BMW and the power of innovation

A series in the BMW museum.

BMW features a museum full of history and beautiful luxury vehicles.
(photo by Katie Pflug)

by Michelle Graessle

Black leather seats. The cool smoothness of a steering wheel in eager hands. The tenacious purr of a hand crafted engine. Jaw-dropping design that would leave Leonardo Da Vinci in awe. This machine belongs in one place: on the road.

The classic image of a sleek BMW is only slightly altered for the company’s newest concept, BMW i. That difference is not actually even visible, only audible because the BMW i series of vehicles is completely electric. Although its purr may be somewhat muted, its innovation, power and design are unaltered if not improved.

Manuel Sattig, communication manager for BMW project I, is adamant that although combustion engines are becoming more efficient, they will eventually be phased out and electro-mobility will be at the forefront of automotive innovation. He said that people are becoming more and more interested in the environmental and ecological responsibility of the products they buy. With that in mind, and BMW being a customer-driven company, it has to keep up with its customers’ wants and needs and prepare for the future while maintaining brand identity.

“In this time period we are in the middle of an iconic change. Right now, this is not a technology that is the most suitable necessarily for today and tomorrow, but it will definitely be one of the major technologies of the future. That’s why you have to take care of it now, to make your company fit for the future,” Sattig said.

An American BWM tour guide showcases one of BMW's tiniest models.

An American BWM tour guide showcases one of BMW’s tiniest models.
(photo by Marina Weis)

BMW did extensive research before moving forward with the cars. The BMW i3 will be released this fall and the BMW i8 next year.  The price for the i3 will be under 40,000 euros  in Euope; BMW hasn’t finalize the price yet.

The BMW i was formerly known as the “Megacity Vehicle” and is best suited for urban markets. The car must be charged like any other battery-powered device but is also complemented with a small combustion engine. This combination makes for an extraordinary driving experience while also maintaining exceptionally low fuel consumption and emission levels, Sattig said.

Sattig said that the two most important benefits of driving a BMW i are its focuses on environmental and economic efficiency.

“The environment is important because we have to reduce resources and emissions of vehicles. Also, you can actually say right now that driving an electric vehicle is about half the price, just for energy costs, of driving a very efficient combustion engine. Those are the two major factors people think about when considering electro-mobility,” Sattig said.

New innovations aside, BMW will always be a company devoted to driver experience and the tradition of the brand as Stefan Mueller, a staff member of the International Corporate Communications department, can attest to.  For example, it is important to BMW that its cars can go from 0 to 60 mph in four seconds.

“BMW is a brand driven by emotion. Our cars are sold on the notion that driving is for sport and it’s fun,” Mueller said.

The appropriately shaped BMW building.

The appropriately shaped BMW building.
(photo by Carson Allwes)

BMW can trace its roots back to Karl Rapp and Gustav Otto, according to the company’s website. In 1916, the Flugmaschinenfabrik Gustav Otto company had merged into Bayerische Flugzeug-Werke AG (BFW) at government behest. Elsewhere, in 1917, the Rapp Motorenwerke company morphed into Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH, which was duly converted into an AG (public limited company) in 1918. BMW became an automobile manufacturer in 1928; the first motorcycle was produced in 1945. It bought the Rover Group in the United Kingdom to expand its range of models, including the Land Rover, Rover, MG, Triumph and Mini. It acquired Rolls Royce in 1998

This idea holds true as visitors cross the street into the BMW Welt and Museum, where the tradition and history of this iconic brand is encapsulated in some exquisite architecture. Classic cars and new concepts are on display for visitors to ogle, including the Rolls Royce and Mini vehicles it produces. Shiny and pristine, the museum holds original airplane engines and motorcycles of the inception of the company as well as showcases the development of BMW through the years.

As the Point Park visitors made their way through the many displays, Mueller’s idea of “driving for sport” is grossly apparent. Each specimen of automotive prowess displayed at the BMW Welt and Museum clearly wants to be used for more than just driving to work. Emotionally invested employees clearly designed and created these cars with some grand scheme of experience in mind; not just for transportation but for the love of driving.

Touring Berlin

Reichstag

A view of the Reichstag
(photo by Michelle Graessle)

by Michelle Graessle

The barely full tour bus hit every bump in the unfamiliar road with little regard to its travel-worn passengers as it made its way toward the city. This particular bus was not immune to typical characteristics of other buses. The smell was stale and the air slightly stagnant. Seemingly unsuspectingly, this bus rolled along the highway in typical fashion; however, it was only a matter of time before this bus and its cargo would be enveloped by a foreign culture steeped in such a colorful history and taken completely by surprise.

The best way to describe a driving tour of Germany’s capital city Berlin is as a virtual reality history book. Instead of reading from a text, Liane Schulz, our tour guide is talking about what happened over a worn-out PA system. Instead of looking at pictures, the Point Park passengers are seeing it with their own eyes.

“And if you’ll look to your left, you’ll see the Brandenburg Gate,” she nonchalantly mentions.

The Brandenburg Gate is a cultural and historical icon.  (photo by Alexa Blanchard)

The Brandenburg Gate is a cultural and historical icon.
(photo by Alexa Blanchard)

The Brandenburg Gate has had an interesting view on so many decades of history, its symbolism changing with the times. Originally upon its inception, it was a symbol of peace. Then in Nazi times, it was a symbol of the party. It had a front row seat to that long, terrible reign and then later the end of the Berlin Wall.

