LG Buchheim: the multi-talented and irascible genius behind Das Boot

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LG Buchheim: the multi-talented and irascible genius behind Das Boot
Lothar-Günther Buchheim. Photo: DPA
February 6th 2018 marks the 100th birthday of Lothar-Günther Buchheim, the author of Germany’s most famous war novel, Das Boot. But his talents stretched far further than just writing.

War correspondent. Writer. Artist. Art collector. Visionary. Tax dodger. Despot. These are just some of the words that have been used to describe Buchheim, one of the most colourful and enigmatic personalities of Germany’s 20th century cultural life.

Born in Weimar during the last year of the First World War, he was raised by a single mother and was already establishing himself as an artist in the 1930s. When war broke out though, he joined Joseph Goebbels’s propaganda department and became a war correspondent.

In an assignment which was to immortalize him, he joined the crew of a U-Boot as they went on the hunt for British convoys during the Battle of the Atlantic. Initially he wrote a short story on his experiences.

After the war, Buchheim went back to his first love, art. He set up his own publishing house, writing on the expressionist movement that had flourished in Germany before the Nazi era. At the same time he brought up paintings by leading Expressionist artists including Kirchner and Nolde. As these artists had been condemned by the Nazis as degenerate, he was able to buy up the art for relatively little money.

Das Boot. Photo: DPA

By the end of the 1980s, when expressionism began to come back into vogue, his collection had become internationally famous and was estimated to have a value of over €100 million.

Buchheim was to become a household name as a writer, though. His 1973 book Das Boot fictionalized his wartime experiences on an U-Boot across 600 pages. It went on to be the best-selling work of fiction in Germany on the Second World War.

The subsequent film adaptation, directed by Wolfgang Petersen, was nominated for an Oscar and stands out as one of the most famous movies in German film history.

Anybody who wishes to see Buchheim’s exceptional art collection now can travel to the Museum der Phantasie on the western shore of Lake Starnberg in Bavaria, where an elegant modern museum juts out like a ship onto the water.

But the man with the stubbly beard and eye patch was as well known in Germany for his short temper and eccentric personality as for his artistic legacy.

According to the Süddeustche Zeitung, he would regularly deride people he didn’t like as “gutter rats”, while driving around his small Bavarian village in a Rolls Royce in order to make his neighbours jealous.

He reserved particular scorn for Peterson, who had turned down his script for the Das Boot movie. He accused the director of creating a cross between a “cheap, shallow American action flick” and a “contemporary German propaganda newsreel from World War II”.

The Buchheim Museum. Photo: DPA

For a man who had amassed a huge wealth through book sales and art, he was also incredibly stingy. When former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder paid him a visit, he was received like all guests at the camping table which served as Buchheim’s dinner table.

To mark the 100th birthday of the great man, his only son Yves has brought out a biography, detailing the highly dubious ways that his father came about his wealth.

Besides insinuating that his father was a Nazi who then switched sides out of expediency after the war, Yves claims that Buchheim hid most of his wealth in Swiss bank accounts and even forged works of art for money.

“My father never paid taxes like other people,” Yves Buchheim told the Donaukurier on Monday.

“He had a few real print blocks made by Otto Müller. I saw him make prints with it twice. That was a real money maker – the prints were then signed with an OM for Otto Müller,” Yves said.

According to Handelsblatt, the artist had furrowed away 14.1 million Swiss francs in Swiss bank accounts by the end of the 1980s.

Despite the controversies, Bucheim’s legacy will live on through his art collection, which is well worth a visit. The museum is accessible from Munich via S-Bahn and bus.

 

Source :  The Local Germany

Parties in final push to seal coalition deal under new Merkel government

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Parties in final push to seal coalition deal under new Merkel government
SPD leader Martin Schulz (l), CSU head Horst Seehofer and Chancellor Angela Merkel (r). Photo: DPA
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and the centre-left Social Democrats embark on a final round of talks on Tuesday to seal a coalition deal and end months of political limbo in Europe’s top economy.

After marathon talks Monday, negotiators from Merkel’s CDU party, her Bavarian CSU ally and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) are to reconvene in Berlin at 10:00 am (0900 GMT) for one last push to clinch an agreement on a renewed “grand coalition”.

Despite the protracted haggling — the talks were initially supposed to end at the weekend — the parties sounded upbeat on meeting Tuesday’s self-imposed deadline.

“I remain optimistic,” said Daniel Günther, the CDU premier of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Party sources said the main sticking points were disagreements over healthcare, labour policy and defence spending.

