…bad things can happen.

Yep, that’s a guide to the Czech Republic next to the “Handbook for the German Soldier.”

I mean, you know, it’s probably not intentional or anything…


…and that can be any number of things, but for me, it was concrete evidence that people linked to the West German government were telling refugees to go home. Not indirectly (I’ve seen enough of that), but straight up.

Then today, in a letter from the leader of the “Association for the Victims of Stalinism” to the Federal Minister for all-German Questions: Im Zusammenhang mit dem von uns bereits früher Vorgetragenem möchten wir noch folgendes mitteilen: In den 8 Wochen unserer Organisations-Arbeit haben wir einige 100 Menschen aus der Ostzone, die sich teilweise schon in Berlin um ihre Anerkennung als politischer Flüchtling bemühten, durch Kameradschaftliche Beeinflussung dazu gebracht, wieder in die Heimat zurückzukehren.

Loosely translated into English (I’m really sorry about the stacked modifiers – that’s probably the hardest thing about translating German): “Together with what we have already told you, we’d like to share the following: In the eight weeks since our organization has begun its work, through friendly influence we have convinced 100 people who were already in Berlin to be recognized as political refugees to instead return to their homes.”

And it’s not like they’re doing this surreptitiously! They’re bragging about it in a letter to one of West Germany’s most powerful politicians, the chair of the party in power, and a political refugee himself (he had been leader of the eastern branch of the conservatives before getting kicked out by the communists). This, along with that good amount of circumstantial evidence, should be enough to make a good case.

That’s it – I might as well just come home now.

So I’ve also been bad at updating this feature, but that’s been partly due to the case of Dom Kölsch I’ve been working through since the beginning of November (good news, I won’t have to go on a serious Kölsch bender the day before I leave, so long as I average two beers every three days the rest of my stay).

I did want to get to this one, though, because it’s the first thing I’m making when (someday) I have a lagering setup. Now, imagine a beer with the malt profile of a really good stout, but without all of the stout downsides (mostly the sense that someone just served you a bread smoothie). Add in the light hop flavor and yeast characteristics of a Pilsner (because it uses a similar variety of hops and comes from roughly the same region)

I give you schwarzbier:

Yes, that’s a lager, with a good thick head and a body so dark that you could watch solar eclipses through it (amazingly, it has a pretty significant refractive value). I had two of these when my mom and I were at the hotel bar her last evening in Germany, and picked up another when I got back to Bonn for the picture. It’s a characteristic style from Saxony, in Eastern Germany (one of the reasons it hasn’t really hit the import scene), but I get the sense that it’s really starting to be picked up a lot of places over here (Köstritzer is probably the biggest brewer, of maybe a half dozen that get some distribution).

Now, doing a little bit of research, I did discover that Sam Adams Black Lager (which I do like) is supposed to be a schwarzbier, but that doesn’t even come close on body. I’m not kidding about the stout thing.

…well, that and a mild but irritating sinus infection that I picked up last week (definitely a sinus infection, and not archive crud, like I had a couple months ago).

I’m not sure whether to be in awe of, or worried by, the sorts of researchers who spend months on end in the archives. I’ve been at this just over three months now, and for the last month, I’ve only been going in three days a week (two if I’ve had visitors); I’m having a hard time being excited even about the exciting new stuff I’m finding (that is, when I’m not coming across copies of the same material over and over and over again). Two stories to illustrate the previous two points. On the former, I’ve established beyond any reasonable doubt just how involved the West German government was involved in funding research on refugees in the 1950s – now, this is essentially an open secret (one guy got himself elected general secretary of a scholarly society because he claimed at the annual meeting that he could bring in the government grants and balance the budget), but it’s the tightness of the network that’s really impressive, and I’m linking it to all sorts of other people. Now, that’s really exciting, and I’m glad that I’ve been going through countless binders full of the same files from different offices to get it.

I’m also learning a lot about individual (though, unfortunately, nameless) bureaucrats and their personal levels of organization. Now, these are the Germans we’re talking about here, but there’s still a pretty wide gap. Looking at three binders today on the same research group, from three different offices in the same ministry. Guy number one is the sort who just keeps tossing files into a box, no attempt at organization, but when I get to it, it’s in roughly reverse chronological order (most recent on top, oldest on the bottom), but with a few things out of order and a bunch of extra copies that sometimes get tossed in with notes on them.

Guy number two, no real sense of organization. Files from 1954, 1957, 1952, another copy of that file from ’57, unreadable handwritten notes, two copies of files from 1953, and so on. Someone clearly didn’t have the interests of this historian at heart.

Third guy, one copy of everything, in order front to back (which means he took the time to organize his files).

My only regret: that’s the order I read them in, so by the time I got to the third guy, I was totally burned out on “Research Group: Integration” files (and had seen everything at least two or three times). At least it helped to get my chronology straight.