As the bus rolled on, the tour guide mentioned another interesting tidbit about Berlin. “We have 170 museums in Berlin. That’s more museums than days it’s raining here,” Schulz  said.

And how couldn’t there be? With so much history to explore, it comes as no surprise that Berlin is home to a multitude of museums. The tour guide pointed out a museum at Checkpoint Charlie, one of the former connecting points between East and West Berlin. There is the Topography of Terrors that chronicles many aspects of Germany under Nazi rule, which was very close to the group’s hotel in Berlin, and there are also many diverse art museums to visit, many on Museum.

Just as diverse, Schulz explains, are the types of people living in Berlin. Of the 3.5 million citizens, the top three groups of immigrants come from Turkey, Croatia and other parts of Eastern Europe. One hundred and eighty countries are represented in this 775-year-old melting pot of a city. Also included in the population of Berlin are students. Berlin is the setting for to four universities and around 260,000 students. Because of this, nightlife is a large part of Berlin’s culture, giving it a unique reputation to the rest of Germany.

Students explore the Holocaust Memorial. (photo by Connor Mulvaney)

Students explore the Holocaust Memorial.
(photo by Connor Mulvaney)

Berlin attracts 1.2 million visitors per year, the guide said. Also not a surprise as on a driving tour alone the students saw the Reichstag building, Potsdamer Platz and the Sony Center, the Victory column, also known by American soldiers in World War II as the “Chick on a Stick,” and so many other iconic tourist destinations and historically relevant locations. The Point Park students and faculty stretched their legs at the Holocaust Memorial, a striking outdoor sculpture and commemorative museum in the midst of their initial tour.

This dynamic and diverse city also offers other unique experiences to travelers in its distinctive gastronomy and cultural nuances. If a tour bus could talk, it would tell visitors that Berlin is a must see for anyone interested in Germany as a travel destination.

Fotogalerie im Blauen Haus

fotogalerieby Connor Mulvaney

“I think somebody said ‘if you want to make a statement, send a letter,’” said Nick Hermanns, curator of the Fotogalerie im Blauen Haus in Munich.

“Photography isn’t about having a message. This is just showing how somebody sees a special part of the world.”

Hermanns not only curates his own gallery but also is an avid professional photographer, author and a graphic designer. Seeing the trade of photography from both sides of the gallery windows has given him an interesting perspective on the field.

“I have a pretty simple philosophy about photography. It’s not so artistic and not so sophisticated,” said Hermanns. “[Making a photograph] is just showing how I see something. It’s just a picture.”

Hermanns , 63, who has lived in Munich for 45 years and has operated his gallery since 2010, describes his taste as traditional, which drives his choices in exhibitions in his gallery.  His current exhibit, “Landscape Impressions” is by Willi Morali, a photographer and architect from Velbert, Rheinland

“There is one thing which all my artists have in common.  They do pure photography, so they don’t manipulate [their photographs],” said Hermanns.

This technical foundation separates Fotogalerie im Blauen Haus from the field of German galleries and photographers, according to Hermanns. “I don’t think [this exhibit] fits in anything.  It’s really completely outstanding,” Hermanns said.  “It’s really far away from the German art scene.”

In an art community with many “extremely expensive” and popular photographers, Hermanns’ gallery stays true to his principles.

“This gallery has its focus on photography, not on art. It’s more [about] a kind of straight photography, which is easy to understand and nice to look at,” said Hermanns.  “Of course, sometimes the issues [represented in themes of other works] are wilder than this one, but still, it’s not a big art thing.  It’s just photography.”

willimoraliPhotos in Landscape Impressions by Morali were all exposed on film across several countrysides across Europe.  Each is carefully composed, often with vanishing points or displaying perspective in some form in a way that draws the viewer’s eye around the picture and easily allows him or her to digest the photograph.

“It’s pretty easy to understand. It’s not a sophisticated kind of artificial photography,” said Hermanns.  “You can just look at it, you see it’s a tree, it’s black and white, and I understand what is happening there.  It’s nothing with a big concept or intellectual whatever. It’s just photography.”

The photos were printed in a darkroom on silver gelatin paper and then toned with gold, selenium or palladium to give them a taste of color as well as to preserve them.

This may read like Greek to the modern photo enthusiast, but it is this traditional approach that Hermanns has a passion for.

“The guys who work like this are not so many.  Most [photographers today] shoot digitally…and this very traditional style starts to become rare,” said Hermanns.

However, the value of traditionally made photographs in a lightning-fast paced field is not necessarily worth its weight in whatever it’s toned in.

“I don’t think [working this way] is of value. It’s just another way to work,” said Hermanns.  “I think it’s a question of feeling.  [Silver gelatin] gives you the feeling that this is really craftsmanship, somebody did something with that and not [just] pushed a button.  Both can bring perfect results.”

Morali was able to produce such perfect results in Landscape Impressions, according to Hermanns.

“I think he’s a really extremely perfect printer,” he said.  “If you’ve seen the tones of the photography, there is still something in the black, the deep parts of the photo, and also in the very, very light ones.  This is perfectly done; it’s just really good craft.”

DPA’s classic news in a modern world

dpa_newsroom_politik3by Connor Mulvaney

Chief photographer of the Deutsche Presse-Agentur Michael Kappeler believes taking one good photograph is all you need to market news photos.