Julia Klöckner, deputy of Merkel’s CDU party, said she expected talks to once again run into the night Tuesday, meaning it could take until Wednesday for a coalition treaty to be formally presented.

Merkel, in power for over 12 years, has pinned her hopes for a fourth term on a repeat alliance with the SPD after September’s inconclusive election left her without a ruling majority.

But commentators have already dubbed the tie-up a “coalition of losers” after both parties slumped to their worst results in decades in the polls, while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) took nearly 13 percent of the vote.

SPD to have final say

Merkel initially sought to form a three-way alliance with the Greens and the liberals, but those talks broke down in acrimony in November.

Faced with the option of snap polls that could further boost the AfD or the prospect of heading an unstable minority government, Merkel opted to woo back the SPD — her junior partner for two of her three terms since 2005.

After at first ruling out another four years in Merkel’s shadow, SPD leader Martin Schulz backtracked — a U-turn that angered many grassroots SPD supporters who hoped to reinvent the party from the opposition benches.

At a special congress in January, SPD delegates narrowly voted to pursue coalition talks.

But even if both sides end up signing a coalition agreement that lays out the next government’s policies, a new Merkel-led government is not yet guaranteed.

Schulz has promised to put any coalition accord to a yes-or-no referendum by the SPD’s 440,000 rank-and-file members.

Observers expect the vote to be tight, with the SPD’s left and youth wings fiercely opposed to another “GroKo”, as the grand coalition is known in German.

The SPD referendum result is expected in early March. If all goes well for Merkel, a new government could be in place by the end of next month.

Stumbling blocks

Often described as Europe’s most powerful woman, Merkel’s struggles to form a government have harmed her political standing at home and abroad.

Germany’s European partners in particular are eager for an end to the gridlock in Berlin that has held up decision-making at a time when French

President Emmanuel Macron is pushing for major EU reforms.

Although Merkel and the SPD are open to the French plans for deeper eurozone integration, the SPD is more enthusiastic about some of Macron’s more ambitious proposals such as a joint eurozone budget and finance minister.

In a message to party members Monday, Schulz said the would-be coalition partners had successfully finished the European chapter of their talks.

While details remained vague, the former European Parliament chief said they had agreed to invest more in the eurozone, support a eurozone investment budget and end “the austerity diktat”.

But they are still at loggerheads about the SPD’s demands to ban short-term work contracts and overhaul Germany’s two-tier healthcare system.

They also remain at odds on boosting defence spending, party sources told DPA news agency.

While Merkel’s conservatives want to increase spending to bring it closer to NATO targets, as demanded by US President Donald Trump, the SPD is known to be sceptical.

A new survey for Bild newspaper Tuesday found that the lengthy coalition wrangling has hurt both mainstream parties.

Support for the CDU/CSU fell from 33 to 30.5 percent in the Insa poll, while the SPD slumped from September’s historic low of 20.5 percent to 17 percent — leaving the “GroKo” hopefuls without a combined majority.

The AfD meanwhile scored a record 15 percent.

 

Source :  The Local Germany

Far-right AfD almost as popular as Social Democrats: poll

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Far-right AfD almost as popular as Social Democrats: poll
Photo: DPA
A poll published by INSA on Monday predicts that the Social Democrats and Christian Union would no longer be able to form a majority government, if elections were held now.

The poll also puts the anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party on 15 percent, just two percent behind the Social Democrats (SPD) on 17 percent. Merkel’s Christian Union (CDU/CSU) would win 30.5 percent of the vote, the poll predicts.

As the CDU/CSU enter the final stages of trying to thrash out a new deal for a grand coalition government with the SPD, the poll makes worrying reading for the main parties. Their proposed government has already been dubbed a “coalition of losers” due to the fact that both parties leaked millions of votes at the ballot box in September’s national election. The SPD’s vote share of 20.5 percent was their worst result since the Second World War.

The popularity of the far-right AfD has been creeping up in recent weeks, with several polls putting them on 14 percent or above.

They entered the Bundestag for the first time in September after winning 12.6 percent of the vote. The party was set up in 2013 and fought the election of that year on an anti-Euro platform, but failed to make it over the 5 percent hurdle needed to make it into parliament.

Last year they ran a campaign fiercely critical of the government’s refugee policy, which had led to over a million people applying for asylum in Germany since 2015.

The leadership of the AfD rejects the label of far-right, preferring to describe themselves as conservative. However, they remain highly controversial due to various statements by senior party members which have challenged a political consensus concerning how Germany treats its Nazi past.

