Book look: the idyllic island

Sylt still is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany. There have been more difficult years but also glorious episodes for the North Sea island.sylt

What has changed is now illustrated by a beautifully arranged picture book. Not only does the Kehrer publication feature wonderful photos by Bleicke Bleicken, the late mayor of the town of Kampen. Fritz J. Raddatz, a renowned literature critic and writer, and historian Christoph Stölzl have contributed essays.

In their texts, they analyse the appeal of the city and the changes it has gone through. However, the articles also inform about Bleicken’s experiences as a teacher during World War Two.

His photographic work is dominated by landscape portraits and pictures of the people of the island at work or on the beach. Bleicken – whose archive consists of 3,600 images – created still lifes when he took photos of an empty sitting room, deserted fields and dunes. Other outstanding images show a locomotive on a railway line, men working on a thatched roof and with scythes.

Published by Bleicke Bleicken’s daughter Anke Bleicken, “Sylt. Meine Insel” creates an almost surrealistically peaceful image of an island which nowadays has no problems with accommodating enormous numbers of vacationers.

Sylt. Meine Insel
By Bleicke Bleicken
Published by Kehrer Verlag (

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

Book look: the Stasi system

A German historian has decided to take a closer look at myths about the espionage organisation of the German Democratic Republic (GDR).stasi

Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk, who is currently leading an investigative project for the Stasi Records Authority – analyses the Ministry for State Security (MfS) from its foundation to the fall of the Berlin Wall in his new book.

“Stasi konkret” portrays the organisation’s leading staff as well as its official employees and confidential informants. Kowalczuk tries to find out how the Stasi managed to benefit from the infamous climate of fear in the Communist country. Over decades, the ministry’s methods encouraged members of different social classes to denunciate family members, friends and workmates.

Kowalczuk brilliantly describes the Stasi’s complex structure, but also examines the various claims which have been made by angry citizens since the end of Communism in Eastern Europe. He investigates how many people really worked for the organisation and explains its activities outside the GDR. “Stasi konkret” answers many crucial questions concerning surveillance and repression in Eastern Germany until 1989.

Stasi konkret. Überwachung und Repression in der DDR
By Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk
Published by C.H. Beck (

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

War trauma and tourism

An exceptional exhibition about Salzburg during World War One has started.salzburg

“Krieg. Trauma. Kunst. Salzburg und der Erste Weltkrieg” (War. Trauma. Art. Salzburg and the First World War) – now on at the Salzburg Museum, which is located in the ancient centre of the city – features weapons, personal notes of soldiers and poets, paintings, propaganda leaflets and posters and much more. The comprehensive exhibit examines how residents of the picturesque province dealt with the occurrences which took place between 1914 and 1918. It analyses how the violent conflict – in which hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers lost their lives – built up and finally ended. Visitors can find out what artists such as playwright Stefan Zweig thought about the war and how they were influenced by it.

Furthermore, the Salzburg Museum’s current exhibition presents facts and figures about the province and the city. Winter and summer sports tourism and the hype about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – tourism is an essential pillar of the region’s economy. The exhibit underlines its importance for the inhabitants and companies. Visitors get to see many recently taken photographs but also older photos taken at the Salzburg Festival and other events.


::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

Book look: Waldheimgate

The debate about late Austrian President Kurt Waldheim’s actions in World War Two did not only stir up the Austrian society. The heated discussion about the lehnguthpolitician’s his way to deal with his past – claiming that he only did his duty – also sent shockwaves around the world.

The issue also showed how different his home country handled its own future in contrast to neighbouring Germany where political leaders and society drew clearer lines. And the infamous dispute created one of the most iconic statement of the 20th century. Then-Chancellor Fred Sinowatz did not try to hesitate his frustration about the argument and Waldheim’s attitude by acknowledging that “Waldheim was not a member of the SA, but his horse was”.

Now Cornelius Lehnguth investigated the dispute which started shortly before Waldheim’s election in 1986. In his new 500-page book “Waldheim und die Folgen”, the political scientist from Goethe University in Frankfurt examines the changes the Austrian society went through during the discussion. His comprehensive analysis also includes descriptions of the policies of the country’s political parties and the attitude of their top representatives.

Waldheim und die Folgen
By Cornelius Lehnguth
Published by Campus Verlag (

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

Book look: Blubacher and Brussels

blubacherIn our globalised, interactive world, many household devices and professions have simple become forgotten. Young people just do not know about clothing that used to be popular in the good old days. Objects like coffee grinders have disappeared, it seems. Thomas Blubacher decided to keep at least the memory alive. In his new book called “Wie es einst war”, Blubacher describes 350 different items, household remedies and jobs that simply do not exist anymore. Many readers might become quite melancholic reading about all of this – before getting back online to check their Twitter accounts.

