Saxony Movers & Shakers


Movers &


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

hard times.

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

You’ll find

even more

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

their exams.

26 Learn, laugh, live // Eleven famous Saxons from four

centuries explain in brief what life is about.

Print details

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

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.

2 3

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

a million.

The global view


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.




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

the conventional

systems – and has

saved the planetarium

in Schneeberg.

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.

6 7


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

eleven-storey building”.

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.

8 9

Balance and



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

swing system”.

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

design principles.

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.

10 11

Sachsen - Machen

Mixed veg


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

Organic vegan

cultivation means slim

profits, hard physical

work and intensive


Nevertheless, Daniel

Hausmann doesn’t

regret his decision: the

25-year-old organic

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

talents currently

studying at Palucca.

The Korean came to

Dresden at the age

of 15 – and wants to

stay forever.

She dreams of a

career with the

Semperoper Ballet.



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

to that”.

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”.

14 15


Sunny days

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

(CO 2

). 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

in 2011.

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

fuel cells.

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.

16 17


Very busy

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

victimised afterwards.

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.

18 19


It works

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.

20 21

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.



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

worked out.

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.

24 25

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.



live on

in their


Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

(1646–1716), born in Leipzig,

philosopher, mathematician,

diplomat and historian

“There is

no end to


Robert Schumann (1810–1856), born

in Zwickau, composer, music critic

and conductor

“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

of hope.”

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

discussed humorously.”

Irmtraud Morgner (1933–1990), born in Chemnitz, writer

“Those who seek other

recreations besides the

sciences must never have

tasted the true sweets of

the latter.”

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729–1781), born in

Kamenz, poet

“The view

beyond the

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

26 27


Clean sweep!

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 –

fit fitted.

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

in Europe.

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.

28 29


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.

30 31




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.

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