Somewhere Between Europe and Israel – A Conversation with Avraham Burg

European Diary, 25.2.2021: Yesterday Avraham Burg was our guest – online – in a joint event with the Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue (Vienna).

Conflicts about the future of Europe have always been linked to disputes about the role of European Jews. Their emancipation was seen as a test case of the liberal hopes of the 19th century, and their cross-border cosmopolitanism as a precursor of European unification – or as a scapegoat for nationalist ideologies. Today, the state of Israel seems to symbolically take its place – admittedly under the opposite sign, as the favorite child of right-wing populist and nationalist politicians. Avraham Burg has already crossed many borders in his life. After his political career, Avraham Burg is engaged in publishing and in various political initiatives for an ethnically and religiously neutral state of its citizens, a state that would follow the ideals of the European Union. While these ideals are admittedly coming under increasing pressure in contemporary Europe. In a recent interview with the newspaper Haaretz, he explained why he no longer wants to carry the entry “Jewish” as a “nationality” in the Israeli civil registry.

Avraham Burg was born in Jerusalem in 1955. His Dresden-born father, Josef Burg, was a rabbi, leader of the National Religious Party, and minister in twenty-one Israeli governments. Avraham Burg, on the other hand, linked his political involvement with the Peace Now movement and the Labor Party. Between 1995 and 1999, he was chairman of the World Zionist Organization, then president of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, for four years. In 2004, he left politics after publicly calling for Israel to choose between democracy and discrimination against the Arab minority.

„The patriarch Abraham discovered God outside the boundaries of the Land of Israel, the tribes became a people outside the Land of Israel, the Torah was given outside the Land of Israel, and the Babylonian Talmud, which is more important than the Jerusalem Talmud, was written outside the Land of Israel, the past 2,000 years, which shaped the Judaism of this generation, happened outside Israel. The present Jewish people was not born in Israel.”

“Allah will help”. The Arabist Hedwig Klein

European Diary 19.2.2021: 110 years ago today, Hedwig Klein was born in Antwerp. Soon after, the family moved to Hamburg.
She loses her father, the merchant Abraham Wolf Klein, when she is not even five years old. He dies as a soldier on the Eastern Front for the German Reich. Hedwig Klein enrolled at the university to study in 1931. Her choices: Islamic Studies, Semitistisk and English Philology. In 1937, her doctoral thesis is written: the critical edition of an Arabic manuscript on early Islamic history. But Jews are no longer allowed to sit for the doctoral examination from the spring of 1937.
Hedwig Klein is persistent, she convinces the university administration to allow an exception. Her thesis is given the top grade of “Excellent,” and her supervisor Arthur Schaade attests to her “a degree of diligence and perspicacity that one would wish on many an older Arabist.”

Hedwig Klein

In 1938, the thesis is to be printed, and the doctoral certificate is also already drawn up, but then the imprimatur is withdrawn. The ban on Jews earning doctorates is now enforced with all thoroughness.
Now Hedwig Klein plans her emigration. But she does not succeed in obtaining a visa, neither in France nor in the USA. With the help of the Hamburg economic geographer Carl August Rathjens, she finally receives an invitation from an Arabic professor in Bombay. And on August 19, her steamer sets sail from Hamburg. Two days later, she writes Rathjen a hopeful postcard. “Allah will help already…”
But in Antwerp, the ship receives orders to return and call at a German port. By then the German invasion of Poland is already in preparation, and with it the next world war.

Once again, Arthur Schaade helps her. Klein is recommended to Hans Wehr, an Arabist who has just joined the NSDAP. The Reich government, Wehr demands, should make “the Arabs” its allies, against France and England, and against the Jews in Palestine. And the Foreign Office, in turn, sees in Hans Wehr the right man to compile a German-Arabic dictionary. For this is now urgently needed, not least for a successful translation of “Mein Kampf” into Arabic.
Her collaboration on the German-Arabic dictionary initially saves Hedwig Klein from deportation to Riga in December 1941, which Schaade is just able to prevent with an intervention. Klein was irreplaceable.
But on July 11, 1942, the time had come. The first deportation train leading from Hamburg directly to the Auschwitz extermination camp also takes Hedwig Klein to her murderers. Just as her sister, her mother and her grandmother are murdered.
In 1947, Carl August Rathjen succeeds in getting Hedwig Klein’s dissertation printed after all, and she is declared a doctor of philosophy in “absentia”.
After the war, Hans Wehr was classified as a mitläufer and used Klein’s collaboration to exonerate himself. The German-Arabic dictionary appears in 1952, and in the preface Wehr thanks a “Fräulein Dr. H. Klein” for her cooperation. Without a word about her fate.
“Der Wehr” is still the most widely used German-Arabic dictionary, with the 5th edition last published in 2011.

Thanks to Stefan Buchen, who vividly describes Hedwig Klein’s story in his essay on the website.

Flashback, 19.2.2020: In Hanau, Hesse, a 43-year-old German shoots nine people of “foreign origin,” in two shisha bars and on the open street, and injures six others, some seriously. Finally, he shoots his mother and himself at home. Before the attack, the perpetrator had spread a right-wing extremist appeal on the Internet, characterized by anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, misogynistic and racist conspiracy theories: a “message to the entire German people.”

The perpetrator apparently also had psychological problems, which later prompted representatives of the right-wing AFD to deny that the crime was politically motivated. Josef Schuster, the representative of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, on the other hand, states that it can be “assumed that the perpetrator deliberately wanted to hit people with an immigrant background” and accuses the police and judiciary of having “poor eyesight” in the “right eye. Among the victims of the attack are Germans with Turkish, Kurdish, Bosnian and Afghan background, German and Romanian Roma. The perpetrator attacked them all deliberately, or shot them blindly through the door of a shisha bar.

