brand eins Wissen commissioned by the Free State of
Saxony // movers & shakers
Look at that!
You’d sometimes think Saxony had nothing to offer but negatives.
Breakdowns yesterday, a scandal today, prophecies of doom
tomorrow. Over a period of months, the bad news has moulded
itself into a diffuse but memorable image. It’s pretty grim – and it’s
Because whatever truth there may be in individual headlines:
the ugly appearances are deceptive. Saxony is more than the recent
messages suggest. At all events, we met countless curious and
open-minded people on our travels to Rochlitz, Chemnitz, Radebeul,
Zittau, Dresden and Schneeberg. People of different ages and
origins, born here or just at home here, employed and self-employed,
students and entrepreneurs, researchers and practitioners.
They’re people with an appetite for the future, who want to make
their dreams come true, find their own way forward and engage –
with new ideas and projects, changes and reverses, dead ends and
We didn’t have to go looking for these people. You meet them
throughout the region. On every farm or theatre stage, in villages
and towns, in industry, academia and politics. And yes, there are
also the ones who cause the negative headlines. However, we preferred
to look away from that noisy minority and focus on the
representatives of the silent majority. These are the people who gird
themselves up and engage afresh with every day that passes, they
are the reason for this book. Perhaps their stories can help to
redraw our image of Saxony. They certainly deserve to.
Susanne Risch, Editor-in-Chief
movers & shakers
in Saxony at:
4 The global view // Carsten Meyer has received close to a
million euros to examine species protection on the world level.
6 The stars at night // Mike Behnke set out to save the
Schneeberg Planetarium – and became an inventor.
8 Back to the future // Margitta Fassl honours computer
pioneer Konrad Zuse – and opens up prospects for her town.
10 Balance and escapement // Theodor Prenzel
and Lutz Reichel caused a sensation in the watchmaking
12 Mixed veg // Daniel Hausmann is a visionary and a
realist – and Saxony’s first vegan farmer.
18 Very busy // Hussein Jinah has one job, ten pro bono
roles and a big goal: to promote a cosmopolitan Dresden.
20 It works // Sebastian Wolter and Leif Greinus turned
their thirst for freedom into a flourishing publishing company.
22 Behind the mirrors // Kristina Musholt explores the nature
of human beings and is changing the way academia works.
24 Rap by numbers // Johann Beurich raps his songs
on YouTube, saving many students from crash-landing on
26 Learn, laugh, live // Eleven famous Saxons from four
centuries explain in brief what life is about.
Publisher: Free State of Saxony Editor-in-Chief: Susanne Risch Art Director: Britta Max Managing Editor: Michaela Streimelweger
Graphics: Deborah Tyllack Editing: Renate Hensel, Sibylle Kumm, Peter Lau, Kathrin Lilienthal, Uwe Rasche Text: Johannes Böhme,
Anika Kreller, Brigitta Palass, Klaus Rathje, Andreas Wenderoth Photos: Michael Hudler, Oliver Helbig, Sigrid Reinichs, Anne Schönharting
Illustrations: Kia Sue Illustration English translation and editing: Helen E. Robertson General coordination: Ketchum Pleon GmbH
Concept: brand eins Wissen © brand eins Wissen, Hamburg, 2016 www.brandeinswissen.de
14 Moving // Chayeon Lee is just 17 but already on track
to become a new ballet star.
16 Sunny days // Christian von Olshausen answers a question
of the future: how can renewable energies be stored?
28 Clean sweep! // Wolfgang Gross has transformed fit
into a successful company with more than 100 brands.
30 Peace, joy, blintzes // Uwe and Lars Ariel Dziuballa
run Saxony’s only Jewish restaurant.
He doesn’t look like a classic
scientist, but that doesn’t mean
much: Carsten Meyer conducts
research at iDiv and has just
qualified for a fellowship worth
The global view
SAXONY // PASSIONATE
Can one protected species in Germany destroy ten unprotected species in South America?
That’s just what biologist Carsten Meyer of iDiv in Leipzig wants to find out.
Text: Brigitta palass
Photo: Michael Hudler
Carsten Meyer is a biologist and, as of recent date, a millionaire
– on paper at least. Because the 32-year-old, who works at the
German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and at
the University of Leipzig, was recently awarded a ‘Freigeist’
Fellowship by the VolkswagenStiftung. The budget’s just short of
one million euros. The young scientist will use it over the next five
years to investigate the social, economic and political reasons for
declining global biodiversity.
Meyer’s approach could close a wide gap. Around 400 000
species of plants and terrestrial vertebrates have now been scientifically
recorded worldwide. However, the quality and quantity of
the data available about them are highly uneven, so it’s open to
debate whether the actual diversity of flora and fauna and their
decline are realistically reflected.
Carsten Meyer had already examined millions of records
about the distribution of all known species of mammals, birds and
amphibians for his PhD thesis. He found that the relatively
straightforward animal and plant life of the industrialised countries
was almost fully documented, the position on data for the
tropical zones of South America, Asia and Africa was pretty
meagre by contrast. However, those are the areas with the greatest
diversity of species. Gaps also yawn in Canada, the Balkans
and some former Soviet republics. “What astonished us most
were the large deficits in relatively affluent emerging countries,”
the biologist tells us.
Meyer – tee-shirt, jeans, beard and slightly tousled hair – held
out only a slim chance for the success of his grant application. His
PhD supervisor in Göttingen had drawn his attention to it. However,
at that time Meyer had practically no academic publications
under his belt. “And those are the currency of the academic world,”
he says. What’s more, you can only apply once for this specific
fellowship: it’s explicitly intended for young scientists who are
taking their work off the beaten track to cast fresh light on problems
and seek innovative solutions.
The researcher has already been successful with another important
step: “I was dead set on joining iDiv after I finished my PhD
in Göttingen”. The institute, a joint establishment of the Universities
of Leipzig, Halle and Jena and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental
Research, draws experts from all over the world and has
placed Leipzig at the centre of top-class international research into
biodiversity – and it also support’s Meyer’s progress: “If I get stuck
with a scientific problem, there’s a very great probability that I’ll
find someone who can help just a few doors along,” he says.
His goal is ambitious. The biologist wants to explore all the
complex global interrelationships through which local economic
and political decisions influence global biodiversity. “The loss of its
natural habitat is the primary reason for a species becoming extinct,”
explains Meyer. This can be caused by agriculture and forestry
or road-building and mining. The connection seems clear at
first glance, but is more complex from the global point of view.
“Assuming a country in northern Europe with relatively few species
places heavy legislative restrictions on its forestry to improve
the protection of woodland animals and plants. The timber that’s
needed locally will be imported in future – and may lead to deforestation
in other countries with more species, but less rigorous
nature conservation standards. This would lead to a significantly
greater reduction in biodiversity; in other words, a change in the
law that is useful locally could cause damage globally”.
Enormous quantities of data have to be processed to obtain
this global view – big data meets biology. That facilitates totally
new insights, but contains the risk of unknown territory. Carsten
Meyer can live with that, though. After all, that’s exactly the intention
of the VolkswagenStiftung: to give the free spirit space to go
forth and develop into the unknown.
