Finally, after six months of not having a “proper” government, Germany once again has a Bundeskankler, a cabinet and a government again. It has been a long tooth-pulling exercise but did anyone notice Europe’s so-called Powerhouse was “leaderless”. Yes, Monsieur Macron who is desperate to get on with reforming and no doubt expanding the EU. None of the ordinary German citizens noticed it and I only registered the fact 24 hours after the event.
So we now have a revised version of the last coalition of Mrs Merkels’ Conservatives (CDU), the Socialist Labour (SPD) and the little Bavarian Conservatives (CSU) running the show. To make it happen, Mrs Merkel granted Labour more Ministers than their % of the votes warranted and she gave the Bavarians an upgraded Super Ministry – “Bundesministerium des Innern, für Bau und Heimat” -or Ministry of the Interior, Building and “Heimat”?
What on earth is “Heimat”? The dictionaries will tell you it means “Home, homeland, home country, native country”. But does that help to define the job description of a German Minister for Heimat”? If we were in the Animal Kingdom I would feel quite comfortable using the translation “Natural habitat” and could see the boss doing his bit to better and protect it – let’s leave aside the internal squabbles between the fieldmouse and the buzzard over the objectives, at least for now.
The term smacks of the type of thing shown in today’s Daily Mail . photos discovered in the UK of Hitler. He was in the process of misusing “Heimat” to drum up nationalist, popular right-wing support by dressing up in short Lederhosen and doing the Bavarian homeland tradition folk bit. The results of the posing session did not go down well and Hitler was not at all amused by his knobbly knees. The photos were hidden away, what happened to the photographer is not known.
It was the same effect George W. Bush was seeking when after 9/11, he changed the US Interior Department to the Department of Homeland Security.
With the rise in the last five years of Germany’s right-wing AfD party with its anti-immigration, Islam, women, LGBT stance, the Bavarian Conservatives saw their members defecting and there was a possibility of them losing control which they have held ever since 1946, except for a few years between 1954 and 1957. So the Bavarian President, Horst Seehofer, created the “Heimat Ministry” and gave it to the ankle-biting young Finance Minister, Markus Söder, hoping that would keep him busy and stop him sawing at the legs of Horst’s throne. Markus however in all sorts of PR stunts did manage to make a good job of Heimat while continuing to balance the books and to saw at the throne legs, with even more effort. Nobody can tell you what Markus actually did for “Heimat” but it was very successful and one could sense the AfD was not quite so attractive – in Bavaria, please note.
So after the German national elections and the horrific rise of the AfD from zero to third biggest party and their first members in parliament, something had to be done nationally. Horst sensing he was soon to lose control of his party in Bavaria, decided to take a role in German politics again (he had been amongst others Health Minister about 15 years ago) and got Merkel to agree on the new Super Ministry - no loss of face for Horst and Angela hopes the new German Heimat Ministry will help to combat the AfD at a national level. As the two largest parties now form the government, the AfD is the official leading opposition party and cannot simply be ignored.
Not one to hang around, today in his new post, Super Horst said to the press that the quote made by the very shortlived unpopular German President Wolf a few years back was wrong: “Islam does NOT belong to the German picture” but went on to say, “those people living in Germany who follow the Islamic faith, do indeed”. And I can live with that.
Bavaria has been leaderless since Horst was sworn into his new job on Wednesday. But today the Bavarian parliament voted Markus as the new President and he got 100% of the votes from all his own parties MPs, I think unheard of. But the reason is clear: in September this year, it is the Bavarian State elections and they know that only a strong united Bavarian Heimat manifesto will keep them in power. And this year is very important – it’s the 100th anniversary of the formation of the State of Bavaria after they removed the Bavarian monarchy from the government. It does show the nature of the Bavarians that the monarchy wasn’t beheaded and still retains a role in the culture of the state, At this year's main carnival bash, Markus went dressed as the last much-respected monarch Luitpold, Prince Regent of Bavaria who died in 1912 after which the Bavarians were already changing from a constitutional to a parliamentary monarchy and problems with heirs and WWI led to the final end in 1918.
So now we wait to find out what “Heimat” is. Perhaps as the AfD is strongest in the former East German states, the desolate, huge tracts of land that have been destroyed by surface brown coal mining can look forward to having a few nice green alpine meadows adorned with cows with bells and milked by young blonde girls in dirndls and accompanied by stout young men playing yodel music on their harmonicas, zithers and alpine horns. I suspect the East Germans may start demonstrating to have that wall rebuilt.
In the meantime, this wandering expat will work on his own version of what Heimat means:
The world, Continent, country, state, region, area, county, parish, village, neighbourhood, street, Mum, Dad, children, grandchildren, fireplace, baked beans, cuppa, coke, beer, culture, food, lederhosen, Morris dancers, calypso, steel band, cowbells, oceans, Alps, pop, rock, classic, Gilbert & Sullivan, God Save the Queen, Eurovision Song Contest, Beethoven’s EU hymn, Jerusalem, pastures, Norfolk Broads, Welsh valley, Scottish Highlands, kilts, jeans, flared cords, Spitfire, Messerschmidt, dc3, John Glenn, Apollo, moon, Mars ………………….
(don’t hang around waiting for the answer, it could take a while)
Oh and today's Blip? Emergency but I will still find a link: The other day I sent Nogbada photo of a bottle of Octoberfest beer I was drinking. He questioned if it was still within the Best By date especially as it was now Strong beer season. I replied it was still just in date but had to be drunk as I had bought a few bottles for the grandchildren at Xmas and forgot to give it to them but by the time they came next it would be out of date. Nigel was happy with the answer and went back to his mug of Yorkshire tea.
Now ask Nigel what Heimat means to him and he will go off on a long sermon about Manchester, sitting room, in front of the warm hearth, dad smoking an untipped Senior Service, mum knitting while he was out on the street kicking a football with the lads after he had collected Dad a pitcher of beer from the pub around the corner…..
That’s fine but I question it a little. Heimat also encompasses something connected with where you feel at home, a place that is familiar, safe, where you take everything for granted. Just as he simply took it for granted from his time in Bavaria that a grandad would give his grandchildren high % beer bottles for Christmas. I suspect he may have a bit of Bavaria in his Heimat mental photo.