Today’s Bonus Joke

A Soviet Jew is sitting on a train, reading a book, “Beginner’s Hebrew.” Opposite him the KGB agent asks, “Hey, Jew, why are you reading this book?”

The Soviet Jew replies, “Well, if I go to heaven when I die…”

The KGB agent butts in, “And if you get sent to Hell?”

The Jew replies: “Hey, listen, comrade, Russian I already speak…”

Quiz

What is your favourite?

  • Book: 1984
  • Song: Mississippi, by Pussycat
  • Colour: Purple (it used to be jade when I was younger)
  • Holiday destination: Edale in the Peak District
  • Film: The Wicker Man, starring Edward Woodward
    • (Foreign-language film: Good Bye Lenin)
  • Idiomatic expression: “to a certain extent”
  • Cuisine: Indian
  • Font: Helvetica (don’t get me started on comic sans serif…)
  • Group: The Ukrainians
  • Magazine: Private Eye
  • Hymn: Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
  • Bible passage: Ezekiel 25:17 ūüôā

Your turn!  Du bist in der Reihe!

Have a favourite day, won’t you!

Er Ist Wieder Da – Ein Knaller

Can you write a comedy about Hitler?¬† Well, Mel Brooks gave the world The Producers and To Be Or Not To Be, including The Hitler Rap.¬† Before that there was Chaplin’s film, The Great Dictator.¬† Those who are fans of Russian literature will have heard of The Heart of a Dog (Sobach’e serdtse), which mocked Stalin, that other great dictator.¬† I rest my case.¬† Maybe as a Brit and as someone with a military background, I understand dark humour more than others.

In the last decade or so, Germans have felt much more comfortable about talking about the war, the Third Reich, “an’ all that jazz.”¬† (Just take a look at the N24 news channel, to see all the programmes from Switzerland under the Swastika to Japanese Nazis to SS Fashionistas…)¬† But depicting Hitler as a human being, rather than as evil personified with a toothbruh moustache?¬† I would argue that that made its debut in Der Untergang (“The Downfall“).¬† (That’s the one with the scene where Hitler:

  • Sings the Gummibaer Song
  • Rants about going to Lancashire instead of Yorkshire
  • Is horrified to discover he’s been out as a member of the British National Party
  • etc…

Comedy about Hitler?¬† But Germans don’t have a sense of humour…¬† (Go and see Good Bye Lenin, in that case, or even Herr Henning Wehn.)

Fast forward to two weeks ago.  Schatz and I decided to watch the film of the book Er Ist Wieder Da (by Timur Vermes).

My observations

  1. The younger the Zuschauer, the more they laughed.  To be expected.  That distance makes it easier to laugh at one big war movie.
  2. The closer to the end of the film, the less laughter there was.¬† Black comedy makes a serious point.¬† One of the HJ’s youngsters sitting near me complained ten minutes before the end, “Es ist nicht mehr witzig.”¬† Yes, that’s the point.¬† Black comedy is the iron cross fist in the velvet glove.
  3. Germans still get nervously silent when they hear the word, “J√ľdin” (literally: “Jewess”) even in a comedy.¬† Is it still a taboo word?
  4. Unlike The Producers, there is no happy ending of funny punchline.¬† Hitler is killed, but he is “part of you all, and you are all part of me.”¬† (“The F√ľhrer is dead.¬† Long live the F√ľhrer.”)
  5. The mix of vox pops with scripted scenes was really effective in bringing the film to life.¬† My goodness, Hitler going into a genuine Turkish dry cleaner’s, staning in his vest and Y-fronts, then having to scrape a living as an artist on a market square somewhere…
  6. Bonus marks to the director for lifting that famous/notorious scene from Der Untergang.¬† I got the in-joke straightaway. So did Schatz.¬† I don’t think anyone else did.¬† Schade.

I give this film five stars (yellow, of course, with the word “Jude” written on each one).

Have a f√ľhrious day, won’t you!

Visit to London Jewish Museum

North London.¬† Well known for having the bulk of Britain’s Jewish community.¬† You’ll always get a good bagel round Golders Green.

An aside: there’s an old Jewish joke.¬† Road sign in North London:

GOLDERS GREEN: 5 MILES … TO YOU – THREE

I digress.¬† Quite a faith-centred Sunday, beginning with waking up at 06:00 to my home radio station’s God-slot show, the Mike Hill Show.¬†¬† Then off to the local Anglican church in Camden.¬† Very Anglo-Catholic.¬† Smells and bells.¬† I even met a lady from Saxon… as I could tell by her accent after a few minutes.¬† (Nicht vergessen: √úber 60 Millionen Menschen k√∂nnen nicht richtig Ostdeutsch sprechen… macht was dagegen!)

I digress again.