SAXONY // INVENTIVE
The stars at night
The Schneeberg Planetarium was about to close – no money for new technology. Amateur
astronomer Mike Behnke came to the rescue with a digital solution that has excited experts.
Text: Brigitta palass
Photo: sigrid reinichs
Mike Behnke also works
with classics like this
Zeiss telescope, of
course. However, his
invention works, is much
less expensive than
systems – and has
saved the planetarium
He’d been familiar with the sound for years: the quiet clack
when one of the 32 projectors under the dome of the Zeiss planetarium
in Schneeberg in the Erzgebirge pushed the next slide in
front of the objective lens, with another view of the night stars. It’s
fallen silent – for ever. And Mike Behnke, from Gelenau, just over
30 kilometres away, doesn’t mourn its passing. One after another,
the old instruments went out of service. It was practically impossible
to find spares because manufacturer Kodak, the one-time
global corporation, had long since stopped producing them. And
anyway, didn’t the projectors seem hopelessly old-fashioned, with
their static representation of the starry skies in our agile, imageloving
So a more contemporary replacement had to be found, and
that was where the problems began. Projection systems even for
small and medium-sized planetariums like the one in Schneeberg
cost around a quarter of a million euros – too much for the “kul(T)
our-Betrieb des Erzgebirgskreises”, the local tourism and arts
organisation which is dependent on public funding. 2014 saw the
threat of closure hanging over the planetarium and its 60-year-old
observatory. But as far as Mike Behnke was concerned, that was
out of the question.
He had always been fascinated by star-gazing. “I loved everything
that had to do with the universe, with space travel, with our
solar system and distant galaxies,” he says. He was eight years old
when he made his own first telescope, following the instructions
in a manual for young astronomers. However, astronomy remained
only a hobby that he pursued with keen intensity. Behnke
became a car mechanic and later worked as a scaffolder. Until 2006
brought him the chance to turn his passion into his profession. The
county was looking for self-employed workers to look after the
planetarium. By a happy coincidence, Behnke had started an online
business selling optical accessories for star-gazers and naturalists
just a short time earlier. Because he wanted to make his website as
professional as possible, he had also qualified as a media designer.
That was to prove very useful.
Because with the demise of the old, analogue slide projectors,
Behnke realised that the future view into infinity would be digital.
“I had to find a solution for projecting onto curved surfaces and
find a 360-degree, all-round view. You can’t do anything else with
a planetarium dome”. The hardware – computers and modern HD
projectors – was the least of his worries. The search for the right
software caused more problems. Behnke found what he wanted in
flight simulation programs, but that was just the beginning. After
that, the initial six – now only four – projectors had to be programmed
so that no intermittent movement, loss of focus or seams occurred
when images were being projected in the dome. For six months,
Behnke tinkered with his system deep into the night, initially bearing
all the costs himself. Then he presented the result to the municipal
arts manager – who got very excited. Partly because his solution
at around 20 000 euros wouldn’t cost even a tenth of what
established manufacturers would quote for such systems.
In just two months and with a great deal of the work done by
himself, the planetarium had been upgraded. Because there’s now a
whole series of animations in “full dome technology”, you can not
only journey virtually from the midnight-blue plush seats under
Schneeberg’s dome though the far reaches of the universe, land on the
moon or traverse Saturn’s rings, but also flit through a meadow of
flowers or dive with whales. Young visitors especially are fascinated by
the agile and moving images of our wonderful blue planet in space.
They often come back again with their parents or grand-parents.
That gives Behnke particular pleasure, after all, in his eyes
astronomy is much too neglected as an official part of the teaching
curriculum. At the same time, his system has already taught someone
a lesson in the literal sense: the Schulplanetarium (school
planetarium) Chemnitz has been using the special technology from
the Erzgebirge for some time now.
SAXONY // VISIONARY
Back to the future
In the past, the head of the Hoyerswerda housing
association was mainly busy with demolition.
Now, Margitta Fassl is building new things: museums,
gardens, ideas – and prospects for her town.
Hoyerswerda was a totally modern place for a period of decades.
The town now wants a museum that links to that period.
Text: Peter Lau
Photo: Anne Schönharting
Towns live off visionaries that take them forward, driven by
the love of home and by a vision. People like Margitta Fassl. The
65-year-old could retire, instead she’s working on new prospects
for Hoyerswerda. The ZCOM (Zuse-Computer-Museum) will
help with that: a museum devoted to the inventor, entrepreneur
and world-famous computer pioneer Konrad Zuse, who lived in
the town and completed his schooling here in 1928.
The project is her idea, and to her it seemed obvious: “There’s
been a collection of calculating machines since 1995, it was started
when Zuse paid a visit to Hoyerwerda,” says Fassl. “The machines
were kept on the edge of town, and a lot of pieces were in storage.
Now we’re going to house the entire collection in a really central,
1300-square-metre space in the Neustadt, in the retail area of an
That’s pretty modern for a museum site, but Hoyerswerda
was always a place where the future happened: this is where the
first prefabricated building in the world went up, when the town
was expanded to be the centre of the German Democratic
Republic’s “energy region” in the 1950s. And this is where Konrad
Zuse was inspired to create probably the most important invention
of the 20th century, the first working digital calculator. Decades
later, the construction engineer wrote of the atmosphere that pervaded
his youth: “In Hoyerswerda there was finally a technical, a
technicised environment as well. Not far from the town there were
lignite mines with modern equipment … The big overburden conveyor
bridges gave me a first conception of an automated, technical
Margitta Fassl wants to be a forward thinker as well. She knows
from her work how much her town needs prospects: since 1993,
the graduate engineer has headed the Hoyerswerda housing association,
which owns a lot of dwellings in the Neustadt prefab district.
In the past few years, her job mainly had to do with urban
shrinkage – in other words, demolition. It hadn’t always been easy,
she says: “A large percentage of the older ones, particularly the
pensioners from the mine, find the subject of decommissioning
and dismantling very hard to deal with”.
Fassl can understand that – but she doesn’t allow herself to be
swayed by it. However good it is to preserve history, sometimes
the relics of the past have to go to create space for new things. The
museum, too, will be more than a place of remembrance. “The
ZCOM will display the old calculating machines we have in a setting
that makes sense, and in addition we want to use it to create
a special place for education”. However, the engineer has another
long-term vision as well: history is to come to life again – and
ideally, companies from the computer industry or the new media
will relocate to a place with this heritage.
Margitta Fassl is already pursuing her next idea. She tells us
that she’s seen a film about gardens in the city that are cultivated
inside buildings. The University of Applied Sciences in Dresden is
involved in some of them, so she’s getting in touch with them at
the moment. “It may be possible to use a disused prefab for a project
like that?” The pension can wait. Margitta Fassl still has things
to do. And smiles, as one who knows: the future doesn’t just come
along – it is made.
SAXONY // PRECISE
It’s not easy to crack a monopoly.
Theodor Prenzel and Lutz Reichel helped
watchmaker Nomos Glashütte to do it.
Text: Brigitta palass
Photo: Michael Hudler
It caused 2014’s biggest sensation at Baselworld, the most
important watch show in the world. Manufacturer Nomos Glashütte
introduced its newly developed swing system. This heart of
every mechanical watch, known as the escapement, is made up of
a balance, balance-spring, pallet and escape wheel and other tiny
parts. The accuracy, robustness and life span of a clockwork
movement depends on its complicated and flawless interaction.