Dusseldorf. Regina Spector

European Diary, 18.2.2021: Regina Spector was born in Moscow 41 years ago today. When she was nine years old, her family emigrated to the United States via Austria and Italy. Spector grew up in the Bronx, was trained in classical music, and recorded her first self-produced album in 2001, with enchanting, absurd, idiosyncratic songs. Her third album, “Soviet Kitsch,” brought her together with the band “The Strokes.” But she continued to go her own way. Here’s a foray through Europe: “Düsseldorf”.

And the text:


In Dusseldorf I met a clown
His nose, it was red
In Gelterkinden I forgot to frown
Then remembered again
In Paris I saw a big fish
Swimming slow in the Seine
It made me hopeful that someday our
Water will be breathable again
In Frankfurt I heard ein zwei drei
Counting cookies and no one was shot
In Berlin stopped by the polizei
For drunk driving and everyone smiled
In Prague I knew I’d been a witch
Burnt alive, a pyre of Soviet kitsch
It made me miss my Moscow mother
It made me miss my New York nothing
In Montpellier I stayed in a chateau
A boy climbed into my bed and he knew no boundaries
And in Amsterdam I got quite crazy
Might have been all the tulips and canals
Or it might have been all that hash, and in
Barcelona, buenos dias, chocolato, le Picasso
And in Brussels, clean-cut hostel
And in London, me and the French existentialistâ?
In Corsica I floated away
All the way to Marseilles
I should have held an afterparty
For all the thoughts I didn’t say
In Dusseldorf I met a dwarf
With bad breath and a really good tan
In Gelterkinden I remembered how to laugh
And I never ever forgot it again?


Many answers to many European questions – and some new questions

European Diary, 17.2.2021: The Jewish Museum Hohenems has been open again for a week. Time to document which traces and comments our visitors have left behind so far in our exhibition The Last Europeans. For this purpose, we have created space on two large maps under the questions: “Which states should belong to the European Union in the future?” and “What is Europe for you?”.
This is the place for your answers and reactions to many European questions and, of course, also for new questions. Now the maps are full and we now make room for new answers and questions – and the game starts all over again.

Here a few insights: traces of visitors on our maps in the exhibition.

The Limits of Tirol

European diary, 11.2.2021: The mind shift came as a surprise. And one does not quite believe in it yet. Even on the weekend, one heard from Innsbruck mainly strong language and threats against Vienna. More precisely, against the (Green) Ministry of Health. And manifold attempts to somehow resist with embellished figures the recognition of the fact that in the Tyrolean district of Schwaz and especially in the Zillertal a South African and apparently particularly vicious mutation of the Corona virus is rampant, with the highest numbers in Europe.

Once again, the Austrian chancellor seemed to be ripping off his coalition “partner” and kept nobly silent about the Tyrolean rides. There was talk of an unsuccessful call in Innsbruck. That was it for now.

“Then you will get to know us” was what Tyrol’s Chamber of Commerce President Walser told those evil Viennese who demanded quarantine measures – and on the Austrian TV news ZIB 2 on Monday, as a bonus, so to speak, to the rantings of the weekend, he also presented his epidemiological “expertise” on the events of Ischgl.

It will soon be a year since the small town in Paznaun became the super-spreader of the new virus. How this happened has now been clarified to some extent. It was covered up and lied about as long as it somehow worked out. Until thousands of Corona-infected people from Bavaria to Iceland were detected as a result of careless après-ski. And then it was silent.
But that is, so Walser nevertheless not at all the crucial question. It was not yet known “from where” the virus had been brought to Ischgl. Had anyone claimed that the Tyroleans had bred the virus in a snow cannon?

Walser’s complaint about Tyrol bashing somehow sounded disturbingly familiar. As if politicians and business officials had learned nothing from the disaster, even a year later, other than that someone else always has to be to blame.

Meanwhile, borders are now being controlled again. Bavaria is planning to close the borders to Tyrol. Austria did not want to stand back there and controlled already on Monday with demonstrative stringency incoming and above all commuters at the border between Lindau and Bregenz, even if the so-called “incidence” in Lindau is only half as high as in the neighboring Vorarlberg. But even so, one can give the impression that everything dangerous basically comes from the outside.

It is clear that the Tyrolean hospitality industry and even more so the cable car industry are facing an existential crisis in the wake of the pandemic. In this situation, taking a golf vacation in South Africa, as one Zillertal hotelier did, is not really confidence-building. News about illegal lodgings and parties, ski instructor courses with clusters of mutations and tricky registrations of second residences are equally untrustworthy. And then the powerful chairman of the Economic Association and ÖVP National Councilor Franz Hörl, the head of the legendary “Adlerrunde” that calls the shots in Tyrol – himself infected by the British mutation – goes into quarantine without having a clue where he got it. Shouldn’t one worry about whether dangerous recklessness is still at work in Tyrol? Above all, self-pity. According to Governor Platter, one should finally stop pointing the finger at Tyrol.
As it says on Franz Hörl’s website? “Tyrol goes first.” Classic populism sounds like that. You always go first yourself.
But today it sounds somehow misleading. It goes on to say: “When Franz Hörl steps onto the scene, speed is the order of the day. At times he seems to double up, appearing in parallel” … “Franz is on the spot. Especially when there’s a fire. (…) That’s the only way to do politics that helps.” And: “Hörl talks Tyrol”. That sounds like this: The travel warning issued on Monday against Tyrol, was – so Hörl on Monday – a “burp from Vienna”.