Wie es einst war. Schönes und Nützliches aus Großmutters Zeiten
By Thomas Blubacher
Published by Insel Verlag (

europaTwo of the most experienced Brussels correspondents have teamed up to reveal who is really pulling the strings when the continent’s leading politicians meet in Brussels and Strasbourg. ORF reporter Raimund Löw and former Financial Times Deutschland stringer Cerstin Gammelin – who is now working for the Süddeutsche Zeitung – write about decisive meetings and who is really responsible for the often-criticised course of the European Union. Löw and Gammelin – whose book bizarrely has two different titles in Germany and Austria for more appeal to readers in these countries – reveal the enormous influence of lobbyists on the European Commission. The renowned journalists also analyse German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s politics and the dominant role of her government in Europe. Löw – whose ambitious ORF III talk show “Inside Brüssel” is bland chatter compared to some chapters of the book – and Gammelin are aiming to find out whether those who appear to be powerful in the European Union are the trailblazers they claim to be. They also try to determine how far the EU is away from some lawmakers’ vision of the United States of Europe. Some prestigious politicians and editors think they achieved their goal. Former Kurier chief editor Hugo Portisch lauded “Europas Drahtzieher” as “indispensible” while Jean-Claude Juncker, the ex-prime minister of Luxembourg, said he considers it is a “political thriller”. Juncker might have had the dispute regarding his nomination as president of the European Commission in mind when he underlined the authors’ warning against extremists and egoists.

Europas Drahtzieher. Wer in Brüssel wirklich regiert
By Cerstin Gammelin and Raimund Löw
Published by Econ (

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

Clueso is coming – concerts confirmed

Clueso fans in Austria are getting ready for three concerts by the German singer.

More than three years have passed that the versatile artist from Erfurt released an album. Now Clueso has not only announced several live dates – he is also at the ready to get back on the road.
At the end of October, Clueso will present his new studio album “Stadtrandlichter” (out on 19 September) in Austria. Clueso ( will perform in Luxembourg and Switzerland but also at the Posthof in Linz, Upper Austria, on 25 October. The following night, on National Day, the 34-year-old is going to perform some of the 14 new songs from his new record as well as popular old tunes in Graz (Orpheum), the capital of the province of Styria. And on 29 October, Clueso and his band will rock the Arena in federal capital Vienna.

These concert dates have been announced only recently. The news followed a lengthy hiatus during which the singer wrote new lyrics, took photographs and played some gigs in front of small crowds. Now he is looking forward to present his new tracks on big stages across Europe. When presenting details regarding “Stadtrandlichter” and the tour dates, Clueso stressed that he not only wrote but also produced all the songs himself.

“Stadtrandlichter” is just the next addition to the singer’s impressive oeuvre. The former Herbert Grönemeyer support act released an EP called “Clüsolo” already in 1998. Acclaimed albums like “Gute Musik” (2004) and “An und für sich” (2011) followed. Furthermore, his CV contains exciting collaborations with Udo Lindenberg, Max Herre and other prestigious artists.

News that Clueso concerts came after it emerged that Selig will roll into Vienna shortly. The German rockers will perform at the Arena Vienna on 19 October. The Posthof Linz programme for this autumn is impressive too. Kabarett artists Severin Gröbner (16 September) and Thomas Maurer (23 September) will perform at the venue as well as Irish singer-songwriter Wallis Bird (12 October) and Maximo Park from Newcastle (18 October).

For more information about live music in Austria and Europe, visit

::: The Austrian Culture Channel on Twitter: @accthomas

Russian art and reflections

The Fin de siècle was an exciting time for painters and in Vienna. However, not only Austria experienced a great time for art thanks to its Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) movement. 1Many of Russia’s greatest painters of all time were active around 1900. A new exhibition – taking place at Belvedere Palace, one of Vienna’s most popular galleries – features several paintings created during this era.

Paintings by Austrian artists like Herbert Boeckl and Gustav Klimt, ballet dresses tailored for the legendary Ballets Russes and Russian political propaganda are also on display. The number of subjects on which Russian painters focused in the beginning of the 20th century is considerable: “Silver Age” (Silver Age. Russian Art in Vienna around 1900) features still lifes, paintings showing party scenes but also idyllic landscapes.

