One recent morning Paul Urbanek, 71, found a strange sign by the entrance to Alwine, a small and remote community of run-down houses in ex-communist eastern Germany.
The entire place was up for sale.
On Saturday, its dozen buildings, plus sheds and garages, are to go under the hammer at an auction in Berlin, with a starting price of €125,000.
Erika Kühne and Paul Urbanek. Photo: DPA.
Whoever buys Alwine will get a small slice of German history – a place whose empty homes and ageing residents mirror the wider fate of the east German hinterlands since the country’s reunification 27 years ago.
Only about 20 mostly retired people still live in the cluster of decaying homes in rural Brandenburg state, 120 kilometres south of Berlin.
“We have been chucked into cold water!” Urbanek told AFP, standing in front of his dilapidated house, a common sight in a region where villages are shrinking as young people move away.
During the Second World War, the Hitler Youth trained around Alwine and prisoners of war were incarcerated nearby. Then the Iron Curtain went up and it became part of Germany’s communist East.
Until Germany’s 1990 reunification, all the property in Alwine, which once counted about 50 residents, was owned by a nearby coal briquette plant, the oldest in Europe.
Several local residents had worked there since the 1960s, said Andreas Claus, the mayor of Uebigau-Wahrenbrueck of which Alwine is a part.
The plant closed in 1991 and many people left.
“Most of the departures were, of course, younger people – the daughters and sons of this place” who moved to West Germany, said Peter Kroll, the district representative, who has lived nearby since 1945.
None have come back, he said.
“People had no other prospects here, especially if they were older,” added Claus.
Alwine is not the only such community in eastern Germany, which still lags behind the west in prosperity, wages and jobs, with a per capita GDP that was only 67 percent of that in western states in 2015.
Between 1990 and 2015, the region’s population fell by about 15 percent, said a government report this year.
“After reunification, many people moved away for jobs,” said Hildegard Schroeteler-von Brandt, a professor of architecture and urban studies at Siegen University.
“These jobs have not been replaced everywhere in East Germany.”
Sold for one Deutschmark
In 2000, the hamlet was sold to private investors for one “symbolic Deutschmark,” the pre-euro national currency, Kroll said.
The two brothers who are the current owners did not manage to stop its slide into neglect.
Urbanek, who moved there after a divorce in 2010, said he likes Alwine because it’s quiet.
But now the roof of his house needs to be replaced, he said, and the electrician doesn’t come by anymore.
Except for one family, all of Alwine’s inhabitants are elderly.
“I’m retired, my neighbour is retired … The others are also both retired,” Urbanek noted, pointing across the way.
Given the region’s exodus of younger people, “the ageing process in eastern Germany is progressing much faster than in western Germany,” according to the government report.
Mayor Claus, who only learned of the sale in the tabloid-style Bild daily, said his town would not seek to buy it.
And Urbanek said it was unlikely that anyone living there would be able to raise the necessary €125,000 to do so.
“People in economically underdeveloped areas feel left alone with their problems,” said Claus, voicing a common complaint that has impacted eastern German politics.
During the elections in September, nearly 23 percent of Uebigau-Wahrenbrueck voted for the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, nearly twice the national average.
Now the fate of Alwine rests on the result of the auction.
“Many people are interested,” Matthias Knake of the Karhausen auction house told AFP, saying it was the first time they were selling “an entire village”.
And Claus said he would invite the new owner to the town hall “to see how we can try to develop something here, in collaboration with the people, and not against them.”
“The concern is that nothing will happen,” he said.
Source : The Local Germany
After years of planning, the DFB will finally open the 150-million-euro complex in an attempt to keep up with other European football powerhouses.
“Whoever wants to achieve optimal performance must also offer the optimal conditions in which to achieve it,” DFB president Reinhard Grindel said.
France’s Clairefontaine centre outside Paris has been open since 1988, while England have seen massive improvement in their youth teams since opening St George’s Park in 2012.