“Before in the print world, we tried [to get] one good photo which tells the whole story, but now that’s changing,” said Kappeler.

Today in the digital world, photographers are able to tell stories in countless photographs. However, this is not how DPA conducts its business.

“Print is still important,” said Kappeler.

A surprising statement from a modern newsperson, but in his opinion, it’s a justifiable one.

“It’s the moneymaker for us because we cannot earn money in the digital world,” said Kappeler.  “So we make money with the print clients and so we have to satisfy them.”

Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH, founded in 1949 in Germany and based in Hamburg, has grown to be a major worldwide operation serving print media, radio, television, online, mobile phones, and national news agencies. News is available in GermanEnglishSpanish and Arabic. The English service is produced in Berlin, which is also the location of the central news office. The DPA has offices in 80 countries, 12 regional German bureaus along with 50 additional offices in Germany. Point Park students and faculty visited the Berlin office and also heard from Christian Rowenkamp, head of corporate communication, on DPA operations.

In particular, DPA aims to please clients with its “classic” news photographs.  That is, one photo that shows the action and emotion of a situation, and tells the story with one exposure of the camera sensor. Kapperler said the agency has 100 photographers in Germany alone to accomplish that compared to the eight the Associated Press has in all of Germany.

By using the word “client,” Kappeler is of course referring to media outlets.  Not the public.  This in opposition to its  American counterpart, AP, who caters to its  news partners but also permits some public access to its website, stories and photographs. .

“We are only providing news to business clients,” said Kappeler.  “They can use these pictures or information to bring to their clients because we have no way to earn money back [from non-business clients].  So they can [sell] news to their clients, so they can buy the news.”

The DPA’s international reach and commitment to its German clients make it vital to reporting German news.  Its client list proves it. Nearly 100 percent of German media outlets are partners of DPA, according to Kappeler.

“For…the Olympics, or the pope’s election… we send our own DPA photographers to countries where these things happen,” said Kappeler.  These photographers have two jobs – “They do general news, but they also follow the German interest.”

dpa_web_02A hard concept to understand for Americans, as the United States is often at the center of attention when it is involved in global affairs.  For smaller countries like Germany, an extra effort is required to report international news.

“If something happens, there is not always a German interest [reported by other outlets],” said Kappeler.  “The best example is the Olympics.  If a German sports team reaches fourth place, nobody will take a picture of them because [reporters] just follow the medal winners.”

One DPA German photograph of interest worldwide was the recent one that Kappeler himself took – of outgoing Pope Benedict’s hand with the papal ring about to be destroyed per Catholic Church regulations.  He said he took a chance on that photograph, but it was used in countless publications.

Thus, DPA’s commitment to its clients leads them to exactly what they need.

“It’s our task, then, just to follow the German interest because there is a huge media market in Germany, so we have a lot of clients and they want to know what the Germans are doing.”

Pittsburgh, meet Munich

The Glockenspiel towers over Marienplatz.  (photo by Carson Allwes)

The Glockenspiel towers over Marienplatz.
(photo by Carson Allwes)

by Carson Allwes

Point Park University’s International Media class arrived in Munich on Friday from the airport and straight into a tour of Germany’s third largest city.

Tour guide Arnoud Beck provided a bus tour from the airport to the hotel. Beck pointed out key points such as the Autobahn, the highway in Germany famous for not having a speed limit. The advisory speed limit is 130 kilometers or 81 miles per hour, and buses and trucks should travel at 80 kilometers per hour or around 60 miles per hour, according to the highway’s website.

Old and new buildings, including Munich’s soccer stadium, flashed by the bus windows as the bus took the group to its hotel. The hotel, Europäischer Hof, is in the center of Munich, near Marienplatz.  And it was very close to the main train station, which the group used a number of times for visits.

Henry the Lion founded Marienplatz in 1158. Today it is a shopping center. Downtown Marienplatz was filled with people browsing shops, eating in cafés, visiting street vendors and enjoying outdoor street music.

Vendors set up along the streets with their carts full of fruits, vegetables and white spargel, or asparagus, which was in season.  Their customers were dressed in everything from lederhosen to everyday apparel.

This Marienplatz street vendor sells fresh produce. (photo by Carson Allwes)

This Marienplatz street vendor sells fresh produce.
(photo by Carson Allwes)

Marienplatz has several key points that depict Munich. Beck showed the group a couple of churches, including Bürgersaalkirche and the Frauenkirche.

Bürgersaalkirche is between two buildings and almost blends into the scenery. The church has a museum for the Rev. Rupert Mayer SJ. He was a Jesuit priest who was a chaplain in World War I, losing a leg in a grenade attack. During World War II he preached against the Nazis and was placed in “protective custody” and later sent to a concentration camp by the Nazis. He returned to a hero’s welcome from Catholics and others after the war ended and died of a stroke in November 1945. Pope John Paul II beautified him in 1987, which is a path to sainthood. The museum also displayed many other different religious statues and relics.

The Frauenkirche is the tallest building in Munich. It was decided by the city that no building should be taller than the Frauenkirche’s two towers, which are around 100 meters tall.

Beck explained why the Frauenkirche survived the war.

“The high points of the church gave the army [a marker] to bomb the city,” he said.