A megalomaniac is speaking, a “macher” who wants to embody the balancing act between “host” and cable car industrialist, between a “mensch” and a functionary, and who can do this as long as he is successful. And he can’t do one thing that is particularly needed at the moment. To question himself and his actions once in a while.
Someone has now finally stepped on the emergency brake. Anyone leaving Tyrol as of Friday will now need an up-to-date Corona test.

Perhaps the chancellor has called his party colleague Platter once again. The instinct to know when a story is about to fall on his feet has apparently not yet completely left Mr. Kurz. But at that point the “speed” may already have been a bit lacking.

Party, Politics and Commemoration (Sex, Lies and Videotapes)

European Diary, 27.1.2020: Today marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Primo Levi, who survived the camp, has never been able to describe this “liberation” except in quotation marks. Four soldiers of the Red Army were the first people from the world “outside” who encountered him on January 27, 1945.

“They appeared to us as if the nothingness filled with death, in which we had been circling like extinguished stars for ten days, had acquired a solid center, a condensation nucleus, and so it probably was: four armed men, but not armed against us: four messengers of peace with peasant, childlike faces under their heavy fur hats.” At the sight of the camp survivors, they froze. “It was the same well-known shame that overcame us after the selections and whenever we had to witness an ill-treatment or endure it ourselves: that shame that the Germans did not know, that the righteous feels before a guilt that someone else brings upon himself and that torments him because it exists, because it is irrevocably brought into the world of existing things, and because his good will counts for nothing or not much and is powerless to prevent it.” This shame has also accompanied Primo Levi for the rest of his life.

When – four days ago – 50 heads of state met in Jerusalem at the Yad Vashem memorial, a day after a cocktail party organized for the guests by the mayor of Jerusalem, there was nothing, but absolutely nothing, of this shame. Only political calculation.
The Israeli prime minister and the American vice president used the “World Holocaust Forum” to declare Iran the greatest enemy of mankind. The Russian president, friend of the Iranian regime and at the same time of the Israeli hosts, used the day to declare his superpower the savior of mankind. The Polish president took the opportunity to stay at home offended, after the Poles had previously been told from Moscow that they were to blame for the Second World War.
Hardly anyone was interested in the last survivors of the Holocaust. Video recordings of them is what will remain in the archives.

PS: In the Jewish Museum Hohenems one can watch some of them and reflect on what remains of this legacy. The exhibition “End of Testimony?” will travel even further, to Flossenbürg and Munich, Augsburg, Berlin, Vienna and Frankfurt.

Photo: Dietmar Walser

Bruno Kreisky: or the courage of the unfinished

European Diary, 22.1.2021: 110 years ago today, Bruno Kreisky was born in Vienna. To this day, the memory of the probably most popular chancellor of the republic is polarizing., a chancellor who was at the same time anything but a typical Austrian politician. His political opponents in particular left no doubt about this. In 1970, ÖVP Chancellor Josef Klaus ran for office with the slogan “A real Austrian. This, according to the party’s calculations, said everything there was to say about Kreisky, a Jew and emigrant. But Bruno Kreisky led the SPÖ to a relative majority of 48.5 %. And after an interlude of a cabinet tolerated by the FPÖ, which was highly controversial even among his friends, the SPÖ achieved an absolute majority three times in a row with Kreisky. It’s been a long time, one might say.

Bruno Kreisky
Photo: Konrad Rufus Müller / Source: Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue

Kreisky had no qualms about working with former National Socialists. Precisely because he did not want to be told that he was doing politics as a Jew. Kreisky was above all a European politician, and his own experience of persecution and exile had taught him his own Austrian patriotism: which consisted of not wanting to be a nationalist. And certainly not a Jewish nationalist.
This was eventually to drive him into a dispute in which neither his opponent nor he himself could reap any glory. His bitter feud with the arch-conservative Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal stands to this day like an erratic block in the Austrian memory landscape.
Simon Wiesenthal, whose good relations with the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) were not a bit clouded by the traditional anti-Semitism of the Christian Socialists, gleefully scandalized Kreisky’s lack of inhibitions about cooperating with former Nazis, whether such in the FPÖ or those in the SPÖ. Four of the thirteen ministers in Kreisky’s Social Democratic cabinet in 1970 had belonged to the NSDAP. And FPÖ leader Friedrich Peter, with whom Kreisky was considering a coalition in 1975, had been active in an SS terror unit, which Wiesenthal also deliberately brought to public attention.
Kreisky’s subsequent insults against Wiesenthal (“Nazi collaborator”) are legendary. Austria was able to watch two Jews at each other’s throats in public. But behind the dispute was by no means only Kreisky’s political calculation to curry favor with parts of the electorate. Behind it was – more or less unspoken – the dispute about Jewish experiences from which Wiesenthal and Kreisky had drawn diametrically opposed conclusions.
Kreisky’s traumatic experiences did not begin in 1938 with National Socialism, but in the Austrian fascism of the Ständestaat. In 1936, the young socialist Kreisky was sentenced to imprisonment. He had every reason to distrust the political descendants of the Austrofascists as much as the National Socialists, who drove him into exile in 1938. Kreisky survived in Sweden, where he also met Willy Brandt, who had emigrated from Germany – the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

Kreisky remained a passionate European, but he did not like Zionism. For him, there was no question of helping to build a democratic Austria after 1945. His four chancellorships were marked by reform initiatives in social policy and education policy, as well as in family and criminal law – and, as with so many Social Democrats, by a confidence in technical progress that also made him blind to the new issues that came onto the agenda with the dispute over the Zwentendorf nuclear power plant. Even defeat in the referendum, however, did not prevent him from winning the 1979 elections for the fourth time.

