Kategorie-Archiv: Stories

Deadly genetic disease

HUNTINGTON´S DISEASE

Dance of Death

BY DIRK KUNZ

An insidious genetic disease killed almost all of Ursula S.’s family. Because her mother in-law didn’t want to give up having  grandchildren, she concealed the family’s genetic defect. The risk of inheriting the disease is 50%

Anton S. the father in law brings the insidious illness into the family. A family member describes him as quick-tempered, somewhat aggressive, choleric and restless. No one could identify his disease based on the symptoms. Its effects were interpreted as post-traumatic stress disorder, which he brings home from World War II. Traumatized soldiers often suffered from uncontrolled tremors and difficulty concentrating after combat missions in World War I and II. People first assumed that Anton had Parkinson´s disease. When Ursula S. began dating her future husband, the family hid the already sick father in law. He came to Hessen in the 1930s as a soldier from a small village in the Ruhr region with a population of only one hundred. Ursula remembers quite well how friendly her future parents in law were, but later she felt strange. This was the richest family in town; her own family she considered to be poor. “For a very long time there were no children in this house, and we are looking forward to the new perspectives,” says the mother in law. After a year, there is still no baby. The grandmother in law chastises the couple: “Please don´t stay childless. Don´t do that to us.”

Some day the mother in law calls Ursula at her office. She should come home immediately, as Arnold was non-responsive. She hurries home, but Arnold had already been taken by ambulance to the hospital. In the hospital, they pump his stomach. Devastated by the prospect of his degenerative disease, he tries to commit suicide and takes an overdose of sleeping pills. As he awakes, he says: “I wish you had let me go.” The suicide attempt is kept secret, because the family wants to avoid gossip in the small village. In the early 1960s, Ursula’s mother in law travels with her son to the city of Tübingen to see a professor. It is unknown why she is goes there, or how she even found the address. The doctor diagnoses the genetic defect for the first time. She keeps the test results private, and tells neither her son nor his spouse. She keeps quiet, even when Ursula becomes pregnant for the first time in 1967 with her daughter Carmen and even one year later, when her son Thorsten is born. Later, she visits Arnold with her daughter in law every weekend in a psychiatric hospital. In 1974, he dies at age 59 after suffering ten years of acute illness. It’s not until 1990 when the mother in law dies that Ursula finds files in which the illness is documented:  Huntington’s disease.
Six years after the father’s death, and shortly after a promotion as senior civil servant in the 1980´s, Hans-Werner, suddenly tells his wife Ursula that he doesn’t feel capable of doing his job properly anymore. He takes a two year-long sick leave, yet no doctor can help him. A professor at a university hospital finally diagnoses Hans-Werner. At home, the 39 year-old tells Ursula “I have my father’s illness!” It seems that neither of them are aware of the terminal nature of this incurable illness. “If it doesn’t progress, we can live with the disease,” both say. But it does progress.
His wife Ursula takes care of her husband, mostly alone. He is not capable of shaving. She brushes his teeth, as one day he forgets to rinse after brushing. He has hallucinations. Nevertheless, the wife walks with him every day. Toward the end, he enters hospice. Like a lot of Chorea-Huntington patients, Hans-Werner is confined to bed and ultimately dies from the effects of a respiratory disease in his wife’s arms.

Thorsten S. während seiner Bankkaufmannslehre. Foto: Privat

Thorsten S. during his internship at the bank.                                                                                                    Photo: Private

At the time, their son Thorsten is 23 years old and says: “I don´t want to die like that.” He will not; he dies more slowly and painfully. After an internship at a bank, he joins the military. It takes him three times as long to clean his gun as it does his brothers-in-arms. According to his mother, Thorsten’s superiors think he’s being insubordinate and have him court martialed  several times. Thorsten begins to numb his pain with alcohol. It seems he already knows what awaits him.
Further neurological symptoms appear; his gait is unsteady and his hands tremble, but it’s not a result of drinking. In his apartment, he forgets several times to turn off the stove. One day he calls his mother and tells her that he can’t live alone anymore. He wants to throw himself off a 160-foot tall bridge. He stands at the top, but is unable to jump. He finally agrees to check himself in to a psychiatric facility. He often escapes and starts bar-hopping. Once he’s three sheets to the wind, he returns to the facility. He tells his mother that he wants to make friends, and he’s not sure how long he’ll be able to do so. Ursula and Thorsten don´t talk about the illness. Thorsten is incapable of having that conversation, also because of his alcoholism. He also has no living will. He goes into intensive care and lies in bed for ten years. His toe has to be amputated because of circulatory issues.
In 2011, on Thorsten’s 43rd birthday, Ursula visits her son in the hospital. She says that the liquid from his feeding tube is running out of his mouth. She calls the caregiver and the next day Thorsten is transferred to a hospice for the terminally ill. They remove the feeding tube and take him off life support. The mother visits her son, holds him, and tells him stories about heaven, where he would see his father and sister again. He dies only three weeks later.

Thorsten´s sister Carmen falls severely ill twelve years after his brother´s illnes occurs and dies five years before him. Her first child is born in 1995 and an amniocentesis reassures her that her son is healthy. In 2004, she becomes pregnant again with a different husband. During her second pregnancy, she begins experiencing the jerky and uncontrollable movements typical of Huntington’s. Her mother discourages her from the continuing the pregnancy, but Carmen refuses to discuss an abortion. Any time her illness comes up in conversation, Carmen withdraws and becomes angry. She doesn´t want to have her unborn child tested, and she refuses even to consider discussing it with her husband. The hormones, said Ursula, had sped up the progression of the disease. Carmen needs round the clock care and dies two years after the birth of her second child from a pulmonary embolism, caused by dehydration. Ursula finds many handwritten notes amongst Carmen’s things. The letters show that Carmen wanted to organize her life as a means of controlling it: clean the dishwasher, call her husband, vacuum the living room, go for a walk. Her second untested child is today eleven years old. She tells herself that he probably doesn’t carry the genetic defect. Bolstering her courage, she says “He doesn´t look like he has the disease.”

Thorsten S. lag zehn Jahre als Schwerstpflegefall im Krankenhaus. Foto: Privat

Thorsten S. spent ten years in intensive care before his death.                                                                       Photo: Private

Huntington´s Disease

Approximately 8000-10000 people in Germany suffer of this neurodegenerative genetic disorderthat affects muscle coordination and leads to mental decline and behavioral symptoms. Physical symptoms can begin at any age from infancy to old age, but usually begin between 35 and 44 years of age. A protein called Huntingtin kills nerve cells in certain areas of the brain, which are responsible for important functions of the body control, but also for the mental health. The American doctor George Huntington realized first, that it is a genetic disease.
The most characteristic initial physical symptoms are jerky, random, and uncontrollable movements called chorea . The alternate eponym, “Vitus Dance”, is in reference to Saint Vintus a Christian saint who was persecuted by Roman emperors and died as a martyr in AD 303. Saint Vitus is considered to be the patron saint of dancers. In the middle age people thought probably because of the strange movements that the patient suffers under frenzied dance.

 

INTERVIEW

Prof Carsten Saft 2014

Prof. Dr. Carsten Saft

Prof. Dr. Saft, is the report above a typical example of the symptoms that people suffering from Huntington’s disease (HD) experience?
 
Dr. Saft: Such cases can occur. Normally the disease emerges at the same age that the parents became sick. In this particular case, the disease can occur earlier, especially if it is inherited from the father’s side, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way. In exceptional cases, the gene could be unstable, mainly when the gene is inherited from the father’s side. The father in-law’s easy excitability and aggression do not always indicate Huntington’s disease, but it does occur.
 
In rural Germany, as recently as 70 years ago, mental illness, disability, and infertility faced even bigger stigmas than they do today. Looking at it this way, the mother in-law’s actions are a bit easier to understand. Does this still happen today?
 
Dr. Saft: The willingness to talk about the Huntington’s disease has increased significantly. Now there are many support groups, internet forums and Huntington’s disease centers, where those suffering from the disease can take part in [medical?] studies.
 
It seems also that alcohol abuse played a role in this family. Is there a general connection between alcohol abuse and Huntington’s disease?
 
Dr. Saft: There are indeed patients who feel internal stress and want to relax. They self-medicate with alcohol, but that is not typical for HD-patients. I hesitate to call these people alcoholics. But I have noticed a disproportionately high number of tobacco smokers among our patients.
 
Carmen´s mother said that her second pregnancy triggered the disease. Can you explain that from a medical point of view?
 
Dr. Saft: I doubt there is a connection. I assume that it is the mother’s way of explaining the situation. It is possible that changes in hormone levels have an influence on uncontrollable and spastic body movements, but in that particular case, I think the connection is coincidental.
 
Is it legal for a pregnant woman to have an abortion after receiving a positive HD diagnosis?
 
Dr. Saft: Because of the German Act of Gene Diagnostics (“Gendiagnostikgesetz”), it’s illegal to conduct a prenatal examination of embryos to diagnose a disease that manifests in adulthood. 
However, there has been a rise in pre-implantation genetic diagnosis centers where child-seeking couples who have a history of HD in their family can apply. An ethics committee decides whether testing for chromosomal abnormalities is possible. During the pre-implantation genetic testing, the eggs are harvested and fertilized with the partner’s sperm. After about three days, the embryo is made up of eight cells. 1-2 cells are removed and tested for the Huntington mutation. Finally, one or two of the embryos are implanted in the woman’s uterus. 
 
Carmen’s mother hopes that Carmen’s second child doesn’t carry this genetic defect. She said to me, her grandchild doesn´t look like that he would have the disease. What do you think aboaut that?

Dr. Saft: You can´t say that. Before the disease produces symptoms, there is no certainty without testing. You can feel absolutely healthy and fit, and nevertheless be a carrier of the mutation. It has nothing to do with whether you look like one parent or not. You must consider very seriously whether you want to know if you have the disease. A lot of carriers don´t want to know; they prefer to hope that maybe they don´t have the defective gene. It is important to take some time to consider some issues before testing. Ask yourself, “do I need total permanent disability insurance or long term care insurance?” You should also get counseling by a center specializing in human genetics.