This saved the Frauenkirche and many other tall buildings as they were used for the military during the second war.

Inside the Frauenkirhe, Beck told the story of how the church was built. According to legend, Jörg von Halsbach needed funding in order to build the church and asked the Devil for help. The Devil would help but only if Halsbach did not put windows in the church.

The devil's footprint sits on a tile inside the church. (photo by Carson Allwes)

The devil’s footprint sits on a tile inside the Frauenkirhe church.
(photo by Carson Allwes)

Halsbach tricked the Devil by using the architecture to give the appearance of a windowless church. Devil was not fooled.

“In [the Devil’s] anger at being fooled, he [stomped] his foot and left his footprint [in the floor],” Beck said, showing it to the students.

The Frauenkirche is also the home of the archbishop. This is the church where former Pope Benedict XVI practiced as bishop before moving on to the Vatican.

Another famous piece of architecture is the Glockenspiel.

The Glockenspiel is in the center of Marienplatz, an old gothic-themed building with gargoyles and flying buttresses. The clock is in the center tower. The clock tower has two open windows with pieces that move at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., attracting a crowd. The inner mechanics put on a show for the people in the square. The entire show lasts about 15 minutes.

Beck’s tour ended with permission to begin exploring and sampling Munich’s cafés and restaurants. The tour formed a foundation of important landmarks and history that better shaped the group’s understanding of the city over the rest of their trip.

An Overview of Süddeutsche Zeitung

Suddeutsche Zeitung features a broadsheet layout.  (photo by Carson Allwes)

Suddeutsche Zeitung features a broadsheet layout.
(photo by Carson Allwes)

by Carson Allwes

Point Park International Media class’ final media visit was to Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of the largest quality newspapers in Germany.

Süddeutsche Zeitung was the first free national paper in Germany. It reaches about one and half million people and is a Monday to Saturday paper. It depends partly on subscribers and single copies; about 84 percent of total sales come from this. One subscriber pays about 51.60 euro per month.

Having this revenue helps it not accept any government funds, which is true for some other German media. “There is no political pressure…no pressure from the government what to write,” said Michael Stengl, the product manager of advertisements.

Stengl started with a video of what a day is like at Süddeutsche Zeitung. Stengl translated the video and introduced the group to the newspaper company.

A day at Süddeutsche Zeitung starts at 4 in morning and the paper starts printing at 6 o’clock in the evening. There are usually three editions of the paper before the final copy.

“There are a few similarities between The New York Times and Süddeutsche Zeitung,” Stengl said.

There are regionals papers, free advertising papers, business information and specialized medicial and technology papers under the Süddeutsche Zeitung brand. The national edition of Süddetusche Zeitung, often abbreviated simply as “SZ,” contains four feature sections in economy, culture, sports, and politics. Issues printed for Munich and its closest municipalities will normally contain a local news insert.

Süddeutsche Zeitung has published an eight-page insert of The New York Times articles since 2004; this is known as The New York Times International Weekly and it is in English.

Suddeutsche Zeitung's first issue was published in 1975. (photo by Carson Allwes)

Suddeutsche Zeitung’s first issue was published in 1975.
(photo by Carson Allwes)

In 2000, advertising problems became a concern for the company. Süddeutsche Zeitung Library was created to response to provide revenue, which is a book group that has 50 works in the collection. Consumer can either buy the complete set or the individual book. The library venture was a huge success, Stengl said.

Süddeutsche Zeitung sold 80,000 complete sets and 12 million books total. Now, the company is expanding its medium to CDs and DVDs.

Süddeutsche Zeitung was located in Marienplatz for about six decades until the economy collapsed, Stengl said, and it resulted in a major staff reduction and need for a new direction to survive. A new building was constructed on the outskirts of Munich in 2007, and at the time was the most advanced and ecofriendly building in Germany.

Süddeutsche Zeitung is a unique newspaper because it has its own major production process plant, Stengl said, which is home to a state-of-the-art printing press. It is in charge of printing and packaging enough papers to supply SZ’s massive circulation as well as single copies. Along with Süddeutsche Zeitung’s own audience to satisfy, there are 13 other newspapers in Munich printed at SZ’s plant that exist outside of Süddeutsche Zeitung brand.

Stengl emphasized the quality of the paper and the need to be innovative to keep subscribers and to attract new readers.

“We focus on the quality of the paper,” Stengl said. “[And] on the quality of our products.”

He also said the editor in chief wants to be sure “not to bore” the professor or businessman but also to “educate the common people.”

Several other staff members and editors addressed the group, journalist Viola Schenz and Barbara Vorsamer, subchief editor. They reviewed the online process and the journalistic process the newspaper follows.

Vorsamer noted that the paper’s has “one of the most-read and unique news sites in Germany.” She said, “We were not the first, but we have one the most highly regarded sites in Germany.”

The staff posts all of what’s in the print edition, but some content is exclusively online. The newspaper uses real-time tracking for the site, and she noted that the peak time is noon to 1 p.m., or lunchtime.

Both Vorsamer and Schenz stressed that he most important issue for Süddeutsche Zeitung was the quality of its paper to reflect the brand of all its products for the masses. The paper has worked tirelessly to deliver the best news possible to their subscribers and have been rewarded immensely for their efforts, they said. Their innovation in printing, quality journalism, business and advertising have earned them significant recognition and accolades.

