Tuesday, March 14, 2006

J! and I often use this space to describe our adventures here in Deutschland, but I've realized over the past few weeks that we rarely discuss issues particular to Germany. In an effort to rectify that, I'll try occasionally to post German news items that don't make it across the Atlantic. It'll be great! You can impress your friends and non-dotde-readers with your incredible erudition and knowledge of obscure contemporary German events!

Two recent tidbits caught my eye that might be of interest to some of you . . . or not.

A Spanish artist named Santiago Sierra has touched a justifiably sensitive nerve by converting an old, retired synagogue into gas chamber in Pulheim, Germany. Sierra rigged the exhaust pipes from six cars to funnel carbon monoxide into the synagogue:
Visitors wearing breathing equipment were allowed inside the synogogue one at a time in the company of a fireman to spend a couple of minutes walking around the carbon-monoxide filled room.
Sierra has defended his art installation as bringing awareness to the ways in which the Holocaust is traditionally remembered, suggesting that Holocaust memorials in general are not shocking enough, and also to how we "perceive guilt." Critics argue that the installation addresses the victims more than it does the perpetrators.

This isn't Sierra's first controversial piece of art. Those interested can find more info here and here (the second link's in German).


On a brighter note, Germany is now considering 24 hour shopping! This will make Wal-Mart so happy!! For those who don't regularly catch up on the state of the German economy--things are bad. Germany is still recovering from unification between East and West, dealing with heavy burdens from their social system (national healthcare, social security, etc.), and unemployment is the heighest since 1933 (12.6% total, 10.4% in the west and 20.7% in the east). The election last fall, which brought Angela Merkel into power, was seen as potentially heralding in an era of massive economic and social reforms in Germany. Whether this will actually happen is uncertain still, but the expansion of store hours is at least one sign that German states are interested in deregulation. 10 of 16 German states are thinking about allowing stores to remain open for 24 hours (currently German stores must close by at least 8 pm on work days and cannot open on Sundays or major public holidays). Some states are talking about possibly letting stores alter their hours during World Cup and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is even considering allowing stores to open for limited hours on Sunday! All other German states, however, probably won't be doing anything that drastic in the near future.

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