Wednesday, September 2, 2009

siebzig Jahre

[ seventy years ]

I have been keeping up with some stories in the German news lately [ especially the election results of last Sunday - which I am writing about, and still trying to understand what is going on. It is coming. ] and amongst the election hype, there was one other story that caught my eye..

On Tuesday, the first of September, a special ceremony was held in Gdańsk, Poland in remembrance of the 70th anniversary of the invasion of Poland, and thus the beginning of WW2. The article caught my attention, not only because it was an important event for Poland and involved German-Polish relations, but also because it was a reminder of how everpresent the repercussions of WW2 are here in Europe.

The event was notable in the German press because the Bundeskanzlerin, Angela Merkel, was present at the event, representing Germany. She is known for serving as a strong leader in mending German-Polish relations. One quote from the event that I found particularly brave and humbling from Merkel, abiding to her duties as representative and speaker on behalf of Germany, was:

"Germany attacked Poland, Germany started World War II. We caused unending suffering in the world. Sixty million dead ... was the result. The war unleashed by Germany resulted in immeasurable suffering to many peoples - years of deprivation of rights, of humiliation and destruction. No country suffered from German occupation as much as Poland.... Here at the Westerplatte, as German chancellor, I commemorate all the Poles who suffered unspeakably from the crimes of the German occupying forces."

Also present was Vladamir Putin of Russia [ noted for not displaying the same efforts as Merkel of Germany for mended international relations ] amongst other diplomats including those from the EU. Controversially, absentees of top officials [ sending representatives of lower ranks ] from France, Great Britain and the US created a stir in the Polish news.

What was interesting for me, after skimming the stories in the German press and pulling the information that I could from translation, and then later checking out English sources [ and it evolving into a very extended time on Wikipedia and other sites for a long history lesson ] was how this event for Poland reflects so much over how the nation feels it is treated on the international political stage. Upon research, a concept that I have never really realized before was introduced to me. Amongst the "winners" of WW2 including the US, France, Great Britain and Russia, the only nation that really failed to "win," even when being an ally of these nations, was Poland, which suffered the repressive rule of communist USSR after the war. In terms of feeling betrayed, as history would tell it, Poland felt slighted by France and GB after they failed to assist Poland when it was invaded, even with treaties promising military help, and then by the United States for leaving the nation to be occupied by Soviet rule.

70 years later, at this aniversary event, all of these feelings are resurfacing in Poland, and the nation's relationship with Germany, Russia, the US, GB, and France have all been re-examined. In terms of the United States, Poland is one of our firmest allies in Europe, especially with troops in the Middle East, and even though it may be just a ceremony for some, in terms of international relations, and understanding allies, especially in Europe, I have begun to notice how important this issues are, and how much true representation at this historic event that represents so much could have meant to Poland. I think it was best summarized in a quote I found from a Polish sourse online.
This is a very important day. For many decades we weren’t allowed to talk freely about what happened during the Second World War. Communist dictatorship blanked out half of our war fate from official memory. Some Western countries were able to remember what happened and have moved on. We didn’t, we are remembering it now. It is the last big anniversary when witnesses are still alive. We need this - a Warsaw pedestrian told Polsat News.

The details of this story could stem into several discussions and aguments, including the standing of Poland in todays international politics, to German-Polish relations, or the ally standing between the US and Poland. The bottom line of what I found captivating from the readings was how sensitive politics and representation was between countries still are, especially regarding issues from WW2, and still how integrated this war is in international politics, even 70 year after it began.


[ halfway ]

It is now the first week of September, and that means that we are half way through the two month intensive language course period here in Germany. The month has gone by very quickly, but looking back, we are already done with one textbook and moving on through the second and our class has been instructed virtually all in Germany for many weeks now.

Admittedly, the classes can be long and tedious, but I think when stress gets everyone on edge, things just become a bit goofy. We can have a lot of fun in class, especially with some of the exercises. We are all young adults here, but for some reason Er duscht [ he showers ], or Er fahrt [ he drives ] can always produce a few snickers from some. Don’t judge, your maturity would drop dramatically too after more than 5 hours of German grammar!

The German grammar is extremely tedious and can frustrate many that are just beginning with the language. Knowing what gender a fork is,[ die Gabel – feminine ] but not being the same as a knife [das Messer - neutral]… then not related to the masculine spoon [der Löffel ] can just be baffling. After all of this confusion, even if you can manage to remember the gender of words ( which lacks the specific, foolproof trends that a language like Polish has, for example ), the articles in front of the words change and manipulate based off of the case they take within the sentence due to Grammar rules. This sounds fine, since you just have to apply the new Grammar concepts, but you could beat your head against a wall when you learn that feminine nouns in the genitive form turn in to “der” which is exactly what the masculine form is in the nominative…

[ Even Frau Bopp can sometimes have too much fun! :) ]

It is also interesting that once you address a noun in a sentence, you refer to it with a pronoun, just like in English, but German has more than just it. If the word is feminine, you call it sie, She, for the rest of the time, and if masculine, er. So what do you do when discussing a child, das kind, which is a neuter noun? That’s right, it is completely correct grammatically to refer to it as… it, es. If you didn’t follow any of this, just know that you would be flustered to if you had to call a fork she and a child it if you wanted to be grammatically correct. And for now, let’s not even delve into word order and verb structures in the German language. One month to go, and a lot of German still to learn!

[ The class with Eva, our Komunikationstrainings teacher ]