Another current Belvedere exhibition presents mostly contemporary art: “Die andere Seite. Spiegel und Spiegelungen in der zeitgenössischen Kunst” (The Other Side. Mirrors and Reflections in Contemporary Art) consists of various objects and installations but also photographs. Vanity and reflections are the dominating topics of the represented artists’ creations. “Die andere Seite” features works by Franz West as well as many photographs on loan from the Viennese Westlicht gallery showing portraits of Marlene Dietrich and other stars, a busy beauty parlour and Orson Welles removing make-up backstage.


Book look: World War One and Wisnewksi

1After books about Jesus of Nazareth, Germans in Eastern Europe and Jerusalem, the Spiegel magazine’s team of special subject editors has focused on a devastating conflict which started 100 years ago. In their latest 300-page publication, the journalists investigate what caused the First World War, which strategies dominated on the battlefields and how Europe developed after a ceasefire was finally agreed on after four years of relentless fighting. Annette Großbongardt, Der Spiegel’s former Istanbul correspondent, and her team analyse how the war changed cultures and societies of the 38 nations which were involved. They examine what the usage of new weapon technology – from machine guns to tanks and submarines – meant as far as human and military aspects are regarded. Articles by Andreas Wassermannm Simone Salden, Bettina Musall and many others are included – as well as map of Europe at that time documenting the frontlines and an interview with military historian Sönke Neitzel.

Der Erste Weltkrieg. Die Geschichte einer Katastrophe
By Annette Großbongardt, Uwe Klussmann and Joachim Mohr
Published by DVA (

2Gerhard Wisnewksi has once more closely observed one year’s news in magazines, newspapers and on television. In the latest edition of his popular series of investigative journalism yearbooks, the freelance journalist reveals scandals such as misleading coverage and a wide spectrum of cover-ups ranging from Wikipedia policies to election manipulations in Germany. Wisnewksi – who released books about 9/11 and the Red Army Faction –gives insight to controversial topics for media consumers interested in finding out the truth. The German’s dedication to detail and the complicity of some subjects demand a great amount of focus from readers.

Verheimlicht, vertuscht, vergessen. Was 2013 nicht in der Zeitung stand
By Gerhard Wisnewksi
Published by Knaur (

Vienna going green

Around one year after an exhibition about various games played in the Austrian capital, the Wien Museum ( has presented another outstanding Vienna-themed exhibit.1

This time around, organisers focused on the Vienna International Garden Show taking place at the city’s newly-created Donaupark in 1964. The exhibit, now on display on the museum’s second floor, features photographs from the opening ceremony which had been attended by Austrian President Adolf Schärf, Vienna Mayor Franz Jonas and many more leading politicians and businessmen. Elsewhere in the exhibition room, visitors can find background information on the fair organisers’ intentions. City Hall lawmakers planned to create more green space in Vienna to increase the quality of living.

The Garden Fair was a kick-start to this policy which included the focus on beautiful parks and sport courts free to use. However, the current Wien Museum exhibition does not ignore the dark sides linked with the site where the fair took place. It points out that the committee of organisers back then ignored to mention what happened there during World War Two: Nazis assassinating political rivals. Furthermore, a large number of old photographs present the highlights of the WIG of 1964: a reading hall, a chairlift, a large number of picturesque flowerbeds – and, of course, the Donauturm, which is still the highest building in whole Austria.

“WIG 64. Die grüne Nachkriegsmoderne” – which is located right next to the Wien Museum’s fantastic gallery featuring paintings by Gustav Klimt and Koloman Moser – is a marvellous journey back in time.

ÖSD ready

1Understanding the local language is one of the most important aspects for migrants’ happy and professionally successful life, that’s for sure. On various occasions, they have to prove their language skills, for example when applying for a job – let alone the daily shopping at the market.

“Grundstufe Deutsch 1” and “Grundstufe Deutsch 2” are excellent preparation assistants for German teachers preparing their groups for the ÖSD exam. The books – edited by Manuela Glaboniat, Boris Printschitz and Waltraud Hassler – offer an overview on what learners have to expect in the tests. Among other exercises, they have to solve multiple choice tests based on newspaper articles and match pictures with short informative texts based on daily life situations. Introducing oneself, writing an e-mail and arranging a party or a holiday together with a partner are also part of the test scheme.

By passing the ÖSD exams – which are based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) – immigrants increase their chances on the labour market in Europe’s German-speaking countries.2

Grundstufe Deutsch 1
Grundstufe Deutsch 2
By Manuela Glaboniat, Waltraud Hassler and Boris Printschitz
Published by ÖSD (