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News from Germany

> Rastatt elects first female maupr

> Conductor Barenboim still dreams of peace in the Middle East

> Germany stands by Israel

> Berlin's 29-euro travel ticket

> Far-right defeated in Thuringia



New Rastatt mayor wins in a cliff-hanger election

16 October 2023: In the end, only 70 votes separated Rastatt's new mayor from her opponent. On 15 October 2023, Rastatt, a city of some 50,000 inhabitants halfway between Baden-Baden and Karlsruhe in Baden-Wuerttemberg, elected its new mayor (Oberbürgermeisterin) in the second round of voting. Monika Müller, a Social Democrat (SPD) and the independent Michael Gaska stood against each other.


In the first round of voting, Monika Mueller had a healthy lead of just over 1,000 votes. Three weeks later, however, this lead shrank to exactly 70 votes. Nevertheless, a majority is a majority and Monika Mueller became the city's first female mayor with 50.3 per cent of votes cast. Michael Gaska, on 49.7 per cent, conceded defeat and congratulated his opponent. "It was nail-bitingly close, but now I wish the new mayor, the city and its residents all the best for the next eight years." *


Both candidates grew up in Rastatt. The new mayor most recently worked as departmental director for the Volkswagen-city of Wolfsburg. Before that, she was director of social services in the city of Pforzheim. Michael Gaska works as a management consultant in St Gallen, Switzerland.


Monika Müller studied law in Constance and Ulm. She then started her professional life in the social services sector. At Wolfsburg, she was responsible for social services, health and sport. She will take over from her predecessor Hans Jürgen Pütsch (Christian Democrat / CDU) in December.


* In the Baden-Württemberg, southwest Germany, mayors are elected for eight years. BACK TO TOP

Related pages: German female mayors



Daniel Barenboim still dreams of peace between Israel and Palestine

11 October 2023: Daniel Barenboim the long-serving conductor at and musical director of the Berlin State Opera Unter den Linden has commented on the attacks by Hamas on Israel, describing them as a horrendous crime, which he condemned in the strongest terms.


The 80-year old Barenboim, who was born in Argentina to Russian-Jewish immigrants, made it one of his life’s mission to bring reconciliation to the Middle East. Holding honorary Israeli citizenship as well as non-official Palestinian citizenship, he founded together with the American-Palestinian author and literary critic Edward Said (1935-2003), the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999, which is composed of young musicians from the region that makes up Israel and Palestine as well as other from other countries in the Middle East. But, as Barenboim himself often said, the orchestra did not bring peace but it created a community where everyone was equal.


In Daniel Barenboim’s own words:

“I have followed the events of the weekend with horror and the utmost worry as I see the situation in Israel/Palestine worsening to unimaginable depths. Hamas’ attack on the Israeli civilian population is an outrageous crime, which I condemn fiercely. The death of so many in southern Israel and Gaza is a tragedy that will loom for a long time to come. The extent of this human tragedy is not only in lives lost but also hostages taken, homes destroyed, and communities devastated. An Israeli siege on Gaza constitutes a policy of collective punishment, which is a violation of human rights.”

“Edward Said and I always believed that the only path to peace between Israel and Palestine is a path based on humanism, justice, equality and an end to the occupation rather than military action, and I find myself today grounded in this belief more strongly than ever. In these trying times and with these words, I stand in solidarity with all victims and their families.” BACK TO TOP


Germany stands by Israel

08 October 2023: Saturday’s (07 October 2023) terrorist attack on Israel by Hamas has horrified the German public. Leaders from politics, the arts and the churches have condemned the unprovoked invasion of Israel by forces from the Gaza strip. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz promised Israel his government’s full support. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told his Israeli counterpart, Isaac Herzog, that Israel had the absolute right to defend itself against any form of terrorism. “Germany stands by Israel.”


The Catholic bishops in Germany described the attacks by Hamas on Israel as cowardly. "Once again, violence has taken a tuirn for the worse and a new dangerous escalation has been set in motion," said the leader of the German Bishops Conference, Georg Bätzing.


Nancy Faeser, Germany’s Interior Minister, stressed that the protection of Jewish and Israeli institutions in Germany is now a “top priority". The federal and state security authorities are concerned about the escalation of violence caused by the Hamas attacks on Israel and are monitoring any reactions in Germany very closely. The threat assessments for Jewish and Israeli institutions are constantly updated and protection measures are increased where necessary, she said. "In Berlin, the protection of Jewish and Israeli facilities has already been increased today," a spokesperson explained.


To express its solidarity with Israel, the Berlin state government had the Brandenburg Gate lit up in Israel's national colours on Saturday evening (07 October 2023). The building was illuminated in blue and white. A Star of David was visible centrally under the quadriga.


Berlin’s Mayor Kai Wegner said: "Berlin stands unwaveringly by Israel's side. My thoughts are with the people in Israel, with the families and friends who are now mourning the victims and trembling with the abducted people. Berlin stands unwaveringly at Israel's side in this difficult hour.” BACK TO TOP


Berlin to re-introduce its all-inclusive 29-euro travel ticket

01 October 2023: Berlin’s popular 29-euro ticket is making a comeback. Berlin’s state government (Senate) announced that, from next year, Berliners will again be able to travel for one month throughout the city for only 29 euros. It won’t matter whether they travel by bus, tram or train (U-Bahn, S-Bahn).


The ticket will operate similarly as a previous scheme, however, for the time being it will only be valid within Berlin. Passengers who want to travel beyond city borders will need to buy a supplementary ticket as the Berlin Senate was not able to convince the state government of Brandenburg, the state surrounding the German capital city, to co-operate with its low-cost travel scheme.


People on social benefit will continue to be entitled to a city-wide ticket costing only nine euros a month.


A Berlin spokesperson said that the second generation of the Berlin-ticket will be introduced during the first half of next year, probably in April.


The original Berlin ticket was discontinued after the introduction of the Deutschland-Ticket which allows unlimited travelling across Germany for only 49 Euros a month. BACK TO TOP


Against all odds, a democratic mayor defeats the far-right in Thuringia

25 September 2023: In the end and against all expectations, a democrat won the mayoral elections in Nordhausen. After the candidate of the far-right AfD party (Alternative für Deutschland / Alternative for Germany) had won over 42 per cent votes in the first round of the elections, he was considered the favourite for the run off. With around 24 per cent support, his rival, the incumbent mayor, came a distant second.


Politicians from all democratic parties, from the left to the conservative Christian Democrats, feared that Nordhausen would elect Germany's first far-right city mayor. But in the end things turned out differently. The independent incumbent was able to catch up and was clearly ahead of his right-wing challenger when all votes were counted.


With a support of some 55 per cent of those voting, Kai Buchmann was elected for a second six-year term. Jörg Prophet, from the AfD, received 45 per cent of votes cast.


The run-off election became necessary because no candidate reached the 50 per cent threshold. Nordhausen is a town in the north of Thuringia with about 42,000 inhabitants. The Thuringian AfD is classified by the state’s security services as proven right-wing extremist.


Nordhausen is located near the former concentration camp Buchenwald where during WW2 slave labour was used to build V-2 rockets. Jörg Prophet had raised eyebrows with his statements, saying that Allied troops, who liberated the camp, were solely interested in information about rockets and missiles. BACK TO TOP

Related pages: AfD in eastern Germany

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