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November 2003 - Nr. 11


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Berlin's Worth
Economy to get stronger
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Newton Donates Works
No Growth w/o Reforms
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New Waterway
VW Designer

What is Berlin worth to us?

   TWIG - The tenth annual meeting of the German National Foundation convened at Castle Bellevue in Berlin last weekend. Members of the organization, which was called into life by former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, discussed projects to bring the German capital into the public conscience and to make clear that the city’s fate is of national importance. One question dominated the discourse: "What is Berlin worth to us?"

More than 30 German personalities voiced their opinions on this question in a book of the same name compiled by the former chancellor. In his foreword, Schmidt — who serves as the foundation’s honorary chairman — wrote of the need for discussion on Berlin’s role as German capital, saying that he was concerned that "all economic, political, and cultural vibrancy of Berlin is endangered because of financial incapacities."

Since reunification, Berlin has attracted people from all walks of life, from artists and writers to young hopefuls wanting to make it in the big city. Yet, with a deficit of $51bn, Berlin is one of the most indebted cities in Germany. The city’s dismal 18% unemployment rate has led 160,000 Berliners to leave their hometown since 1993.

And yet, much is still to be said about Berlin, a city with its problems but which has nonetheless won hearts around the world. The following are some of the most remarkable entries in the recently-published study:

German Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs Christina Weiss wrote of the mysterious fascination Berlin holds for newcomers. "Whoever lives in Berlin is settling on a sharply-contoured stage," she said. "The roles of the actors aren’t clearly defined. Newcomers come with bags filled with promise; they expect excitement — because everything happens here. Just like Franz von Suppé said in the 20’s: You are crazy my child, you must go to Berlin. Where the crazy people are — that’s where you belong."

In his short essay, Historian Heinrich August Winkler spoke of the need for the German states to come together in their support for the capital, alluding to the states’ reluctance to foot the capital’s bill. "What the federation and states are doing to help Berlin realize its role as capital is not enough. The further development of the capital must be a collective responsibility of the Federal Republic of Germany. Only then can justice be done to the expectations that the majority of the Bundestag had in mind when they decided to move the government in 1991."

Michael Naumann — publisher of the weekly "Zeit" — wrote about Berlin’s vibrancy and the city’s ability to withstand hardship. "There is no other city in Germany that offers its young writers, musicians, filmmakers, its artists and directors, as curious a public, and as stimulating an environment, as Berlin. No, one needn’t worry about Berlin — merely about its politicians. But even Berliners aren’t really in a situation to do that, since God knows that they’ve seen everything. And somehow it’s always worked out."

The chairman of Axel Springer AG, Mathias Döpfner, wrote of the veritable melting pot and artist’s haven that Berlin has become since reunification. "American writers, French painters, Italian musicians, Japanese filmmakers are interested in only one city in Germany: Berlin. Here they feel the metropolis, incomplete unification, the underground and new elites. Jews, Americans, and Prussians are building a symbiosis of the future. Every German up-and-coming writer, up-and-coming painter, up-and-coming actor, up-and-coming dancer, and up-and-coming journalist dreams of Berlin. If you make it here you can make it everywhere."

Former Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker wrote of Berlin’s developing role as a decision-making forum for Europe. "For the first time in half a century, we have a capital in which our politics and history decide. Here, in open discussion, spring forth principles and public opinion. All of Europe looks to Berlin, which assumes the task of immersion and extension. The measure of our power and responsibility with regard to global tasks is decided for Germans in Berlin."

The German National Foundation was conceived in 1993. Its mission is to promote German unity and Germany’s cultural identity within Europe.



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