”

“What do you mean jeopardize? This madness

is what’s really jeopardizing us.”

“They should be quick and be done with it.”

Leopold cried: “That’s not right! You

should call someone who is in charge so that

order is kept!”

“I’m in charge of order.”

“You don’t bring any order at all!”

“What does it matter to you? Does she

belong to you?”

Caroline took her husband by the hand

and tried to pull him away in order to appease

them, but Leopold was very upset and didn’t

want to leave the site of the incident.

“It’s not right! This patient doesn’t belong

here! She needs to be admitted!”

Waves of subdued laughter erupted.

“Admitted? Admitted? Tell us, are you perhaps

free to take care of it?”

“Caroline, this is unheard of! This case

needs to be reported to the medical authorities!

This is not how you treat human beings.

If I had known that such an injustice was

going to take place here I would have stayed

home and not allowed my family to take part

in this journey. The preparations for it are

simply miserable.”

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 61

Leopold wandered off proud and angry,

Caroline leading him away as the laughter

grew behind him. Cross Eyes tapped his

head with the tip of his finger three times:

“Totally nuts!”

In the courtyard Cross Eyes stands in

the first light of dawn and is wrapped up in

a heavy coat. Nearby are some helpers who

for the most part stand by quietly, but who

at a sign suddenly start running around

like raving madmen before returning to

stand motionless again. They are dressed

alike, but not as smartly as Cross Eyes, for

not as much leather clings to them. Some

policemen plod back and forth and look

up at the sky. It’s not their concern. They

rub their hands. There are also three men

in full battledress with their medals and

badges of honor. They are proud men who

hold their little heads high with a decisive

air. Their legs fidget with impatience. One

of them is somewhat small and yawns,

blowing a little cloud of smoke from his

throat. Another one, who is their leader,

calls over to Cross Eyes, who then stands

at attention after he has yanked his leather

cap off his head.


Cross Eyes gives his helpers a sign, at

which the pack fans out. One runs to the

entrance and remains standing there as

he pulls a list from his breast pocket and

unfolds it with great seriousness. After

a short while the forbidden people head

through the gate in twos, bent over with the

weight of their bags. They call out a number

and their former name. The helper writes

with his pencil and sometimes waves his

The forbidden gather themselves in the courtyard and

organize themselves in rows of four.

list back and forth and barks at the swarm:

“Faster! Move on!” The forbidden gather

themselves in the courtyard and organize

themselves in rows of four. Altogether there

are a thousand who used to be known as

human beings. Cross Eyes marches in front

of the rows, turns over his whip, and strides

without a horse slowly along the length of

the front row, while with the whip handle

he gives every fourth man a light swat on

JMB_ImgAnz_184x124_EN2_RZ:Layout 1 11.08.2008 9:25 Uhr Seite 1

the shoulder, calling out loud: “Four! Eight!

Twelve! Sixteen....”

Yet not all one thousand could present

themselves, even though there was space

enough for a much larger group. Twentyfour

members of the traveling group lay on

stretchers. Between their legs and on top of

them the sick ones’ belongings were piled

such that they could not move. After Cross

Eyes had also counted the figures on the

stretchers, he yanked his cap off his head

and strode without a horse as fast as his

crooked legs would carry his fat body to the

mighty heroes, gathered himself together,

and stood at attention.

“One thousand gathered. Twenty four of

them lying down.”

“Well done!”

One of the mighty heroes reached for

the list and counted the number of the anxiously

expectant once again. He hardly paid

attention to the standing, which he quickly

passed by, choosing instead to spend more

time among the stretchers.

Across the courtyard a cry rattled out:

“Medical report!”

Cross Eyes yelled: “Medical report!”

One of his assistants charged into the

Technology Museum. fi


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62 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

The hero barked: “Filthy pigs!”

Cross Eyes cried: “They’ll be right back

in line!”

Then the hero barked: “Why aren’t they


Cross Eyes cried: “Whoever’s fault it is

will pay!”

Then the hero barked even louder: “Shut

your trap, you pig! It’s all your fault!”

Cross Eyes bowed and cried: “Yes, sir!”

Yet the assistant had returned with the

list of the sick, wanting to hand it over to

Cross Eyes.

But then the hero yelled at him loudly:

“Bring it here, or I’ll smack you in the mouth!

Nussbaum, you come as well!”

The assistant and Cross Eyes hurried

towards the mighty hero, who began to

review what they had written.

“What a miserable typewriter ribbon!

Look at this, Nussbaum! Next time I’ll break

your knees if the report is not typed more


“Sorry, we put in for a new one. But no one

sent us a new ribbon.”

“Disgraceful! There’ll be trouble for that.”

Cross Eyes read the names of the ill to

the hero, who then ordered that no one

should be allowed to lie down who did not

210x135_KUK Book 22.08.2008 12:55 Uhr Seite 1

have a fever of 102 degrees. Nonetheless, it

was obvious that almost all of those on the

stretchers were very sick. Only two old men

over eighty and a woman who had given

birth to a stillborn the previous night were

allowed to stay. Otherwise all of the weak

and sick stood in rank and file, as well as

the old woman whose attack of madness

had so disturbed Leopold. As the hero

finished checking the list, he nodded that

he was satisfied. The authority’s honor had

been preserved, and only through an act of

grace had the forbidden been transformed

into the allowed.

“Load it up!”

It began to snow. Heavy flakes fell from

above. They didn’t worry themselves about

those gathered below. They blanketed

the copper green roof of the Technology

Museum. If you stuck out your tongue

between your lips you could perhaps catch

a flake, but it was dangerous to do that since

it was forbidden. Zerlina was happy when

a flake stuck to her eyelash and hung there.

How easily she could have gotten rid of it

with a finger or with a shake of her head or

with a blink of her eyelids. But Zerlina stood

still, making sure not to move. The flake

melted and ran cautiously away.

As long as the heroes are there, it’s forbidden

to move, which Zerlina knew, even

if it was not underscored that often. Life is

forbidden, something which never quite

hits home, because it has not ceased to go

on. Even in the courtyard of the Technology

Museum no order has been given. They simply

have forgotten to enforce what is forbidden,

and thus life is frozen and has turned

to snow. The same flakes could fall on the

heroes or be carried by the wind and drift

down outside of the museum courtyard and

onto one of the surrounding houses or onto

a street. There are no exceptions as to who

is part of the moment. There are differences

only in how fate is meted out, but not in fate

itself, everything now being frozen. One no

longer had to forbid movement, for there

was none. What you saw with your own eyes

could hardly be believed. It was null and

void and could only be believed if you closed

your eyes. Then the snow melted. µ

Translated by Peter Filkins, a professor of

English at Bard College at Simon’s Rock

and a spring 2005 Commerzbank Fellow

at the Academy.