Point Park University students tour ZDF with Wulf Schmiese

Wulf and his co-host chat with musical act Frida Gold

Wulf and his co-host chat with musical act Frida Gold

by Johnie Freiwald

On their fourth day in Berlin, Point Park students and faculty visited the public television network Zweites Deustches Fernsehen or ZDF. They were awake bright and early to walk to the station with their tour guide because the day held something special: They were ready to be part of the studio audience of ZDF’s morning show, MoMa Café.

During the show the students experienced a live performance by Frida Gold, a German pop band. ZDF’s MoMa Café is a modern, trendy show similar to the United States’ “Good Morning America.” They regularly bring musical acts and guests that are well known by the young people in Germany to attract a youthful audience.

The hosts of MoMa Café frequently took time to speak with their studio audience. However, because the show is completely in German, most of the Point Park students were more or less in the dark for the entirety of the show. Despite the language barrier, MoMa Café has a similar format to many American morning news and talk shows with guests, musicians, video segments, games, and interruptions to present the weather or breaking news.

After the show, the group met with one of the show’s presenters or host, Wulf Schmiese. He spent most of his career as a hard-news journalist and had studied in the United States for a number of years during his time in university. Schmiese worked as a political correspondent for a Bonn newspaper in the early 2000s and then went on to be one of the founders of the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine. Then, in 2009, he left his longtime post as a political correspondent to cohost ZDF’s MoMa Café.

He explained that because ZDF is a public broadcasting system, and the one and only national television station in Germany, it does not have to worry about revenue. German residents must pay 16 euros a month to get this channel. “It’s a huge amount of money we get every year, billions of dollars,” he said. “For viewers, we mark it [pour programming] down to 16 cents for getting information and entertainment. Our show, I describe it as a salad. … the meat is the political stuff and the green and red stuff is the entertainment.

“It works well. It’s part of the democracy here. We’re like a newspaper. We’re like a magazine … a little bit of everything.”

The audience of ZDF's morning talk show, MoMa Cafe.

The audience of ZDF’s morning talk show, MoMa Cafe.

Schmiese imparted his wisdom about broadcasting and ZDF to the Point Park students and a group of young Palestinian students studying international diplomacy who were also visiting Germany. He explained what journalism means to him: “You have to find the middle. You have to find a way that it is not too banal or too stupid for people who are informed and have an idea of what’s going on in Palestine or wherever. You can’t be too complicated just for the professors and have a lot of people saying ‘What is he talking about.’  So you really have to find the middle way.”

He prepares himself by reading voraciously and writing his own scripts. That helps his presentation of the information, something he said he is still working on and critiques continually. He develops four to five questions for his interview subjects on the show but still tries to be natural in his work.

Schmiese is also the producer and editor-in-chief for the show, and he said the planning process starts days ahead of the broadcast. The staff is flexible, though, for breaking news. “We work like a newspaper,” he said. “The team watches what happens overnight and we have a telephone conference at 8 a.m. for the next day’s work.

The students were able to take away the level of Schmiese’s experience and expertise as well as his love for his work. His past work as a correspondent – sometimes even joining the president, chancellor, and foreign minister on trips – as well as his current post as a successful morning show host helped him, he told the students.

Schmiese answered questions about German’s allegiance to Israel and the need to recognize Palestine as a nation from the diplomacy students, who wore commemorative T-shirts marking the exact anniversary of that day in 1948 that Palestinians were expelled from Israel and now still cannot return to Haifa.

“Germany has a special relationship with Israel. We don’t call Palestine a nation … but as a territory. We must be careful – as people may say you who killed the Jews. Germany is waiting for U.N. acceptance as Palestine as a state. It should be more of what your people want, not what your government wants,” he said. Schmiese noted that he had worked as a correspondent in the Middle East and had full knowledge of the difficulty of divided cities and nations as he responded.

. The Point Park students finished this informative and fun-filled visit with a group picture with Schmiese and their new Palestinian diplomacy student friends.

Complete madness then, a beautiful museum now

madness-pflug

Part of the Berlin Wall, on the Topography of Terrors grounds, that reads “Madness”
(photo by Katie Pflug)

by Katie Pflug

Berlin, Germany’s Topography of Terror historic site is set on what used to be the site of the Reich Security Main office, but it is now a complex where visitors can learn more about the history of the Holocaust and the Nazi reign in Germany.

Even though National Socialist terror was planned and organized by other parties, the Reich Security Main Office was the center of most of the Nazi regime’s mass crimes and acts of terror.  Between 1933 and 1945, the central institutions of Nazi persecution and terror – the Secret State Police Office with its own “house prison,” the leadership of the SS and, during the Second World War, the Reich Security Main Office – were located on the present-day grounds of the “Topography of Terror” that are next to the Martin Gropius Building and close to Potsdamer Platz, according to its website. It was just blocks away from the Suite Novotel, where the Point Park group stayed during its time in Berlin.

After the war the grounds were leveled and initially used for commercial purposes. Later, in 1987, as part of Berlin’s 750th anniversary celebration, the terrain was made accessible to the public under the name “Topography of Terror.” An exhibition hall and the exposed building remains on the former Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse (today’s Niederkirchnerstrasse) and Wilhelmstrasse were used to document the history of the site. The documentation center opened in 2010.