For many years, the Swatch subsidiaries ET and Nivarox in Switzerland
held a monopoly on this crucial assembly. And its specialists
guarded their secrets well. Since the rise of quartz watches in
the 1970s, no more basic research had been done in the high art of
watchmaking. Hardly any literature existed, and there were absolutely
no mathematical calculations available for the timing. If you
wanted to build mechanical watches, you had to buy from the
Swiss. Or start from scratch.
The Saxon watchmakers chose this second route, and invested
seven years and eleven million euros in their declaration of
They love watches, teamwork,
technology and competition – and
carried Nomos Glashütte to a sensation:
chief design engineer Lutz Reichel (left)
and laboratory head Theodor Prenzel.
independence. In a joint project with the Technical University of
Dresden, they used computers to simulate and calculate the delicate
interaction of the tiny pieces of an escapement, and finally
reached the point of serial production. The Fraunhofer IWS in
Dresden, which specialises in laser and surface technology, supported
them in the search for modern materials. Crucial roles were
played here by Theodor Prenzel, 32, head of design engineering at
Nomos Glashütte and deputy head of the research and development
department, and Lutz Reichel, 31, development engineer and
head of the laboratory at the manufactory.
Both come of watchmaking families, and it was clear to them
from an early age that they wanted to continue this tradition.
They’re fascinated by the perfect symphony of tiny, complex
mechanical systems. Prenzel studied precision engineering in Jena.
He completed his final dissertation project at Nomos – and was
promptly offered a job. It was also clear to Lutz Reichel that he
would study watch design as part of his mechanical engineering
degree at the TU Dresden. “The fact that I was allowed to assemble
watches from scratch during a practical semester at watchmaker
Nomos was a special experience,” he says. “That was very
useful for the design and calculation work later on”. The subject
of his dissertation was: “The dynamic simulation of the NOMOS
After a year as a research fellow at the university, Reichel took
an operational job in Glashütte in 2011 and continued to look after
the project on the corporate side. He maintained contact with the
research institutes and was responsible for prototype construction.
Theodor Prenzel led the design engineering work and was responsible
for making all the drawings.
The interface between design engineering and prototypebuilding
is a sensitive point: “We can only spot problems very
early on if the communication works at this stage,” explains Prenzel.
It was no problem – thanks to personal liking, flat hierarchies,
weekly coordination on results and goals, and the short paths at
Glashütte’s old railway station, where Nomos is based. In many
cases, the in-house watchmakers’ practical experience was helpful
on top of all the science. The crucial leap from the prototype to
series production was successful, in 2014 the manufactory presented
the first hand-wound movements with the “swing”. The system
later formed the heart of the new automatic DUW 3001 movement,
which, as Prenzel explains, operates on completely new
A breakthrough like the development of the swing system is
a little bit like an Olympic victory. “It’s a good feeling when the
theoretical calculations and designs turn out to work in practice
and are simply better than what most other people are doing,”
says Prenzel. It was also great to see ‘his’ movement in the shops
in the finished product. However, Prenzel and Reichel are most
looking forward to new projects and tasks – to the next competition.
They’ve got plenty of ideas, as they both assure us.
Sachsen - Machen
SAXONY // UNWAVERING
Daniel Hausmann from Rochlitz is the only farmer in Saxony who farms not only organically,
but by strict vegan rules as well. It’s not easy. But he’s demonstrating that it’s possible.
Text: Brigitta palass
Photo: sigrid reinichs
cultivation means slim
profits, hard physical
work and intensive
regret his decision: the
farmer wouldn’t want
to go back to traditional
The early turnips weren’t supposed to turn out that way. The
plants, which should have been picked as tender vegetables, grew
like crazy and developed long taproots, making it almost impossible
to get them out of the ground. Now they have the pleasure of
competing for food and space with the clover, which is gradually
overrunning them. The same total chaos reigns everywhere else in
Daniel Hausmann’s vegetable beds: narrow rows, unsuitable for
machinery. And plenty of greenery and animal life, familiarly
known as weeds and vermin.
“To me, it’s just nature,” says Hausmann, 25 years old and the
first, and so far only, farmer in Saxony to farm not only organically,
but by strict vegan rules as well. Of course, not even Hausmann
is overjoyed to find hordes of slugs in the vegetable beds.
However, he prefers to rely on natural enemies instead of chemicals,
and on variety in the crop rotation so that the soil isn’t drained
of nutrients unevenly. There’s also a point to the apparent confusion
in the beds, because some plant varieties keep each other’s
stalks free from predators. A key experience in Hausmann’s life
was a walk through a conventionally cultivated field of barley on
his parents’ farm. “The only animals there were two sickly-looking
slugs. On the other hand, our potato and vegetable garden was
swarming with all kinds of spiders, beetles, flies and other insects.
I knew from then on which way I would be going”.
When Hausmann took over the 20-hectare family farm in
2012 because his father was seriously ill – he subsequently died –
he converted it bit by bit to organic farming. He joined Gäa, the
organic farming association, and then added another factor with
his commitment to vegan cropland management: he not only refused
to use genetic engineering, artificial fertilisers and pesticides,
but also barred all animal husbandry or use of the waste from domestic
animals. It’s no small challenge, because with every plant
that’s harvested, nutrients also quit the field.
In conventional organic agriculture, dung from the cowshed,
horn meal and shavings as well as feathers and bristles from slaugh-
tered animals make up the depletion. In vegan agriculture, the
plants themselves have to re-enrich the soil: either by being dug
into the ground instead of harvested – or by producing fertiliser
themselves. Pulses, for example, can bind nitrogen from the air in
the soil by a complex process. On the Hausmann farm clover/
grass ley, fresh or composted, takes on the job.
Daniel Hausmann is an idealist but not a dreamer. He studied
organic agriculture and marketing at the University of Applied Sciences
in Eberswalde and wrote his Bachelor’s dissertation about
different methods of using plants as nitrogen carriers. When he
took over responsibility for the farm, there were still cows and pigs
in the sheds, sheep grazing in the meadow, chickens scratching in
the yard. However, the more he knew about planned organic production
in farming, the more Hausmann’s reservations grew about
killing and eating animals, and about animal products in general.
The farmer became first a vegetarian, then a vegan. “And from
then on I only wanted and want to produce things on my farm
that I eat myself”.
It’s easy to say, but complicated in practice. As yet there’s no
functioning network of kindred spirits in the surrounding area, certified
seed and seedlings are hard to come by, building a customer
base is hard work. Hausmann now grows cereals such as spelt,
oats and wheat; apples, pears, plums, and sweet and sour cherries
grow in a mixed orchard. Half a hectare is used for vegetables.
That’s not much, but it does create a lot of work – manual work.
For this reason, the young farmer only sells his fruit and vegetables
directly, some in his own farm shop, some through deliveries to
Leipzig and Chemnitz. He takes around 20 to 25 organic vegan
vegetable boxes of different sizes to private households every
week, pre-ordered online, and his customers now also include a
restaurant. Great leaps forward are not on the cards yet, but by
now the young farmer can make a living from his farm.
