Category Archives: Music & Films

Ohrwurm: Teenage Bottlerocket – Ich bin Ausländer

Teenage Bottlerocket - American Deutsch Bag EP Artwork

Photo: Teenage Bottlerocket – American Deutsch Bag EP Artwork

Anyone learning German will at some point have used a variation on the lyrics of my current Ohrwurm, Teenage Bottlerocket – Ich bin Ausländer.

Whether it’s at the bank attempting to set up that first Konto, the dreaded Anmeldung at the Bürgeramt or just chatting with friends, we’ve all had to point out our shortcomings when it comes to our understanding of Deutsch.

My personal stock phrase in these moments, to the amusement of some of my friends, is ‘Es tut mir leid, mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut’.

This isn’t of course an experience exclusive to those learning German.  Anyone attempting to take their classroom or book knowledge of a new language to the next level and attempt a practical application of their skills will have been in a similar position.

That moment of utter confusion with a mixture of embarrassment and abject terror thrown in when you realise you no longer have any idea what the person in front of you is saying and you’ll have to let them know.

It all started well enough but then there was a word or two you didn’t understand.  Then while you were trying to work out what these elusive words were you missed the next ten or twenty.  You start practising the phrase you’ll use to interrupt them and now it seems that all that is coming out of the mouth of the person you are speaking to is a jumble of vowels and consonants.

And it seems American punk band Teenage Bottlerocket had some difficulties with language during their 2013 European tour as they released Ich bin Ausländer as part of their American Deutsch Bag EP.

Teenage Bottlerocket – Ich bin Ausländer

For those who don’t understand German, the English translation of the songs lyrics is:

I’m a foreigner and don’t speak German well.
I’m a foreigner and don’t speak German well.
Slowly please, slowly please
Speak slowly please
I’m a foreigner and don’t speak German well.

A quick google search of the title brings up what is presumably the original version from Uwe Kind.

It would seem that this is part of a language learning tool called Eine kleine Deutschmusik from a company called Lingotech but it comes across as a 1980s TV comedy sketch.

Uwe Kind – Ich bin Ausländer

Sunday Documentary: Clive James – Postcard from Berlin

Australian comedian and broadcaster Clive James was a darling of British television in the 1980s and early 1990s.  As part of his Postcard From… series, James visited Berlin in 1995 and produced the documentary, Postcard from Berlin.

It’s interesting to see how much some of the places shown have changed in the last 20 years.  For instance, the area around the Führer Bunker was then a wasteland – unrecognisable as the site of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

However, some things don’t change – there are still cranes everywhere.

Clive James – Postcard from Berlin

Sunday Documentary: Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin

Jesse Owens lines up at the start of the 100m final at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin

Jesse Owens Returns To Berlin is a documentary written, directed and produced by Bud Greenspan and filmed during a visit to Berlin in 1964, which recounts Owens’ incredible achievements during the 1936 Olympics.

The rise of National Socialism in Germany and Hitler’s anti-semitic policies and advocation of the superiority of the Aryan race resulted in several calls for a boycott of the games.  Against this political backdrop, Jesse Owens’ haul of four gold medals is all the more significant.

For a black athlete to demonstrate clearly his superior athleticism and so convincingly outperform his white counterparts was a massive slap in the face for Hitler and made a mockery of his racist theories during his Nazi showpiece games.

Standing in the box at the Olympiastadion where Hitler sat to watch the games, Jesse Owens tells with pride that the flag of the US team was the only one not to be dipped as the athletes passed the Führer.  It may be my imagination but it seems that Hitler’s jaw twitches as he observes this act of defiance.

It was at 28:48 in this documentary that a legend was born.  Standing in the Olympiastadion with Luz Long’s son Kai, Owens tell the remarkable story (disputed like so many other great tales) of his father’s part in his victory in the Long Jump (then known as the Broad Jump).

Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin is a wonderful documentary that delivers on many levels: it is a fascinating account of sporting prowess, an important historical record and a tale of good beats evil, and for Berlin fans there is the added interest of seeing the Olympiastadion and Lustgarten as they looked during the 1936 Olympics.

Jesse Owens Returns to Berlin

Sunday Documentary: WATERGATE X

The Crowd and Lights at Watergate Berlin

Photo: Screenshot from WATERGATE X

WATERGATE X is a documentary directed by Stathis Klotsikas produced in 2012 to celebrate 10 years of the Berlin club, Watergate.  The film mixes footage from inside the club and interviews featuring a number of Watergate residents and includes a chat with world-renowned DJ, Sven Väth.