How do people affected by the illness deal with it?
 
Dr. Saft: I know families in which the healthy spouse takes care of their sick partner for decades and later must be a caretaker for his or her children. These people are so brave; I admire them.
 
Will there be a cure for HD in the foreseeable future?
 
Dr. Saft: With medication we can ameliorate the symptoms of the disease, to reduce the uncontrollable movements, curb the depression and irritability. In these areas, intensive research is well underway. But there is still no medication to slow progression of the disease. But even so, new studies are coming out seeking to change the progression of the disease. 
Since the identification of the genetic basis of HD in 1993, researchers have made excellent progress. The pharmaceutical industry hopes that HD research will also produce solutions for other degenerative central nervous system disorders, such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease.
I would recommend patients, carriers, and people with Huntington’s in their families visit a counseling center for advice. You can find up to date information on progress in HD-research here.
 
Prof. Dr. Saft, thank you very much for the interview!
 
Professor Dr. Carsten Saft is the senior physician at the Catholic Clinic St. Josef’s Hospital in Bochum. He is the head of the clinical department at the Huntington’s Disease Center in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.

Translation into the English language by Shellie Anne Labell & Dirk Kunz.

Completion:

IMG-20111130-00219In an older version of the article a photo of Carmen and another one of Ursula and Hans-Werner S.´ wedding were contained. Later Ursula asked me, not to publish these two images anymore. Of course I honoured that request.

ROLF GOELZ

PORTRAIT

The sober one

„I will never become the winner of the Tour de France, but rather a millionaire” once said Rolf Goelz and he turned out to be right. He was one of the most successful German bicycle riders in 1980 as well as  a classics specialist. After his career he remained successful as a businessman.

Rolf Gölz

Rolf Goelz with his original Colnago Bicycle from the 1980th in front of his bicycle store in Bad Waldsee/Baden Wuerttemberg (Germany).

BY DIRK KUNZ (TEXT AND PHOTOS)

BAD WALDSEE ■ The 17th stage of the Tour de France is shown on TV in the spacious salesroom of the bicycle shop of Rolf Goelz in Bad Waldsee/Germany. The former professional cyclist and the two time Tour de France stage winner looks only briefly at the flat screen. “That was a long time ago.” During the day, he has no time to watch the race. In the evening he watches the run-down sometimes. But he is not very sentimental.
After his athletic career Goelz studied economics, a decision driven by reason. He didn’t dare to try studying ​Engineering (“Too much ​math”) and because he wanted to open a bicycle store it was appropriate to choose Business Studies. Furthermore the University of Applied Sciences Biberach was in his neighbourhood and he could continue living at home. After his studies he worked in his bike store, but selling bicycles and standing around in the salesroom was not quite, what he really wanted and so the offer by Hans-Michael Holczer in 2002 to work for him came at the right time. Untill 2006, he worked as the athletic director for the German Gerolsteiner professional team. After that, he worked as a manager for a local rental car company. Then Goelz recieved an offer to open an bicycle online store. H​e takes care ​of all commercial aspects​ of his store​, ​while ​his partner Rolf Weggenmann is responsible for ​business operations​.  In his online shop he is the sole Managing Director.
Racingbikes with mudguards and a baggage carriers are not for sale in his shop. This type of bicyle was very common in the 1970th. Briefly before his communion such a bike was given to him by his step grandfather.

First race won

He used this type of bike in his first race. The local bike club was searching for talented riders: The course led across two miles (three kilometers) on a country lane from Bad Schussenried to Otterswang and back. Even today Goelz takes this path to work three times a week by bike. (Nowadays he rides approximately 1900 miles/3000 Kilometers per year.)
Really he should not be allowed to compete. He just got a smallpox vaccination and doctors discouraged him from ​engaging in ​strenuous physical activity. Goelz ​snuck into the race and won. The bike club gave him a real rac​ing​bike und he trained twice a week.
The results came early and nearly incidentally – typically for his career. He rode as​ a​ junior​ member of​ the ​m​en´s street team time trial​ ​and had to ride ​solo path​ at the German championship. He didn’t have a track bike, so he rented one, train​ing​​ twice on ​the ​track ​and ​becoming the national champion in 1980.
His track trainer from 1982 to 1984, Udo Hempel, still dreams about his graceful and astonishing physical abilities. Goelz would be absolutely focused on his sport, you had to slow him down. After a three hour high intensive training session you practically had to force him off the track.  His self confidence was below his abilities. He said, it was all about ​proving to himself, what he was capable of. “His passion for bicycling combined with his intelligence made his class.” In 1982 he won the silver medal at the Track championship in Great Britain, one year later he got the Gold medal in the 4000 Meter team pursuit at the world championship in Zurich (Switzerland). At the Olympic Games 1984 in Los Angeles he won a silver and bronze medal on track.

An Upper Swabian in Italy

These important wins were a superb opportunities for scoring a professional contract. Goelz had previously contact to Ernesto Colnago. At a bike exhibition in Cologne the famous bike producer contacted Goelz and asked him to ride for the Team Del Tongo-Colnago and so the down to earth rider signed up for the Italian team.
The linguistically talented Upper Swabian was fully integrated into the team of Mediterranean riders and could communicate in French, English and Italian. And again he achieved good results immediately: The Tour of Andalusia was his first race as a professional and he won, beating Miguel Indurain, who finished second place.
Giuseppe Saronni was a distinguished rider of the Del Tongo-Team, but the 32 years old Italien had passed his zenith. When Goelz realized that Saronni was saturated and not very diligent and he couldn’t convert his team´s effort for him into victories, and so he rode more and more on his own.
In his second year he said that Saronni declared that Goelz shouldn´t start at the Giro d´ Italia. Goelz still had a contract for a third year but he asked Ernesto Colnago for termination of the contract. Even now, ​his relationship ​with Saronni is ​shattered.  Goelz explains the fast results in the bare-knuckle professional business, that he rode bicycle in a complete different time: The riders stopped competing in October and started ​up again gradually ​around Christmas. The bicycle riders ​arrived at the first races​ poorly trained.
Goelz was really surprised; during the Tour of Andalusia in February, he said that, the professional athletes rode 90 Miles (150 Kilometers) on the little chain ring of his bikes and It was ​only ​in ​the last 18 miles​ (30 Kilometers)  stretch​ that the real race started. The change from amateurs to professional cyclists was easy for him, because he always trained a lot in the winter months and was in a good condition in the spring time. After leaving the Saronni-Team, he attended the Team Super Confex of Jan Raas and after three years he rode for the Buckler-Colnago and by 1991/92 he had a contract with Ariostea, where Moreno Argentin and Bjarne Riis were also employed. After eight years of professional cycling Goelz retired as​​ he had ​lost all motivation. The expectations of the media, the spectators and his employers burdened him. The pressure of winning all the time and the lack of appreciation of his results if he finished “only” second place took away his cycling pleasure.
Hartmut Boelts wanted to recruit him for the Mountainbike World Cup. He thought that Goelz could easily compete. But even early in the professionalization of the mountain bike sport it was not so easy to change from street racing to off-road racing. He won one race, but in this race he had to ride uphill on a gravel road, ​doing it with a mountain bike instead of a road bike​. ​​It wasn’t very technically challenging. At the World cup races​,​ he ​quickly dropped out of the qualification​ round​, ​not least because of the brutal downhill gradient. At the bottom of the valley he had such an over acidified musculature, that he wasn’t able to ride fast uphill anymore. But he doesn’t want to ​overlook this ​point: “The camaraderie was great!”

Tour de France Trophäen von Rolf Gölz

Rolf Goelz´ trophies from the Tour de France 1987 and 1988. He won the stretch from Tarbes to Blagnac and one year later the stretch from Reins to Nancy.

Even today he ​looks back fondly on his two stage wins ​from the Tour​ de France​ and the Championship of Zurich 1987 and one year later the victory of the Fleche Wallonne (the Walloon Arrow), a major men’s professional cycle road race held in April each year in Wallonia, Belgium. The father of two grown up sons enjoyed the classic cycle races: “I was good in riding little mountains uphill, a strong sprinter, I trained seriously in the winter months and I liked the cool weather.”
Goelz is a pragmatist. Money is important to him, he doesn’t want to count every Euro, but his father was a civil servant, and at home they had to save money. As a teenager, he also cycled to school every day by bike, because he could keep the money he saved for public transportation. During the Tour de France 1989 he said: “I will never become the winner of the Tour de France, but rater a millionaire.” He achieved this goal at least in “Deutsche Mark”-Times. The 52 years old remained down to earth and he doesn’t splurge. He drives a ten year old car; it is not a Porsche. He said that he could earn more money in his athletic career. He hardly ever rode in well-paid Six-day racings and he gave up 500.000 Marks (250.000 Euro), because he ended his career prematurely in 1992.

Doping

Of course Goelz realized that doping was prevalent during in his time as ​an ​athlete​. Epo didn’t exist back then, but Human Growth Hormones (HGH), anabolic steroids, amphetamines and cortisone abounded. He said that there were always riders who had taken less or more. Every single rider had to choose for himself just how far he was willing to go to win.
“But I also know that it was possible on a good day to win without doping. I have proven it.” ​Later, with the advent of EPO​, this was​ not possible anymore​.​​That’s why Rolf Goelz doesn’t want to condemn riders who took part in ​doping ​and he can’t understand the ​public ​condemnation of Lance Armstrong.
He thinks back of the Tour de France 1987, the last one  ​that was over 2500 miles (4000 Kilometers), one of his two stage victories, he won that year. In the last three stages all of the riders where totally exhausted. So they rode 100 Miles (160 kilometers) very slowly and Lord help the guy, who wanted to ride faster. Only during the last 18 miles (30 kilometers) did performance pick back up. He said it is possible to ride the Tour without doping, then the athletes just arrive at the finsih line a little bit later. But it´s  human nature, to win at any costs. Goelz is a realist through and through.