Daniel Hausmann was recently in Berlin, where he founded an organic
vegan agricultural association together with other farmers.
Chayeon Lee, 17,
is one of around 200
studying at Palucca.
The Korean came to
Dresden at the age
of 15 – and wants to
She dreams of a
career with the
SAXONY // GRACEFUL
You can learn to dance in many places. But Saxony has the only university entirely
dedicated to this discipline. The Palucca University in Dresden prepares even young students
for a career in ballet.
Text: Klaus Rathje
Photo: michael Hudler
It could double as a painter’s studio, this light-flooded training
room at the Palucca University of Dance Dresden, Palucca for
short. The six students practise with expressionless faces, while a
piano marks the beat and the lecturer gives instructions: leg higher.
Turn slower. And now again please, all together. The young
ladies, all teenagers, only gasp for breath when the practice is over.
What looks like a children’s game is discipline, effort, hard work.
Chayeon Lee performs her moves right at the front, in several
senses. She’s a Bachelor’s student in her second year. “You do
work up a real sweat,” says the 17-year-old, who moved from
Seoul to a new home in Dresden at the age of 15. She was desperately
keen to do her training outside her home country. “The
Koreans segregate classical and contemporary dance very strictly,”
the young woman says. “That means I would have had to choose
between one side or the other for my degree – and I didn’t want
to do that”.
She likes the mixture of tradition and modernity at Palucca.
And something else that isn’t automatically included even at Western
dance academies, but is part of the concept here: improvisation.
“It doesn’t exist as a subject in Korea. I’d never come across
it in professional dance. And now I love improvising”.
The eponymous founder would have liked that. Improvisation
was a focus of the famous Expressionist dancer Gret Palucca, who
died in 1993 at the age of 91; it’s one of the main reasons why she
was considered one of the founders of modern dance. She opened
her own school in Dresden in 1925, teaching originally at her
home. In 1936, the Nazis imposed a ban – free dance was no longer
desirable. Palucca was able to continue when the war ended, with
the formation of the GDR her school came under state control
and was a veritable force in Socialism.
Today, Palucca is the only independent state-owned university
of dance in Germany. Around 200 students from all over the world
learn dance, dance education or choreography here. There are 20
applicants for every place in the Bachelor’s programme for dance.
You’ll even meet ten-year-olds on campus – parents can send their
children to school at Palucca right from the first school year, provided
they have a good command of German. Instead of sports
lessons, the timetable then includes dance, otherwise the pupils are
taught in accordance with the standard Saxon curriculum. And the
offer is not just for locals: there’s a boarding-school here.
Chayeon (pronounced: Shayon), who is considered a great
talent, has just moved into her first flat of her own after two and a
half years. She has wanted to dance since she was twelve. That was
when she saw a performance by the Stuttgart Ballet with a Korean
dancer, she tells us – and she was over the moon. “I could really
feel and understand the strong expression of her dance. That moved
me to tears”. She wanted to do the same, because she sensed
the distinction even back then: “To move to music yourself is one
thing. But to move other people through dance, there’s a lot more
Palucca has been headed since 2006 by Jason Beechey, a
renowned soloist and choreographer. The Canadian-born dance
specialist has initiated a lot of projects and internationalised the institute,
by such means as building a network with partner schools.
“We actively search for talents like Chayeon, for example through
workshops in Spain, Italy and also South Korea,” he says. The Palucca
University has an excellent reputation and the concept, which
includes the development and implementation of new forms of
teaching, is a unique selling proposition. However, there are around
a dozen other famous dance schools wooing the favour of the
future stars of the stage in Germany alone. No institute can wish
for better advertising than to produce a new popular favourite.
Chayeon could soon be one of those. She loves Dresden and
doesn’t want to return to Seoul, but would like to continue her
dance career here when she graduates in two years’ time. Her
dream job may not be surprising for a Palucca student, but it is for
a Korean: “I want to join the Semperoper Ballet. I know it’s tough,
but I hope I will get in”.
SAXONY // SUSTAINABLE
They say the future belongs to renewable
energies. But how can wind, sun and hydro
power be stored? Sunfire has found a solution.
Text: Anika Kreller
Photo: Oliver Helbig
Christian von Olshausen swirls a little
bottle containing a crystal-clear liquid.
Unspectacular at first sight. But though
it looks like water, it’s a sensation: a fuel
created without a single drop of petroleum.
It’s been produced by the Dresdenbased
company Sunfire, which von Olshausen
founded in 2010 together with two
partners. The firm has succeeded in manufacturing
an artificial diesel fuel from water,
green electricity – and carbon dioxide
). In April 2015, Federal Research
Minister Johanna Wanka poured the first
five litres from the test apparatus into her
official car. That was the proof: it works.
And it attracted media attention.
Sunfire hit the headlines. Because the
company, which now has a staff of more
than 90 people, is not only able to substitute
crude oil – it also draws the CO 2
to do so from the air, which contains
too much of it in any case. However, so far
the complicated process is hardly ever
used. “It’s still too expensive,” says von
Olshausen. However, he doesn’t sound
particularly down-hearted. To him, his
vision has not failed – the high price just
means a further stage before the great goal
is reached: making renewable energies
available at all times and in all places.
To find a way to store electricity from
solar, hydro or wind power in a form that
can be used at any time is one of the great
challenges of the energy transition. The
potential technologies for the purpose are
known in the business as power-to-X. But
whether power-to- liquid, power-to-gas or
power-to-heat: the entire field is still in the
development stage. That’s actually not a
problem, because the technologies will
really only become relevant when renewable
sources take a bigger share of power
generation and the use of surplus energy
becomes an issue. The most efficient route
is still in contention – a lot depends on
further technical developments. However,
no one denies that a technology of essential
importance to the future is at stake.
“I was attracted to the idea of being
conceptually involved in something that
people all over the world are working on,”
says Christian von Olshausen. The 36-yearold
industrial engineer gave up a good job
with a big company in 2008 to devote
himself to it. It was a step into an uncertain
future, because at that time the discussion
was in its infancy.
However, he and his co-founders Carl
Berninghausen and Nils Aldag weren’t entirely
striding out into the wild blue yonder.
They commissioned a feasibility study to
see whether their idea could actually work
– and whether their planned products
could be produced cost-effectively. It was
clear after the study: we’ll try it. They
sought partners with the required knowhow
and took over Dresden-based Staxera
Staxera specialised in fuel cell stacks.
The further development of these products
still constitutes the heart of the company.
However, unlike conventional cells, Sunfire
cells work in two directions: they can not
only produce electricity from hydrogen,
but hydrogen from electricity as well –
both in one single system.
Energy for the chemical industry
The process is known as reversible electrolysis.
Other researchers are working on it as
well, but no one else is as far advanced as
Sunfire, says von Olshausen. Last autumn,
Boeing took delivery of a first system that
produces and stores hydrogen from surplus
solar energy. If an electricity shortage
occurs, at night, for example, or when the
sun isn’t shining, the system can generate
electricity again from the hydrogen.