After church a visit to the London Jewish Museum.¬† Very welcoming, informative museum, very interactive.¬† Far better than the Berlin Jewish Museum, all stuffy and full of glass cases.¬† A lot I never knew about the contribution of Britain’s Jews.¬† One of the staff there is able to trace her family tree back to the times of Oliver Cromwell. I was impressed.¬† I can only go back to 1890.

Go if you get the chance.¬† It’s closed on Saturdays.

Have a cultural day, won’t you!

“May I apologise for the conduct of previous generations…”

So, my 45th birthday today. Nothng much to write home (oops – 21st century, nothing much to blog about). ¬†Instead some reflection on a few interconnected, inter-related, international, inter-communal threads and “fings.”

Last week was a week of two halves, a mixed bag including what Germans call “negative Highlights,” unstiffening the British lip and having a bit of a cry on Saturday afternoon, albeit followed by a most enjoyable evening down D√ľsseldorf Altstadt with convivial company, mainly educating Schatz on the less desirables parts of Teesside.

Also, du kennst diese Reklame? ¬†Wo sind wir? ¬†‘Am Arsch der Welt.’ ¬†Na, das ist Teesside.

I digress (as ever).

That was the weekend. ¬†Whizz back to Thursday evening and meeting up with Nadezhda and her boyfriend, she an ex-colleague from my most recent job. ¬†While waiting at D√ľsseldorf Hbf to meet Nadezhda, I think of two things:

  • Nadezhda from A Short History of the Tractor in Ukrainian
  • Thank God for the person who invented the mp3 player for all the times that someone arrives late for an RV

So, off to a Greek cafe for Kaffee und Kuchen.  It occurs to me how very international this all is:

  1. An Englishman/Brit
  2. A Russian woman
  3. German Kaffee und Kuchen
  4. Greek cafe
  5. Russian Jewish (Sephardim, be exact) boyfriend

Nadezhda tells me in Russian rather shyly, almost apologetically, that her boyfriend is Jewish.  My reaction, er, big deal.  The Jewish community is long-established and well-integrated in British life.  I tell her, the former Chief Rabbi said the UK is the most un-anti-Semitic country in Europe.

Ganz spontan I am invited to their Russian-Jewish friends in the Altstadt.  A great evening, sitting with very gastfreundlich people.  I could tell they were originally from Russia.  How?  We were speaking in Russian and talking about Red Square, Voronezh, etc, etc.  They also laughed at my repetoire of Russian-language Soviet Jew jokes.

I knew they were Russian-Jewish and not Russian-Russian. ¬†When the host and hostess offered me a glass of Laphroig whisky, I declined. ¬†I was immediately offered either pineapple juice or orange juice. ¬†Had they been Russian, I’d have been harangued with:

  • I beg you, drink
  • I beg you from my heart, please drink
  • I beg you, my brother, please celebrate our new friendship and brotherhood over a drink

(“Which part of ‘no’ do you not understand?”)

Just before midnight, we head home, our host and hostess wishing us well and preparing for bedtime. ¬†Had that been ethnic Russians, we’d have left at about 5 in the morning after “just one last toast.”

Interesting conversation during that visit. ¬†Two of the people were looking to move to England to live and work because life as a Jew is easier there than in D√ľsseldorf.

This has nothing to do with anti-Semitism.  If anything, they seemed to find it rather tedious and self-righteous when post-war Germans come and do the standard apology:

I must apologise for the conduct of our nation during the war.

(Yeah, yeah, sure, very nice,very sincere, good that you have signed the online petition against Judenhass, but I am not my brother’s keeper (or my (great-)grandather’s, either.)

In fact, the desire to move to England is for more far more prosaic reasons:

  • Bigger “critical mass of Jews” in London
    • Therefore far bigger choice of which synagogue to attend
    • Much easier to go kosher shopping, maybe even online
    • In Golders Green you’ll always be able to find a decent bagel bar
    • The chance to have an Anglophone way of life, English being a trendier language than German

All the chat about anti-Semitism then reminds me of an incident a month or so ago, and not very palatable.

Sitting on the bus in Essen, off to see Schatz for the weekend, I’ve got my mp3 player on, full-blast. ¬†A group of schoolkids board the bus, all very loud, all aged about 11 or 12, tweenagers (sic) as we call them in English, not quite teenagers. ¬†Five of them sit opposite and around me. ¬†I have Hava Nagila playing. ¬†Seconds after sitting down, the youngsters start hurling verbal abuse at me, calling me (in German), “Dirty Jew,” etc, etc. ¬†I can still lip-read even with the earphones in.

Let me reiterate.  With a name like Ginge in Germany, I am a WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant), with some Celtic  background.

Now, German readers of this blog. please do not offer your standard apology:

I must apologise that anti-Semitism among our people is not dead. ¬†I am truly ashamed, etc…

These were youngers of one specific ethnic Mediterranean origin.

Violence ends where love begins.

Have a Judenhass-free day, won’t you!