Seit 2013 verkauft Gölz und sein Geschäftspartner auf 600 Quadratmeter Fahrräder in Bad Waldsee.

Since 2013​ Rolf Goelz and his business partner ​have sold bicycle​s​​ out of his ​6500-square foot shop in Bad Waldsee​, Germany.​

Translation into the English language by Shellie Labell & Dirk KUNZ

Adelheid Schuetz – World Class Amateur

WOMAN BICYCLING

Straightforward world class

The senior two-times world champion and multiple Bavarian time trial champion Adelheid Schuetz, finished as amateur seventh position at the 2015 German championship of the elite female bicycle riders in Einhausen (Hessia). Photo: Christian Göckes

The senior two-times world champion and multiple Bavarian time trial champion Adelheid Schuetz, finished as amateur seventh position at the 2015 German championship of the elite female bicycle riders in Einhausen (Hessia). Photo: Christian Göckes

BY DIRK KUNZ

EINHAUSEN ■ Adelheid Schuetz is one of the fastest bicycle riders in Germany, but basically she can’t really ride. She doesn’t like to ride together with others in the peloton, especially she doesn’t like curves. “But straightforward she is world class”, says her husband Rainer Voelkl, who also is her trainer.
Among the world-class bicycle riders, who are all younger and whose profession is to ride very fast, the studied chemist sticks out.
Raised in Thuringia, East-Germany in an academic family, her mother was a mathematician, her father a physicist, sport doesn’t play a major role in her life. In the time shortly before the German reunification, she had taken part in the Monday demonstrations against the suppressing government . After High School, she immigrated to Great Britain, than went to France for two years. Finally she graduated in Ireland.
Her husband, also a scientist, brought her to the cycling sport. At the age 35, she started to train seriously. “My wife could ride 100 miles, hands down on the handlebar and so she was particularly suited for the time trial“, Rainer Voelkl said back then and registered her in 2007 for the city championship of Bayreuth. She won and improved the course record for six minutes. She never owned a car and always liked riding bicycle. She started the competitive sport rather late, because she wanted to take her Ph. D. first. For her doctoral degree she studied behaviour of polyvalent ions.
You can explain Adelheid Schuetz aversion against curves and the big peloton, because of her late start with the specific bicycle training: “If you start to train that in youth, you are able to succeed in the peloton and you are technically more experienced.”
But to ride straight ahead at high speed unfolds a certain potential of addiction: ”I love it, to ride really fast. I enjoy the feeling to merge with my bicycle and to watch the fields go by”, says the 41- year old woman. She is more than 20 years older than a lot of her opponents, but that is nothing to her. She got along well with the other female bicycle riders. Of course they had other interests, but during the race, age doesn’t matter. On the contrary age is also an advantage: From the age of 30 you are senior and it is possible to start races in this category and have the opportunity to win.
She works 45 hours a week  as faculty assistant at the University of Bayreuth, takes care of the students and gives lectures. So she has little time for training. To do that efficiently, she rides a lot in the evening at home on the rollers. Her training frequency is about 9.300 miles (15.000 Kilometers) a year.

Pre-run of the route at home

Adelheid Schuetz“I want to ride really fast”, that is her goal for the German Championship 2015 in Einhausen (Hessia). The week before, she trained a lot with the time trial bike. Rainer Voelkl recorded the circuit in advance and with a computer program it was possible for Adelheid Schuetz to ride the circuit of Einhausen on the rollers at home.
The night before the race, she had arrived with her husband. On Thursday she still worked at the university. Directly after the race on Friday, she drives home again. At the start area she is standing in her speed suit, without any sponsor- or team name. Minutes before the start her husband cleans the tires from dirt. She rides without an escort vehicle. No one tells her, how much lag or advance she has, which difficulties will arise after the next curve and no one encourages her out of the car. If she has a bike failure, the race is over for her. Then her husband has to pick her up by car.
The presenter at the start area seems that he isn’t really aware of her name and is wondering, why Schuetz starts 4th last position with all high class riders: “I don’t know, who is responsible for the starting list, but if she is starting so late, she really has to be talented.”
Schuetz rides uncertain down the abrupt and technical difficult platform and in the curves her insecurity is obvious. 42 Minutes later, she approaches the finish line. Six riders were faster: All younger and with team support, 49 riders were slower.
Adelheid Schuetz is satisfied with the 7th position, her second best result at the German championship ever. In every curve she lost ten seconds at least, she said. It hurts a little bit, that Charlotte Becker at position six was only one second faster than her. From all time trial specialists she never has beaten only Trixi Worrack and Charlotte Becker. On the actually very straight circuit, there was maybe one curve too much.

Translation into the English language: Dirk KUNZ

EPILOGUE

Adelheid Schütz, AmateurweltmeisterinAdelheid Schuetz became in early September 2015 timetrial world champion and gold medalist in her own age group (age 40-44) over 18.6 Kilometer (12 miles). She rode the route in Hobro (Denmark) in 27.07 minutes with an average speed of 41.15 Km/h (25 Miles per hour). She was faster than all 110 female starters of all age groups. Bicycle-legend Jeannie Longo, who won the gold medal of her age group (55-59) was 43 seconds slower, congratulated her personally in the backstage area.

(Photo: Rainer Voelkl)

René Sachse hasn´t been lost!

Overtaken three times, finished last position, still won

René SachseRené Sachse (Thuringia) starts for the bicycle club RC Gera 92. He finished last position at the German championship in the individual time trial.                                                              Photo: Wolfgang Schuh

Interview by DIRK KUNZ

Army employee René Sachse is the current Thuringian state champion in the individual time trail. So he qualified for the German championship in Einhausen (Hessia) this year. At this race last week the amateur bicycle rider finished last (29th) place. The winner several time world champion Tony Martin was in average more than six miles (10 Kilometer) faster.

Mister Sachse, you finished last place at the German Championship in the individual time trail, with a huge gap to the winner. Have you been lost?
René Sachse: No, but if I had, I don’t know, whether I would have realized it immediately, because I had to ride without an escort vehicle. I had to refrain such a luxury, which is standard for professional riders.
Tell me, wasn’t it a little bit depressing, that Tony Martin was 13 minutes faster than you on the circuit?
René Sachse: But he hasn’t worked on the day before the German championship in his former job as police officer and he didn’t have to drive on the same evening to the race, arriving there late at night or even had to attend the team leader meeting at ten o clock on the racing morning. I am absolutely convinced, that I could have been three minutes faster, if I optimized some tools in my daily training routine. But you have to see it from a positive point of view: I belong to the 29 fastest bicycle riders in Germany
How did you prepare for the race?
René Sachse: I tried to attend as many individual time trails under racing conditions as possible, this is the only way to get the toughness of races. Otherwise I trained a lot with my time trial bike on the Velodrome in my home town Gera.
With what intention do you enter such a race? Do you tell to yourself: I don’t want to be last?
René Sachse: I was always realistic. I hardly had a chance, among professional riders. The circuit was 26 miles, nine miles longer than my usual time trials. There were a lot of little ascents, which you realize only in the race. The atmosphere was great, by the way.
How many times have you been overtaken?
René Sachse: I started as 13th rider and three riders passed me. That hardly happens at the time trials I usually start. But I expected this at this top class race.
And what will happen next year?
René Sachse:  In 2016 I definitely want to be there again. I won a lot of experience and with some changes at my equipment I am sure, I will be some seconds faster.

The 34 year old bicycle rider lives in Gera (Thuringia) and works at the army in Augsburg. He rides between 8000 and 10000 miles (13- to 16.000 Km) a year. His next goal is the Masters Cycling Classic end of August 2015.

René Sachse with 54 Km/h (34 mph) at the finish line at the German championship in Einhausen (Hessia) Photo: Angie Haase

René Sachse with 54 Km/h (34 mph) at the finish line at the German championship in Einhausen (Hessia) Photo: Angie Haase

Translation into the English language: Dirk Kunz & Petra Exner-Tekampe

 

Death of a teacher: Torsten Mick dies

Torsten Mick dies

Digital StillCamera

Torsten Micks office                                                                                                                                                 Photo: Kunz

 BY DIRK KUNZ

The last day in the life of Torsten Mick is warm and nearly too hot. The class of the teacher starts on this Monday very late. He eats lunch with his wife on the porch. The meal tastes good and they talk about how good they are doing and they ask themselves how they have earned all the goodness in their life. Mick exercises a lot, is a nearly militant non smoker, he rarely drinks alcohol. He tries to avoid stress: For several years the teacher for German language and political science works only part-time. He tries to enjoy his life. As often as possible he travels: Amsterdam, Venice, Paris, the Côte d´Azur, the Baltic states or Poland. Over the past several years he is convinced that he will die early. His wife dismisses that, but it seems, that he wants to use the time wisely and wants to make the most of each day. About 2 pm. Mick sets off to school on this late summer day. As often as it is possible, he takes the bicycle for the seven mile trip. As he departed he is serious, other than usual. Does he have physical problems or is he thinking of the invitation for coffee with a close family member this evening? The relationship to it is problematic, that burdens him. Two weeks ago Mick and his wife celebrated their 30th anniversary of knowing each other and she had felt a certain but hardly noticeable distance between him and her. As he leaves the house, she carries the dishes from the porch to the kitchen and wants to ask him, what depresses him, but he is already gone. She thinks for a moment whether she should follow him to clarify the fact, but she does not. She wants to ask him in the evening.
Torsten Mick arrives around 2.30 pm at the school. A Spanish teacher is on her way to class. In front of the main entrance Mick locks his bike on a handrail. That is strange, because the school has a storage room for bicycles. Maybe he was late. Mick looks to her colleague while locking the bike, but his facial expression let her know, that he doesn´t want to talk right now. He is preoccupied with himself. She noticed his red face, but she explains it with the temperature and the sporting activity.
Mick goes to the classroom of the 7th graders. Because it is so hot, they change into a cooler room, near the auditorium. At his last week end on earth he had evaluated a test, which he discusses and gives it back in the first of his two lessons. It is afternoon and the boys and girls are inattentive and restless. Some students say, that his voice sounded different, rougher in a way. He becomes more and more unsettled, walking around in the classroom, he leaves the room for several times and has to throw up. He says to the students, that he feels a pressure on his chest und also arm pains. He walks lonely through the auditorium, raising his arms over his head. Back in the classroom, he goes to the sink several times, holding his hands under cold water. One student sees, that his hands are shaking so much, that he can hardly turn on the valve. The children see, that he doesn´t feel well. They even tell him, that he should go to the doctor. Mick says, that he wants to finish class first. He lets the students go home earlier, they say goodbye and tell him to get well soon. With a pale face und a quite voice he says thank you.
In the auditorium he meets his friend and colleague and they talk together. He admits chest pains and he feels a pain radiating to the face.
The janitor sees, how they talk. A few years ago, the janitor himself had a cardiac arrest. Completely asymptomatic on a Saturday morning he breaks down in school and was without conscience, because his heart stopped beating. He was saved by a worker, who started resuscitation immediately. The janitor wants to talk to both, but they are talking so intensively, that he doesn´t want to disturb.