Their Under-20 and Under-17 teams won this year’s World Cups, while the Under-19 side won the European Championship.
“Since the English have had their new academy, their youth teams have started performing again,” said DFB vice-president Rainer Koch.
“We must not and cannot rest on our laurels of the victory at the 2014 World Cup.”
The academy, to be built on an old racecourse, will be responsible for national team training, youth development and training for coaches and referees.
“Our goal is to constantly develop German football and to establish our academy as a seal of quality in the world,” said former Germany striker and project manager of the academy Oliver Bierhoff.
“We want to make our experts, coaches, teams and players better.”
Source : The Local Germany
Four staff members from the event company Lopavent and six officials from Duisburg city, in western Germany, face charges of negligent manslaughter and bodily harm over the disaster.
Thirteen women and eight men were crushed, trampled to death or suffocated on July 24th, 2010 when panic broke out in a narrow tunnel that served as the only entrance and exit to the techno music event.
More than 650 people were also injured in the stampede that saw victims squashed against fences and walls.
The long-awaited trial is one of the largest criminal cases Germany has ever seen, with the accused being represented by 32 lawyers while survivors, acting as co-plaintiffs, have enlisted nearly 40 lawyers.
The scale of the trial and the huge public interest have forced court officials to move the proceedings to a 500-seat convention hall in nearby Düsseldorf.
Love Parade founder DJ Dr. Motte said he hoped the trial would “shed full light” on exactly how the tragedy happened.
“That’s what the parents want, and that’s what matters most,” he told DPA news agency.
‘Respect for the victims’
The trial almost never saw the light of day after a regional court in 2016 dismissed the charges against the 10 suspects, citing of a lack of evidence.
The decision enraged victims’ families who have long blamed organizers for the chaotic crowd management and believe the stampede could have been avoided with better planning.
A Düsseldorf appeals court overturned the ruling this year, finally allowing the trial to go ahead.
Prosecutors intend to argue that organizers failed in their duty of care by only providing a single access path that was too narrow to handle the hundreds of thousands of revellers.
If convicted, the accused face up to five years in prison.
It is unclear how long the trial will last but a verdict has to be reached by the summer of 2020 to fall within the statute of limitations.
The 21 victims were aged between 17 and 38 and came from Germany, Australia, Italy, the Netherlands, China and Spain.
The Love Parade started as an underground event in the former West Berlin in 1989 before moving to other German cities, at times drawing over a million revellers.
The 2010 tragedy led organizers to declare that the Love Parade would never be held again “out of respect for the victims”.
Source : The Local gERMANY
Prosecutors were able to track down Hussein K.’s father when they came across a contact on his mobile phone. The defendant told them that they could contact his mother on the number. But when an interpreter called the number in the presence of two judges, the person who picked up was his father.
The older man read out details from his son’s birth certificate which state that he was born on January 29th 1984, presiding judge Kathrin Schenk said in the district court in Freiburg on Friday.
Hussein K. had told German immigration authorities that he had fled Afghanistan after his father was killed in battles with Taliban fighters. Due to the fact that he also said he was 17, he was treated by German authorities as an unaccompanied minor and given foster parents.
But there have been some doubts raised about the father’s testament as the interpreter said he could have been referring to the Persian calendar, which would have to be recalculated.
Previous analysis of a tooth belonging to the defendant also suggests he is at least 22 years of age.
The new evidence could be of crucial importance in determining how long Hussein K.’s sentence will be if he is found guilty. If the judges decide that he was a minor at the time of the crime, he will face a lesser sentence than if he is found to have been an adult.
The defendant has already admitted to raping and strangling his victim until she lost consciousness late at night in a Freiburg park. A postmortem found that she drowned in the river Dreisam.
Hussein K. arrived in Germany in November 2015 without proper documentation. He had already been sent to jail for pushing a young woman from a cliff in Greece, but was released early. He then fled his parole to Germany and Greek authorities failed to issue an international arrest warrant for him.
A verdict on the trial is expected early next year.