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64 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Her Brother’s Keeper

Not quite sibling rivalry

By David Warren Sabean

During the long nineteenth

century, throughout political revolutions

and social upheavals, something

more intimate was in the process of

being radically altered: ideas of kinship.

After remaining static for over three hundred

years, traditional familial structures

that had been organized around the development

and maintenance of “ stable” properties

– estates, farms, tenancies, monopolies,

privileges, and offices – were suddenly

abandoned and replaced. In their stead

would come a new way of thinking about

family relations that would introduce some

inter-family emotional tangles to the onset

of modernity.

Prior to this shift, what mattered most

were succession, devolution, and descent –

vertical genealogy. Two families or clans

would avoid making repeated marital

exchanges, partly because both the state

and church prohibited cousin marriages,

a bond that unites blood kinsmen and

makes in-laws of cousins. In such a case,

issues of inheritance would be made doubly

contentious. Moreover, a marriage to

a first cousin repeats an alliance between

two families one generation after the initial

tie; marriage between second cousins

amounts to the replication of the grandparents’

marriage by their grandchildren.

And so when European society began

to change and favor endogamous (intergroup)

marriage around the year 1750, it

was a sign that notions of identity, wealth,

and power were also being redefined.

By 1800, marriages previously deemed

incestuous – those between first and

second cousins, and those with relatives

of a deceased spouse – became frequent

among all property-holding groups

throughout Europe. Such marriages created

interlocking kindred through repeated

alliances, sometimes over many generations.

Unlike earlier, Baroque Europe, the

marriage system that developed after 1750

allied individuals with the familiar (in

both senses), with same rather than other.

This massive alteration in ideas of kinship

arrived alongside an increasing fluidity

in the channels of European wealth and

public office. More tightly coordinating

allied kin helped European society cope

with the expansive freedoms of a market

economy and the liberal state. Kinship

became socially horizontal instead of

vertical, so to speak, with alliance becoming

more important than inheritance.

Succession to office was no longer affected

by inherited property rights, but rather

through the systematic promotion of cousins

– one’s horizontally linked kin. In business,

too, monopolies dwindled and oligarchies

flourished. The new economy could

be viewed as a vast network not unlike an

extended family.

To accommodate this immense change,

new mechanisms had to be implemented

to channel familial energies and regulate

socially sanctioned marital choices. And

while more choice was given to children

in courtship, parents still maintained a

measure of control over family destiny. But

now, importantly, families became the

focal point for developing moral sentiment,

managing cultural style, and directing

erotic desires. Socialization into the aesthetics

of choice was all the more crucial,

given the alliance system’s fundamental

problem of managing the flow of capital.

But this modification in European

society was not without its emotional

incursions into the intimate realm of the

family. From the period from 1740 to 1840

brothers and sisters schooled themselves

in sentiment and developed for each other

a language of pure affection and love.

Attachment for a future spouse grew out

of a moral style developed among siblings

and cousins who grew up together. The

incredible outpouring of correspondence

among siblings during this period offers

insight into the practices of what one

might call “the new intimacy.” So, too, do

the scores of novels, epic poems, plays, and

theological treatises that attempt to sort

out legitimate and illegitimate feelings

between brothers and sisters.

In late eighteenth-century

German literature, two once-popular

novelists display how individuals tried to

make sense of incestuous desires wrought

by changes in larger European social

life. In Friedrich Klinger’s 1794 novel

Geschichte Giafers des Barmeciden, set in

Persia, the caliph is obsessively in love with

his sister and rails against the laws prohibiting

sibling marriage:

She grew up on my bosom – I found

her – awoke the first sentiments of her

heart, developed with care the blossoming

of the beauty of her body, her spirit.

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 65

© 2000 Alan Feltus. Courtesy of Forum Gallery, New York

Alan Feltus, Behind Mt. Subasio, 2001

66 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Mine were the first feelings which now

flow more radiant, more beautiful in

her heart. I heard my own thoughts

again, ornamented and newly inspired.

The narrator’s description is a commonplace

motif of the period: the self’s formation

through an intimate dialectic with

a beloved in which “same” and “other”

became totally implicated in each other.

In some ways, the text is a debate about

the distinction between sexual desire and

sibling love.

The same problem is handled in

many novels of the time, including in

Fürchtegott Gellert’s 1739 Schwedische

Gräfin, by the ruse of a marriage between

siblings ignorant of their relationship.

While the feelings that first drew them

together are understood to stem from their

blood connection – their sameness – the

moral or emotional issue occurs with the

restructuring of their sentiments after

they discover their true relations.

In Christoph Martin Wieland’s Agathon

(1794), another example, the hero first falls

in love with Psyche: “their souls recognized

each other immediately and seemed

at one glance to flow into one another.”

Unfortunately, she turns out to be his

sister. Even when Agathon later becomes

attached to the erotically charged Danae,

Psyche continued to retain the most

important place in his heart. As Danae

replaces Psyche as his object of love, he

attempts to direct the second experience

based on the insights he acquired from the

first: “Indeed he loved [Danae] with such

an unselfish, so spiritual, so desire-free

love, that his boldest wish went no further

than to be with her in that sympathetic

union of souls that Psyche had given him

to experience.” And so the entire model of

future possibility grows out of the relationship

of brother to sister, the relationship

that also created man’s moral character.

Agathon says:

I have thought, knowing so much about

our souls, that with each of them, in

their considerable development over

time, I conceive progressively a specific

ideal beauty, which unconsciously

determines our taste and our moral

judgment and which provides the

general model by which our imagination

projects those pictures that we call

great, beautiful, and splendid.

At the end of the story Psyche and Danae

themselves develop a completely fulfilling

friendship, the childless Danae helps raise

Psyche’s children so that they think they

have two mothers, and the two women

begin to call each other “sister.” Finally

Agathon loses all sexual desire for Danae

and begins to consider her, too, his sister.

Wieland’s suggestion is that the only pure

attachments are those between siblings,

not lovers.