While Wiesenthal made Israel as a “Jewish state” the core of his own identity in Austria, Kreisky tried to mediate in the Middle East conflict. Which entangled him in contradictions. He cultivated relations with Arab politicians such as Sadat and Gaddafi, and discreetly negotiated with Moscow for the release of Jewish Soviet citizens who wanted to emigrate to Israel.
What Kreisky mastered best was the art of playing with the public. His press conferences are unforgotten. Not necessarily what they were about in each case. But the style was new. Instead of pronouncements, there was communication.
“I don’t value wreaths that posterity will weave for me. I don’t value monuments. What I would like, however, is for the period in which I was able to influence political conditions in Austria to be regarded as a period in which great reforms were introduced, which left their mark on society and brought about an improvement in social conditions. Nothing would be more gruesome than the thought of having merely administered.”

Much of what Kreisky wanted to set in motion is still waiting to happen.
Willy Brandt, Kreisky’s companion for over fifty years, delivered the eulogy for him at Vienna’s Central Cemetery. “Farewell, my dear, my difficult friend.”


The “Paneuropean University” of Dr. Hocus Pocus

European Diary, Jan. 17, 2021: The resignation of Austrian Labor Minister Christine Aschbacher came after less than a week. In early January, it was revealed that her diploma thesis at the University of Applied Sciences in Wiener Neustadt in 2006 consisted largely of plagiarism – and where she had written something herself, not infrequently of nonsense. Also her dissertation “Draft of a Leadership Style for Innovative Companies”, submitted to the Technical University of Bratislava in the subject “Mechanical Engineering” – already being part of the Austrian government in 2020 – contains, as the “plagiarism hunter” Stefan Weber ascertains with the usual software of the University of Vienna, more than 20 % copied material. And lots of real satire, which comes by itself when English quotations were translated years ago with the then rather clumsy “Google Translate” and have not been corrected since.

The university in Bratislava and its reviewers, who have so far not been conspicuous for their knowledge of German, feel quite unjustly exposed. After all, the official plagiarism software of the Slovak universities was only able to detect 1.15% plagiarism. This software hardly knows any German-language sources. Thus the Dr. Bratislava is meanwhile a winged word.

Ms. Aschbacher was of course not aware of any culpability, complained about the “prejudices” and declared that she had acted to the “best of her knowledge and belief”. And then nevertheless her resignation followed quite quickly. “Her family should not suffer…”, she said. But it is probably more likely that Chancellor Kurz had to take her out of the line of fire before even more unpleasant questions would be asked. For example, who actually brokered the deal with the Slovak faculty of “mechanical engineering” for the Austrian labor minister. And in general: questions about how Austrians from politics and business get their academic titles, and their promoters get honors from politics and business. Nobody knows who advised Ms. Aschbacher.

A few days ago, the voice of an expert well known in such circles was heard on ORF: “Univ.-Prof. Dr.h.c.. Dr.” Peter Linnert, who at the end of 2015 was awarded the Cross of Honor for Science and Art 1st Class by ÖVP State Secretary Harald Mahrer (now President of the Economic Chamber). And this in his capacity as rector of the “Goethe University Bratislava”.
The private university founded by Linnert has long been history. Just one day before the award ceremony in Vienna on December 16, 2015, it was closed by the Slovakian government – after long public discussions about glaring abuses – due to considerable “deficiencies in the study program”.

Harald Mahrer, Peter Linnert and the Cross of Honor, Photo: Willibald Haslinger

But this did not diminish the successful activities of the now honorary cross recipient in Vienna. Linnert still heads the “Hohe Warte Study Center” in Vienna, founded in 2003, and the associated “Sales Manager Academy”. The program consists of awarding academic degrees at currently four Eastern European private universities in Bratislava, Warsaw and Belgrade, which solicit customers with illustrious names and adorn themselves with “Europe”.
For €30,000, you can choose whether you want to do your doctorate at the “Pan-European University Bratislava” or at the “European University Belgrade”, in “International Management”, “Economics” or “Mass Media”, for example.
The doctorates bought in this way may not count in the academic world. But they are helpful in business and politics. The required “scientific achievements”, such as participation in a total of ten days of seminars, lectures in “scientific conferences” and publications (in the in-house “journal”), are to be completed in the “study center” Hohe Warte itself – as social occasions. And also the graduation ceremonies in the Viennese city hall are impressive. Emeritus professors in Austria act as “second reviewers” who are basically fluent in German and, according to Linnert, earn extra money with it.

Belgrade’s “European University” is privately owned by its rector, Milija Zečević, who (apart from boasting with numerous venal honorary titles) is also president of the “European Academy of Science,” which resides at the same address as Linnert’s “study center,” Geweygasse 4 in Vienna’s elegant 19th district. But for “academic celebrations” with partner organizations such as the “Albert Schweitzer International University” from Geneva (and such beautiful topics as “Global Business and Management in the Function of Peace”) or the appointment of new members, they prefer to meet at the Hotel Imperial.

The reason why it takes such complicated detours for graduates of the Hohe Warte Study Center is that, despite his efforts to attract the younger generation of politicians and entrepreneurs, Linnert has not yet succeeded in transforming his institution into a private “university for business and ethics”. This requires formal accreditation, which the relevant commission in Austria has already refused for the fifth time. To Linnert’s chagrin, it’s not just politicians and entrepreneurs who have a say in this matter.

