Stefan Theil

A Bit Of Optimism Is Ok

Finally, some good news. After more than two years of skirting recession, Germany is starting to grow again. The German economy will expand by 1.7 percent in 2004, according to the latest upbeat forecast from the IFO Institute in Munich.


Every few years, a national polling institute asks Germans what they want most from their society. Each time, a majority--or close to it--answers Gleichheit, or equality.

Challenging The Qur'an

In a note of encouragement to his fellow hijackers, September 11 ringleader Muhammad Atta cheered their impending "marriage in Paradise" to the 72 wide-eyed virgins the Qur'an promises to the departed faithful.

The Sweetest Revenge

When Shlomo Afanasev and his parents set out to make a new life for themselves late last year, they had choices. The country where they lived--Uzbekistan--was an economic basket case, and its 2,000-year-old Jewish community had all but disappeared.

A Heavy Burden

Berlin, 2050. The once flourishing metropolis resembles a cross between an old-age home and a ghost town. The average age of its citizenry is 50. With fewer and fewer couples having children, schools and kindergartens have closed.

Half-Breed Organ

Liver-transplant operations are almost routine these days. Finding suitable donors remains the hard part. Each year thousands of patients suffering from cirrhosis, hepatitis and other severe liver ailments die while on waiting lists.

Schroder's Big Chill

"This is where he sat and lied to me," a furious George W. Bush recently told a visiting European head of state. "He" is German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, with whom Bush believed he had a deal--private acquiescence on Iraq in return for Bush's not pressing for public support in the run-up to last September's German elections.

Reform Now, Or I'll Quit

Berliners were rubbing their eyes in disbelief. Just ahead of the May 1 Labor Day holiday last week, billboards began popping up at bus stops and subway stations, proclaiming less welfare state means more jobs.

The Saudis: A Missing Diplomat?

It looked like a successful strike against Al Qaeda in Europe. Last month German police raided a suspected terrorist cell in Berlin, arresting a half-dozen men and seizing bomb-making equipment, flight-simulator software and chemicals.

Voting With Their Feet

A year ago life looked bleak for Jens Sroka. He had just lost his job, courtesy of Germany's never-ending economic slump. Nor did prospects look good in hometown Wurschnitz, a village in eastern Saxony where one in five people is out of work.

'Move To The Moon'

British and American losses mount as street fighting rages in Baghdad. CNN and Al-Jazeera broadcast harrowing images of war casualties. Responding to unrest at home, Arab governments cut oil production and Western access to their military bases.

A Voice Of Conscience

For decades, novelist Imre Kertesz was unknown even in his native Hungary. When he published a semiautobiographical novel in 1975 called "Fateless," it went almost unnoticed.

The Angry Republic

"Schroder is stupid." That's how a Berlin daily, Die Welt, sums up German public opinion. A more intellectual--and vicious--insult these days is to compare Chancellor Gerhard Schroder to Heinrich Bruning, the hapless Weimar-era chancellor whose incompetent handling of the Great Depression helped bring on Adolf Hitler.Ouch.

Germany's Jobless Racket

Simone Richter, 29, has been unemployed since 1997. After being downsized from a public-housing agency, she put herself through half a dozen government-sponsored training courses, from IT for Office Workers to Practical Administrative Skills.

Beware, Bordeaux

Bernhard Huber's epiphany was buried in a bundle of dusty old papers. Digging through historical documents in the archive of his home village of Malterdingen, the German wine-making apprentice found a fragile parchment covered in ancient script.

The Fine Art Of Shopping

Every mall rat knows that shopping is an art: finding the perfect cashmere sweater, staking out a spot early at the end- of-season shoe sale. Now a new exhibit at Frankfurt's Schirn Kunsthalle celebrates shopping as a work of art.

Going Its Own Way

Here's the CW. George Bush "went ballistic" over Germany's independent demarche on Iraq, as one White House aide puts it. But has a historic relationship been irreparably harmed?

A Contrarian View: Learning From The East

When the German automaker BMW decided to build a new assembly plant for its 3 Series sedan, executives scouted 250 locations around the world. They considered sites in France and the Czech Republic, where lower wages and a friendly regulatory climate meant they could operate more cheaply and efficiently than in high-cost Germany.

The German Problem

"We don't know what Germany stands for anymore." --Senior British diplomat "We Germans still aren't sure of our place in the world, or where we'll end up." --Editor Georg Gafron of the Berlin tabloid BZRemember the German question, a.k.a.

The High Price Of Victory

Germans glued to their TV sets Sunday night called it a political thriller: the tightest election cliffhanger in their nation's history. When votes were counted in the early hours of the morning, incumbent Chancellor Gerhard Schroder had managed--just--to cling to power.

Does This Vote Matter?

One of Germany's favorite Internet sites, these days, is the Kanzlergenerator. Start with a grinning image of Der Kanzler, Gerhard Schroder. With a few clicks, mix in a couple of facial features from his challenger in next week's national election, Bavarian Premier Edmund Stoiber.

Young At Heart

Kihabara shopping district, Tokyo, 2012: in a street once dominated by electronics dealers and toy stores, a new business is opening its doors. Signs in extra-bold lettering are advertising "authentic" whalebone walking canes, along with the newest high-tech wheelchairs.

Cowboys Und Indians

A village of 390 tepees stretches along the valley floor, close by a gurgling stream. Squaws cook breakfast over open fires. Young girls play lacrosse. A pair of warriors skin a buffalo.

Let Them Eat Organic

Baron Wolfgang Von Munchhausen gets a premium price for his premium crops. Ten years ago, after getting ill from some of the 125 different pesticides he was spraying on his 300 acres of wheat, rye and other grains, he converted his farm in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein to organic agriculture, eschewing chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides in favor of crop rotation, farmyard manure and other traditional measures.

Getaway? Go Away!

German vacationers on the sun-soaked Mediterranean island of Majorca get a special kind of welcome these days at Es Trenc. On the beach encircling the turquoise bay, someone has spray-painted a one-word message to them on the side of an old concrete shelter: raus--"Beat it!"--along with a giant swastika.Majorcans are getting thoroughly sick of tourists.

Staying In High Style

You are where you stay," hotel owner Ian Schrager once said. If that's true, then many of us have been as bland as a Holiday Inn, about as interesting as a wood-grain Formica television stand.

Let's Stay In Style

"You are where you stay," hotel owner Ian Schrager once said. If that's true, then many of us are Holiday Inns. And by the same token, many of us are going to become much more hip, as chic designer hotels come to dominate the industry.Judging by properties like the new W Times Square in New York, the days of the generic hotel are numbered.

The End Of Swag?

Baksheesh. Kiti Kodogo. Swag. Most every language has its vaguely derogatory slang term for bribery. The King James Bible predicted long ago that the "the congregation of hypocrites shall be desolate, and fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery." It didn't say when.

Culture On The Cheap

ParisStart the day with a cafe creme and a croissant at the Cafe de Flore, just as Hemingway did before you. (Stand at the counter--it's cheaper.) In the great Parisian tradition, stroll along the Boulevard Saint-Germain to the Luxembourg garden.