This distinguishing of familial overlaps

impinged into hearts at the inception of

the nineteenth century, where several

commentators felt the need to explain the

difference in feelings one has towards a

sister and a wife. Some put the issue in

to Kantian terms, suggesting that with

one’s wife there was always an objective

moment that instrumentalized the relationship.

The theologian Carl Ludwig

Nitzsch thought that that element was sex.

For him, the sexual drive was completely

selfish, but he also thought that sexual

desire developed only after a benevolent

disposition was formed within the family,

setting up proper objects of desire. He

also believed that the tenderness between

spouses never attains the level of intensity

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Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 67

characteristic of siblings. Love between

brother and sister is the model of purity,

selflessness, and the relationship as an

end in itself.

Part and parcel of this new discourse

about sentiment was the assumption

that marriage takes place among people

who share the same culture, class, and

affinities; marriage was the union of true

equals and true intimates. The developing

brother–sister fascination underscored

this desire for homogamy – the search for

the same instead of the other. Thus the

intense structuring of new social milieus

based on allied families also made cousins

– who were then often raised in the

same household – into objects of desire.

The road from homogomy to

erotic desire is sometimes short.

The anthropologist Christopher

Johnson, who recently studied a large

18th century French bourgeois family

network, notes that the rise of erotically

charged sibling ties provided a new focal

point for familial dynamics. As such, the

language of cousinship, too, became

conflated with the charged discourse

of siblings. One sister (whose letters of

longing for her brother bordered on the

incestuous) wrote to her brother about

his impending marriage to their cousin:

“Habituated from your childhood to your

chérie as a sister, and she loving you as a

brother, you have developed an affection

that can only end with life itself.” Later in

their marriage, the cousin/wife addressed

her husband in her letters as “my love,

my friend, my spouse, my brother.” Mary

Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), too, offers

a similar example: Dr. Frankenstein’s

orphaned cousin, raised in his family as a

sister, becomes his and his family’s object

of choice for his wife. The cousin/sister

ambiguity was only one part of a new

eroticism that searched for sameness in

the object of erotic or spiritual love.

Desire between siblings and cousins

during this period was not merely a literary

conceit. The life and work of the

writer Clemens Brentano, for example,

shows how reality and literary imagery

intersected. His novel Godwi (1801) and

his long poem Romanzen vom Rosenkranz

(1803–12) both dwell on sibling incest,

while his lifelong attraction to his sister,

Bettine, brought this literary preoccupation

to life. Growing up in separate households,

Clemens and Bettine saw little of

each other until he was twenty and she

fourteen. While writing Godwi at about the

same time, he describes his growing erotic

attraction to her, expressing pleasure at

her maturing breasts. He and Bettine

began an intense relationship, frequently

exchanging letters – some of which she

later heavily edited in Clemens Brentano’s

Frühlingskranz. The pairing off of two

siblings was typical of many families of

the period, but Bettine became Clemens’

ideal; their relationship was the model of

love. Soon Brentano could only see her

as an extension of himself. To Bettine’s

future husband, Brentano’s friend Achim

Von Arnim, he wrote: “My love for her is

itself not genuine. I stand shyly next to

her because she shows me nothing other

than a more beautiful image of my self.”

To another friend he wrote, “Bettine is my


Soon Brentano had a fiancée of his own,

Sophie Moreau. He described his love for

Bettine even to her, writing: “She is beautiful,

you are beautiful, oh if only you were

beautiful sisters, belles soeurs” – a pun on

the French word for sisters-in-law. Later he

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68 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

God, the highest that a human can love,”

and pleaded with Sophie to “really love

me, so very intimately, as I hardly can do

it myself, as only Bettine has tried....” If

Bettine were not his sister, and if she were

as old as Sophie, he told the latter, he would

of course still feel desire for Sophie, but

Bettine would win him. “But since things

are otherwise, you are there and are the

only one.”

By 1803 Sophie had finally accused

Brentano of incest. He attempted to

explain and demonstrate his transition

from sister to wife:

Bettine’s connection to me is like the

connection of two friends who live

somewhere where talking is forbidden.

One of them, however, had prayed out

loud, told a woman he loved her, comforted

a dying person, and called out in

the night to someone walking into an

abyss. Because of this he had his tongue

cut out. That is me. Now the other goes

around in all the joys of life, greets the

dumb one whenever they meet, but she

is fearful and does not talk and the comforting

glances become more seldom,

and thus everything is ruined, with no

injustice or revenge. Oh if the dumb

one had his tongue again, he would ask

her to love him, but still without hope

and would lose his tongue again.

In perhaps the most important philosophical

treatise of the early nineteenth century,

The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807),

G.W.F. Hegel discusses the differences

between a wife and a sister – and he gives

paramount importance to the latter. The

emotional tie for a married woman, he

suggests, is to marriage itself – not to the

particular husband in question, at least

in an “ethical” household. Her relationships

“are not based on a reference to this

particular husband, this particular child,

but to a husband, to children in general –

not to feeling, but to the universal.” Above

all, a woman as wife cannot know herself

and cannot be a particular self simply

by knowing and being known by her


Everything is different, however, with

respect to her brother, to whom she is

attached by blood but absent mutual desire.

This view had its roots at home. The relationship

between Hegel and his younger

sister, Christiane Luise, was famously

intense and lifelong: just after Hegel’s

marriage, at age forty, she had a nervous

breakdown and went to an asylum for over

a year. And soon after Hegel died, in 1831,

Christiane wrote a letter to her brother’s

widow about his childhood and personality.

Then she took a walk, jumped in a lake,

and drowned herself.

These real-life events are uncannily

foreshadowed in Hegel’s discussion of

wife and sister in the chapter on the “ethical


The moment of individual selfhood,

recognizing and being recognized, can

here assert its right because it is bound

up with the balance and equilibrium

resulting from their being of the same

blood, and from their being related in a

way that involves no mutual desire. The

loss of a brother is thus irreparable to

the sister, and her duty towards him is

the highest.

David Warren Sabean is a professor of

German history at the University of

California, Los Angeles. He is the German

Transatlantic Program Fellow at the

American Academy in fall 2008.


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70 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Exportweltmeister –

So What?