In 2013, for example, his daughter Julia also had to submit her “communication science” dissertation to the Pan-European University in Bratislava. Second examiner: Peter Linnert. In 2018, this “dissertation” was also chased through the plagiarism program of the University of Vienna. And put all records in the shade. The text contained exactly 18 sentences that were not copied. A plagiarism score of more than 98%. Linnert’s son Michael, meanwhile employed in the Linnerts’ empire of various “Sales Management Academies,” also got his doctorate this way – which is not revoked in Bratislava even if plagiarism is proven.

Linnert is by no means the only provider on the market. One can also employ ghostwriters, or try it with a windy thesis at a “proper” Austrian university, like the Styrian ÖVP state representative (Landesrat) Christian Buchmann, whose dissertation in Graz was positively reviewed by two party colleagues in 2000, despite 30% plagiarism. At that time, of course, there was no effective software. In 2017, Buchmann had to give up his title of PhD again, but this did not harm his political career. He is currently president of the Austrian Federal Council.

Linnert’s “pan-European” title business continues to flourish. And only rarely is there any public talk about it. In 2014, for example, the Steyr ÖVP city councilor Markus Spöck acquired his doctorate in “International Management” via the “Hohe Warte” at the “European University Belgrade”. And at the same time, Christa Kranzl also acquired her doctorate in this way, having already obtained her master’s degree in “Executive Sales Management” at Hohe Warte. The former Lower Austrian state representative (responsible for education, among other things) and brief SPÖ federal state secretary (for “innovation”) under Chancellor Gusenbauer had been expelled from the SPÖ in 2011 because she had run against the SPÖ in her hometown with her own list.
As a management consultant (specializing in “subsidy consulting”), she was now active in further education for entrepreneurs.

In 2016, for example, “Dr. Christa Kranzl” taught “Government Policy and Parliamentarianism” at the “Middlesex University/KMU Akademie & Management AG” in Linz, which apparently employed other illustrious figures from the gray area of charlatanry and business. Thus, “Dr.” Hubert Dollack, mastermind of another European and non-European network selling successfully shady academic titles, also taught there.

From 2011 Dollack called himself president of the “University of Northwest-Europe” in a former abbey in Kerkrade, the Netherlands, even though this “university” was not formally recognized at all. After all, it bore the “seal of approval” of the “Universidad Azteca International Network System,” which is the distribution system for Mexican doctoral degrees. The “Universidad Azteca European Programme” operates its virtual campus in Innsbruck, where the busy title sellers even managed to enter into a brief cooperation with MedUni Innsbruck ten years ago, before the latter smelled a rat. The dean of the Aztecs, a certain “Prof. Dr. Dr.” Gerhard Berchtold, former club director of the FPÖ in the Innsbruck state parliament and chamber of commerce official (waste disposal, waste management), also represents the “Universidad Central de Nicaragua”.

Hubert Dollack, who holds a doctorate from the Technical University of Ostrava, on the other hand also headed the now defunct “Steinbeis Institute of Operations Management” in Stuttgart, the “IMC Institute for Management & Consulting” and the “UNIDI Career College”, a branch of the non-existent “University” in Kerkrade. In 2015, an obscure “Martin Buber University” (which also waited in vain for recognition) and an even more obscure “European New University,” the branch of the “International Teaching University” in Tbilisi, Georgia, also resided in the corridors of the former abbey. Their diplomas, in turn, are issued primarily by the “European University” in Belgrade.

This closes many circles. “Consul Univ.-Prof. Dr. rer. pol. Dr. habil. Dr. h.c. mult.” Peter Linnert will probably retire soon. At the age of 84, he can now look back on a long successful and sometimes less successful life.

He actually received his doctorate from the University of Hamburg in 1964, and began his career as an assistant at the Chair of Business Administration. In 1969, he moved to Vienna to the University of Economics. And then his “academic” biography is lost in obscurity for a while. It was not until the 1990s that the picture cleared up again, and soon Linnert was once more to be seen at the University of Economics in Vienna, now as a freshly minted honorary doctor of the University of Vilnius, and as the person responsible for the Service Management seminar, an advanced training program for managers – with which he set up his own business in 1996. The “Sales Manager Academy” is born. And an expensive but convenient access to the diploma of “Master of Business Administration”, delivered by the University of Staffordshire in England, the whole for 20.440,- €.

Linnert also regularly draws with his name as the author of books on management and business. As early as 1971 he published his “Clausewitz for Managers. Strategy and Tactics of Corporate Management.” A dozen other titles followed, including “Alles Event? Success through Experience Marketing,” “Greater Market Success through Total Quality Management,” or “The Financing of Ventures in the Lecture and Performance Business.” His latest book, just published in 2019, is “highly recommended” on his study center’s website: it is succinctly titled “White-Collar Crime.”

Why Linnert’s curriculum vitae contains twenty years that are so little documented can be seen from a report in the weekly magazine Der Spiegel from 1976: “Papiere von St. Pauli”. At that time, the last of Linnert’s windy deals for the time being had burst when Deutsche Bank found rather sloppily forged shares allegedly worth DM 2 million in Linnert’s depot in Frankfurt. He had tried to borrow the fake shares in his depot in order to use the money to save his company empire, which consisted mainly of air numbers. His “Vereinigte Zünder- und Kabelwerke AG” had not produced anything for a long time, but was engaged in asset transactions. In Guatemala, he planned the purchase of a large forest area for the establishment of a “free trade zone”.

There was talk of setting up a marble factory and a shipping company for the purpose of transporting the marble to Japan. His “Marketing Institute Peter Linnert and Co” established networks and distributed a “practical, up-to-date consulting letter”. With his partner Ekkehard Zahn (who was still involved in Linnert’s “Sales Management Academies” 50 years later), he organized exclusive seminars for managers or those who wanted to become managers. But then he also bought Germany’s second-largest furniture mail-order company, Steinheimer Möbel-Becker GmbH, which had to file for bankruptcy in May 1976. In search of capital, Linnert had his windy Zünder- und Kabelwerke issue new shares, which were soon no longer worth the paper they were printed on. When the fake shares in the Frankfurt depot were also exposed, Linnert was arrested in his Hamburg villa at Elbchaussee 359.