The chances are, if you’ve been to Berlin in the summer, you’ve seen people partying on the club’s deck on the Spree river as you walked over the Oberbaumbrücke.

Friedrich Liecthtenstein fans should keep an eye out for the footage from the video for Solomun – Kackvogel at 22:58.

At 32:51 Dixon identifies what differentiates some of Berlin’s most successful clubs from the ‘superclubs’ in other cities and what makes the Berlin club scene so…well, Berlin.

As well as running a successful club and record label Watergate also organises an Open Air in Rummelsberg each summer and footage of the 2011 event features from 28:15.

I stood in the queue for Watergate once but it wasn’t moving so I ended up in Monster Ronson’s Ichiban Karaoke instead – this documentary about this iconic Berlin club makes me determined to go back to have my own experiences there.

WATERGATE X

Sunday Documentary: Goering’s Last Secret – Revealed

Portrait of Albert Goering c.1940 - screenshot from the documentary 'Goering's Last Secret: Revealed'

Photo: Screenshot from the documentary ‘Goering’s Last Secret: Revealed’

Goering’s Last Secret: Revealed tells the remarkable story of Albert Göring (Goering), the brother of Hitler’s henchman, Hermann Göring, who traded on his brother’s name and made it his mission to rescue people from the tyranny of the Nazis.

This documentary follows William Hastings Burke, an Australian, whose fascination with Göring’s life and quest for the truth about his acts of resistance and subsequent research was laid out in the book, Thirty Four, published by Wolfgeist Ltd in 2009.

The book’s title is a reference to the 34 names on Albert Göring’s list of people he helped that he presented as witnesses during his trial at Nuremberg.

Ironically and sadly, considering his exploits, the allies brought Albert before the military tribunals at the Nuremberg trials for war crimes merely because he was the brother of Hermann Göring.

His accusers refused to believe his tales of resistance until after 14 months imprisonment he was appointed a new interrogator, Major Victor Parker.

In what was a very fortunate coincidence, Parker was the nephew of Sophie Paschkis, the wife of the composer Franz Lehár, who Albert had saved and whose name was among the thirty-four.

Despite his eventual exoneration, Albert Göring continued to suffer for his association with the Göring family name and its Nazi connections and this thoughtful and absorbing documentary and his life do not have the happy endings they deserved.

Goering’s Last Secret – Revealed

Sunday Documentary: The Real Kaiser Bill – Wilhelm II of Germany

Kaiser Wilhelm II

Photo: V.Scheurich Berlin. Reproduktion Günter Josef Radig. – Cabinet Photographie 1888

The Real Kaiser Bill: Wilhelm II of Germany, a documentary for Channel 4 in the UK tells the story of Germany’s last Emperor, Wilhelm II from his birth in 1859 in Berlin to his death in 1941.

The son of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter, Wilhelm suffered from Erb’s palsy – which left him with a withered and stunted left arm – due to complications from a breech birth.

Wilhelm was a frequent visitor to Great Britain and his appointment as Admiral of the British Fleet and appreciation of the Royal Navy influenced his own decision to develop Germany’s naval powers.

Despite his admiration for the British aristocracy and longing for the approval of his grandmother, Wilhelm’s shortcomings in diplomacy and foreign policy ultimately led him to view the British as rivals.

He led Germany, though reluctantly it would seem, into war in 1914 but he was an ineffectual leader and allowed his generals to dictate military strategy.

The German people blamed Wilhelm for a marked turnaround in the country’s fortunes during his reign and fearing reprisals he abdicated in November 1918 and fled to Doorn in the Netherlands, where he lived out the remainder of his days in exile.

At the time of his death in 1941, the former Kaiser, Wilhelm II was a supporter of the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler, whose anti-semitic attitudes he shared.

The Real Kaiser Bill: Wilhelm II of Germany

Sunday Documentary: The Berlin Wall 1961 – 1989

A boy stands at the Berlin Wall in 1961

Photo: Still from ‘The Berlin Wall 1961 – 1989′

Produced for Berlin Story to accompany the book of the same name, The Berlin Wall 1961 – 1989 is an informative and entertaining documentary covering the lifecycle of the world’s most infamous border fortification.

The usual historical events are covered: the building of the ‘wall’ on 13 August 1961, Kennedy’s ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech and Reagan’s challenge to his Soviet counterpart, “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall”; but there are also personal insights that add colour to the story.