German jubilation over exports drowns out more pressing economic priorities

By Adam Posen

As the world’s leading exporter,

Germany has spent more than

fifty years focused on promoting

exports as the primary driver of its economic

growth. What has largely escaped

public notice, however, is that this focus

on exports has remained unwavering

regardless of German economic success

or decline. Instead, every year, German

commentators eagerly classify countries

according to their volume of exports

as if they were the rankings from the

Fussballweltmeisterschaft, with Germany

expected to be at the top of the list. And, as

seen on the left side of Table 1, it usually

comes close to the top of that league, an

even more impressive performance considering

its size relative to the US or China.

Yet unlike the pursuit of the World Cup,

there is good reason for Germany to give

up this contest. At best, Germany’s pursuit

of export competitiveness has been a

deceptive distraction from the country’s

underlying economic problems, if not a

complete waste of effort that promotes distortions

at home. Neither a country’s share

of exports in gdp nor its relative rank in

world-export league tables has a significant

positive effect on its economic or productivity

growth. As shown on the right side of

Table 1, Germany has been ready for relegation

based on poor income growth, an even

more impressively poor performance considering

its high savings and human capital.

The notion that trade openness (not just

exports) leads to growth has recently been

shown to be less convincing than previously

thought. Moreover, many of the benefits of

openness stem from the presence of generally

beneficial liberal economic institutions,

which happen also to be associated with the

absence of trade protection. In any event,

the remaining beneficial effects of trade

on wealth and growth are associated with

openness, not with exports, net or total.

At least as troubling as Germany’s

misguided export focus is the associated

near-mercantilist perspective of some

German politicians and business leaders

toward European economic integration.

The blocking of integration initiatives such

as the EU Services or Takeover Directives

is justified by these officials in part by the

need to maintain German net export totals.

If anything, however, this perspective

runs contrary to the economic realities of

Germany and all developed economies: the

economic benefits of globalization arise

out of cross-border economic openness and

investment, and the competitive pressure

Table 1: Exportweltmeisterschaft

Avg % of total world exports 1997–2007



South Korea





3 . 9 2 %



4 . 2 3 %




4 . 7 1 %

those relations put on domestic companies

through imports, expansion of variety, and

capital mobility. Exports, in net or absolute

terms, are far from vital to growth on their

own merits.

Rather than exports being uniformly

beneficial, then, it matters greatly what

an advanced country exports and on what

basis. A national economic strategy based

on reducing real wages to make the current

mix of a country’s exports more price

competitive will not lead to sustainable

growth any more than repeated nominal

depreciations would. Germany attempted

this strategy through relative wage defla-




5 . 4 4 %


1 0 . 4 7 %


9 . 4 8 %


6 . 2 1 %

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 71

tion in existing industries vis-à-vis the rest

of the eurozone from 2001–2005. This

yielded two years of surprisingly strong

export-led growth, now coming to a sharp

halt, declining productivity growth, and

no sustained pick-up in either domestic

investment or consumption. Export

growth achieved through increases in productivity

and the creation of new products

or markets would be far more beneficial to

German workers (and thus to consumption

and investment), as well as far more


The German corporate sector desperately

needs competitive pressure and reform

of its corporate governance, but it escapes

those changes by insisting that large

quantities of exports mean the fault lies

elsewhere in the economy, like with high

taxes or wages. Yet, for all their exports, the

resulting lack of consolidation or technological

change in these sectors drives down

productivity growth and returns to capital

throughout the German economy.

Consequently, Germany’s successful

export industries remain largely the same

ones as forty years ago (bulk chemicals

and dyes, large electrical goods and appliances,

machine tools, autos, and auto

parts), while global technological progress

World Cup of Growth Rates

Avg % GDP growth per capita 1997–2007


2 . 37 %


2 . 5 6 %



2 .62 %


2 . 93 %


1 .6 3 %

South Korea

3 .07 %


0.91 % Japan

0. 25 %


3 . 49 %


11.07 %


4 . 49 %


3 . 93 %

and competition from emerging markets

mean that these sectors have moved down

the value chain. Horst Siebert calculated

in 2005 that these sectors have consistently

comprised more than 80 percent

of German exports; most estimates are

lower, but still on the order of 50 percent.

The dysfunctions of the German corporate

sector also mean that almost no German

firms – and thus few German workers and

investors – have emerged in today’s growing

high-technology and service sectors.

For example, only one German company

(sap) is among the top 25 software and

IT service providers worldwide, and no

German companies are among the top

25 IT hardware producers. Germany’s

focus on export companies and the

preservation of their current ownership

structures also shows up in unexploited

scale economies for German companies.

Expansion would require greater external

finance and thus loss of managerial

freedom from accountability. Despite the

common assumption that German multinationals

dominate in both Germany and

the European Union, Germany actually

has 25 percent fewer large companies than

would be consistent with its share of the

EU economy. By focusing on export success

rather than productivity, Germany

has brought about arrested development in

its corporate sector.

Germany needs to reconceive its foreign

economic policy to better serve the welfare

of its citizens. Such a reconception will

require some radical rethinking of the

relative importance of exports. In addition,

it necessitates adjusting the distortive protection

of German businesses that results

from export misprioritization. The success

of some German companies in exporting

has blinded German citizens and policymakers

to the problems of the German

corporate sector.

One result has been that policymakers

end up blaming labor markets and the

public sector for German underperformance.

Simultaneously, Germany’s high

level of exports has hidden the fact that

many incumbent German Mittelstand businesses

face few new competitors and little

pressure from capital markets to increase

profitability. Ultimately, the overall rate of

productivity and per capita income growth

in the German economy has declined when

compared with that of its peers over the last

25 years. That depressing outcome remains

even when averaging in the recent temporary

burst of German growth (and underperformance

of the US), and especially

when one considers that long-demanded

labor market reforms and fiscal consolidation

have already taken place in Germany.

Germany’s foreign economic policy

should shift from reinforcing these patterns

to shattering them. A more aggressive

pursuit of global economic integration

rather than Exportweltmeisterschaft

would bring German foreign economic

policy closer to this goal. Challenging the

accepted German norms about the virtues

of exports becomes even more critical given

today’s integration of China, India, the

12 new EU members, and other emerging

markets into the global supply chain. That

fundamental shift in the environment

increases the competitive pressure on

lower-productivity businesses. At the same

time, for the developed world, this shift

diminishes the political support for continued

international economic openness.