In his leisure time the animal-loving Torsten Mick takes care of some donkeys of a friend. A jenny is ill and needs daily medication. He wants to visit the animals on his way back from school. He describes the location as remote and if he looses his conscience no one would find him, so he asks his friend for a favour to ride with him. The friend complies, he lives approximately 1/3 mile away from the school but went to school by car. So he drives home with his car and Mick follows him by bike rapidly. His colleague watches him in the rear-view mirror and thinks, he can´t be feeling so bad. He takes the bicycle out of the garage and Mick waits on the street in front of the house. On the way to the donkeys they talk about health issues. That men till their 60th birthday are particularly at risk to have a heart attack and that Mick still belongs to that group. His family physician says that he could become very old. His friend has no cell phone to call for help. Mick needs his phone only occasionally, he has deposit it in his saddlebag. Mick explains his friend how he unlocks his phone, in case that he can´t do it anymore, but he assures his friend, that everything is all right. All the way his friend has never the impression, that Mick feels bad or that he is not in a good shape, on the contrary, he always rides in front of his friend. On the paddock Mick seems fully blessed. He embraces the animals, he looks happy, relaxed and completely healthy. They even talk about the final exams and that Mick still has to create the examination questions. After the animals were provided with food and medication both ride back to the country lane. Mick insists, that his friend rides home. If something happens now, he is easier to find, says Mick. At 5.30 pm at a fork junction the friends go separate ways.
Five minutes later his wife drives to her yoga lesson and passes the place not far from their house, where her husband will struggle for his life half an hour later, afterwards she finds a button of his shirt there.
Finally Torsten Mick is seen from the distance by the owner of the donkeys. Mick waits on a crossroad to pass the street. His face is red and he gasps for breath.
The emergency doctor of the local hospital has been on duty for one hour. At 6.04 pm he receives an alarm call. Four minutes later he arrives with two paramedics to the operation area. A quarter mile away from his house, Torsten Mick hangs with his upper body over the handlebar of his bike leaning against a waist-high stable metallic fence and he is unconscious: “Clinically he was dead”, says the physician. He can´t note any blood circulation activity. On the sidewalk they start with the resuscitation. Torsten Mick is defibrillated five times. After 20 minutes his circulation has stabilised again. On the way to the hospital his condition stays stable. His pupils react and in spite of his intubation he starts breathing spontaneously. His blood pressure is 130/70, heartbeat 90. At 6.35 pm they arrive at the hospital. In the resuscitation room he suffers under ventricular fibrillation. The physicians apply adrenalin and medicine which should stabilize his cardiac rhythm. It comes to a cardiac arrest. At 7.20 pm Torsten Mick is declared dead. It is the 23rd of September and he was 59 years old.

Around 8 pm his wife comes back from exercise to an empty house. It is unusal, that her husband is not at home, but not alarming. Shortly thereafter his two children stand in front of the house, she should dress, the father wouldn´t feel very good. He was already dead for more than half an hour. They drive to the hospital. Torsten Mick lies lifelessly on a bed in the trauma room of the cardiac catheter station. Finally they pull the body in a special room, where the relatives can say good bye. His wife stays the whole night, wrapped in a blanket at the floor. She feels the presence of her husband for a long time, he looks like he is just sleeping.

“Repression, Repression, Repression!”

Dr. Senges, signs of a heart attack are severe pains behind the breastbone, spreading the left arm or both arms, radiating into neck, jawbone, scapulas, upper abdomen or neck. That is nearly the whole upper body. Can´t it be a little bit more specific?
Dr. Senges: No, that are just the symtoms of a heart attack. Every pain, occurring between neck and diaphragm is a potential cardiac infarction pain.

How many patients, who thinks they had a cardiac infarction, actually do not have one?
Dr. Senges: Our register include 12.000 patients from 55 hospitals nationwide. Half of them thought mistakenly that they had a heart attack.

If a coronary vessel becomes suddenly closed by a blood clot it is called a heart attack. How does it come?
Dr. Senges: That is caused because of the fat deposit on the inner vascular wall, caused by hazard factors like smoking, overweight, poor cholesterol values, high blood pressure or diabetes. The plaque can rupture inside of an artery. This causes a blood clot which can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery.

Torsten Mick hadn´t smoked, had no overweight, exercised a lot and reduced his stress level. His healty living hasen´t paid off!?
Dr. Senges: Ten percent of the patients don´t have this classical risk factors. But I wouln´t say it hasen´t paid off, maybe he had a heart attack much earlier. Probably he was a genetic high risk patient. I would´nt be surprised if in his family cardiovascular disorders occured.

How do we have to interpret his restless walking around in the classroom or that he raises his arms over his head?
Dr. Senges: That had no medical reason. The patient had probably pains and realized, something is wrong. That was the reason of his disturbance.

The students said, that his teacher complained about the pain spreading to the arm. Isn´t this a typical hint for a myocardial infarctation?
Dr. Senges: Absolutely!

And why have the patients this kind of arm pain?!
Dr. Senges: That is a radiation from the heart and it radiates more to the left arm, because the heart is located on the left side.

Finally he throws up. That seems to be a side effect of a heart attack!?
Dr.Senges: It is not typical, but it can happen. The whole vegetative nervous system is uproar!

Did Torsten Mick have possibly a myocardial infarction already in school?
Dr. Senges: Yes!

And he didn´t realize it?
Dr.Senges: He repressed that. An infarctation is a sudden event on the one hand, on the other hand it is possible, that a coronary vessel is not completely blocked. Maybe he had in school Angina pectoris. It is a matter of definition, up to which point it is a myocardial infarction.

Is it possible, that some patients did not notice of their infarction?
Dr. Senges: Yes, but that is rare. In five to ten percent of the cases the patients have a so called “silent infarction”.

For his friend it seemed that on the way back home Micks health condition was improving!
Dr. Senges: In my opinion repression plays here a major role.

Half an hour later, Torsten Mick is dead. He passes away on the street. He was a well educated person with a sharp mind. Why wasn´t it possible for him to read the signs correctly?
Dr. Senges: It is a kind of rebelling against reality, that is similar to other patients. The mechanimus of repression is the leading cause that people don’t go to the hospital or do it too late. If you want to learn something from this story than that: It is a paramount example for repression with all it consequences including death.

Dr. Senges, thank you for the interview!

Interview by DIRK KUNZ

Dr. Jochen Senges

Professor Dr. Jochen Senges (72) is Chairman of the Board of the “Stiftung Institut für Herzinfarktforschung” in Ludwigshafen/Rhein.                                                                                                                                                Photo: KUNZ

Hans Reder – The Lost Soul

EAST GERMAN HISTORY

The Lost Soul

BY DIRK KUNZ

More than 25 years ago, a protestant preacher in the Weimar, in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), turned over five members of his congregation to the authorities. They were convicted of attempting to flee East Germany and were sentenced to prison. This was a unique case in East German church history. Before this, cases like this one were solved amicably, without police, jail terms, or other authorities. So how is the preacher doing today, in May 2015?

Hans Reder now lives hidden away in a village of sixteen hundred souls, 16 miles north of Kassel, in central Germany. His house is obscured, set back from the street. The 87 year old preacher rented the apartment 26 years ago, less than a year after his departure from East Germany and the event in Weimar. He says it has completely destroyed him.

Hans Reder’s father was a preacher who died at an early age of a stroke, in the arms of his ten year old son, on a Sunday afternoon. Reder describes that as a traumatic experience. He then moved with his mother to Eisenach. When he was sixteen, he went to war, which shook him emotionally. As a soldier, he took care of the trains arriving from the western front. The blood drained out of train cars, from bombardments by hostile planes. Reder said that the bodies he saw were in terrible condition. He speaks about awful nightmares he has had ever since. Originally Reder wanted to be a lawyer, but in the Soviet occupational zone back then his middle class family home turned a university place into a distant dream and so he studied theology. He said, that it was a decision driven by reason.