Exhibit at the Topography of Terrors (photo by Katie Pflug)

Exhibit at the Topography of Terrors
(photo by Katie Pflug)

Now the grounds of the Topography of Terror have a haunted feel, almost as if visitors are being transformed back into that time period. It has part of the Berlin Wall as a backdrop, which adds more history and eeriness. There is a piece of the wall with the word “Madness” lightly written.  This part of the wall stuck out to many visitors because many of them stopped and looked at the part of the wall particularly long.  “The word [madness] describes how Germany was during that time period through the use of one word,” Andrea Karsesnick stated.

The outside exhibit begins with the year 1933, which is when the Nazi Party rise began. It was set up with large pictures, text, and propaganda posters.  There are also other sections of the wall that are on their sides, with the metal exposed.  The wall, in the form, looks like an art form.

It all starts in 1933 with “The Path to Dictatorship,” describing how Adolph Hitler came to power.   This section of the exhibit is very time consuming but worth each second. It starts with describing the phase where Germany was between democracy and a dictatorship.

There is one picture in particular that stood out more than the others.  The picture of the marching SS officers holding the flag with the Nazi symbol on it made it known to everyone that the Nazi Party was taking over.  This photograph was taken in January 1933.

The Reichstag Fire and Nazi Terror in Berlin was another key section of the 1933 exhibit, explaining the burning of the Reichstag building.  The burning of the Reichstag building, executed by a young Dutchman, Marinus van der Lubbe, led to the Nazi Terror taking place in Berlin.

The Topography of Terror, a commemorative site in Berlin, details the Nazi Party's rise to power in 1933 through the end of the war and the Nuremberg trials. Here Professor David Fabilli views some of the public shaming Jews endured in the years leading up to the Holocaust.  (Photograph by Helen Fallon)

The Topography of Terror, a commemorative site in Berlin, details the Nazi Party’s rise to power in 1933 through the end of the war and the Nuremberg trials. Here Professor David Fabilli views some of the public shaming Jews endured in the years leading up to the Holocaust.
(Photograph by Helen Fallon)

There are many propaganda posters hanging around the exhibit.  Each of them offers an explanation of what each poster is trying to persuade everyone to think is right.  Each of the photographs and propaganda posters really brought the exhibit to life.

In the middle of the 1933 exhibit there are separate hanging posters to remember some of the victims of Nazi Terror in Berlin.  All of the victims’ photographs are accompanied by their personal stories that would make anyone sick to his or her stomach.

For example, Franz Wilczoch, a laborer, was taken to the district court prison on June 22, 1933.  The Nazis were using the district court prison as a detention and torture center.  When he was there, they severely maltreated him.  His face was beaten with burning torches, they poured hot tar onto his wounds, his hair was cut or torn out, and he was plastered with adhesive tape.  He died from his injuries on June 30, 1933.

The exhibit then goes into events happening later in 1933, such as the Anti-Jewish Terror, purges and employment bans, Day of National Labor and the destruction of the trade unions, book burning, and the consolidation of power.

After the 1933 exhibit there is much more to see inside the  documentation center, which continues the timeline until beyond 1945 – from the start of the war, the “shamings” and public humiliation of remaining Jews, SS officers retreats, persecution of prisoners and Hitler’s opponents, to the trials of the leaders.

The grounds are landscaped with trees and a large pathway, which makes it easy to stop for a second and remember the terrible events that happened on that very location.

The pathway leads around all of the grounds and finally makes its way back to the documentation center.  Information on the Gestapo and SS offices are just a few of the examples of history that is around the pathway.

The center also includes a library, open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.; guided one-hour tours are also available. No admission fee is charged, and the site operates from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily.  Staff members start closing the documentation center at 7:45 p.m. It is all wheelchair accessible.

According to its website, 900,000 people visited the “Topography of Terror” in 2012, making the documentation center one of the most frequently visited places of remembrance in Berlin.

Students remember victims at Dachau

Jewish Memorial at Dachau Concentration Camp

The Jewish Memorial at Dachau casts a light of hope on its visitors.
(photo by Marina Weis)

by Marina Weis

The deceptive words, arbeit macht frei, or, labor makes you free, welcomed thousands of prisoners as they made their way through the entryway into the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.

Now weeds grow over the rusted barbed wire that surrounds a large courtyard plagued with an eerie emptiness. Songbirds pierce the silence as small groups of visitors pause to read at information stands about the atrocities that happened here years ago when thousands of people were tortured and killed for the Nazi regime.

“We are walking on the ashes of the people who died here,” said Arnoud Beck, a tour guide for Explorica who was leading the Point Park group of visitors through the camp as part of the International Media class.

“Can we take photos?” asked a student visitor.

“No,” Beck answered. The tourists frowned. “You have to take pictures to show the world so it never happens again.”

Out of many concentration camps in Germany, this was the first set up by the Nazi regime and acted as an example to the rest that followed. It opened in 1933 as a camp for political prisoners – all those who opposed Hitler, such as communists, social democrats and especially the Jews. But in 1938 it became a concentration camp. Originally designed to hold 6,000 prisoners, the Americans who liberated the camp found it overfilled with 32,000.