With the “normalization” of German

foreign policy after reunification, Germany

should play a leadership role in international

economic affairs by promoting greater

economic integration, which would benefit

the world and Germany itself. Relatively

passive support for the global trading

regime – with occasional pushes fi

72 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

back against the demands of French (and

now Polish) agricultural interests whenever

multilateral trade negotiations reach

impasses – has been Germany’s habitually

positive but minimal role. This will no longer

suffice to assure German and European

economic well-being. In addition, the statist

and neo-mercantilist values consistent

with the pursuit of the top exporter title are

contrary to the Federal Republic’s values of

multilateralism, constructive transatlanticism,

and deepened European federalism.

Germany has a huge opportunity to

leverage needed productivity-enhancing

changes in its domestic economy through

more enlightened foreign economic

policies. Pursuit of greater international

economic integration at the national,

European, and multilateral levels would

benefit both Germany and potentially –

considering the German influence in the

EU and wto processes – the world. This

would require a restructuring of German

foreign economic policy from the faulty

course it has held for fifty years.

A new German foreign economic policy

would consist of the following measures:

–– Cease waiting for externally driven

export booms to stimulate growth,

whether through relative wage deflation

in the eurozone, exchange-rate

depreciation outside of the eurozone, or

demand-raising productivity improvements


–– Recognize that Germany’s export success

is highly concentrated in only a

few sectors of declining value and

that domestic barriers to new entrants

(foreign and domestic) have caused the

German corporate sector to stagnate;

–– Concentrate instead on productivityenhancing

policies that promote highvalue-added,

high-wage employment,

and emergence of new services and


–– Utilize competitive pressures from

abroad – on product markets, investment

returns, and corporate ownership

– to induce restructuring of

German business.

–– Shift pursuits in Brussels from macroeconomic

policy rules to microeconomic

integration (and support a strong

European Commission and the EU

Takeover and Services Directives as the

logical next steps in that pursuit).

–– Assert greater leadership of Europe in

transatlantic policy coordination and

multilateral economic negotiations,

thereby forestalling the damage that

overly expansive nationalist rhetoric in

the EU can have on wto trade negotiations,

Chinese market access, and foreign

corporate takeovers.

The underlying question for German economic

policymakers henceforth should

be: Does this policy advance Germany’s

integration with the world economy? and

not, How are we doing on exports? While

the latter may be easier to say and measure,

the former is more likely to produce

sustainable and sustained growth in

Germany and Europe. Rather than trying

to be the export world champion, Germany

should try to champion world economic

integration. µ

Adam S. Posen is the Deputy Director

and a Senior Fellow at the Peterson

Institute for International Economics in

Washington, DC. This essay is adapted

from Chapter Four of his forthcoming

book, Why Reform a Rich Country:

Germany (Peterson Institute, 2009).






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Courtesy Centre for Documentation and Area-Transcultural Studies, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies

Central Asian Redux

Central Asia has long been considered a blank space on the map. But as power,

influence, and resources converge upon the region, continued ignorance is perilous

By Robert P. Finn

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 75

On either side of the vast inland

sea that is Central Asia, China

and Russia are cooperating and

competing for influence and access. From

Sinkiang in western China to the oil-rich

Caspian Sea and the Caucasus, the entire

region presents an array of unmatched

possibilities and problems. The European

Union and the United States, too, have

become entwined in the region’s politics,

security, and development, whose goals

and outcomes are in flux. As the new

nations of Central Asia have inherited histories,

ethnicities, and religions that will

influence how they will develop, this vast

geographic neighborhood has become both

stage and player in the drama of the upcoming


Map of the seven banners of Altai Urianhai, Mongolia, 1928

If one stands in Central Asia and

looks southward, Afghanistan provides the

break in a wall of mountains and deserts, a

route south to warm lands and the sea. For

the people of Central Asia, Afghanistan has

historically been a portal through which

the courses of empire and history have

passed. Starting with the prehistoric Aryan

invaders of India, followed by the armies of

Alexander the Great, the Moguls, and eventually

of the Soviet Union, Afghanistan

has been the great highway. For the new

nations of Central Asia, Afghanistan holds

the promise of access while it raises the

sword of political strife.

Afghanistan provided two seminal

shocks that have been primary determinants

of the current political atmosphere

in Central Asia. The defeat of the Soviet

Union in Afghanistan was shattering to

a nation whose mythos was based on the

heroic victory of World War II. In addition,

the Soviet movement into Afghanistan

was a step along the way Russia took in its

nineteenth-century path of imperial acquisition.

The Great Game ended in a draw

with the British Empire. But the latter

dissolved after 1945, and the agreements

made with it seemed no longer binding to

the Soviets.

The peoples of Afghanistan were ethnically

aligned with the Soviet Republics to

the north, which had only been Sovietized

in the 1930s. As the Russian and then

Soviet Empire pushed into Central Asia,

waves of people fled in front of them. The

subsequent rise of Islamic fundamentalism

in Afghanistan only aggravated the

disaster and provided an active threat for

Central Asia. The hundreds of fighters of

the Islamic movement of Uzbekistan fi

76 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

who fled south to Afghanistan and then

to Pakistan were also following ancient

routes. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan each

faced armed Islamic groups that were both

indigenous and linked to groups to the


Russia’s own historic ethnic insecurities

also inform its relationship to Afghanistan.

The centuries-long Mongol rule of Russia

remains a formative element in the

Russian psyche and is demographically

expressed today in a Russia that is 20 percent

Muslim. The bitter wars in Chechnya

can be read as part of the Russian reaction

to the perceived twin threats of Islamic fundamentalism

and nationalism in Russia

itself, where a string of Muslim groups

inhabit the Volga River Valley and where

there are no definitive geographic boundaries

between Muslims and Christians.

At the same time as Chechnya declared

independence, the far larger and more

important republic of Tatarstan was moving

in the same direction. The Soviet defeat

in Afghanistan caused ripples that spread

throughout Eurasia.

The second shock for modern Central

Asia was the invasion of Afghanistan by

international forces after the attacks on

September 11, 2001. Initial cooperation

from the Central Asian countries led to the

establishment of US bases in Uzbekistan

and Kyrgyzstan, a German base in

Uzbekistan, and French forces in Tajikistan.

This coalition’s failure to achieve swift victory

led to a multilateral call at the 2005

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (sco)

meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, for a timetable

to withdraw US troops.

Prior to 2001 the states of Central Asia

had justifiably feared that Afghanistan’s

model of strife would spread to their countries.