But von Olshausen doesn’t see his
technology primarily as an energy storage
system – he wants the hydrogen it creates
to be used as a raw material for the chemical
industry. Because hydrogen is normally
produced from natural gas, but Sunfire
makes it only from water vapour, CO 2
green electricity. “We want to help renewable
energies to be used not only in the
power sector, but also in the chemical industry,”
he says. “More than three million
end products are made there – we can’t
catch them all with sustainable alternatives.
But we can try to substitute the fossil-based
natural gas and petroleum that’s needed for
many of these products with sustainably
produced raw materials”.
However, even the right technology
won’t automatically be a money-spinner.
Despite turnover in the range of high singledigit
millions, the Dresdeners aren’t covering
their costs yet, says von Olshausen. His
first objective is therefore to take the company
into profit in the next few years.
They’ve already attracted good names
as partners in advancing its development:
Bilfinger has invested, they’re in dialogue
with Audi, a fuel cell heater is being offered
in cooperation with Vaillant. The next step
will be to increase unit production so that
the products can be offered at a lower
price. They’re also working on the efficiency
of the systems and the service life of the
Whether or not Sunfire will soon be
producing sustainable raw materials on a
grand scale isn’t just a question of the technology,
though. Because there’s one problem
the people in Dresden can’t solve on
their own: as long as fossil-based raw materials
are still available in large quantities, they
will always be cheaper than sustainably produced
ones. “Ultimately, the creation of a
market for renewable fuels and chemicals is
a decision for society,” says von Olshausen.
For that reason, when he gives speeches
about Sunfire today only the first three,
four slides are about the company. The rest
of the time, he says, he talks about frameworks
that the politicians have to put in
place. Non-petroleum-based fuel is currently
taxed in exactly the same way as ordinary
diesel – absurd! And the chemical
industry won’t switch to green hydrogen
without a quota system or similar incentives.
In short: the technology is in place –
now, the will to use it is required.
Christian von Olshausen wanted to be involved in something that
people all over the world were working on. He’s now part of that
something with Sunfire, his company, and wants to make driving
cars and producing chemicals more sustainable.
SACHSEN // SUPERACTIVE
Social worker Hussein Jinah battles in
Dresden against xenophobia.
Pro bono, indefatigably – and gently.
Text: Andreas Wenderoth
Photo: Michael Hudler
He usually gets up just before 5.30 a.m., makes himself a
cheap instant coffee and checks out n-tv to see whether the world’s
become even more terrible since yesterday. Then he boards the
tram and buys a roll at the railway station that he won’t eat till he
gets into the office. Hussein Jinah works eight hours a day as a
social worker in the social services department and once a week
on the staff council of the city administration. However, he has
around ten other jobs that he doesn’t get paid for. Because they
need to be done. Because the weak need a voice. And because he
wants to ignite debates. About whether Dresden can be a cosmopolitan
city, or just a symbol of German xenophobia.
The 58-year-old has suggested we meet at the “Maharadscha”,
the city’s oldest Indian restaurant. He’s sitting there now in
his regular place in the blue-washed corner in front of a magnificent
red tapestry, peers through his slightly tinted glasses, orders
lentils, extra-hot, and relates the story of his life in a soft voice. He
came to Dresden in 1985 as part of an exchange programme
between the GDR and India, together with a handful of his compatriots.
Most of the people he dealt with at the time didn’t know
where India was. Some thought he was a Native American. Today,
he says, there are around 1500 Indians living in the city.
Jinah completed a PhD in electrical engineering. He wrote
more than 100 applications and was not invited to a single interview.
Some said he was over-qualified, others talked about restructuring.
At some point he had had enough and wanted to return to
India, but just at that time he fell in love with his future wife. So
he stayed and changed track: Hussein Jinah became a social worker.
He studied social education part-time at the Technical University.
And discovered the field of pro bono work for himself. Today,
he is Chairman of the Saxon Refugee Council, a member of the
ver.di trade union’s Federal migration committee and the regional
migration committee for Saxony, Chairman of the city of Dresden’s
council for integration and foreign residents. He also works as a
community interpreter. He’s always there when someone who’s
strange to the place needs him. Because he himself has experienced
what it’s like to be a stranger. Suspicious glances even in GDR
times, but even more so after the reunification. Because the new
freedom, as Jinah says, is clearly based on a misunderstanding.
Surely they hadn’t fought for it just so that minorities could be
One July evening he had been provoked by a group of skinheads
on the street: “Turks are swine,” they yelled, because they
took him for a Turk. One of them slammed him against the wall
and punched him. None of the bystanders helped. None of them
reached for the phone. That’s what still makes Jinah sad today.
When people look away. When he went to the police station, the
officer on duty said to him: “Well, you could be imagining that it
was xenophobia”. Said that, unfortunately, he couldn’t take up the
case without a medical certificate. However, if he would like to
come back the next day … Jinah felt humiliated. It was not to be
the only time.
He was once a witness to youths on the tram describing foreign
immigrants as spongers. He spoke up and said that he definitely
paid taxes, and social security contributions as well. “Shut
your trap!” said one of the youngsters, and drew a knife. Whereupon
Jinah apologised and said he took it all back.
When around 350 people triggered Pegida’s Monday demonstration
on 20 October 2014, he was the only counter-demonstrator.
Not long afterwards there were thousands. He still joins every
counter-demonstration, holds speeches, shows his face. Jinah says
he’ll fight to the end. Not for himself, but for future generations.
For a Dresden the way it could be. And the way it actually is in
many areas of the city. Why don’t people understand: “Happiness
isn’t material affluence, but the inner attitude towards other
humans and the environment”.
He tries not to get angry, because that is poison to the body.
Instead, he takes things as they come and meditates against hate.
In his time as a street worker the xenophobic youths threw aggressive
comments at him, he always remained gentle and friendly. Let
their negative energy flow into emptiness. But when he had time
off they enquired about him, was he sick – which, if you like, was
actually a kind of token of affection. “Do something in life and
refrain from aggression,” was what he tried to teach them. And
now, many years later, he sometimes sees them in the street with
their wives and kids, and they still call him “old man” and ask
“what’s going down”. “Very busy,” is his usual reply.
Engineer, social worker, local politician, refugee advisor, interpreter,
demonstrator, voluntary helper and a Dresdner of over 30 years’
standing: Hussein Jinah.
SAXONY // DIFFERENT
Your own publishing
company? It can be
done. With hard work,
authors like Ahne who
can write and can
read aloud – and the
help of God.
Text: Andreas Wenderoth
Photo: Michael Hudler
Ahne, 48, didn’t love the GDR. But it
didn’t love him either. After his schooldays,
he twice attempted the exams he needed
for higher education, and twice failed. So
he turned printer, and at some stage became
unemployed. During a brief excursion
into local politics he was district representative
for Berlin-Lichtenberg and, as
security commissioner, was responsible
for squatters, which Ahne finds
incredibly funny to this day, because
he was one himself at the time. Anyway,
at some point his friend Falko
Hennig took him along to the Reformbühne
Heim & Welt theatre: because he
wrote stuff from time to time in any case.
And would be able to give readings there.