He had bought the shares in Hamburg-St. Pauli, he claimed. But by then, nobody in Germany believed anything he said anymore. In the community, Peter Linnert had long since acquired his nickname: Dr. Hocus Pocus. That’s even better than Dr. Bratislava.



Olaf vs. Frontex

European Diary, 13.1.2021: The news has hit home. The EU’s anti-fraud agency (Olaf) is investigating the EU border agency Frontex.

For many months, Croatian border guards have been trampling EU law and forcibly driving refugees back to Bosnia at the EU’s external border. They do this with the applause of some governments in Europe. Hungary and Austria are at the forefront of covering up this open violation of the law, or approving it when covering it up no longer works in the face of so much evidence. Finally, Austrian border officials are not squeamish when it comes to covering their ears at the Slovenian border when refugees ask for asylum – and instead forcibly push them back into Slovenia, from where they are deported to the Croats, who then dump them at the Bosnian border. In return, the EU then pays Bosnia money to take care of these illegally deported refugees. In Bosnia, this money ends up in invisible channels – but obviously not in refugee care. For example, hundreds of refugees were allowed to spend the end of the year outside in the freezing cold because the improvised Lipa tent camp still had no electricity, no water and no heating and was therefore closed down by the International Organization for Migration. Since then, not much has happened. Except what is now called “on-site assistance”: a few new, unheated tents, with no water and no electricity. 2000 refugees are now squatting in the forest, mostly under plastic sheets. In sub-zero temperatures. Many of the cases are well documented.
To this day, the European Court of Human Rights does not dare to address this ongoing breach of law by EU member states and aspirants. But at least Frontex, the border protection agency run by the EU itself, is now under investigation. For a long time, countries like Hungary, Poland and Austria placed high hopes in Frontex. Then Orban and Kurz realized that Frontex, too, must abide by laws. And Frontex fell out of favor.
But Frontex Director Fabrice Leggeri apparently wanted to save his reputation in Budapest, Warsaw and Vienna in 2020. So Frontex is now, as has been known for months, in the eastern Mediterranean involved in illegal refoulements off the Greek coast. And there are other things that seem to be going wrong at the agency, from intimidation of employees who have concerns to irregularities in tenders. Whether the ongoing investigations will have any consequences remains to be seen.

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Bosnian New Year

European Diary, 2.1.2021: The European crimes against refugees are richer by one facet. For many months, Croatia in particular has been protecting “our” external borders in an illegal but effective manner. Refugees who manage to get to – and across – the Croatian border via Bosnia, for example, are forcibly pushed back again before they can exercise their right to apply for asylum. While this violates European and international law, even the European Court of Human Rights now looks resignedly (or cynically?) under the table when it comes to European “border protection.” Many of the refugees were initially accommodated in the Bira camp in the town of Bihac, then after “protests from the population”, which are now cheaper to buy in Bosnia than bread rolls, they were shipped in September to a tent camp provisionally set up by the army in “the middle of nowhere”, in Lipa. There, international aid organizations were allowed to take care of the stranded people. The Bosnian authorities promised to connect the improvised camp to electricity and water supplies to make it “winter-proof.” But nothing of the sort happened. Out of sight out of mind.
At the end of December, the frost came. But still no possibility to heat the camp, still no electricity, no water. Nothing at all. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) decided to close the camp, where people would otherwise have frozen to death in the onset of winter. And during the evacuation, some refugees set fire to the ramshackle tents they thought they were finally leaving behind.
Negotiations were made with Bosnian authorities to return the refugees to the Bira camp in Bihac or to barracks in other parts of the country. But local politicians announced that there were “protests from the population.” So 900 people spent the Christmas days in the open. Then, however, the evacuation of the homeless camped refugees was on the agenda. 500 of them were loaded onto buses at the end of the year. And they were stuck there. Because the buses did not run. Local and regional politicians bow to the “protests from the population,” which they themselves have done their best to stir up. And the Republika Srpska is not accepting anyone anyway. After all,”it is the Bosniak Muslims who have brought the migrants into the country”. Whatever is meant by this, this populist slogan always gets through. Any attempt by the central government in Sarajevo to enforce law and order (and in this case that means humane accommodation for the refugees) is thus doomed to failure.

So 500 people spent the last two days of the year in unheated buses. For 24 hours. Then they were let off again. They spent New Year’s Eve in the open air. On New Year’s Day, the Red Cross took care of them. Austria promises “help on the spot”. The Bosnian army puts up tents again. There are plenty of tents. Unheatable, like the ones before. The cynical game continues. The winter too.

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„full of fish, by the way“

European diary, 31.12.2020: So now Brexit is done. 1200 pages of “deal”, a few hundred pages of which Boris Johnson already held up to the camera at Christmas during his three-and-a-half-minute Christmas speech on Twitter, promising his countrymen that there was plenty of fish in it. His whimsical speech about hope, turkey, pudding, Brussels sprouts and brandy butter will go down in history. As what, this very history will still prove. Literarily, at any rate, as a parody.
It has spread good cheer on the island. The European friends on the continent, who declared the negotiations concluded on Christmas Eve, were somewhat less credible in their good mood. There is no triumph involved, at most the relief that a superfluous torment has finally reached its at least halfway bearable end. This morning, the British ambassador in Vienna was also allowed to make an attempt to create a good mood on the radio. This was much more difficult for him than for his prime minister.