This anxiety hastened the end of the

Tajik civil war, as both parties agreed to

an imperfectly implemented compromise

rather than copy Afghanistan’s ongoing

civil wars. To the north, Islam Karimov

used the spectre of Islamic fundamentalism

to establish a police state well known

for its human rights abuses. In addition,

the Islamic threat made the states of

Central Asia renew the ties with Russia that

had slackened in the first years after the

end of the Soviet Union.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization,

started by China as a way to influence the

region, grew more substantive as Russia

and Uzbekistan joined the organization.

It extended its interests to security and

narcotics issues, and it provided a forum

for concern about the US presence in the

region, particularly as the US and European

countries began to push for enforcement of

human rights and democracy. Russia has

accused the US of fomenting the revolutions

in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan.

Other countries in the region have curbed

civil liberties to make sure the same does

not happen to them.

Most of what Central Asian countries

know about democracy and the West

they learned from their colonial experience

with imperial, and then communist,

Russia. With the exception of Kazakhstan,

the experience came late – at the end of the

nineteenth century or well into the twentieth.

The resistance to the Soviets lasted

The Central Asian countries did not want to leave the

Soviet Union; it dissolved and left them behind. For years

they hoped it would reunify.

until the 1930s in Kyrgyzstan and then

moved across the border into Afghanistan

and China. For the citizens of the Soviet

Union, Russia was the West and Russian

the language of Western civilization. The

Soviets changed the alphabets of the

Central Asian countries twice to keep them

from learning from one another and from

their modernizing Turkish cousins. The

propaganda, aided by economic realities

in Asia, worked. A villager living amid

the rusting waste of ex-Soviet Tajikistan

said of visiting relatives across the river in

Afghanistan in the 1990s: “They’re living a

hundred years in the past, without electricity

and water.”

The Central Asian countries did not

want to leave the Soviet Union; it dissolved

and left them behind. For years they

hoped that it would reunify, sharing then-

President Putin’s feeling that its end was a

tragedy. The ensuing social and economic

collapse broke down a system that had been

erected over generations with great difficulty,

startling economic and logistical incompetence,

and appalling cost in human lives.

In Kazakhstan alone an estimated 1.5 million

people died in collectivization drives

in the 1930s, leaving Kazakhs a minority

in their own country. Upon the end of the

Soviet Union the proportion reversed, as

millions of Russians “returned” west and

north to a homeland many had never seen.

Another 1.5 million Volga Germans, deported

to the east during World War II, moved

to Germany. The complex ethnic web of

Central Asia, as varied in its composition

as that of the United States, unraveled and

began to reweave itself.

The newly independent states quickly

replaced Soviet iconography with new

nationalist imagery. Most infamous was

Turkmenistan’s Saparmurad Niyazov,

renamed “Turkmenbashi,” literally “Head

of the Turkmen,” who erected a golden

statue of himself atop a monument that

rotated to face the sun. Tajikistan erected

monuments and pictures of the ninthcentury

Tajik ruler Saman that resembled

Tajikistan’s president, Imamali Rahman;

Uzbekistan chose Tamerlane as its

national hero. Russian lost ground to

national languages, and English became

the foreign language of choice for the

young and upwardly mobile. Azerbaijan,

Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan began to

replace the Cyrillic alphabet with Latin letters,

although as yet only Azerbaijan has

successfully made the transition. More

importantly, the social safety net of the

Soviet Union dissolved along with its political

structures. Hospitals, schools, public

safety, and pension schemes became

dysfunctional as funding disappeared and

inflation ran rampant. Russia, suffering

from the same collapse, initially could do

little to mitigate the changes.

The boom in energy prices and the

spread of Islamic fundamentalism led to

a basic shift in the power relationships

within Central Asia. Russia suddenly had

the money to pay off its debts and promise

largesse to Central Asia. Tajikistan, which

had received 40 percent of its budget from

Moscow in Soviet times and was the poorest

state of the former ussr, received promises

of a two billion dollar aid package from

Moscow. Currently, Russia offers to pay the

Central Asian states market-level prices

for energy. This stance ensures Russia’s

monopoly on energy exports to the West

and prevents US-promoted alternate supply

routes, such as the Nabucco gas pipeline,

from being realized. However, Russia’s

aggressive policy also creates tension

with other players in the Asian oil market,

including China and India. A gas pipeline

from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan

to Pakistan and India would undermine

the Russian monopoly, but Russia’s recent

Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 77

dramatic increase in the price it offers for

Turkmen gas may doom the planned pipeline,

which already faces problems with

supply and security.

Map of the territory of the banner of Dorjjav, 1909–1922

Map of the territory of the banner of Dorjjav, Mongolia, 1909–1922

Russia has taken several steps

to reassert itself militarily in Central

Asia. After initially ignoring the

Shanghai Cooperation Organization,

attempting instead to revive its own

post-Soviet Collective Security Treaty

Organization, it eventually joined the sco.

When the United States and its coalition

allies obtained basing rights adjoining

the Manas airport in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan,

Russia set up its own base a few miles away

at Kant. In Tajikistan, the resident Russian

general reacted to coalition overtures for

use of the Dushanbe airport by announcing

– to the surprise of the Tajiks – that

the base was a Russian-Tajik dual-use

facility. Eventually the French were permitted

to use the airport, and the coalition

rejected Tajik offers to use another base at

Aini because of infrastructure problems.

Russia’s on-again, off-again relations with

Uzbekistan have occasionally resulted

in military cooperation between the two

nations, which see themselves as the rightful

heirs to the Soviet Union’s dominant

position in Central Asia. Russia’s military

intervention in Georgia in August 2008

contained a trenchant lesson for Central

Asia as well, as President Medvedev

claimed the right to intervene anywhere to

protect Russian citizens.

China has also taken an increasingly

active role in the region for both economic

and political reasons. China’s westernmost

province, Sinkiang, is home to a Turkic

people who have ethnic, religious, and

cultural affiliations with their cousins to

the west as far as Turkey. Their Uygur language

is at least partially comprehensible to

other speakers of Turkic languages. Groups

of Kyrgyz and Kazakh minorities also live

on the Chinese side of the border, while an

Uygur minority resides in Kazakhstan and


Sinkiang is also home to an economic

and population boom as China develops

industry and builds new cities in the

area. This has brought millions of Han

Chinese, now the majority ethnic group in

the region. Uygur resistance has resulted

in some violence and the labeling of one

Uygur group as an “international terrorist

organization” by the United States. Some

Uygur fighters have joined al-Qaeda in

Pakistan and Afghanistan. Uygurs maintain

that their resistance is against ethnic

assimilation and economic policies of

Beijing that ignore their interests.

