Which subjects became topics of conversation during the past 12 months in Germany? It’s time to look back – on 11 events and people that will long be remembered by the people of Germany.
First Tunisia, then Egypt and eventually other countries in the region: the Arab world has been in a state of upheaval since the beginning of the year. Large numbers of people demanded political reforms and free elections in mass protests like those on Tahrir Square in Cairo. Yet the path towards democracy is proving gruelling and arduous. Germany set up a Transformation Partnership with North Africa to support a fresh political start. A democracy support fund, educational programmes and financial support for the economy are to advance democratic development in the region.
On 11 March 2011, in the wake of the severest earthquake in Japan’s history, a tsunami flooded large parts of the northeast of the island nation. A magnitude 9.0 earthquake and a roughly 10-metre-high wave left more than 20,000 people dead and the nuclear power plant at Fukushima seriously damaged. Afterwards people all over the world discussed the safety of nuclear energy. In early summer 2011 in Germany the Federal Government decided to phase out nuclear power by the end of 2022.
Return to the European Stage
35,000 spectators, 43 countries, 3 shows: Europe celebrated the music spectacle of the year in Düsseldorf with the 56th Eurovision Song Contest (ESC). Germany again crossed its fingers for its candidate Lena. In 2010 the 19-year-old school student from Hanover was the first German to win the ESC in almost 30 years. One year later, however, Lena’s bid to win the title a second time failed when she came 10th. On the other hand, there was jubilation among the winners from Azerbaijan. Nevertheless, Eldar Gasimov, the singer of the winning duo, has close ties with Germany: he speaks fluent German, attended a German school in Baku and studied at Goethe University Frankfurt with a DAAD scholarship.
Black-and-Yellow Euphoria in the Ruhr District
Back in the limelight: six years after near insolvency, Borussia Dortmund won the Bundesliga championship – and inspired Germany’s football world with a refreshing style of play. The many young players in coach Jürgen Klopp’s team caused a sensation. After the 32nd match the Ruhr District club was an unbeatable eight points ahead. The seventh German championship in the club’s history also meant its return to the Champions League.
Success for Germany at the 54th Biennale in Venice: the German Pavilion with a display of works by performance artist Christoph Schlingensief, who died during the Biennale preparations, received the prestigious Golden Lion and was thus honoured as the best national contribution among 89 country pavilions. The German pavilion presented a representative overview of Schlingensief’s multifaceted artistic oeuvre – especially in the domains of theatre and film/video and his Africa project. The award is also a posthumous honour for this exceptional German artist.
Finally a Champion
German basketball star Dirk Nowitzki enters the sport’s eternal hall of fame: Nowitzki is the first German ever to win a championship title in the world’s best basketball league, the NBA in the USA, where he has played for the Dallas Mavericks for since 1998. Additionally, the 33-year-old basketball player crowned this success as MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the NBA-finals 2011. In Germany Nowitzki was honoured in his home town of Würzburg and voted Sports Personality of the Year 2011.
Second Summer Fairy Tale
Full stadiums, high TV audience ratings, a cheerful mood around the country – and likeable world champions: the first Women’s World Cup in Germany was a real success with viewers and spectators. The title defence initially ran according to plan for the German national team. Unbeaten in the group stage, the twice World Cup winners reached the quarter final. However, a 0:1 defeat by Japan put an early end to the German team’s dream of a third World Cup victory in a row. One minor consolation for the favourites: Japan, the surprise team of the tournament, won the World Cup final against the USA and became world champion for the first time.
Papal State Visit
A 21-gun salute welcomed the special state visitor: Pope Benedict XVI travelled to Germany in September for his first official state visit. The programme for the Pope’s four-day visit included a Holy Mass before 70,000 faithful in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium and discussions with representatives of the Protestant and Orthodox churches in Germany as well as representatives of the Jewish community and Islam. His address to the German Bundestag was awaited with considerable anticipation. Benedict XVI was the first pope ever to speak before the German parliament.
Breakthrough towards Stability Union
The economic and financial crisis kept the European Union on tenterhooks for the entire year and seriously tested confidence in the euro as the common currency. It took eight summit meetings of EU heads of state and government in 2011 before the EU freed itself from the debt trap and set course for a stable fiscal union. The financial policy decisions of the EU summit in December 2011, which were largely based on close Franco-German coordination between Federal Chancellor Merkel and France’s President Sarkozy, are to lead to treaty reform in 2012.
Polar bear Knut was the attraction in Berlin Zoo. At Leipzig Zoo in 2011 it was a cross-eyed opossum called Heidi that experienced animal stardom. After coming to Leipzig from a Danish zoo, Heidi became everybody’s darling with thousands of fans on Facebook, her own song and a film series on the Internet. She even predicted the Oscar winners for an American TV station. Perhaps in the end though it was all too much for Heidi, who died of old age at the end of September.
And another sad goodbye in 2011: Vicco von Bülow alias Loriot, the grand master of subtle humour, died at the age of 87. From the 1950s onwards, Loriot was considered one of Germany’s most versatile and witty humorists. Many of his comedy sketches and cartoons are still legendary today. His two feature films Ödipussi (1988) and Pappa ante portas (1991) brought pleasure to millions.