Although the Americans liberated the camp in 1945, it was still used as a place for immigrants and homeless people. It was only after riots that the camp was closed around 1965. Soon after, the Bavarian government decided to make it an open-air memorial, and it includes three religious installments – Catholic, Jewish and Protestant. Some of the outdoor sculpture depicts those prisoners who ended their lives by running into the electrified barbed wire to end their suffering or attempting to escape by whatever possible means only to be shot by guards atop one of the towers surrounding the perimeter of the concentration camp. The camp now receives more than 1 million annual visitors.

Munich tour guide Arnoud Beck explains how the Dachau prisoners were crammed into the barrack's sleeping quarters.

Munich tour guide Arnoud Beck explains how the Dachau prisoners were crammed into the barrack’s sleeping quarters.
(photo by Helen Fallon)

All 30 of the original barracks, which each housed more than 2,000 prisoners, were destroyed, but two exact copies were re-created for the memorial. But the gas chamber and crematorium are more or less original, according to Beck.

A native of Holland, Beck said he know many families who lost their relatives in the Holocaust. The first time he visited the camp was 20 years ago, but even after so many years, the terror still resonates with him.

“I’ve been here 100 times, and I’m still getting emotional,” Beck said. “If I go 100 times into wherever – who cares? But if I go into a camp, I still get emotional. It’s unbelievable.”

For Beck, one of the most depressing aspects about the camp is looking at the photos of prisoners who suffered from the medical experiments they were forced to participate in by the Nazis.

One photo array in the visitor center shows a man used as a subject for an aeronautic experiment for research into the possibility of survival at great altitudes. Three photos show him in a high-pressure room, and his facial expressions become progressively pained. Eventually, his brain could not take the pressure, and he died.

Others were subject to being injected with malaria and put in ice-cold water to test equipment, among other tests.

The prisoners who were traveling on a train for a week or two had hardly any food or water, so the Nazis felt they needed to be disinfected. Visitors can walk through the disinfection room that connects to the gas chamber and then eventually the crematorium. The heavy chemicals emitted from the pipes in the narrow, dark disinfection room sometimes killed the prisoners as well.

Dim light cast long, eerie shadows of visitors in the low ceiling room with small, barred windows near the floor of the gas chamber.

“This was the center for potential mass murder,” Beck said. “The room was disguised as showers and equipped with fake shower spouts to mislead the victims and prevent them from refusing to enter the room.”

An art memorial depicting intertwined bones and bodies adorns the exterior of the Dachau Concentration Camp museum.  (photo by Sara Tallerico)

An artistic memorial depicting intertwined bones and bodies adorns the exterior of the Dachau Concentration Camp museum.
(photo by Sara Tallerico)

The prisoners who were not deemed fit were transported to Auschwitz’s gas chambers in many cases instead of this gas chamber here at Dachau because the camp did not have enough fuel to burn the bodies, according to Beck. They had to get rid of the evidence. But some prisoners were forced to strip naked and enter the gas chamber. Death by poison gas could take up to 20 minutes.

The crematorium was erected to serve as both a killing facility and to remove the dead. Following the crematorium is a room with stained walls used to store corpses brought from the camp to be cremated.

Prisoners at the camp faced at 13-hour workday, seven days a week. The barracks had to be kept in pristine condition. If coffee were spilled on the floor, the entire barrack would be punished, Beck said.

Originally, each barrack was meant to 200 prisoners, but as the war waged on, they housed more than 2,000 with no insulation and no heater. Privacy did not exist, as there was one big toilet area and one washing room with two basins for the entire barrack.

Some of the beds, made up of wooden planks, have separators for privacy, but in other rooms, there are no separators. But this was an advantage in the winter as body heat helped to warm the prisoners.

But most people died because of sickness above anything else, according to Beck and the center’s website. At the end of 1944, the number of prisoners staggered over 60,000 and the living conditions were catastrophic due to poor hygiene and food supplies. An epidemic of typhus claimed over 15,000 lives. A serious case of tuberculosis was also discovered in block no. 29, and people were murdered in groups of 20 by injection.

A grave marker pays tribute to the unknown victims. (photo by Michelle Graessle)

A grave marker pays tribute to the unknown victims.
(photo by Michelle Graessle)

Finally the camp was liberated in April of 1945. But the Americans could not believe what they found. A few trucks containing prisoners were never opened because they soldiers forgot, and more than 200 prisoners died.

Many prisoners, who ate the chocolate the soldiers brought, died as they did not have any solid food for a long time. Some others, desperate for new clothing, went to the now-abandoned SS barracks. They donned some of the guards’ clothing, and the Americans, suspicious of them, kept them imprisoned. Some, according to a memoir published by a South Tyrol conscientious objector, were sent to a French prisoner of war camp for months after the camp’s liberation.

Others could not leave the camp immediately because they had to go through decontamination due to illness. It took some nine to 10 months before they could leave, as many were also too weak to enter society.

At the end of the visitor center, there is a display explaining what happened to the war criminals involved in national socialist crimes at Dachau. The trials by the Allies were the first of their kind and became models for following trials, but with the beginning of the Cold War, interest in prosecution began to recede. The West German justice system took over, and despite preliminary trials, there were an overwhelming number to deal with and then only a few prosecutions. Most offenses were placed under amnesty and therefore many of the crimes committed remained unpunished.

“You have people that don’t know about the massive executions. You have to think about 26 million people were killed in five years,” Beck said to his group of visitors, cameras peppered among them as he ended the tour. “I hope when you show those pictures to other people, I hope that they got that same effect and start thinking about what they are doing.”

