German is a language with awfully l o n g words. It’s because you can clip words together, like LEGO bricks, e.g. Automobil (car) Hersteller (manufacturer) = Automobilhersteller. There’s a very famous word, Donaudampfschiffahrtsgesellschaftskapitän 

which is the longest word ever published in German, and not one (as it deals with the river Donau, the Danube), I am ever likely to use.

When I first came to Germany I was amazed at the lengths of some street names. How on earth would one fit “Woty-und-Theodor-Werner-Weg” on an envelope? My confusion was not lessened by the fact that as a non-German, I didn’t know who these people were. August Bebel? Friedrich Ebert? Rosa Luxemburg?

Rosa Luxemburg! That’s a lovely name, and it adorns streets in many German towns and cities, in fact our dear Tax Consultant now has his new offices in Rosa- Luxemburg- Strasse.

Who was she?

Born to a Jewish family in Russian-ruled Poland, she emigrated first to Switzerland and then gained German citizenship through a marriage of convenience. During WW1, she and Karl Liebknecht (lots of streets named after him too) formed the Spartacus League, breaking with August Bebel (see above) of the SPD. In December 1918 she and Liebknecht founded the German Communist Party; they were both arrested and subsequently brutally murdered in Berlin on January 15, 1919, by members of the Free Corps (Freikorps), a paramilitary group.

There’s an awful lot more to her than that, as you can see:

I just found a photo of her with her friend and socialist colleague, Clara Zetkin.

Clara is on the left.

( I can reveal that there are at least nine Clara-Zetkin-Strasse in Germany.) I am particularly fond of Clara, as when we were still allowed to go on holiday, I really loved going to the former East Germany (interesting cities and fascinating industrial history) and my lovely husband especially enjoyed staying in hotels or houses which had been used as holiday domiciles in the GDR. Each ‘company’ (VEB, LPG or Kombinat) had a ‘Holiday Home’ – maybe on the coast, in the mountains or in the country, where the employees and their families could go away for a holiday, either for free or very cheaply, every year.

In West Germany, my lovely husband’s father’s company, PREUSSAG, had a similar scheme and my husband and his parents and brothers went to the North Sea or the Harz mountains, courtesy of his Dad’s company.

Such places in East Germany were often called after communist heroes or heroines and once we stayed in a place which had formerly been the “Clara Zetkin Recuperation Home”. It was a lovely holiday and I became fond of Clara. She was a teacher, a campaigner for women’s rights and:

“Zetkin was renowned throughout her career for her passionate oratory skills. She represented the German Communist Party in the Reichstag from 1920 until 1933 (when the party was banned by Hitler). Her election to the Reichstag in 1932 made her its oldest member, and tradition dictated she opened the parliamentary session. She did so with a 40 minute attack on Hitler and the Nazi party.International Women’s Day: Who was Clara Zetkin? | International Women’s Day | The Guardian

Clara and Rosa, Karl and August and all the rest – including many local heroes (e.g. Anita-Augsburg-Platz in Verden) – not only have streets named after them: there are bridges, schools and parks.

Speaking of street names, yesterday I planted a new rose in our garden. It’s a pale pink climber, and should grow up a laburnum tree. But, top secret, although I am sure it is beautiful, I actually chose it for its name: ‘Penny Lane’.

Header: Von Vwpolonia75 (Jens K. Müller, Hamburg) – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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