Björn Höcke, the AfD leader in Thuringia, has lambasted Germany’s culture of remembrance of the Holocaust, labelling the Holocaust Memorial in central Berlin a “memorial of shame.”

Party leader Alexander Gauland, meanwhile, said during election campaigning last year that Germany should be proud of the service of its soldiers in two world wars.

The party has also been sharply criticized for its attitude to Islam, which it describes as “not belonging to Germany.” There are roughly 4.7 million Muslims in the Bundesrepublik, making up 5 percent of the population.

 

Source :  The Local Germany

Palestinian diplomat wants Russia to play key role in Middle East peace process

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The ambassador confirmed Palestinian readiness for direct talks with Israel

Palestinian Ambassador to Russia Abdel Hafiz

Palestinian Ambassador to Russia Abdel Hafiz

© Maxim Grigoryev/TASS

MOSCOW, February 6. /TASS/. Moscow should play a key role in brokering a settlement to the Middle East conflict. This issue is on the agenda for the upcoming meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 12 in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi, Palestinian Ambassador to Russia Abdel Hafiz Nofal told TASS ahead of Abbas’ trip to Russia.

“The new US stance [on the issue], after the statements by [US President Donald] Trump made America’s leadership in the Israeli-Palestinian settlement unacceptable for us and now it is deadlocked,” he explained. “We are not talking about excluding the US from these negotiations, rather we are talking about the need for an international partnership.”

“Therefore, the two presidents will search for opportunities to create a new mechanism, discuss a new vision for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” the envoy noted.

 In light of this, the ambassador confirmed Palestinian readiness for direct talks with Israel.

“One of the key purposes of [Abbas’s] visit [to Russia] is to confirm Palestine’s willingness to negotiate and discuss Russia’s role in this process,” he explained. “We reaffirm our commitment to the peace process.”.

 

Source : TASS

Russia’s Pacific Fleet to get 4 upgraded nuclear subs by 2021

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Russia’s Pacific Fleet may get four upgraded Project 949A Antey nuclear-powered submarines armed with Kalibr cruise missiles in 2021

© Yuri Smityuk/TASS

BOLSHOI KAMEN (Primorye Region), February 6. /TASS/. Russia’s Pacific Fleet may get four upgraded Project 949A Antey nuclear-powered submarines armed with Kalibr cruise missiles already in 2021, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said on Tuesday.

“We have discussed this issue today and we believe that the year 2021 is a realistic term,” he told journalists while visiting the Zvezda Shipyard in the Russian Far East.

The Pacific Fleet may also get already this year the nuclear submarine Omsk of this Project that was earlier expected to be delivered in 2019, the deputy defense minister noted.

The Zvezda Shipyard will soon launch work to repair and upgrade Project 955 Borei-class nuclear submarines, he said.

 “New Borei subs will arrive here soon. The Zvezda will provide maintenance and repairs and upgrade this grouping,” the deputy defense minister said.

It was reported earlier that Antey nuclear-powered submarines would be rearmed with Kalibr cruise missiles during their heavy upgrade at the Zvezda Shipyard while their service life would be doubled. CEO of the Rubin Central Bureau for Marine Engineering Igor Vilnit told TASS that not all the submarines of this class operational in the Fleet were slated for the upgrade.

Overall, Russia has built 11 submarines of this class and now the Russian Navy operates only eight of them. Each submarine displaces 24,000 tonnes and is furnished with 24 Granit cruise missile launchers and six torpedo tubes.

Source : TASS

Russian Helicopters plans to complete drone helicopter certification in 2019

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Serial production of the drone can be considered after completion of tests, the company’s CEO Andrei Boginsky said

SINGAPORE, February 6. /TASS/. Tests of a coaxial-rotor drone helicopter capable of carrying up to 150 kg of payload, including armaments and the monitoring system, will be completed in eighteen months, Chief Executive Officer of Russian Helicopters Andrei Boginsky told reporters on Tuesday.

“There is a program of tests [for the helicopter drone – TASS],” the top manager said. We see high interest of oil and gas sector companies operating the Northern Sea Route. It means ice reconnaissance and the sea route exploration. We see the demand and hope we will complete this procedure within eighteen months,” Boginsky said.

Serial production of the drone can be considered after completion of tests, the top manager added.

The drone helicopter will be able to carry up to 150 kg of payload, produce velocity up to 150 km per hour and perform flights with duration up to four hours. The system will be controlled and carried by an independent ground station on Kamaz truck base.

Source : TASS