 

Reder4 001

Hans Reder during the time of the German Democratic Republic  in the Herder-Church.                                                                       Photo: private

Reder, a winter sports enthusiast, received his first pastoral assignment on the south-facing slope of the Thuringian Forest. After a few years, he moved to Berlin to became a preacher. During that time he reported about his first contact with the Ministry for State Security. He recalled his three-hour interrogation at Alexanderplatz, describing it as if it were in a movie: the blinds were closed, the room illuminated only by a table lamp, and cigarette smoke blown in his eyes. He was charged with “complicity to flee the republic,” but the authorities could not prove anything against him. His deacon smuggled students from East to West Berlin. But he had nothing to do with that. In 1970, the possibility arose for Reder to start working as a chaplain of a German-language congregation abroad in Sweden, although it failed in the end. He spoke Swedish and had family there. This was a very lucrative job, because travelling to “non-socialist foreign countries” was normally strictly forbidden for East German citizens. During that application period, he spoke with the Secretary of State for Church Affairs in the German Democratic Republic. Reder said that the Secretary encouraged his request, but wanted to make sure that he would return to East Germany.
He had to sign a document called a “return declaration”. Reder said that it was not a declaration of cooperation with the Ministry for State Security,​ ​as rumored.​ ​”On the​ ​contrary”, ​he said, ​”​nothing could be further from the truth.​”​ According to Reder, there was no collaboration with the Ministry for State Security (known in German as “Stasi”=”STAatsSIcherheit”) at all. “Occasionally I had contact with a member of the State Department regarding travel preparations to foreign countries, but nothing more.” Later Reder adds that he had met with employees of the foreign ministry once or twice a year. The only item up for discussion: Analysis and evaluation of special foreign policy issues. Reder also had personal relationships with high-ranking West German politicians. His belief, that he was under surveillance of the Stasi because of these relationships, is not completely unreasonable.

The third incident

The second Sunday of Advent: it was a cool, grey, dreary December morning. During a service at the Herder Church in Weimar, East Germany, a man was baptized and an older couple from Leipzig renewed their vows for their 50th anniversary. For twelve years, Hans Reder has been the head of the administrative division of the Protestant church in Weimar. His spiritual mission is vast.
“He is eloquent,” says Pastor Dr. Christoph Victor, who has learned much about the religious framework in Weimar over the course of several decades. His colleague Wolfram Laessig adds: “He is a brilliant rhetorician in the sense of his name” (“Rede” is German for “speech”).
In Reder’s small East German network, where having many contacts and travelling abroad are considered quite impressive, he comes off as confident. He has come directly from Berlin, the capital of East Germany, to the quiet town of Weimar.
Around 9 a.m. the confrontational minister enters the church to prepare last minutes details. But on this day, the 4th of December, five escapees have hidden themselves away in the vestry of the church. Hans Reder is angry; roaring, he hastens through the aisles to the vestry. His preaching robe, his keys, and the script of his sermon are in this little room in the church. “Give me my stuff,” he rumbles. This is already the fourth occupation of his church.

The Herder Church is perfect for this kind of occupation, because there are bathrooms, making it conducive to a long and relatively comfortable stay. This is important because these occupations could last days, or sometimes even weeks. Reder remembers two of the occupants from earlier incidents. This time he’ll take drastic measures. These five adults, three of them with medical degrees, assert that they will not leave before they are promised to be able to flee the country.
Reder wants to kick the squatters out of the vestry, but a scuffle breaks out. Volker Brueheim, one of the squatters, says that Reder wants to confiscate their things. As they pull their items closer, Reder realizes the situation was about to escalate. Without an elaborate sermon, and with a substitute gown, he holds the service this Sunday but realizes a leaden heaviness in the church. Reder wants to call the State Bishop of Eisenach Werner Leich, but couldn’t reach him on phone. Leich is on a business trip in Schmölln, East Thuringia. The only option he sees left is to call the Volkspolizei, the East German police. He reports the occupants for trespassing and for criminal assault, requesting that they be arrested after the church service has ended. Reder neglects to inform his superior, Hans Schaefer, because he believed that he is weak and discusses too much. Reder wanted to take over responsibility.
The squatters don’t give up, not even as the officers of state security promise them immunity from persecution. Reder becomes impatient and cold: “Alright gentleman, do your job,” he says. He leaves them alone, and the occupiers walk out handcuffed through the back door of the church.

Die Stadtkirche St. Peter und Paul in Weimar, im Volksmund Herder-Kirche genannt.

The City-Church St. Peter and Paul in Weimar, commonly known as Herder-Church.                                   Photo: private

Church leadership distance themselves from this controversial end of the occupation. During a meeting in January 1989, the majority of the employees voted against Hans Reder remaining in office.The stubborn theologian feels unappreciated. In March he retired and decided to leave the country himself; this was much easier for retired preachers than for laymen. In October 1989, shortly before the borders opened because of the peaceful revolution, Reder left the city of Weimar nearly unnoticed. He then moved to a little village in West Germany.

ATTEMPTED EXPLANATIONS

Why did Reder react as he did? Probably because of the influence of a strange and sinister combination of juridical, theological and individual-psychological paradigms. First, he said that he didn’t have access to a lot of his items in the barricaded vestry, like his keys, sermon notes, and gown. That bothered him. Appearance and neat habits were always important for Reder. Dirk Marschall, a deacon in Weimar, remembers a student group meeting at the Herder Church. Some preachers appeared in suits rather than in gowns, and Reder criticized it harshly. According to Christoph Victor, Reder was frustrated and tired of the squatters, although he was not really involved in the three former church incidents. Even today, Reder is deeply convinced that humans should not try to fulfil their personal wishes by invading a church. He said that the Herder Church in Weimar was one of the most sacred churches in Central Germany, and that the invasion of a church shouldn’t be a means to achieve political goals. To him, the occupation of the church was a sacrilege. “I always thought about the cleansing of the temple. Jesus also threw the money changers and the temple merchants out of the temple, because they are only there to serve their own interests.” He said that the government was obliged to act to restore the dignity of the church service. He mentioned that he purposely hadn’t filed charges. The police asked him to, but he refused; all he wanted was for the squatters to leave his church. But a memo by a Stasi employee written on the same day claimed that he verbally charged five escapees  with disturbing the peace and obstruction of a preacher´s duty.
“Reder acted correctly in strictly legal terms,” said Wolfram Laessig, Reder’s successor. Laessig remained in office from 1991 until 2006. The occupants entered the vestry illegally and refused to return Reder’s personal items. Furthermore, a preacher had to protect the order of the church. Reder has always defended himself in this matter. The 71 year old theologian refuses to apologize for Reder’s behavior, arguing that “what is legally right can nevertheless be wrong. Instead of supporting people seeking help and shelter, he sent them into trouble.” 75-year old Jobst-Dieter Hayner was Reder’s deputy. After his departure, the provisional head of the church district said that “Reder was never able to admit mistakes regarding his crisis management during the church occupation.” Accepting his own mistakes was always difficult for him.

Hans Reder, 87 Jahre. Foto: KUNZ

Hans Reder, 87 years.                                                                                                                                            Photo: KUNZ

He never asked for forgiveness from the five occupants; even today he feels legally and morally justified: “The occupants knew exactly what they did. They violated the sanctity of the church. I was disgusted by the fourth occupation.” He was bursting with anger and he felt that what he did was right, because after that incident there were no more church occupations in Weimar.

He did not grasp that East Germany was an oppressive nation that punished even misdemeanors excessively and that personal rights weren’t defended. He mentioned his fragile health, even before the church occupation. “I was suffering from severe emotional exhaustion. Perhaps I would never have lost my cool if I had been completely healthy.” Today, Reder is a broken man. He suffers under an acute heart-lung disease. Two intensive bouts of cancer, additional surgical procedures on his knee and hip has rendered him almost unable to leave his apartment. He is constantly under the influence of strong pain killers. Twice a day, a nurse comes and helps Reder change clothes. Twice a week, a caregiver helps him take a bath. A cleaning woman comes once a week. His wife passed away six years ago. For the last three years of her life, he took care of her. Their marriage remained childless: “At the end I was always alone. I am waiting for my death!”

After the interview, Hans Reder gave me several German- and Swedish-language yellowed newspaper clippings and documents about his travelling and earnings, as well as a filmed script about the Reformation. The stages of a preacher’s career in a communist country: “First, you have to read everything, then you’ll have the correct impression of me. Then you’ll know, who I am and what I have achieved. Sure, I was not a reformer or pacifist, yes, maybe I was too naïve, but I am not a bastard. I’ve never betrayed anyone!”

Was Hans Reder a betrayer?

Was Hans Reder an unofficial collaborator (IM) for the Ministry for State Security (Stasi)? Hans Reder’s file with the Stasi Record Agency in Berlin is very thin. The reason? A note from December 4th, 1989 indicated that parts 1 and 2 of IM “Beier”‘s file (Registration Number XV/1535/70) were to be deleted. The deletion of the file is reflected on at least two other index cards. A 1970 form indicated that the Stasi wanted to establish an undercover agent under the pseudonym “Beier”. Reder’s real name doesn’t appear anywhere on the form, but it does include the exact address where Hans Reder lived and worked in that time. So “Agent” Beier must be Hans Reder. So since 1970, Hans Reder has been listed as “IM. Beier” in the Berlin Stasi Headquarters. But the IM. registration alone reveals nothing about the depth and quality of his collaboration. Reder strongly denies being an employee of the Stasi. Of course these denials must be taken into consideration, but often that doesn’t make much of a difference. Suspects often whitewash and suppress issues, even flat-out lie about them. A good Stasi spy is trained to create stories. Hans Reder has no explanation as to why the Stasi even created a file about him.

If the files were destroyed or can no longer be located, it becomes even more difficult to find out what actually happened. In the small amount that has been written about Hans Reder, some completely incomprehensible mistakes have crept in: a Stasi file says that in 1971, he was elected as dean in a Berlin Church district. This is entirely incorrect; Reder’s Berlin companion Detlef Wilinski has confirmed that “what is written in the Stasi files is not always gospel truth.” In the Stasi files of Bishop Werner Leich, his supervisor, Reder’s name doesn’t even appear. Deacon Dirk Marschall’s files also show nothing about Reder. And in Jobst-Dieter Hayner’s dossier, there is no visible connection to Hans Reder. His former deputy said “I don’t think he was a Stasi informer!” Weimar resident Wolfram Laessig, who has known Reder since 1983, never consulted his case notes. Even still, he does not suspect that Reder was an informant. He claimed that Reder loved German virtues and was a orderly person.