He enjoyed it, so he went every week
and took along two new texts every time:
“The atmosphere was a bit like a punk rock
concert: we go on stage and just spill our
guts out about any old thing”. Sometime
he would have scribbled something in his
notebook in the underground train just
before the performance, and once when he
had nothing at all he just did press-ups on
stage. He basically didn’t care how people
reacted. Of course it was nice when they
laughed. How could he have guessed that
he would be earning his living from books
in the not too distant future?
Sebastian Wolter and Leif Greinus had
studied bookselling and publishing in Leipzig
and knew from the start that they didn’t just
want to go through the motions, following
orders along a publisher’s programmatic line.
Because they wanted their independence,
they decided in 2004 to follow Saxony’s
ancient book tradition and start their own
publishing company, says Greinus.
The name – Voland & Quist – came
to them on the motorway to Dusseldorf:
Voland, the Mephistophelean devil from
his favourite novel, Bulgakov’s “The Master
and Margarita”, contrasted with the
peace-making Quinten Quist from Harry
Mulisch’s “The Discovery of Heaven”. The
two together, unbeatable really.
Of course, this thing wasn’t without its
risks: they’d gone out on impulse and borrowed
15 000 euros from friends and relatives.
Greinus had watched a panel discussion
on TV a few days before where an
industry expert mentioned two million
euros as the figure you needed to start a
publishing house. “But you don’t,” he says.
Must-haves, on the other hand: passion,
hard work and ideas. For instance,
most of their books are accompanied
by a CD, which no other
publisher did before them. But
after all, they publish authors
who are good readers and presenters
– and of course they should
also be heard. They are now creating their
own genre: spoken-word lyrics, live literature.
They’ve also grown to five and a half
jobs: in 2014, their total assets came to
390 000 euros, which is a lot.
“Of course it’s a struggle as an independent
publisher, but we’re now all above
the minimum wage,” says Leif Greinus and
laughs, because he doesn’t see his idealism
as sacrifice, but as quality of life. After all,
he’s able to spend his working hours with
people whose company he would enjoy in
his time off as well.
There are 86 authors by now, many
from Eastern Europe. Quite a few with a
tradition of stage readings or poetry slams.
Because they seem to be have been made
for young student audiences. Ahne, for example,
had just written two volumes of
short stories for Kiepenheuer & Witsch
back then. But his idea for a new book fell
on deaf ears there. Dialogues in broad Berlin
dialect promised a pretty limited customer
base. Greinus thought otherwise and
accepted it with thanks. That’s how they
got their first best-seller: Ahne’s “Zwiegespräche
mit Gott” (“Dialogues with God”)
sold 18 000 copies.
Actually, says Ahne, he’s constantly in
dialogue with his inner self anyway. So why
not call the other party God, “who plays a
major role for a lot of people”. God, says
Ahne, would really like it if he were to take
Him more seriously. See Him as an authority.
But for Ahne, who’s more into knowing
than believing, God is more of a pal
that he can talk to.
Tonight at the “Jägerklause” pubrestaurant
in Berlin-Friedrichshain, for example.
Ahne has brought along a huge
puffball mushroom to the reading event.
He found it in the woods and is going to
give it to someone later. Now, he’s sitting
with five other authors under the woodpanelled
ceiling on a mock leather sofa,
waiting for his appearance.
Ahne in a checked shirt and Fred Perry
jacket. With the longest sideburns in the
world. Antlers stare from the wall as he
says that God has been unable to come in
person and he’ll therefore have to play both
parts (which he’s said pretty often before,
but of course that doesn’t detract from the
point of the story). Then he launches forth,
in a voice that some of his friends criticise
as “too forceful”. Ahne says he tends to
read in bit of a forced style if he isn’t sure
whether he’ll get the audience.
But it’s a home game today. So Ahne
stands there and says “Well, God” –
“Well …” And then they have a conversation.
About God and the world and … but
you can read all that in his books. Eight of
them now with Voland & Quist.
Others might have called their
publishing company Greinus &
Wolter. But they would have done
everything else differently from
Leif Greinus (left) and Sebastian
Wolter as well. And so the two
men’s publishing company is
called Voland & Quist and publishes
fairly unusual authors.
Behind the mirrors
SAXONY Sachsen // CURIOUS - Machen
Philosophy – a discipline for abstract thinkers in lonely little studies?
Not if Leipzig professor Kristina Musholt has her way.
Text: Brigitta palass
Photo: Anne schönharting
What are human beings, what do they have
in common with other species and what
makes them different? Kristina Musholt
investigates these questions as Professor of
Cognitive Anthropology at Leipzig University.
It’s a famous experiment in behavioural
and cognitive research: the mirror test. The
experimentee is marked without being
aware of it, for example with a red dot on
the forehead. A look in the mirror then
reveals whether the person or animal will
rec ognise itself and try to wipe the dot off.
The test is considered proof of an individual’s
capacity for self-awareness. Children pass it
around the age of two, but chimpanzees and
orang-utans, dolphins and magpies also realise
that the creature looking back at them
from the mirror is themselves.
But is that enough for self-awareness?
In addition to the existence of this self-perspective,
don’t you also need to know that
such a perspective exists? How does thinking
actually work, how does it develop?
Kristina Musholt was interested in complex
questions like this even as a schoolgirl. Now
it’s her job to seek intelligent answers: the
36-year-old has been Professor of Cognitive
Anthropology at Leipzig University’s Institute
of Philosophy since 2015.
However, if you go to the dark little
office in Leipzig’s Beethovenstrasse expecting
to find a withdrawn academic wrapped
up in her own thoughts, you’ll be disappointed.
Kristina Musholt, slim, earnest and
always a little breathless, is usually on the
go, engaged in a wide range of things –
including outside of her own discipline. Her
special approach is that she includes developmental
psychology as well as the neurosciences
in her research work. Building on
findings from these empirical sciences, she
aims to design a model of the stages of
development of self-awareness and social
cognition. That’s new and unusual.
At the moment, Musholt is mainly busy
with the development of explanatory models
of human social cognition skills. “That
means that we put ourselves in other people’s
shoes and can compare our points of view,”
she says. “Because that’s what makes our
knowledge of ourselves possible. And we
will only be able to answer questions about
the development of specifically human skills,
or about the differences and commonalities
in human and animal skills, when we understand
these relationships better”.
The scientist has been searching for
answers to the core questions about the nature
of humanity for a long time – in widely
diverse disciplines. She herself has therefore
studied not only philosophy, but also human
biology and neurosciences, and has
spent a lot of time abroad, at the renowned
MIT in Boston and the London School of
Economics among other places.
Musholt thinks our understanding of human
capabilities can only benefit from an
interdisciplinary perspective. Although philosophy
examines everyday phenomena, all
too often it still revolves around itself. If
Musholt has her way, that will change: out
of the ivory tower with it, academia has to
go out into society.
Part of her work as a member of the
Junge Akademie focuses on this. Kristina
Musholt was appointed to the association of
50 outstanding young academics from a
broad range of disciplines in 2014. The project,
by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of
Sciences and Humanities and the German
National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina,
was set up in 2000 and is thought to have
been the first academy of young scientists
anywhere in the world. Its explicit goal: the
young researchers engage with current topics
at the interface of academia and society
in interdisciplinary working groups.
