For months the park below my apartment was a white sheet, the trees pencil drawings on a blank canvas. Winter coats Chicago, and the cold contours everything.
Comment The only reason my German grandfather survived as a Russian prisoner of war was that he had a beautiful singing voice.
He had been drafted into the Volkssturm militia induring the final phase of the war in which the Nazi party recruited most able-bodied males into the armed forces, regardless of their age.
The Russians captured him during the Siege of Breslau and he was taken to a labor camp, where he was forced to work as a logger. There was barely anything to eat and he said the men died like flies. Every now and then, the camp cook would serve my grandfather an extra portion of the water gruel or an additional bit of bread because he had such a nice voice.
At night, when he would sing his songs by the fire, the Russians would sit there as well, passing round the vodka bottle, and his voice would literally bring tears to their eyes -- or at least that's the version of events passed down in the family.
Right up to this day, Germans and Russians maintain a special relationship. There is no other country and no other people with which Germans' relations are as emotional and as contradictory.
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The connection reaches deep into German family history, shaped by two world wars and the year existence of East Germany. German families still share stories of cruel, but also kindhearted and soulful Russians.
We disdain the Russians' primitiveness, while treasuring their culture and the Russian soul. Russians are sometimes perceived as Ivan the Terrible, as foreign entities, as Asians.
Russians scare us, but we also see them as hospitable people. They have an enormous territory, a deep soul and culture -- their country is the country of Tchaikovsky and Tolstoy. It's thus no wonder that the debate about Russia's role in the Ukraine crisis is more polarizing than any other issue in current German politics.
For Germany, the Ukraine crisis is not some distant problem like Syria or Iraq -- it goes right to the core of the question of German identity. Where do we stand when it comes to Russia?
Who are we as Germans? With the threat of a new East-West conflict, this question has regained prominence in Germany and may ultimately force us to reposition ourselves or, at the very least, reaffirm our position in the West.
In recent weeks, an intense and polemical debate has been waged between those tending to sympathize with Russia and those championing a harder line against Moscow. The positions have been extreme, with one controversy breaking out after the other.
The louder the voices on the one side are in condemning Russia's actions in Ukraine, the louder those become in arguing for a deeper understanding of a humbled and embattled Russia; as the number of voices pillorying Russia for violating international law in Crimea grows, so do those of Germans raising allegations against the West.
Everyone seems to be getting into the debate -- politicians, writers, former chancellors and scientists. Readers, listeners and viewers are sending letters to the editor, posting on Internet forums or calling in to radio or television shows with their opinions.
Historian Stefan Plaggenborg of the Ruhr University in Bochum has described the sentimental relationship between Germans and Russians as "doting love.
Perhaps a man who grew up in East Germany can explain what links Germans and Russians: Thomas Brussig, a novelist from the former East Berlin, says he first got to know Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union when he visited during a book tour.
During his stay, he recalls being constantly asked which Russian writers influenced him. Brussig didn't give the obvious answers -- Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky.
He instead named a third-rate Soviet writer, Arkady Gaidar. Brussig says he has no special attachment to the Russians. He says the only Russian figure he actually views positively is Gorbachev.
It was "his vision of a Common European Home that cleared the way for the demolition of the Soviet Union. But those are only superficial answers -- dig a little deeper, and you'll find two other explanations: Romanticism and the war.
The war explanation is inextricably linked to German guilt. As a country that committed monstrous crimes against the Russians, we sometimes feel the need to be especially generous, even in dealing with Russia's human rights violations.
As a result, many Germans feel that Berlin should temper its criticism of Russia and take a moderate position in the Ukraine crisis.
It was Germany, after all, that invaded the Soviet Union, killing 25 million people with its racist war of extermination.September Remember the essays you had to write in high school? Topic sentence, introductory paragraph, supporting paragraphs, conclusion.
The conclusion being, say, that Ahab in Moby Dick was a Christ-like figure. Oy. Our website is the source for the latest security and strategic research from the military's link to the academic community.
The Strategic Studies Institute is the War College's premier landpower research center. Throughout Ralph Ellison’s novel, “Invisible Man”, the words of advice given to the narrator by his grandfather frequently reemerge, either in direct or indirect form.
His suggestion that he “agree ‘em to death" however, becomes the flawed and self-denying philosophy that shapes the early experiences of thenarrator of “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison.
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A single religion, or: A single point of view on "hot" religious topics, or: A single point of view on controversial social problems. I have long called myself a social conservative. I think it is very important to have standards for behaviour (etiquette) and defined roles.
The problems with this system is not that it exists, but the lack of flexibility and the value placed on them.