The chaos and the riot brought into the church generally in that time by opposition forces and the young adults all over the country have bothered him, much like they were suspicious (because of other reasons) for the government. Reder’s affinity toward governmental agencies could be explained by having the same opponents. “He didn´t need to be a collaborator for the Ministry to act as he did”, said Laessig.
In fact, the Ministry cleverly reinforced the church’s oft repeated statement that the opposition activists only hid under the auspices of ecclesiastic protection. The government was very successful in their policies toward conservative church officials who wanted to protect the church against the corruption of the church’s “pure teaching.” Because they had a common goal, to protect the church against modern influence, as well as Reder’s excessive drive to stand out from the rest, former deputy Jobst-Dieter Hayner claimed that “Hans Reder wanted to be in the center of the consideration and liked it to be held in great esteem.” There were many similarities between Reder and the East German government. Yes, there have been cases where people have unknowingly talked to Stasi agents, so it is particularly ironic that the most persuasive pieces of evidence of Reder’s involvement with the Stasi are the notations in his file that all evidence (whether condemning or exculpating Reder) should be destroyed.

The occupants

Margit Wache

The 68 year old woman was sentenced to two years in prison. Pastor Reder seemed nervous, furious, and impatient this Sunday. Even his son in law, who had driven Wache to the church on that day, was as sentenced to prison as an accomplice. After four months, Margit Wache was redeemed by the West German government The retiree now lives with her husband in Solingen, in Northwestern Germany. Her Stasi files contain both important and trivial information. For example, there are details as to what clothes she was wearing at the time, but neither the name Reder or IM Beier is to be found.

Dr. Volker Brueheim

The 59 year old surgeon was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He remained in prison until September 1989 in Karl-Marx-Stadt (now Chemnitz) before he was redeemed by the German government. The trial was held privately, with only two observers of the church. It was later revealed that both were collaborators of the Ministry of State. Brueheim is convinced that Reder was collaborating with the secret service. He knew him before the December 4th, 1988 incident and received negative attention. He also knew that problems with Reder would arise. Brueheim said that Reder used the excuse of criminal assault, because according to internal church documents in Thuringia, he was only allowed to call the police if there was such an assault.
Reder´s name doesn’t appear in his files, which comes as no surprise to him. He is convinced that the document was censored Brueheim filed criminal charges against Reder after the reunification. The prosecutor halted the proceedings because the District Attorney believed Reder’s claims, according to Brueheim. In the meantime, the statute of limitations expired.

DR. RENATE BIEDERMANN

The physician couldn´t be reached. In a short TV-Report, which was aired one month after I published this article, she said that after submitting a number of unsuccessful applications for an exit visa, the church occupation was the last chance for her, to notify her precarious situation. In the interview she also said, that Hans Reder acted that morning aggressive and short-tempered, like a demon jumping around and  foaming at the mouth.

DR. AXEL KIRCHNER

Kirchner now runs a dental clinic in Cologne. Several attempts to contact him for a statement have been completely unsuccessful.

FRANK EICHLER

He refused to make any statements regarding the church occupation and cannot be reached.

EPILOGUE

BY DIRK KUNZ

DirkKunzWas Reder a Stasi spy? On the orders of Colonel Joachim Wiegand, the last department chief of the Stasi-Church-Section, the most important files were deleted in December 1989, and Reder’s were among them. His reports, which were eventually filed, are irretrievably lost. Was this dubious employee of foreign affairs (“Mr. Berger was a friendly and sophisticated man”) actually a staff member of the Stasi? Reder’s wife once asked him directly, which Berger categorically denies. Reder is convinced that the creation of his file had to do with his political contacts with Scandinavia. He thought of his actions as having brought suspicion upon himself. His ecumenical goals, such as the joining of Weimar and a city in Finland as “sister cities” was contrary to what the East German government wanted. He freely signed a declaration of consent for me to have access to the Stasi files without any hindrances. Was he so free with his information because he knew that his files were deleted permanently? Or does he have a clear conscience?
One name that appears on his notecard is high ranking Stasi staff officer Franz Sgraja, the former department chief of the MfS church section. Klaus Rossberg, the head deputy until 1989, is mentioned several times. Did they place their hopes in Reder and he failed at his job? Why was the file of a relatively insignificant IM destroyed? Maybe the Stasi Contact Officer who wrote all the reports wanted to whitewash himself, in the hope that he would later be accepted into the German federal civil service.
Reder’s performance during the church occupation is uncomfortable for him to discuss these days; nevertheless, he is not willing to apologize. He asked me not to place the focus of his whole life on the brief church occupation incident. In the past, his attitude has been described as autocratic. Many of his former colleagues who hear how he is doing today feel no mercy for him.

REQUIESCAT IN PACE † 5/17/2016
In the official gazette No. 7 of the Protestant Church in July 2016 it is written only in a few lines at page 126 under the heading „Called home to God“: Retired Superintendent Hans Martin Reder, born 12th June 1927 in Heinrichsfelde/Silesia, worked finally in Weimar, died on 17th May 2016 in Hofgeismar.

Translation into the English language: SHELLIE LABELL & DIRK KUNZ

Bibliography:
Christoph Victor: Oktoberfrühling- Die Wende in Weimar, Weimarer Schriften, Heft 49, 1992, S. 11-19.

Walter Schilling: Die „Bearbeitung“ der Landeskirche Thüringen durch das MfS, in:
Clemens Vollnhals (Hrsg): Die Kirchenpolitik von SED und Staatssicherheit, 2. Auflage, Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 1997,  S. 211 ff. (Some generale phrasings about the Stasi were taken from the article.)

Left behind

Left behind

BY DIRK KUNZ

Heinrich Trumheller mit dem Deutschen Meistertrikot der Straßenfahrer aus dem Jahr 1992 vor seinem Lebensmittelgeschäft in Nürnberg. Foto: KUNZ

Heinrich Trumheller with the jersey of the German National Road Race Championship from 1992 in front of his grocery store in Nuremberg /Germany.                                                                                                                        Photo: KUNZ

BY DIRK KUNZ

NUREMBERG ■ Heinrich Trumheller, 42 years old, former professional road cyclist, speaks little and takes a lot of time between the words. He speaks quietly and even after 20 years in Germany you realize that Russian is his first language. He remembers his beginnings as an athlete in the Sovjetunion. He didn’t attend a residential school like so many physically gifted children. His father trained him at home. Home, that was Nalchik, today´s capital city of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, Russia. Peter Trumheller wanted his son to become a proper apprentice and to attend school regularly. In the residential sport schools of the old days, he says, that they trained too much and learned to little.
In the afternoon after school Heinrich Trumheller rode his bicycle with his father for two or three hours almost every day. On Mondays and Thursdays he took the day off. 8.000 miles at the age of eleven, one year later approximately 11.000 miles, and everything on a bike with a “Diamant” frame from GDR-Production. “Very large, very heavy, but much better than anything that you could buy in the Soviet Union”, says Trumheller.
Altogether he says that in the Soviet Union they trained harder, everything was more professionally organized and the enormous numbers of high performance riders were impressive.

Fast results

With this advance he came to Germany in the midyear 1990. His father was a successful bicycle rider in the Sovjetunion and drove in the CCCP-National Team. He belongs to the ethnic group of the so called Volga Germans and he moves with his wife and his two sons Heinrich and Harry to Donaueschingen/Germany, because some of their relatives lived there already.
Friends and other relatives were left behind, that was difficult for the older brother Heinrich, but regarded from the sportman’s point of view the change was no problem.
In 1991 Trumheller won the Tour of Slovakia and also the traditional German race “Cologne-Schuld-Frechen”. One year later as a rider for the Swiss professional cycling team “Helvetia” he reached the 6th place at the Tour de Suisse overall standing, only 29 seconds behind Greg LeMond, his big role model, who ended up in third place. At the 7th stage of the Tour, in a very hard final and because of a tactical mistake, he was beaten by Sean Kelly and came in second. In this impressive shape he came to the German bicycle championship to the “Sachenring”, a racing circuit located near Chemnitz, Saxony. The weather was hot, Trumheller liked that. So he became the German National Road Race Champion in 1992.
As his Helvetia Team dissolved at the end of the year, he had free choice and a lot of job offers from other teams. He went to the French “Castorama”-Team. Retrospectively probably not the best choice.
“Probably I could have better developed my abilities better in Italy”, says Trumheller. Now he realised what he had lost with the old team. He says that the Helvetia Team was very well organized with a smart tactic during the races, maybe a kind of surrogate family for Heinrich Trumheller.

Frosty frenchmen

The trainer legend Paul Köchli, the sporting director of Helvetia always made sure that each rider could find himself in a situation in which e can develop best and tried to improve the natural development of the athlete. At “Castorama” in contrast, every member drove selfishly only for his own benefit, it was a frosty climate in the French team. Trumheller says, that Cyrille Guimard, the directeur sportif was to blame because he even enforced selfish riding. To Trumheller Guimard appeared indifferent and unmotivated.
After two years, in 1995, he joined to the German Team Telekom and besides him the Team contracted Jan Ullrich, Cycling World Amateur Road Champion from 1993. Trumheller says in that year Ullrich was outdistanced in the races as often as him.
But in 1996 Ullrich finished second at the Tour de France and one year later, he won the most important and toughest bicycle race in the world superiorly. At that time, Trumheller already rides in the second class Team “Schauff-Öschelbronn”.
In 1989, at the Junior World Road Championship in Moscow, he outdistanced Lance Armstrong, four years later the US-American became UCI Road World Champion in Oslo, Norway. At the end of Trumhellers career the Texan started to win the Tour de France seven times in a row. Trumheller says Ullrich and Armstrong were great talents, so was Trumheller.
“After that I rode one or two years in the good old times”, he said slightly melancholy. In the professional races the first 50 miles were ridden slowly and only then the race went off.