Musholt’s latest interdisciplinary project
is only a few months old – in multiple respects.
Together with other academics, she
is studying early childhood development at
a new centre founded by Leipzig Uni in
2016. And she has a little experimentee at
home as well: Kristina Musholt became the
mother of a daughter in 2015.
SAXONY // SHARP
Rap by numbers
By turning formulae into earworms,
student Johann Beurich from Radebeul
teaches schoolkids maths on YouTube.
Many teachers also like the idea.
Text: Johannes Böhme
He has a flair for numbers and for music.
So he started to sing mathematical
formulae. It’s made Johann Beurich into
a star of the Web.
Photo: Oliver Helbig
For a YouTube star, Johann Beurich is
amazingly indifferent to coolness: short
trousers, grey tee-shirt, pragmatic short
haircut. Beurich is 22 years old, still lives
with his parents, likes to go to church and
has an IQ of 137 – he got it measured by
Mensa, the club for the highly gifted. He
eschewed alcohol even as an adolescent,
today he normally won’t go beyond a
shandy. He’s not especially into discos, but
he’s fond of maths. Very fond, even. And
then Johann Beurich, a mathematics student
from Radebeul near Dresden, also
happens to be a rapper – and something
akin to a minor star on the Internet.
He rose to fame under his pseudonym
of “DorFuchs” (“The Fox” in Saxon dialect)
as Germany’s greatest (and probably only)
maths rapper. He raps about the pq formula,
binomials, the Euler number – all big
hits, most of them attracting hundreds of
thousands of views, all mathematically precise,
with the derivation of the rules and the
formula as the chorus.
By now, millions have watched his
videos on YouTube. Girls ask him in the
comments box if he’ll go out for a drink
with them because they think he’s “so
cute”. He’s been on host Stefan Raab’s
couch on “TV total” and was followed
around by a camera team from national TV
broadcaster ZDF on his first day as a student
at TU Dresden. He himself still
appears to be astonished by all this stuff –
all this attention because of a few maths
songs. “I can’t really tell you why people
watch my videos,” he says. “Most of them
probably genuinely want to learn something.
And of course some also find them
In school year 6, says Beurich, he was
supposed to paint a self-portrait – with
things in the background that he liked. He
painted himself against a host of numbers.
“The sense of achievement I got out of
maths was almost like a drug to me”. He
finds maths easy, he has simple, intuitive
access to it. When you watch his videos, it
strikes you immediately that here is someone
enjoying himself immensely – by solving
formulae, by the elegance of the derivations
and the clarity of the results. And
because he also likes making music (Beurich
plays the piano, guitar, drums, bass
and accordion), at age 16 he turned the pq
formula for solving quadratic equations
into a song. When he finished, he recorded
the whole thing on his sister’s movie camera,
accompanied it on the piano and uploaded
it to YouTube – for his select group
of subscribers. “There were so few of them,
not a lot could happen”.
Over the next few weeks, he found to
his astonishment that his video had got
almost 2000 views within a month. So he
hastily made another one. This time about
binomial formulae – another inescapable
bugbear for every German scholar in maths
lessons. Again, there were significantly
more people on his channel than usual.
That was five years ago, and he hasn’t stopped
producing videos since.
In between productions, Beurich finished
school, started university, completed
his Bachelor’s degree, begun a Master’s.
He’s bought a more expensive camera,
professional lighting and a green screen.
But in principle his songs have barely
changed. They’re about formulae and their
derivations, always rhyming, always immaculately
There’s been no big break so far, his
videos haven’t “gone viral” and spread
explosively. Instead, the number of clicks
has behaved like a classic linear function
with a positive gradient: steadily upwards.
In actual fact, the reason for Beurich’s success
is as simple as it’s obvious: his videos
and songs are a good way of learning – particularly
for teenagers with a short attention
span and low frustration tolerance.
Various studies have shown that people
find things much easier to remember when
they’re associated with a tune. That’s part
of the reason why we still know the lyrics
of our favourite songs off by heart after
many years. “A teacher once told me: your
clips are like an earworm crib sheet,” says
He himself reckons that his songs have
been played several thousand times over by
teachers in German classrooms by this
time. Teachers who don’t have the Internet
in their schools or where YouTube is
blocked on the school computer occasionally
write and ask him whether they can
download the video. “Of course I allow
them to do it”. Added to that are all the
positive comments on his YouTube page.
For example, they’ll say: “Today, you really
saved my ass,” “It’s finally made me understand
why these rules apply,” or quite simply
“Hey guy, how good are you?!?!?”
His videos are also derided, of course.
In such cases Johann Beurich gets the label
of “victim” in comments, people rant on
about his beliefs, or some person baldly dismisses
his videos as “rubbish”. Comedian
Oliver Kalkofe made fun of him in his comedy
TV series, called him a “little swot”
and said “you’ll get beaten up in the schoolyard
till your schooldays are over”.
Beurich wasn’t amused, but his friends
laughed themselves stupid over the idea of
his being beaten up. Of course he wasn’t.
Cool isn’t everything, even in the schoolyard.
SAXONY // Wise
Learn, laugh, live
Saxons are famous for doing rather than talking. Unless they really have something to say.
It’s always been that way, as these thinkers from past centuries demonstrate.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
(1646–1716), born in Leipzig,
diplomat and historian
no end to
Robert Schumann (1810–1856), born
in Zwickau, composer, music critic
“The three most fundamental
questions of mankind are: who
are we? Where do we come from?
Where are we going? It is the task
of science to answer them.”
Jesco von Puttkamer (1933–2012), born in Leipzig, aerospace engineer and author
“Art is the highest form
Gerhard Richter, born in 1932 in Dresden, painter, sculptor and photographer
“If you want to talk very seriously
about very serious subjects, silence
ensues. Very serious subjects or
states of the world can only be
Irmtraud Morgner (1933–1990), born in Chemnitz, writer
“Those who seek other
recreations besides the
sciences must never have
tasted the true sweets of
Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), born in
world is the
only one that
the world understands.”
Richard Wagner (1813–1883), born in Leipzig, composer
“‘Is it getting better? Is it getting worse?’
we ask every year. Let’s be honest:
life is always life-threatening!”
Erich Kästner (1899–1974), born in Dresden, author and scriptwriter
“The idea is not the same as the
soul and the soul is not the
same as the mind, but the mind
only exists within the soul and
the soul only within the idea,
and these three are only one for
all their diversity, and can only
be understood by the mind as
being one in unity.”
Carl Gustav Carus (1789–1869), born in Leipzig, physician,
painter and natural philosopher
“Fear is the worst
Karl Liebknecht (1871–1919), born in Leipzig, politician
“Freedom, including in the movements
of external life, is the soil in
which higher education germinates.”
Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814), born in Rammenau,
educator and philosopher
SAXONY // ENDURING
At one time, the Upper Lusatia region’s only product was fit, the GDR’s washing-up
liquid. Sanso, Rei, Sunil, Gard and other western brands are produced in Zittau today.