The Erasmus program, which has brought hundreds of thousands of young people from the mainland and the islands closer together, has come to an end. Even Leigh Turner couldn’t turn that into brandy butter. But when asked whether the Brexit agreement and Britain’s exit from the EU would bring any advantages, he could only proudly emphasize that the trade agreement that has now been concluded would be better … than a no-deal Brexit. We would have thought of that, too.

What remains is fish. The fishing quotas of European fishermen in British waters are now to be reduced by 25% over the next few years. That won’t ruin the EU. Nor will it help British fishermen much. If they ever wake up from their stupor. For the money that the Brexit has cost – and will still cost, e.g. to carry out customs controls, for duties that should not be levied – the British fishermen could probably have been better helped. But the dream of restoring Britain to its former stature as a global leader was stronger. A dream that is admittedly torn between two claims, the idea of itself as the center of the Commonwealth representing a supranational empire, and the old colonial feeling of representing a superior culture.
But “the proof of the pudding comes with the eating”. Whether much will remain of these dreams, other than more fish from British fishermen, only time will tell. For it is the Europeans on the continent who are supposed to buy this fish.

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Christmas on Lesbos

European Diary, 22.12.2020: In two days it will be Christmas. The “provisional” Kara Tepe camp on Lesvos, where the inmates of the burned-down Moria camp were forcibly relocated, is sinking into the mud. Then the water is pumped out. Then it sinks into the mud again. It gets cold. Instead of self-made wooden huts, which they could still build in Moria, 7500 people, 2500 of them children, now live in tents without heating. The inhabitants try to produce a little warmth with their gas camping stoves. More and more often they are treated with burns. It is dark in the tents. After three months, there is still no hot water. There are no sanitary facilities either. From 5 p.m. on, it is pitch dark in the camp because there are no working streetlights. There are also no schools or childcare facilities. The inmates are allowed to leave the camp once a week, for four hours, to go shopping.
The camp is located on a former military training area by the sea. The mud is full of lead-containing practice ammunition. Many children do not drink in the evening because they are afraid of having to go to the “toilet” at night. A toilet that does not exist. Many have massive sleep disorders, panic attacks and nightmares. A three-year-old girl has been raped in the camp. Some children commit suicide attempts. The foreign aid workers who look after refugees in the camp no longer know what arguments to use to talk the children out of committing suicide. Some of the helpers work for SOS Children’s Villages. The organization has been running a small child protection center on Lesbos near the new camp for years, which is actually supposed to be closed down at the end of the year. For months, they have been demanding to be allowed to set up at least one daycare center for some of the children in Kara Tepe instead.
For some time, the inmates of Kara Tepe went for a bath in the sea until it became too cold for that. Since people can no longer wash, scabies spread through the camp. Colds and pneumonia are also rampant. And more and more children, not least babies, are suffering from rat bites, Doctors Without Borders report. Things don’t look much better in the other camps on the islands. In the Vathy camp on Samos, 3700 people live in a camp set up for 600 people. Here, residents recently had to be vaccinated against tetanus because of the increasing risk of rat bites.

The Austrian government continues to prevent provinces and municipalities in Austria from accepting refugees from the Greek islands. Pressure is also growing in the ÖVP on the chancellor to finally abandon the populist blockade. But Kurz announced years ago that there would be “ugly pictures.” His policy relies on deterrence, child abuse, torture, bodily harm and deprivation of liberty. Why should he back away from this at the height of his success?

Hostages of this policy are also the Greens, who in parliament on Monday again practiced coalition discipline and together with turkish-blue-blue rejected an SPÖ motion for the admission of refugees. And yet there now seems to be a Turkish-blue double strategy. After all, there are only a few days left until Christmas. The feast of refugees and emergency shelters. Of innocent children. The warmth of hearts.

A PR advisor to the chancellor, Wolfgang Rosam, has long had the idea for an ingenious PR stunt against frostbite on the heart. Now they remembered the SOS Children’s Village, which has been begging for months to be allowed to do something for the children on Lesbos. After the unsuccessful appearance of bouncer Nehammer, who let himself be filmed wide-legged in front of a fat Russian airplane after the fire of Moria, the cargo of which in the meantime gathers in some Greek warehouse (“Help on the spot”) – now the chief diplomat of the empire has to move out.

A few days ago, SOS Children’s Villages was surprised by the joyful news from the Foreign Ministry. There are to be a few less ugly pictures for Christmas after all. And a day care for children in Kara Tepe. However, there is no approval from the Greek authorities yet, and also otherwise it is not really clear if and when the “safe place” for children – at least a few hours a day – will exist. But Foreign Minister Schallenberg let himself for it on the weekend already once in the news time in the picture celebration. A nice picture, the image of a self-satisfied man doing good. At least to himself and his chancellor.
Whether the diversionary maneuver will allow the children on Lesbos at least a small escape from misery remains to be seen. The director of SOS Children’s Villages would also prefer to bring them to Austria right away. But the search for shelter in this country is probably once again in vain.
Merry Christmas.

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Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof and the language of mankind

European Diary, 15.12.2020: 161 years ago today Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof was born in Bialystok. In 1887, under the pseudonym Doctor Esperanto, he was to found a planned language that is still spoken and cultivated today by people who hope that the Babylonian confusion of languages will one day no longer stand in the way of a united humanity.
A hope that seems today more than ever in vain.

Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, 1908

Zamenhof grew up in a multilingual world, a multilingual city where Polish, Russian, German and Yiddish were spoken as a matter of course. His father was associated with the Jewish Enlightenment movement, the Haskala, saw himself as a Russian and as an atheist. He worked as a language teacher of French and German – and became a Russian school inspector and censor. Zamenhof’s mother, on the other hand, was religious and spoke Yiddish. Lejzer, who soon adopted the non-Jewish first name Ludwik, drew his own lessons from this cosmos full of contradictions that were not mutually exclusive at the time. First, however, he studied medicine, first in Moscow, then in Warsaw, and became an ophthalmologist.
The pogroms of 1882 led the young Russian, as whom he too initially saw himself, to the early Zionist movement. But the goal of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East seemed unrealistic to him. He saw the future of the Jews in a reconciled world, without linguistic, cultural or religious walls. And consequently became an internationalist.
Even as a child, Zamenhof was enthusiastic about the richness of languages, mastering Russian and Yiddish as a matter of course, learning Polish, German and French at an early age, and Greek, Latin and English at school. He also learned Hebrew, as he was later to translate the Hebrew Bible into Esperanto.
His real dream, however, was an easy-to-learn world language in which a divided humanity could find its way to each other. Not to forget their “own” languages, but to gain a common basis. Already on his 18th birthday he sang a song with his friends in the Lingwe Uniwersale.
Finally, in 1887, he published his final draft under the name of Dr. Esperanto, and began publishing his own magazine, La Esperantisto, address books and dictionaries. And he worked on a universalist-humanist worldview, which he first called Hillelism (after the eminent Jewish scholar of pre-Christian times) and finally, in Esperanto, Homaranismo.
The Esperanto movement soon counted thousands of followers in various European countries. Many families taught the language to their children, including George Soros’ family in Hungary. But the nationalistic self-destruction of Europe during World War I could not stop his movement any more than the peace movement.
Zamenhof experienced the beginning of the war in 1914 in Cologne, on his way from Warsaw to Paris for the 10th Esperanto World Congress. During the war years, Zamenhof withdrew, worked on his translation of the Hebrew Bible into Esperanto, wrote a memoir To the Diplomats, which he called upon not to forget the minorities in the coming peace negotiations, and struggled with his heart disease, which finally defeated him on April 14, 1917. Zamenhof lived to the age of 57. On his last journey to the Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw, a large crowd accompanied him, including many of his poor Jewish patients.

To this day, there are Esperanto groups in many countries that at least uphold the memory of Zamenhof’s dream. In 2017, even Unesco had included Zamenhof’s 100th death anniversary in the list of official commemorative days of the year. The city council of Bialystok, dominated by the right-wing nationalist party PIS, however, refused to honor the famous “son of the city” with a Zamenhof Year. They really did not want to adorn themselves with a Jewish internationalist.


A plea for open discourse

European diary, 10.12.2020: This morning, the “Initiative GG 5.3 Weltoffenheit” (world openess) was presented at the Deutsches Theater in Berlin, a growing working group of cultural and academic institutions in Germany that is concerned about freedom of art, science and opinion, in a situation of a growing and disturbing instrumentalization and abuse of accusations of “anti-Semitism”, which increasingly place critical discourse about racism, colonialism, but also about the Middle East under blanket suspicion and prevent necessary debates. In addition to major institutions such as the Humboldt Forum, the Goethe Institute, the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of Wo9rld Cultures), the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin or the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (Federal cultural foundation), and the Alliance of International Centers of Cultural Production, the Einstein Forum in Berlin, the Moses Mendelssohn Center, the Center for Research on Anti-Semitism in Berlin – and the Jewish Museum Hohenems were also involved. Here is the link to the plea and the complete list of those involved so far. The press conference at the Deutsches Theater is the prelude to a series of further events.
Please see page three of the link for the English translation of this joint declaration.



“We are the new Jews”

European Diary, 4.12.2020: One of the leading figures and closest confidants with whom Viktor Orban has been bringing Hungarian cultural creators and institutions into line for years is Szilard Demeter, the director of the Petöfi Literature Museum in Budapest – and a member of numerous committees in which decisions are made on the allocation of grants to the literary and music industry. Szilard did not become known for his rather moderately successful literary and musical attempts, but rather for his marked right-wing slogans and threats of violence. Now he has also gone a little over the top, even for Orban’s best friends, the Israeli government.

George Soros, the Hungarian Holocaust survivor and former investment banker who has been the most popular target of anti-Semitic campaigns by the Hungarian government for years, made Europe his “gas chamber”, according to Szilard in a commentary on the Internet portal last Saturday. “Poison gas flows from the capsule of a multicultural open society, which is deadly to the European way of life.” “The liberal Führer, and his liber-Aryan army” would try to erase the Christian and national identity of the European peoples. “We are the new Jews,” writes Demeter, referring to Poland and Hungary, and the intention of the European Union to punish violations of the rule of law in the future, which Poland and Hungary want to prevent by blocking the entire EU budget.
Demeter, who calls himself a “fanatical Orbanist”, has half-heartedly backed down after strong protests by the Jewish community in Hungary, numerous organizations and yes, even the Israeli embassy. Of course, there is no question of resignation or dismissal. After all, the fact that Soros allegedly wants to “flood” Europe with Muslims is the core of Orban’s daily propaganda, in which he is advised by close confidants of the Israeli head of government, Netanyahu. The fact that Szilard has made a few mistakes with the text modules here will not really hinder his career in Hungary.

“We are the new Jews,” wasn’t it with these words that the chairman of an Austrian right-wing party in 2012 complained about being insulted on the way to the ball of fraternity members. “It was like the Reichskristallnacht”. Only five years later the man was vice chancellor. Szilard Demeter must have a brilliant career ahead of him. Well, at least for a while.