Aliens on bikes

But what happened then, it makes him shake his head in disbelief even today. He says he was astonished how the other athletes rode all of a sudden. They passed him like motorcyclists, he says, whole teams speeded as if they would come from another planet. Trumheller laughs quietly. He often laughs during the conversation, when he talks about the incredible performance difference between the riders. It is a laughter which is fed by resignation.
It was simply completely impossible to hold their pace. He wanted to become a good cycling professional, that´s what he says at the beginning of his career in 1992. “I haven´t succeeded. I didn’t have good results”, he said today self-critically. “I achieved my biggest victories clean and a long time I rode only with bread and water (undoped).”
He knew which performances he was capable of, and then below-average riders flew past him, who in former times he had only seen at the start of a race and after it in the shower. Huge and heavy riders passed him when climbing the mountain, that was very depressing, he says.
As he tried to explain to his father that the huge performance differences in the rider’s field had to do with doping, he didn´t believe his son: “You don’t exercise hard enough”, his father said, but the differences were so massive, that you could exercise as much as you wanted, without any effect.
In the years 1998/1999, at the end of his career, he tried doping himself. He says, he took EPO, but it was miles away from a medicated doping that the other riders did, he didn’t have the connections. His father taught him fairplay and honesty, but he was desperate.
With 21 years he saw a team-mate giving himself an EPO-shot. Later another team-mate, an assistant of a former Tour de France winner, appeared at breakfast and lunch each time with ten pills. For this rider the daily intake in public was not a big problem.
Nowadays, Trumheller, the married head of a family, rides his bike only occasionally. For ten years he hasn’t been back to his Russian homeland. He doesn’t stand a chance beating his father on bike, who became this fall men´s time trial world champion for the athletes over 70 years. Today, he sells delicacies from Eastern Europe in his grocery store in Nuremberg/Germany. He hardly watches bicycle races on TV, to his former colleagues he has no contact anymore.

 

EPILOG

BY DIRK KUNZ

DirkKunzHeinrich Trumheller was difficult to find. Even in the brave new world of the internet. There is an article from 2001 in a German-Russian newspaper. Back then he ran a grocery store in Nuremberg. His store doesn’t exist anymore. There is still a store under this address, but the recent manager doesn’t know Trumheller.
A few years ago he changed to a rival store, where he sold “Russian chocolate, Ukrainian cucumber and polish vodka against east European homesickness”, that is written in an article of the local newspaper. His former boss hasn’t had any contact to him for three years. There is one entry of this family name (with a female first name) in the phone book of Nuremberg. But no one picks up the phone. The number leads to an apartment building in a Nuremberg suburb. The other residents don’t know the name, don’t want to know or hang up the phone.
The chairman of a local bike club is very polite and he wants to ask around in Nuremberg: The bicycle scene is very well connected, he said. I should call him again in the middle of the week. So I call him back a few days later. He regrets: No, he couldn’t help me, he talked to some bike veterans and yes, they knew the name, but not more. But there were two other bicycle clubs in the city. I should try it there.
The press spokesman of another club gives me the phone number of a bicycle shop owner, who was sporting and executive director of the professional bike team “Team Nuremberger”. Yes, he knew Heinrich. Two years ago he was invited to a party at Trumheller´s grocery store, unfortunately he hadn’t his cell phone number. But to this party Dr. Albert Guessbacher was also invited. Guessbacher was the former medical supervisor of the German National Bicycle Team for Amateurs. “Guessi” might know, what Heinrich Trumheller is doing now.
Dr. Guessbacher has known Heinrich Trumheller since he lives in Nuremberg. A few years ago Trumheller invited him to his store to eat shashlik. The doctor gives me three cell phone numbers of Trumheller, two of them are already given to other cell phone costumers, who have no relation to Trumheller whatsoever, the third number doesn’t exist. Dr. Guessbacher describes Trumheller as a very silent, shy and humble athlete. It is difficult to gain acceptance in the cycling business for such a person, he said.
Guessbacher gives me the address of the store, where he was invited for dinner, but in this street with this street number there is no store recorded on the internet. A phone call at a butcher’s shop with the same street number doesn’t help. No, the butchery shop assistant knows nothing about a grocery store with this address.
On eBay I found something. Someone with a different first and a similar looking family name is selling bicycles in the Nuremberg area. The costumers, which want to buy a bike, are requested to look at the bikes at this implied address. I register on eBay and get the cell phone number of the seller. Yes, Heinrich Trumheller was his brother, the person on the phone told me, and that he could give me his cell phone number. The shy former professional cyclist Heinrich Trumheller affirms an appointment. In the Interview he is honest and open but also reserved. After the interview, I sent Trumheller some further questions. Staying in contact with the former bicycle rider is still difficult. Maybe he doesn´t like to talk so much.

 

 

 

Teacher was robbed, employer did not want to replace the money!

Judicial decision shows disregard for the day-to-day life of a teacher

ADD Trier

The ADD is the central competent administrative authority in Rhineland-Palatinate.                                     Photo: KUNZ

BY DIRK KUNZ

On the first day of a class trip to Sweden two years ago, a female teacher from Ingelheim (Rhineland-Palatinate/Germany) had over €1000 stolen out of her wallet, which was in a closed backpack. The money belonged to the students and was intended for the purchase of tickets to a guided tour of the city. Her employer, the ADD (the administrative agency of the state Rhineland-Palatinate), will not reimburse the teacher’s loss. The reasoning: she should have paid with a debit or credit card.
The administrative court said that the German teacher acted with gross negligence. She collected some of the money in a public place, and the ADD claims that the teacher should have taken special measures to secure the money.
That means for the 44.000 teacher in Rhineland-Palatinate that the deck is stacked against them if student money is stolen on class trips. This judicial decision demonstrates just how little regard for the teacher’s reality of life the courts have.

Ms. Berger-Saalfeld (name changed), recently you were on a class trip to Hamburg. One year ago you said you will not participate in these trips anymore!?
Ms. Berger-Saalfeld: Yes, after that last class trip, two years ago, I promised myself not to organize a school trip anymore, because it is so risky. But as a teacher you are pressured into it. In certain classes trips are required as a part of the curriculum. On the other hand, I do myself no favors in refusing to take part in the organization of these trips, because I always enjoyed them and they’re important for the students. I’ve organized school trips for 20 years; they were always great and nothing really bad had ever happened.

Until the theft of more than 1000 Euro of students’ money out of your backpack in Stockholm/Sweden two years ago. Can you remember how you felt as you realized that your wallet had been stolen?
Ms. Berger-Saalfeld: I was shocked and horrified. We frisked everything, but I knew, that I hadn’t simply lost the purse; it had to have been stolen. All the zippers on my backpack were wide open.

Your employer, the province of Rhineland-Palatinate, did not want to replace the stolen money. He said that it was not necessary to have so much cash in your purse. You should have paid with a debit or credit card.
Ms. Berger-Saalfeld: That is impossible and unrealistic. On a city tour for example it is often not possible to pay via ec or credit card. It was the first day of the class trip and we wanted to buy tickets. I intended to deposit the money as quickly as possible into my account. I was fully aware of the threat to have so much cash on me, and all I wanted was to spend it as soon as possible.

Class trips mean constant stress, unpaid extra hours, and sub-par housing, none of which you’d choose if you were traveling on your own. Then your employer says they will not pay for your own financial loss. How did you feel at that time?
Ms. Berger-Saalfeld: I felt betrayed. For me it is a threat by my employer that they don’t take their duty of care seriously. I informed the principal immediately and he called the administrative agency of the state (ADD). And immediately the words “gross negligence“ came up.
I wanted to cancel the trip, but the ADD pointed to the fact, that maybe the parents might seek refunds, because they had already paid for the students’ flights and hotel bookings. Therefore I decided to put up the money myself and not to say a word to the students. They had a good time and I was sure that I would get the money back. It was a business trip, my employer is insured, and theft like this can happen any time.

People with educational experience know that your actions (to carry a lot of cash) are completely normal and is similarly handled by a majority of your colleagues as well. In your opinion: Why didn’t the ADD want to pay?
Ms Berger-Saalfeld: They feared setting a precedent. Even since then no one has contacted me, neither the ADD nor the school administration.

What did you think of the trial?
Ms Berger-Saalfeld: I was not even invited. Coincidently I had free periods, so I was still able to participate the trial. I had the feeling from the beginning that this amounted to a rejection of my suit for damages against the state.

The court said that the students could manage the money themselves. How do you respond to this?
Ms. Berger-Saalfeld: They are out of touch with reality. During the trial I had the feeling that the judges had no clue as to the every day life of a teacher.

The lawyers argued that in collecting the money in a public place, you effectively invited the theft.
Ms. Berger-Saalfeld: We had a limited budget. The students decided at the last minute that they wanted to take a guided city tour. That was beyond our budget; therefore we had to collect more money to pay for that. We explained that to the students and instantly they whipped their wallets out to give us the money, which was not planned. But they handed the money to us and then we took it. This is exactly what happened, and the judges used this as an accusation against me.
Furthermore I think they mixed up the perpetrator and victim. I was pickpocketed; I was the victim and didn’t encourage anyone to steal from me.

How did you secure the money on your recent school trip to Hamburg?
Ms Berger-Saalfeld: This time I only assisted the class teacher and had less responsibility, and a wallet with 200 Euros was stolen out of a handbag of a female student.
How did your colleagues react at time of the original incident two years ago?
Ms Berger-Saalfeld: The teacher’s faculty was split; one group was on my side, but there was another group who believed that I was to blame.

Why have you accepted the judgment and not appealed?
Ms Berger-Saalfeld: My attorney advised me to appeal. I thought about it for a long time. The verdict was all over the media, but in the end I did not want to deal with it anymore.
Everything depends on the meaning of the term “gross negligence“. If everyday behavior is legally determined to be grossly negligent and everything needs a legal disclaimer as a consequence, then the term has lost its meaning.
For example: If I leave students’ money in a restaurant on a table and go to the restroom, this may be considered grossly negligent, but to carry a wallet with a concealed, zipped-up backpack close to the body, this does not even come close to rising to the level of gross negligence.

