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Police vacations cancelled amid terrorism fears. Anti-nuke movement enjoys revival. Ex-Chancellor Schroeder bashes Bush book. “Degenerate” art found in subway dig. Germany locks economic horns with United States. Christmas markets pull crowds.
Top news: Germany went on high alert with Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere revealing “concrete indications” of an imminent attack by Islamic extremists. Police vacation time was cancelled and armed officers were stationedat airports, train stations and tourist sites.
The famous dome of the Reichstag building, which houses the parliament, was closed to the public. A disillusioned extremisthad reportedly contacted authorities and told them of a planned Mumbai-style siege on the building.
Germany experienced a revival of the 1970s with a mass blockade against the nuclear industry. Thousands of demonstrators, including farmers on tractors and even a flock of sheep, whose political affiliations remain unclear, took part in the blockade of 11 containers of nuclear waste being transported to a dump in Lower Saxony. The revival of Germany’s once-thriving anti-nukes movement followed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s extensionof the lifespans of the country’s 17 atomic power plants — which were scheduled to be phased out — by an average of 12 years.
In one of the more unusual contributions to the debate, Charlotte Roche, author of the sexually-charged bestseller “Wetlands,” offered to sleep with President Christian Wulffif he would veto the nuclear extension bill.
Though neither is still in office, former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and former U.S. President George W. Bush continued their long-running fight over Iraq. Bush wrote in his memoir “Decision Points” that Schroeder had backed out of a deal to support the United States on Iraq. Schroeder hit back, accusing Bush of lyingin his memoir. A string of former staffers backed Schroeder’s version and one even accused Bush of having an “exceedingly limited” intellect.
They weren’t the only transatlantic political figures letting each other know exactly what they thought. German politicians heard the unvarnished appraisalof the U.S. Embassy in the WikiLeaks cables, along with the rest of the world. The Chancellor was dubbed “Teflon Merkel” and described as “risk averse and rarely creative.” Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle had an “exuberant personality” but was seen by German officials as “arrogant and too fixatedon maintaining his cult of personality,” the cables stated.
Nobody in Germany challenged these assessments.
Eleven sculptures deemed “degenerate” by the Nazis and presumed lost or destroyed in World War II went on display in Berlin after being unearthed during excavation workfor a new subway line. The art works included Marg Moll's sculpture “Female Dancer” and Otto Freundlich's terracotta “Head.” Archeologists think they had been hidden in a basement belonging to Erhard Oewerdieck, a tax advisor and art collector who helped Jews during the Nazi era.
Money: Germany spent much of November batting away attacks from around the globe on its economic policies.
The U.S. complained ahead of the Seoul G20 summit that Germany — along with China — was over-reliant on exports and not doing enough to stimulate its domestic demand for other countries’ goods.
Germany retorted that the United States — along with China — was manipulating its currency to give its own exports an unfair edge. In a stinging rebuke, Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble said the American growth model was in “deep crisis” and the United States had “lived on borrowed money for too long.”
Germany joined forces with China to knock down a U.S. suggestionto force trade surplus caps of 4 percent of GDP.
Nor was Germany much more popular with many of her European neighbors. Merkel’s aggressive push to reform the bailout mechanismfor ailing eurozone members was blamed for Ireland’s woes.
Critics said Merkel’s insistence on making investors wear some of the costfor bailouts alongside taxpayers spooked the bond markets. This pushed up the cost of borrowing for struggling Ireland, forcing it to turn to the EU-International Monetary Fund bailout fund.
Germany, cock-a-hoop with its own success, which includes falling unemployment and strong growth, shrugged off the criticismwithout skipping a beat.
Elsewhere: Plenty of Germans have made the connection between the ongoing terrorism alert and the popular Christmas markets, which would be an obvious target. But the warnings are not stopping the crowds from flocking to the marketsfor the mulled wine (known as “gluehwein”), ginger bread, baked apples and bratwurst sausages.
But children be warned: Gluehwein is not for the underaged, as Germany’s drug commissioner felt compelledto remind people. This is, after all, a country in which a conservative governor of Bavaria told men it was okay to drink two liters of beer and then drivehome.
The markets generally run until Christmas Eve, and in some cases until New Year’s Eve. Every town and city has one. Nuremberg’s is especially famous. Visitors to Berlin in December should try Gendarmenmarkton Unter den Linden. Or for a more local, intimate vibe, try Kulturbrauereimarket in Prenzlauerberg.
(See GlobalPost photos of last year’s Berlin Christmas markets.)