Source : The Local Germany
The change is due to the opening of the new high-speed line between Berlin and Munich on Sunday which has affected the schedules of many connecting rail lines.
“It will be the biggest improvement in the range of products on offer in the history of Deutsche Bahn,” the company said.
The Statista chart below shows which routes will be affected as a result of the ICE express route connecting Germany’s two most famous cities.
Not only will the new Berlin-Munich line cut two hours off current journey times with trains travelling at speeds of up to 300 km/h, a ride between Erfurt and Munich will see a reduction in travel time of two hours and 15 minutes.
Routes connecting Halle with Munich and Nuremberg with Berlin will also see travel times shortened by two hours.
Rail travellers on the Nuremberg-Erfurt line will be able to travel one hour and 50 minutes faster. A new junction has been built in Erfurt; considerably more long-distance trains will travel through the Thuringian city.
Meanwhile the Munich-Leipzig route will be one hour and 35 minutes quicker and one hour and 14 minutes in travel time will be shaved off the Munich-Dresden route.
But along with a reduction in travel times for selected DB routes comes higher fares.
First-class tickets for long-distance trains at “Flexpreis” (full fare) will take the biggest hit with an increase of 2.9 percent in fares.
Travelling in second-class on a full-fare ticket will cost a traveller 1.9 percent more. Regional train tickets moreover will see an average price increase of 2.3 percent.
But the price of the discount rail cards “Bahncard 25” and “Bahncard 50” will remain unchanged. Discount rail fares or “Sparpreis” tickets similarly won’t see an increase in prices.
Source : The Local Germany
“We are and will remain a regional Christmas market in the Bergisches area, which is not suitable for such large-scale events,” the operators said in a statement, Rheinische Post (RP) reported on Wednesday.
The Bergische Christmas Market in the Forest – in a more remote district of North Rhine-Westphalia called Overath and located in a forest – remains an attraction for local visitors, they added, stating that people from further afield in Germany should “look for other options” during the Christmas season to “avoid disappointment.”
Last weekend at its opening for the season, the 15-year-old Christmas market was overwhelmed when crowds of people streamed in. While it isn’t unusual to attract visitors from nearby Cologne, some people had come from over one hundred kilometres away – including cities in the Ruhr district, Aachen and Frankfurt.
Many eager to see the idyllic market for themselves subsequently took to social media to voice their disappointments.
One Facebook user on Sunday wrote: “After a good 1.5-hour traffic jam up to the parking lot, we finally made it. All hell broke loose so we couldn’t even enjoy the Christmas market. Eternal queuing for food and mulled wine stands.”
After driving for one hour and looking for a parking spot for 45 minutes, another Facebook user lamented that when he finally entered the market at 4pm on Sunday there was no more hot chocolate, sausages and spit roast.
A Facebook post advertising the event is likely what triggered the influx in visitors, according to RP.
Just like every year, the market operators – the Mütherich family – created the event on Facebook along with posts including images of fir trees, wooden huts along forest paths, pony rides and a nativity scene.
But unlike in previous years, thousands confirmed their attendance online; 10,000 Facebook users said they would be attending and 144,000 people expressed their interest.
“I cannot explain why this has spread so virally this year,” said Stephan Mütherich, one of the market organizers.
Smaller Christmas markets have probably increased in popularity as people are avoiding big cities in fear of terrorist attacks, Mütherich added.
In December last year, a man hijacked a truck in Berlin and ploughed into crowds at one of the capital’s Christmas markets, killing 12 people. The man was an asylum seeker from Tunisia and the terror attack was claimed by Isis.
Last week the Potsdam Christmas Market was evacuated due to the discovery of a suspicious package which police confirmed was an “explosive.” Those responsible for the parcel were found a few days later to be attempting blackmail rather than terrorism.
On Wednesday the public order office in Overath and the operators of the Bergische Christmas Market met to discuss improvements in preparation for the remaining two weekends the market will remain open.
Source : The Local Germany