In the end, were you able to recoup any of the money, or did you suffer the entire loss?
Ms Berger-Saalfeld: Some of my colleagues collected money for me. Furthermore, the class trip to Stockholm was cheaper than we thought, and the parents of the students did not want the money back. My legal insurance has covered the court fees, but I still had to pay around 400 Euros out of pocket.

In the wrong place at the wrong time

Pressesprecherin der ADD. Foto: ADD

Eveline Dziendziol,  press spokeswoman of the ADD. Photo: ADD

Ms Dziendziol, do cases of theft on school trips happen very often?
Ms Dziendziol: No, but it does happen. You must understand that 44,000 teachers work in 1200 schools all over Rhineland-Palatinate. Of course they travel with a lot of cash, but something unexpected could happen at any time.

The teacher feels unsupported by her employer. Can you understand that?
Ms Dziendziol: Personally yes, it is unfortunate that she has to bear the financial loss. However we can only respond according to what the law says. Our case-by-case review has shown, that the teacher committed an act of gross negligence. Our evaluation was confirmed by the court.

The affected German teacher commented that at the end of the trial, no one got in touch with her at all, and that she felt abandoned.
Ms Dziendziol: That depends very strongly on the personality of the teacher. I can imagine, that someone would feel embarrassed by the Loss Adjustment Office of the ADD if they contacted with the person who lost a case.

Did you fear setting a precedent if you reimbursed the money to the teacher, without a trial, even as a gesture of goodwill?
Ms Dziendziol: A goodwill solution is only possible if the law says so, but this is not the case. Statutory provisions, regardless of how pedantic they are, must apply to everyone equally.

I’m having trouble understanding why a wallet being stolen out of a closed backpack is considered gross negligence.
Ms Dziendziol: If someone is dealing with a lot of money in a public place in a large European city, theft is always a possibility. Maybe the class was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even if we wanted to, it was not possible to find some sort of resolution with our colleague.

If such a theft can happen at any time, is that not contrary to the definition of gross negligence, since gross negligence means conduct showing an unusual lack of due care?
Ms Dziendziol: I was not there. In the end, anything can happen anywhere, but to deal with money in a public place in a large city and then get pickpocketed means, that the teacher’s action has caught a thief’s attention. And again: our determination was confirmed by the court.

You said that the ADD can not absorb the loss of 1100 Euro, arguing on the careful use of taxpayer’s money. On the other hand, in our state millions of Euros of taxpayer’s money are wasted on the Nürburgring or at the Airport Zweibrücken.
Ms Dziendziol: We are the administration; we do not form laws, we execute them. Administration can only work within the law. The Nürburgring is an example of political workings. These are two different things that might not be visible to outsiders.

Why does the ADD have a poor reputation among its teachers?
Ms Dziendziol: According to some of our teachers, there are a few individuals who are not satisfied with their situation, or they have a very unique view on many issues. Where many people work, there are always certain problems. Everyone has their own opinion; it has nothing specifically to do with the ADD, as that is in the private sector. We are not forcing anyone to work for us. Everyone is free to go, to find a new job or move to a different state.

Eveline Dziendziol is a press spokeswoman for the „Aufsichts- und Dienstleistungsdirektion“ (ADD) in Trier.

The State Must Be Held Accountable 

Sabine Weiland von der GEW. Foto: GEW-Rheinland-Pfalz

Sabine Weiland, deputy chairwoman of the teachers union  GEW. Photo: GEW-Rheinland-Pfalz

Sabine Weiland, deputy chairwoman of the teachers union GEW (Gewerkschaftschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft) in Rhineland-Palatinate points to the positive impact of school trips on the students.
They boost the class solidarity and supports social life outside of school. For teachers, however, such a trip can be a stressful and difficult job, and it is human to make mistakes in high-pressure situations.
It is regrettable that you seem to stand alone after such a mistake, and that you are not adequately supported by the state.
A state insurance policy which would cover the loss does not exist.
“We request the state, as an employer, to face up its responsibility and financially support the teachers who are on a class trip in situations resulting in loss,” said Weiland.

Translation into the english language: SHELLIE LABELL & DIRK KUNZ

Interview with two veteran teachers

Two veteran teachers at Hannah-Arendt-Gymnasium in Hassloch (Palatinate/Germany) are retiring. They taught thousands of students. A brief retrospection after 30 years of educational work.

More time for everyday occurrences

CIMG1582CIMG1583

Ms Hirtz, do you like evil students?
Brigitte Hirtz: Yes, I do. Once I had a student with a difficult family background who disrupted the class all the time. He asked me the same question which I affirmed. That impressed him. Whenever he saw me, he beamed with joy. My answer had a huge effect. I like children, that is a basic requirement for a teacher.

It is your last week as a teacher, you have taught for over 35 years. What is dominating: melancholy or relief?
Brigitte Hirtz: I have hearing problems and as a matter of fact a lot of stress occurred. That is the reason why I am relieved. These problems affected my teaching more and more in a negative way.

Do you remember your first year as a young teacher?
Brigitte Hirtz: Of course, I do. I started my studies in 1970 and in the late seventies I started to teach. Back then imperious teachers predominated and we young teachers benefitted from that fact because we were fresh and open-minded. But that is pretty the same today, young teachers are closer to the students.
As time passed I felt that I had to become a little bit more severe. As time went on, students got used to liberal teachers, family homes were less strict, the manners became more and more sloppy. I realized that after seven years when I was out of job to raise my children. As a consequence I became more authoritarian.

How far has the job of a teacher changed?
Brigitte Hirtz: When I started teaching, not everything was about capitalism and purchasing. The students used to tend to discuss everything. I think today’s students are less political. That is not necessarily bad, maybe it is a result of the lack of social conflicts nowadays.

Would you still choose the same job?
Brigitte Hirtz: I am still interested in working with children. Maybe I was partly too indulgent, I should have been harder. I think I have good people skills. I have always wanted to teach and our job is highly influenced by our personality.

Do you know what happened your students after they finished school?
Brigitte Hirtz: Yes, I do. Although I lost a lot of connections due to my relocation from Hanover to the Palatinate. I stayed in touch with one female student who had a lot of problems at home for a very long time. She invited me to her house and played the piano for my children.

Do you have special plans for your retirement?
Brigitte Hirtz: Not really, I want to have more time for the little things in life, even if it sounds simple. I have never had enough time for reading, cooking, cleaning the cabinet and I want to have more time for my grown up children. I am not the type who travels the world.

Brigitte Hirtz, 62 years old, teaches History and French at an academic high school in Palatinate, since this week she is retired.

 

Education requires money

Mr Fleck, please complete: The atlas is…
Bernhard Fleck: ….the bible of the geographer!

What about the geographical knowledge of today’s students?
Bernhard Fleck: I can tell from many years of experience that there are gaps in knowledge. That is not the students’ fault, it is the fault of the curriculum, which is not about teaching the basics, it is often about selective studying, only to pass a test.

Do you think high school students used to be educated better in the past?
Bernhard Fleck: They were different. In my view, the abilities to listen and to concentrate have decreased, which is probably the result of various media students use 24/7. Parents should be more sensitive about this. School and teachers do not have the same reputation in the public view any more.

Students have changed, what about teachers?
Bernhard Fleck: The demands have increased, we are left alone by politics and only that leads to additional load. It is not so much about the stress to teach, it is more about the never-ending things teachers have to do at the same time: Organizing school trips, collecting money, paying extra money back, writing consent forms, handing them out and collecting them again and so on. And then people think such a trip with students is a funny and relaxing. Organizing school trips is a stressful and responsible task. This week I organized such a school trip: Departure at 6.30 a.m. Three students were missing. When they finally arrived, they got on the bus, they did not apologize, they did not say “Good morning”, nothing. That makes me angry.

Of course, that enraged you. What else bothers you?
Bernhard Fleck: Education policy and its permanent changes. The huge number of students in one classroom which stresses teachers and students.

And what do you like to think back to?
Bernhard Fleck: Well, my first advanced course. We meet once a month outside school in a private atmosphere and did a lot of trips. And even today there are some students with extraordinary skills and achievements. One called me in a bit poetic way“a rose in the garden of teachers scrub”. That was nice. Or when parents said thank you for taking care of their kids after a class trip. But that was the absolute exception.

And if you were education minister, what would you change?
Bernhard Fleck: We need more money and therefore more teachers. Currently it is all about saving money. On the other hand we waste millions of taxes. Think of the regional airport of Zweibrücken, which became insolvent this week, or the financial disaster of Nürburgring. I am very pessimistic about our educational system.

Now you are a pensioner! What do you do with so much time?
Bernhard Fleck: I was able to prepare, so it was not a surprise and I have a lot of hobbies: calligraphy, taking pictures, singing. Furthermore I want to do volunteer work.

As a geographer you have certainly planned several travels?
Bernhard Fleck: My wife is also a teacher. She is going to retire next year, so we still depend on the school holidays. Now in my first summer vacation as a pensioner we will visit Canada.

Bernhard Fleck, 63 years, teaches Physical Education and Geography at an academic high school in Palatinate, since this week he is retired.

The interview has been carried out by DIRK KUNZ.

Translation into the english language: DIRK KUNZ & JANE DOE

 

Old bicycles for a better World!

Wolfgang Mrosek runs a bicycle shop in Berlin-Neukölln, where he sells bicycles at cost.

Wolfgang Mrosek runs a bicycle shop in Berlin-Neukölln, where he sells bicycles at cost.                            Photo:  KUNZ

Old bicycles for a better World!

BY DIRK KUNZ

BERLIN ■ The young man helplessly holds up his rear tire with his right hand. What he wants isn’t outrageous; he would of course pay for it, but he can’t even bring himself to ask how much it will cost to repair.

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