The film lacks a little of the polish of a documentary produced by the likes of the BBC, National Geographic or the History Channel but the abundance of archive footage make this a must-see for Berlin history fans.

The Berlin Wall 1961 – 1989

Sunday Documentary: Life Behind The Wall

East German lady and Milka Cow - Thomas Hoepker for Magnum

Photo: Thomas Hoepker for Magnum

In Life Behind The Wall, a short documentary for The Economist, Magnum photographer Thomas Hoepker talks about his experiences in Berlin and his photographs, first in a divided city and then shortly after reunification.

Born in 1936 in Munich, Hoepker is a celebrated photographer with a long association with the Magnum Photos agency, serving as president from 2003 to 2006.

Hoepker first worked in East Berlin in 1959 when he was sent to photograph the ‘10 Jahre DDR’ (10 years GDR) celebrations. He describes a drab city, the grey punctuated only by the red of communism.

In 1972 whilst working as a photographer for Stern magazine, Hoepker and his wife Eva Windmöller, a writer for the magazine, moved to East Berlin on assignment.

Thomas Hoepker’s photos from this time are the backbone of Life Behind The Wall and his memories of and motivations for taking the pictures, along with observations about life in East Berlin accompany an impressive slideshow.

Life Behind The Wall

Sunday Documentary: Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia

Portrait of Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Grosse) from the BBC documentary 'Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia'

Photo: Still from ‘Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia’

Professor Christopher Clark details the life of one of Germany’s (then Prussia) most famous rulers, Friedrich der Grosse, in the BBC documentary ‘Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia’.

Fritz, as he was affectionately known, was a cultured man who gathered like-minded intellectuals and artists such as Voltaire at Schloss Sanssouci to enjoy music and discuss philosophy in a time now referred to as the Enlightenment.

A complex man, he is also recognised as one of the greatest military strategists of all time.

Frederick the Great came to power in May 1740 following the death of his father, Friedrich Wilhelm I (Frederick William I).  In a move that would shock his enemies, within seven months of his accession, Fritz, the Philosopher King, invaded Silesia.

He then waged war with the Austrians, who had been largely responsible for the violent and hate-filled relationship Frederick had with his father after he was forced to witness the execution of his friend, Hans Hermann von Katte – punishment for a failed attempt to flee the tyranny of his father.

Joseph Goebbels, who produced the Nazi propaganda film, Der Grosse König, adopted Fritz as a symbol of German strength.  Hitler identified so strongly with Frederick the Great that a portrait of the King of Prussia was one of his most prized possessions.

Frederick the Great’s legacy is evident in Berlin in the architecture of the Bebelplatz and his statue stands before it in the middle of Unter den Linden.  The nearby Friedrichstrasse is also named in his honour.

A story of scandal, intrigue, enlightenment and war, the life of Frederick the Great makes for a compelling documentary.

Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia

Berlin Songs: Die Berlin Hymne // BERLIN-IST-BESTE

Die Berline Hymne - Berlin ist Beste - BMX Handstand

Photo: Berlin ist Beste

‘Morgens Berlin, Mittags Berlin, Abends Berlin, Nachts Berlin’.  Die Berlin Hymne is a song about how Berlin makes you feel alive from Frank Wolf, the man behind Berlin ist Beste – ‘the unofficial image campaign for Berlin’.

You can find the full song lyrics on the Berlin ist Beste website and for non-German speakers Google Translate is your friend, though it struggles a little with the Berlinerisch.

The video was filmed over 4 sunny days in Berlin and one night at the car park of the ICC for the BMX scenes.  A few tourist attractions feature – there are brief glimpses of the Fernsehturm, Potsdamer Platz and Brandenburger Tor – but only in a section that makes a distinction between this side of Berlin and how Berliners see their city.

‘Eine Stadt, 12 Bezirke, viele Freaks.  Jeder stolz auf Berlin, jeder stolz auf seinen Kiez’.

(One city, 12 districts, lots of freaks.  Each proud of Berlin, each proud of their neighbourhood).

Die Berlin Hymne // BERLIN-IST-BESTE

If you liked that, you might also want to check out another song, Let’s Go Moabit.  You may have seen the ‘Moabit ist Beste’ stickers that Frank leaves around his district.

The BESTE Boys – Let’s Go Moabit

You can keep up to date with the latest news from Berlin ist Beste on their website, Facebook and Twitter.