German Politics on the Baltic Sea

Today we left Lubeck and travel north to Kiel, the state capital of Schleswig-Holstein. Located on the Baltic Sea, Schleswig-Holstein is the most northern state in the German republic with a population of 237 thousands inhabitants.

During our visit to Kiel we first visited the State Legislature, the Landtag. The state is governed by a coalition of the two biggest German political parties: Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democratic Party (SPD). The Minister President is Peter Harry Carstensen of the CDU. The ancient building housing the Landtag was once used to train naval officers. It was rebuilt using a combination of classic and modern architecture. Our first impression of the Landtag was not the government officials but a piece of machinary, a pop art like constantly moving elevator.

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After our elevator ride we met with Martin Kayenburg, President of the Land Parliament; Ekkehard Klug, Whip of the FDP Parliamentary Group and Christian Albrecht, Spokesperson for the FDP State Parliamentary Group among others. We then got a tour of the state legislature including its new House of the Kiel Fjord (house floor.) It was completed just two years ago. The room overlooks the Baltic Sea.

As much of northern Germany, Normans and Vikings first settled Kiel. Both ethnic groups continue to have a strong influence of the region, including a political party. As part of state law, two members of Parliament must be of the South Schleswig Voters’ Association – SSW. The political party is made up of the Danish minority and is exempt from the five percent clause and are guaranteed a seat in Parliament.

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Joined by some members of Parliment, we then took a short walk on the harbor and had lunch at the Hotel Kieler Yacht Club, appropriate for Kiel’s oceanic history.

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Switching gears, after lunch we went next door to met with an official at the Kiel Institute for World Economics to better understand the world economic crisis and its impact on Germany. We then were off to learn more about the history of Kiel. Located on the Baltic Sea the history of Kiel is tied to the ocean. Guided by Jann-Marjus Witt (in sweater vest), Head historian of Marinebund, the navy veterans association we went on a boat tour of the harbor and of the Laboe Naval Memorial.

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Kiel has a long seafaring tradition and was part of the Hanseatic League from 1284. (See first post from Germany.) Kiel was expelled from the league in 1518 for harboring pirates but continued to be part an important port and German naval base. Over 80% of the city was destroyed during World War II as Allied Forces tried to take out the Nazi Germany naval fleet.

The city was rebuilt in 1946. The harbor is again an important port and is a starting point for ferries and ships heading to Scandinavia and Russia.

The Naval Memorial houses a structure built in honor of World War I in memory to the German navy. Hated by Hitler for not being “pretty” enough, the memorial was saved by bombings by Allied Forces during WWII. It now houses a memorial to all men and women from across the world that lost their lives at war at sea.

One of the most astonishing things to experience was walking through the WWII U-boat. The tiny submarine was a real life death trap. German officers knew they were sending their well-trained men to death, especially during the final stages of the war, as the life expectancy was a week.

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Here are pictures of the amazingly moving memorial and the view from the top. One of the most astonishing things is the memorials respect for all peoples of all nations….

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Above, each of those marks is a boat lost in the war. Reflects all militaries of the world participating in WWII.

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