Archive | November, 2010


30 Nov

I was fortunate enough to visit Dachau when I went to Germany during the summer of 2002. It was the most interesting part of my vacation, in my opinion, and I was able to travel all over south Germany. Dachau was the first concentration camp opened in Germany by the Nazi Party. It was opened on March 22 1933 in the medieval town of Dachau which is around 10 miles from Munich.  Kommandant Theodor Eicke was the architect for Dachau and used Dachau as his prototype for all future camps. The basic layout of the camp consisted of a separate secure camp near the command center. The command center contained living spaces, an administration office, and army camps. The entrance door of the camp has words that Hitler had spoken which meant through hard work one will be free. Unfortunately these words were just there to motivate to prisoners since the only thing that could free them was death.

Dachau was in use from 1933 until 1960. For the first twelve years, Dachau was used for German nationals detained for political reasons. In 1938, a significant amount of Jewish Germans were added as well as other ‘problematic’ groups. From 1945 through 1948 the camp was used as a prison for SS officers awaiting trial. Irony at its best! After 1948 it was used as housing for various groups. It was closed down in 1960 and memorials started to be constructed.

It is unsure how many prisoners were actually camped at Dachau but the estimate is over 200,000 prisoners. Two thirds were political prisoners and one third was Jewish prisoners. Over 25,000 were said to have died in the camp and over 10,000 at sub camps. A crematorium was constructed to dispose of the deceased. The camp was divided into two sections: the crematorium and the camp area. The camp consisted of 32 barracks, including one reserved for medical experiments. The camp stands now as a memorial/museum of sorts. This is what I visited when I went there. I was able to walk into the gas chambers, barracks, and throughout basically the whole camp. Not all of the barracks are still standing but the ones that are have displays with all the information on the concentration camp. It truly is an amazing sight to see and I was in tears reading the displays. It makes you eternally grateful for the life you live now. No one should ever have to go through something so vile and terrible. If you are ever able to visit Dachau I recommend it; it might not be a happy experience but it is a good experience.

Riva Braumann-Smith


Lola Rennt

29 Nov

If I were to compare an American film to Lola Rennt there would not be much to compare but quite a bit to contrast. In American films, there needs to be some sort of exact explanation for why everything happens, but in Lola Rennt Lola has magical powers and time rewinds just because.
The basic premise of the movie is that the protagonist, Lola, needs to get enough money to replace what her boyfriend, Manni, lost to a homeless man. Manni is a small-time criminal, and the money that was stolen belonged to his boss. He needs to give him 100,000c marks in 20 minutes, so he decides to rob a nearby convenience store.
The next part of the film is divided into three differing possibilities of what happens depending on miniscule details. In the first part, Lola can’t attain the money to replace the stolen cash, and Manni robs the convenience store. Both Manni and Lola are surrounded by police, and a nervous cop shoots Lola. Then, Lola says, “Stop,” and the film returns to the start of the first part. This time, she robs her father’s bank, but Lola is slower than in the first part. She only makes it in time to see Manni run over by an ambulance. The last part is the part where everything goes right. Manni finds the homeless man, takes the money back, and gives it to his boss. Lola, instead of going to her father’s bank, goes to a casino and uses some sort of magical power to win more than enough money to pay Manni’s boss (even if it is not necessary).
Most important, in my opinion, is the supernaturalism inherent in the final part of the film. It is seen briefly when Lola discovers that her father is not her biological father, but it actually does something when Lola is at the casino. She puts a 100 mark chip on the number 20 in the roulette and wins the first spin. Then, she bets the money on 20 again, and in order to win once more, she screams and causes glass to break and the roulette to land on 20. Later, on the way to Manni’s location, Lola stops the ambulance that ran over Manni and finds the security guard from her father’s bank having a heart attack. She holds his hand, and his heart rate becomes normal. There is no need to say, “Well, I was able to influence the roulette wheel because of…,” or, “I used this or that to save him,“ and that lack of an explanation makes this movie a hundred times better than any American film doing something similar.
Not only is this supernaturalism beautiful, but the bits seen of other people’s lives is also very interesting. Every time Lola interacts with someone, their lives are changed massively even if the interaction is nothing more than a passing glance. This inevitable randomness of life is wonderfully portrayed through the use of still photographs. When Lola interacts with someone in each of the three parts, a camera starts to sound. Then, a flash starts a clip of several different photos showing what will happen to these people in the future because of their slightly different interactions with Lola. For example, a woman with a baby passes Lola in every part of the film. Sometimes Lola almost bumps into her and other times she completely avoids her. In the first part, her future involves losing her baby to social services and kidnapping another unattended child. Her second future would have her winning the lotto, and in the final part, she would have a religious awakening. Her interactions with Lola are not actually much different in the three parts, but she still has three very different futures ahead of her.
Overall, this film is genius in its portrayal of supernatural elements and the randomness of existence. The fact that it doesn’t need an explanation for this is very European and far more interesting than any American film I’ve seen with supernatural elements.


Dschinghis Khan

28 Nov

One thing from Germany that grabbed my attention a few years ago was the band Dschinghis Khan, a late 1970’s disco/pop band formed for the purpose of representing Germany in the 1979 Eurovision contest where countries of Europe send musical acts to compete to determine which country has the best musical act. The acts in this competetion range generally from unusual to downright bizarre and Dschinghis Khan is no exception. When seeing the band perform, the first thing the jumps at anyone is the elaborate and often ridiculous costumes the members wear to go along with their songs. Their main costumes are supposed to be inspired by Genghis Khan and the culture he was part of, which is where the band gets its name from. The song the band performed for Eurovision was also about Genghis Khan and was appropriately named “Dschinghis Khan”. The band did not win the contest, but they did experience a measure of success afterwards with the songs “Dschinghis Khan” and “Moskau” among a few others before breaking up before the 1990’s. Despite their relatively short time as a band, they managed to make a following that eventually convinced the members to reform the band for a few years starting in 2005. While the band may have not been the most successful or influential band from what was West Germany in that time frame, I believe that the band is interesting as the band is quite unique in itself and it shows some of the unusual music coming out of Germany at that time and out of Eurovision in general. The music itself in not exactly amazing, but some of their songs can be quite catchy and seeing videos of the band performing are amusing at the very least due to their enthusiastic dance moves and wild and varied costumes.