The Axel Springer empire

Axel Springer exterior

Axel Springer took a chance by building the headquarters in Berlin.
(photo by Marina Weis)

by Marina Weis

Everyone thought journalist Axel Springer was crazy when he built his publishing house on the west side of Berlin during World War II.

A few days later, the Berlin wall was built right beside it.

But Springer had faith that Germany would be reunited and his headquarters would be in the center of a unified Germany. He believed his company had to pursue something called corporate social responsibility, with his fellow journalists fighting for a free social market. He called the headquarters that towered over the wall the lighthouse of freedom.

Although the Berlin Wall no longer stands near the headquarters today, the company still towers as the leading publishing house in the country, owning more than 230 newspapers and magazines with more than 80 online offerings, as well as involvement in television and radio stations and activity in 44 countries, according to its website. Its tabloid, Bild, has the highest circulation among Europe’s newspapers with more than 12 million people reading it daily.

Axel Springer, the journalist, may be gone, but current leaders of the company say his entrepreneurial spirit, creativity and integrity are carried through in every aspect of the company, even in the contracts of each journalist.

“Everything that he said came true and is still valuable today,” said Leeor Englander, assistant to the editor-in-chief of Die Welt, a large national newspaper owned by Axel Springer. “They were fighting against communism before and now it is terror today.”

Because Springer focused not only on content, but also on distribution and production, stemming from his family’s background in the newspaper business, he built the first print houses in Germany, and Axel Springer AG therefore began to print other newspapers, creating joint ventures, which began the expansion.

Leeor Englander greets the Point Park students and faculty.  (photo by Johnie Freiwald)

Leeor Englander greets the Point Park students and faculty.
(photo by Johnie Freiwald)

“At the time when Axel Springer invented Bild Zeitung, it was comparable with Facebook,” Englander said. “He did something nobody ever did before … The way he invented new magazines was the same way people today invent new apps and websites.”

In the same way that Springer fostered technological innovations, the company now strives to be the leading digital media company in Germany. Axel Springer AG currently generates more than a third of its revenue from its international business and with digital media.

Englander boasts of Die Welt as the first newspaper to have color, pictures, a compact version, a mobile application and to be the first real German national newspaper to go online.

“Journalism has nothing to do with paper,” Englander said. “It’s how do we reach our readers. We are not trying to keep print alive – We are trying to keep it as long as we can.”

Subscription only covers half the production cost of Die Welt. Advertising and classifieds cover the rest. Years ago, the reader paid almost all of it.

Despite ranking third among other leading print publications in Germany, Die Welt has taken leaps to further its digital presence, adopting a philosophy of mass-market journalism, which focuses on reaching all target groups with new products. It now sells more digital subscriptions per month than print.

“We knew that people were willing to pay for digital content,” Englander said. “Online is the most important distribution channel for the future.”

The focus was so much so online that Die Welt just last year decided to produce its content for online first, and then, at the end of the day, take the best content that was already online and publish it in print.

For comparison, Englander said Volkswagen builds the same car for both Germany and United States, but it looks only a little bit different because marketing is different in the United States. He said in the same breath, Die Welt produces the same content for its compact version, but it’s just less and shorter.

This repurposing of content in order to reach different readers can be seen Axel Springer’s publications. For example, the science section in the compact version of Die Welt was recently renamed Internet news to attract younger readers.

Axel Springer Academy students explain what they're learning to the Point Park students and faculty.  (photo by Helen Fallon)

Axel Springer Academy students explain what they’re learning to the Point Park students and faculty.
(photo by Helen Fallon)

In order to ease into the switch from old economy print style to a multimedia company, Axel Springer AG created a journalism academy to act as a change agent or think tank, bringing “fresh blood” and a “new mindset” to the company, according to Rudolf Porsche, director  of Axel Springer’s Akademie.

The Akademie started in 2007 and is the most progressive journalism school in Germany, according to Porsche. About 1,000 students apply to the fast and aggressive two-year vocational training at Axel Springer, but only about 40 of them are accepted. The job offers come after completion and some can be rejected. Most have completed an academic degree and prior journalism experience. They are also given a monthly salary of about 1,200 euros. These students are then contracted to work for three years at Die Welt or any other Axel Springer AG affiliates after the Akademie.

Porsche, also a journalist, said Akademie students are given “all they need,” such as Mac books, smart phones and cameras, as well as teachers to tell them how to use the equipment. The last thing they are given is the “freedom to act.”

“We give you the equipment, we teach you the techniques, and you teach us what to do with this,” Porsche said. “That is why we are awarded with prizes because it is not my work. It is the creativity of our students.”

In the past, the Akademie was awarded the Grimme Online Award, the CeBIT AppStar and the European Newspaper Award for projects when it competed with other news organizations in Germany.

“We do not compete with other schools. That’s boring. We competed with other brands,” Porsche said.

The students – this year ranging in age from 18 (which is unusual, Porsche said) to early 30s – are currently working on a relatively secret masterpiece project for the next few weeks that will eventually be published in the Welt Kompact and Welt Online.

“We started with simple things – with news, the basics, but now we are doing TV journalism and multimedia journalism,” said an Akademie student about her experiences at Axel Springer. “I think that’s really important. That will be the future. I think it’s great we learn it here even though it is hard work all the time, and you have to get yourself into all this technical stuff.”