China has taken active steps to develop

its relations with Central Asian states,

and not just because of concern over the

US presence in the region, although the

US military base in Kyrgyzstan – less than

two hundred miles from the Chinese border

– and the US presence in Afghanistan

undoubtedly rankles. Border adjustments

have been made with Russia, Kazakhstan,

and Kyrgyzstan. The Kyrgyz President’s

surrender of several hundred thousand

acres of territory to China was one reason

he was overthrown in 2005. China claims

10 percent of eastern Tajikistan as well

and has opened the first road connecting

its border to the Tajik capital. Chinese

traders are omnipresent in Central Asia,

as are local merchants who go to China

and purchase cheap goods for their


Energy is one of the main

determinants of national interests

in this century. China has moved

briskly forward to advance its energy

interests in Central Asia, purchasing an

oil field in Kazakhstan and planning the

world’s longest pipeline to bring that oil to

China. At the same time, it has signed oil

purchase agreements with Russia to multiply

by several times the Russian supply

to western China. China has also become

the prime trading partner of Kazakhstan

and Iran. With the latter it has signed

deals worth $100 billion to develop

the gas and oil fields at North Pars and

Yadavaran, purchase liquefied natural gas,

extend the Tehran metro, and continue a

wide range of other projects. There is also

speculation that China will obtain docking

rights on the Iranian Gulf shore, complementing

the large commercial port it

is building in Gwadar, Pakistan. China

has invested nearly one billion dollars in

Turkmenistan, has obtained an interest

in a Turkmen gas field in the Caspian Sea,

and is building a pipeline to bring that

gas to China, scheduled to begin operation

in 2010.

Closer to home, China has signed a

$3.4 billion deal to develop the Aynak copper

mine in northeast Afghanistan, one of

the world’s largest undeveloped deposits.

The payment, roughly equal to the total

development assistance the US has expended

in Afghanistan to date, will include

a railroad – Afghanistan’s first – to fi

Courtesy Centre for Documentation and Area-Transcultural Studies, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies

78 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

connect the field with Chinese markets.

The estimated worth of the copper is nearly

$90 billion. In addition to the road with

Tajikistan, China is also upgrading the

transport infrastructure on its own side of

the border, including the Karakorum highway,

which leads to Islamabad and the new

port at Gwadar.

Both unilaterally and through the

Shanghai Cooperation Organization,

China has registered its concern about the

US presence in Central Asia. Russia and

China have taken a common stance implying

proprietorship over the region. Several

naval incidents, such as the last-minute

cancellation of US ship visits to Hong Kong

last year, indicate China’s discomfort with

the status quo, as does the increase in

Chinese defense spending. Joint Chinese-

Russian troop maneuvers have taken place

for the first time, and China’s military chief

visited Afghanistan in the fall of 2007 to

discuss mutual security issues. As well,

China is building a road that would connect

the two countries through the narrow finger

of the Wakhan Corridor, which divides

Tajikistan from Pakistan, in addition to a

projected railroad through Tajikistan to


The most volatile element for

Central Asia is the ongoing war in

Afghanistan, which presents two

immediate threats to the country’s northern

neighbors. The first, the threat of fundamentalist

Islam, is a real one, however

manipulated by Uzbekistan’s President

Karimov and, arguably, the Russian government.

The failure of the current central

Asian governments to achieve any real

political or economic reforms (with the

partial exception of Kazakhstan) allows

the Islamist message of social justice

and freedom to remain resonant. In addition,

the conflation of radical terrorism

with avowedly non-violent groups has

led to an overall crackdown on observant

Muslims in Central Asia, most dramatically

in Uzbekistan. Fleeing militants

have taken refuge with their counterparts

in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tahir

Yoldashev, leader of the Islamic movement

of Uzbekistan, has called on his followers

to postpone the jihad in Central Asia

and concentrate on Afghanistan, but the

message is clear: Central Asia is still on

the list. Thus, in spite of their trepidations

about ultimate US intentions in the region,

the Central Asian countries still facilitate,

directly or indirectly, the continuation of

war in Afghanistan.

Unsure at first what to make of the dissolution of the

Soviet Union, the US opened embassies in all

post-Soviet states but continued to accept the primacy of

Russian influence.

Narcotics are Afghanistan’s second

threat to Central Asia. Both usage and

traffic have increased as the Afghan drug

production outstrips all competitors.

Afghanistan has been called a narcostate,

and the traffickers in Afghanistan,

often connected to its government, have

close partnerships in neighboring states.

Narcotics travel through Tajikistan and

Uzbekistan to Russia and then on to

Europe. A program to stop drug production

in Afghanistan might simply move production

to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, both of

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Fall 2008 | Number Seventeen | The Berlin Journal | 79

which have a history of weak, corrupt governance

and entrenched poverty.

Iran casts its shadow over the region as

well. The division of control of the Caspian

Sea necessarily involves Iran. The Tehran

Declaration on the Caspian Sea in 2006

states that the littoral states guarantee not

to attack one another and that the Caspian

Sea cannot be used for the purposes of war.

One pointed addressee of this declaration

is the United States. Iran has maintained

close relations with both Russia and China.

In his 1998 book The Grand Chessboard,

Zbigniew Brzezinski predicts a catastrophic

outcome for the US if these three nations

united against it. Russia’s involvement

with the construction of Iran’s nuclear

power plant at Bushehr is well known.

Reciprocally, Iran’s Shia theocracy has kept

silent about Russia’s behavior towards the


The Unites States has not yet

assumed a primary position of involvement

in Central Asia. Unsure at first what to

make of the dissolution of the Soviet Union,

the US opened embassies in all post-Soviet

states but continued to accept the primacy

of Russian influence in the region. The US

Final_Anzg_CNC_280x210+4mm 08.09.2008 9:50 Uhr Seite 1

programs aimed at fostering civil rights

and democracy were not heavily funded

and often took a distinct second place

to highly visible commercial deals and

military visits. Nevertheless, they had an

effect, both unilaterally and in partnership

with the Organization for Security and

Cooperation in Europe (osce) and the EU.

The Color Revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine,

and Kyrgyzstan have been ascribed, rightly

or wrongly, to these influences; as a result,

other Central Asian governments have

tightened the rules in their own countries.