Text: Brigitta palass
Photo: Michael Hudler
It had snowed on that Good Friday in
1992. Fortunately. The fresh snow mercifully
concealed the dilapidated outside of the
section of the Leuna-Werke factories that
had attracted his interest. “Otherwise, I
might have beat a rapid retreat,” Wolfgang
Gross now reckons. So he toured the manufacturing
facilities where fit washing-up
liquid was made – and realised at first
glance how highly intelligent and efficient
its production was. The detergent was
filled into self-produced plastic bottles
made in just one piece, and the production
residue was recycled immediately. Gross
had been around quite a lot, but this was
the most cost-efficient production he had
ever seen. “The people had created something
very important from the universal
shortage”. It was clear to him in that instant
that he’d found what he’d long been
looking for: his company.
Wolfgang Gross, chemistry PhD, had
previously been a manager with large
groups like Procter & Gamble, had headed
a research department and been responsible
for marketing. A decent career for a person
in his late thirties, but it wasn’t what he
really wanted. He didn’t like the constraints
of the large organisation, he dreamt of independence.
The reunification got his
dream off the ground. “It was the right
time in every way. I was old enough to
have the necessary experience and young
enough to start over. And there were
thousands of former East German businesses
for sale”. Gross viewed a lot of them –
Practically every household in the GDR
was familiar with the square bottle; fit was
used to wash dishes and pots, clean cars
and control greenfly. In 1955, the state-owned
VEB Fettchemie Karl-Marx-Stadt had
launched the detergent on the market, 1967
saw the construction of the factory in
Hirschfelde near Zittau where production
continues to this day. After the reunification,
a lot of major groups had been interested
in the rights to the brand, no one wanted
the factory with its 450 workers. No one
except Gross. “Of course that was too
many people,” he says today. “However, I
could guarantee to keep the 60 jobs that
were demanded by the Treuhandanstalt”.
On 1 January 1993, he founded fit GmbH.
The early days were very tough. A lot
of work, not much sleep, the new boss
camped out on an airbed in the administrative
building, a situation that only changed
gradually: today, he occupies a flat on the
top floor. Gross didn’t just buy a company,
he made it his own. He stood on the ladder
and pulled out the baby trees that had
spread on the roof of the old production
sheds. He put his lab coat on again and developed
recipes for new products with his
people. And he realised, as business got off
to a slow start again in the East, that he
needed the western regions of the old Federal
German Republic – and brands that
people there were familiar with.
Wolfgang Gross bought the first such
brands from his former employer in the
year 2000: Rei, Rei in der Tube (in a tube),
Sanso. Sunil and Kuschelweich from Unilever
followed, the assortment has now
grown to 100 products. And the factory is
one of the industry’s most modern anywhere
It’s a quarter of a century since
Wolfgang Gross found something
in Zittau for which he had searched
long and hard. Under his leadership,
the company was turned around:
today, its 200-plus employees
generate revenues of around
160 million euros.
SAXONY // INTEGRATIVE
Peace, joy, blintzes
They could have worked in the professions they trained for, one as a
mechanical engineer and plant manufacturer and the other as a broker.
Instead, Lars Ariel (left) and Uwe Dziuballa preferred to
devote themselves to the teaching of culture. And they run the
“Schalom” because such instruction works particularly well over a meal
in a relaxed atmosphere.
Couldn’t they have found somewhere better than Chemnitz, of all places?
Not really, say the Dziuballa brothers, who run the only Jewish restaurant in Saxony.
Text: Brigitta palass
Photo: Anne schönharting
New York might have been an alternative.
But in the end it turned out to be
Chemnitz – the city that was still called after
Karl Marx in 1965, when Uwe Dziuballa
was born there. Dziuballa’s mother lived
there, and didn’t want to leave after the
death of her husband. That’s why the
brothers Uwe and Lars Ariel opened their
eating-house here. The “Schalom” is the
first and, so far, only Jewish restaurant
open to the public in Saxony.
A restaurant critic recently enthused
that it exuded big city flair. A lot of wood,
clear lines, warm colours – the Schalom is
cosy and comfortable in a very modern
way. And famed for its good food: the
cooker’s operated by a professional who
cooks kosher in accordance with strict Jewish
dietary laws. “We browsed among old
recipes,” says Uwe Dziuballa. The result is
a menu with Eastern European, Central
European and Middle Eastern influences.
Blintzes are there – Yiddish pancakes with
all kinds of fillings –, borscht, the Eastern
European beetroot soup, and, of course,
the legendary Jewish classic gefilte fish.
The restaurant has just short of 40 covers,
and the hosts have no reason to complain
of empty seats. Amused, but at the
same time a little irritated, Dziuballa observes
how hesitantly many guests initially
handle Jewish (food) culture, how much of
an effort they make not to say or do
anything wrong. Are you allowed to say
you can’t bear the look or the taste of
gefilte fish? Are you allowed to ask why
there’s a wash-hand basin beside the elegant
You are, and you should! Because the
Dziuballas became restaurateurs more
though chance than anything else. Their
real mission is to restore German-Jewish
life to its place as a part of everyday culture.
They’ve discovered that food and drink are
an excellent vehicle. Uwe Dziuballa studied
electrical engineering in the GDR and after
the reunification also did an apprenticeship
with Deutsche Bank, Lars Ariel, who is
some years younger, is a mechanical engineer
and plant manufacturer. The Jewish
faith and culture played no great role for
either of them in their East German youth.
Uwe Dziuballa only discovered how
Judaism could be practised and accepted as
a matter of course when he went to New
York and Miami for just under a year as a
broker in 1993. “I found the casual way the
different ethnicities dealt with each other
refreshing,” he says. It was the most formative
impression that he brought back from
the USA. By that time, the previously tiny
Jewish community in Chemnitz had
mushroomed due to an influx of immigrants
after the collapse of the Soviet
Union. In 1998, Uwe Dziuballa, together
with six friends, founded an association
called Verein Schalom e. V. – for cultural
learning and as an aid organisation for the
new arrivals from the East. The restaurant
is the association’s most important forum,
for concerts, speeches, exhibitions and
It would no doubt be hypocritical just
to ask Dziuballa about Jewish cuisine and
not about anti-Semitism in the city. Chemnitz,
like other large towns, has a Neo-
Nazi scene, and the Dziuballas have actually
spent more than 40 000 euros on repairing
damage since the Schalom opened
– slashed car tyres, broken windows,
graffiti. However, things have improved
since they moved into a busier residential
area four years ago, says Dziuballa. Before
that, hooligans on their way to the railway
station came past the Schalom almost automatically.
The brothers don’t allow themselves to
be discouraged by such attacks. Uwe Dziuballa
would rather have a glass of “Joy”.
Simcha – Joy – is the name of the certified
kosher Pils that is brewed for them in nearby
Hartmannsdorf. It’s the only kosher
beer brand in Germany. They frequently
had supply problems with lagers imported
from Israel. But a German restaurant with
no beer? Inconceivable.
WE DON’T SPEND OUR TIME REINVENTING
THE WHEEL. BUT WE ARE REINVENTING LIGHT.
INNOVATION IS A TRADITION IN SAXONY. We’re constantly
investing in new ideas. Such as energy-efficient organic LEDs that
produce significantly less heat than conventional designs. With
almost 40 specialist companies and 20 research institutes, Saxony
is now Europe’s leading centre for organic electronics.