Nevertheless, the US budget for programs

related to civil rights and democracy

decreased in 2008, with the exception of

programs in Turkmenistan.

As the Afghanistan war continues and

even escalates, the initial enthusiasm of

the Central Asian states has declined. The

concept of the US as a citadel of democracy

and freedom, never widely accepted

in the former ussr, has become even

more beleaguered in recent years. The

United States’ profitable business deals

with Central Asian oligarchs reinforces

distrust of the former enemy, as does

domestic government propaganda that

questions US motives. Russia and China

see the US as a rival in an area they consider

their own.

If the US and the EU leave it to the Central Asian popular

media to influence citizens’ lifestyle and thought, the

results will largely reinforce negative preconceptions on

both sides.

The European Union also looks to

Central Asia as a region of growth and

potential for the next century. EU energy

demands and security concerns are intertwined

in a world of diminishing possibilities.

Through the EU and the osce, as well

as bilaterally, European countries have

begun to explore the possibility of resource

development in the region. The EU has

already been criticized in some fora for not

approaching issues of democracy and basic

freedom with the same vigor as it seeks out

energy relationships. fi





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80 | The Berlin Journal | Number Seventeen | Fall 2008

Despite burgeoning str ategic

and developmental interests in

the region, little is known about

Central Asia in the West. The languages,

culture, and history of its peoples were

subsumed into the overall fabric of Russia

and the ussr. A fresh approach is needed to

understand these countries as partners and

cooperators, one that includes an appreciation

of their individuality. One size does not

fit all. An immediate concerted effort could

forge economic and political stability in the

region. The approach should be multilateral,

multi-linguistic, and inclusive. If the United

States and the EU leave it to the Central

Asian popular media to influence citizens’

lifestyle and thought, the results will largely

reinforce negative preconceptions on both

sides. For the peoples of Central Asia, their

status as citizens of a world superpower

(the ussr) is a still-fresh memory, and they

expect recognition as equals. A project that

considers the needs and abilities of all sides

would make a substantial contribution

towards creating a new equation for Central

Asia. Such a project should take the following

points into consideration:


Russia and China both seek economic

and political influence. The

Shanghai Cooperation Organization is

a venue where Russia and China meet

and cooperate along with the other

Central Asian states, and it has already

held its first joint military exercises. But

as anti-terrorism is one of the sco’s

major concerns, an invitation for it to

cooperate militarily with the coalition

in Afghanistan and Central Asia could

bring major benefits to both sides, help

to alleviate worries about the US presence

in Central Asia, and relieve some of

the war’s material and personnel pressures.

Since the Central Asian states will

be primary beneficiaries of security and

peace in Afghanistan, there is no reason

why they should not substantially contribute

to bringing it about.


Oil and gas are what everyone wants

from the region. The race for resources

can result in the ongoing triumph of oligarchies

or it can evolve into something

better. Responsible growth can bring

present sustenance and lasting benefits

for local populations. Kazakhstan and

Azerbaijan have set up investment funds

for the future. The other Central Asian

countries and their purchasing partners

need to do the same. In Turkmenistan,

for example, the nominal per capita

income is $8000, but any observer can

see that the standard of living is far

below. As more resources come online,

real incomes should rise across the



Water is the lasting problem of

Central Asia. Insufficient supply and

conflicting needs dictate better management

policies, especially when a developing

Afghanistan starts to demand its

share of limited resources. Salinization

of land, the need to develop increasing

hydroelectric power, and management

of supply on an annual basis are problems

that need covalent and comprehensive

structuring on a regional basis.


Transportation must also be dealt

with regionally. The countries of the

region have called for further development

of the rail lines from Istanbul to

Almaty, and regional cooperation to supply

war material via the Central Asian

rail lines to Afghanistan is underway,

but a larger discussion involving connecting

Central Asian lines through

Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, and

lines to China is also necessary for the

new century.


Succession issues will face the

nations of Central Asia. Dynastic tendencies

exist, and democratic ones are

weak. Kyrgyzstan’s revolution did not

result in a net gain for democracy. The

careful nurturing of democratic organs

and civil society is a prerequisite for

improving other conditions. Local needs

and attitudes need to be an informed

part of the process, and democratic

states need to take an active role in presenting

their values.


Economic change is essential. Freemarket

economies are severely limited

in most of Central Asia, with governments

and oligarchs working hand-inhand

to exploit and shape commerce.

Uzbekistan may be the most outstanding

example, but all of the countries of

Central Asia have paradigms of control

and taxation that discourage investment

and growth. Rule of law is essential for

democracy, but it is even more essential

for a successful economy.


Islam as a political and social element

is both a leitmotif and active factor.

It informs daily life and attitudes to a

greater or lesser extent, depending on

circumstances. The end of the Soviet

Union led many people to look back to

the Islamic states that existed before.

Fundamentalists and some terrorists

have taken advantage of this nostalgia,

and government repression exacerbated

the problem. While moderate Islam

has been and mostly still is the norm in

Central Asia, politicization of religion

and reactive repression wear away at its

fabric. The West needs to understand

the complexity of Islam and work with

its moderate majority.


The US does not seem to have a

holistic and coherent policy for Central

Asia. These new nations with ancient

roots nevertheless present, in many

ways, a physical and sociological ambience

familiar to residents of the US,

with their vast spaces, lack of class

structure and vibrant mix of ethnic

groups. To observers in the region, US

interest has been expressed until now

mainly in business deals that have

produced tangible benefits mainly for

the leadership or military activities that

are unclear in their ultimate intent and

unsettling in their propinquity. From

both the Russian and Chinese point

of view, a growing ring of US military

emplacements surrounds them. They

are understandably anxious. Conversely,

the Central Asian partnership these

two countries manage raises questions

as well.


Central Asia is almost another

New World, with vast resources, huge

territory and peoples and cultures that

in many ways are unfamiliar. At the

same time, there are many aspects of

life, particularly in its cities, that are

quite recognizable, and Westerners

easily adapt. Partnerships with Central

Asian states and their peoples could

result in mutually beneficial growth and

development. And while the development

of democracy and economic prosperity

are not guaranteed, Central Asia

has the potential for both. µ

Robert P. Finn served as US Ambassador

to Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan.

Currently a lecturer in Near Eastern

Studies at Princeton University, he was a

spring 2008 Foreign Policy Visitor at the


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