The Story of Hans

When I first met Hans in 1978, I didn’t immediately grasp the depth of the scars history had etched into his life. He was a man of few words, whose eyes, however, spoke volumesโ€”if one was willing to read them. Today, as the echoes of past mistakes threaten to be drowned out by the currents of right-wing ideology in Germany and Europe, I feel compelled to share his story. It’s not just the tale of a broken man but a warning and a plea to our collective memory.

Hans was born in 1926 in Mรผlheim an der Ruhr, in the industrial heartland of Germany, into a world still reeling from the scars of the First World War. The political and economic instability of the Weimar Republic shaped his early years, a time of turmoil that eventually laid the groundwork for one of the darkest chapters in human history. At 17, as the world plunged once more into the abyss of war, Hans was conscripted into the Wehrmacht and sent to the Eastern Front. There, in the icy grip of the Russian winter, he experienced the brutality of war in its most raw form.

The injury Hans sustained from a grenade, which tore away a large part of his lung, was just the beginning of a long ordeal. Captured by Soviet forces, Hans was transported to a prisoner of war camp in Siberia, a place synonymous with desolation and harshness. Despite his severe injury and the brutal environment, Hans clung to life with a tenacity that was both remarkable and heartrending. The cold, the hunger, the back-breaking laborโ€”all left marks that never fully healed.

The war eventually ended, but Hans’ battle did not. The journey back to Germany was a slow and torturous process, fraught with bureaucratic hurdles and the physical challenges of his still-healing wounds. Upon his return, the joy of reunion with his family was overshadowed by the realization that he, and the nation itself, would never be the same.

His own father didn’t recognize him, and his death certificate already hung framed in the living roomโ€”a symbolic image of what the war had made of him: a man the world had already given up on.

The road to physical recovery was long and fraught with complications. The loss of a huge part of his lung meant that Hans would forever be short of breath, a constant reminder of the war’s impact on his body. Yet, it was the invisible wounds that proved harder to heal.

Hans eventually found work at AEG Kanis in Essen, where he worked as an auditor. Yet, the shadows of the past never left him. Alcohol became his constant companion, an attempt to numb the inner demons that haunted him at night. When AEG Kanis closed and Hans went into early retirement, he lost an important anchor in his life. The years that followed were marked by a slow but steady decline that culminated in his death from cirrhosis of the liver. The memories of the horrors he had witnessed and endured haunted him, leading him to seek solace in alcohol, a refuge that would eventually claim his life.

I accompanied Hans in his final years and witnessed how an incredibly strong man was slowly destroyed by his memories and alcohol. I heard only a few of his war stories, but each one deeply moved me and haunts me to this day. They were windows into a soul too deeply wounded to ever fully heal.

The journey of Hans from the moment of his grievous injury on the Eastern Front to his eventual return home is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit amidst the darkest of times. After the grenade tore away one of his lungs, Hans found himself not just battling for his life on the frozen battlefields but also facing a long and arduous path to recovery that would test his limits in every conceivable way.

I aim not only to tell Hans’ story but also to shine a light on the shadows that, decades later, threaten to spread across Europe once again. The resurgence of right-wing ideology, the increasing polarization of our society, and the allure of simple answers to complex questions are alarming parallels to the conditions that once paved the way for the rise of National Socialism.

We must not allow history to repeat itself. We need to keep the memories of people like Hans alive, not just as a monument to the horrors of war but as a warning against the dangers that arise when hatred and intolerance are allowed to flourish unchecked. I wish we could stand together for a world where the dignity of every individual is respected and where the horrors of the past are not forgotten but used as lessons for the future.

Hans’ story is one among many, but it stands as a testament to the countless fates destroyed by war and hatred. By telling it, we not only remember the suffering that was but also commit ourselves to working for a better, more peaceful future.

Hans was my stepfather.

He entered our lives when I was 5 years old. He was a complex character, yet absolutely reliable and a role model to me in many ways. Today, I realize what an incredible and decent person he was. He was only 66 years old when he passed away. He lived much longer than any doctor had predicted for him, and aside from the alcohol, he truly made the most out of this life. And he inspired a boy whose biological father was mostly absent.

I miss him dearly.

Peter Gabriel i/o

Peter Gabriel’s “i/o” Album Review: He’s Back, Better Than Ever Before

Peter Gabriel’s latest album “i/o” stands not only as a testament to his enduring creativity but also as a potential crowning achievement in a career already brimming with groundbreaking work. Gabriel, a legend in the music industry, has been known for his innovative approach to music, particularly through the 80s and 90s, and “i/o” might very well be considered his best work to date.

The Legacy of Peter Gabriel

Gabriel’s influence on the music world has been profound and multifaceted. Rising to fame with Genesis in the 1970s, he quickly established himself as a visionary artist. His departure from Genesis and subsequent solo career in the 1980s and 90s saw him breaking new ground, particularly with albums like “So” and “Us.” These works were not just commercially successful; they were also artistically daring, blending world music with electronic and art-rock elements, and they solidified his reputation as an innovative and fearless artist.

Groundbreaking Work in the 80s and 90s

During the 80s and 90s, Gabriel was at the forefront of the world music movement, integrating sounds and rhythms from various cultures into his music. His use of innovative recording techniques and embrace of new technologies set him apart. Albums like “So” (1986), with its hit “Sledgehammer,” showcased his ability to merge artistic depth with mainstream appeal, featuring groundbreaking music videos that revolutionized the medium.

“i/o”: A Culmination of Artistic Evolution

Now, with “i/o,” Gabriel seems to have distilled his decades of musical exploration into a singularly impressive work. The album encapsulates his signature sound while pushing into new territories. The dual “Bright-Side” and “Dark-Side” mixes are a clear indication of his continued innovation, offering listeners two distinct ways to experience the same music.

“i/o” is rich with the thematic depth and stylistic diversity that have defined Gabriel’s career. Tracks like “Panopticom” and “The Court” reflect his enduring ability to fuse diverse musical styles while tackling complex themes. The reflective nature of songs like “Playing for Time” and “So Much” suggests a maturity and introspection that might resonate deeply with longtime fans and new listeners alike.

In a career marked by constant evolution and boundary-pushing, “i/o” might be seen as Peter Gabriel’s most comprehensive and compelling work yet. It’s an album that not only reflects his legendary status but also reasserts his relevance in the contemporary music scene. For those who have followed his career since the Genesis days, or those just discovering his genius, “i/o” is a testament to Gabriel’s unwavering commitment to artistic exploration and innovation.

“i/o” marks a remarkable return to the music scene, offering a rich tapestry of sound and themes that reflect both his enduring legacy and his forward-thinking artistic vision. This long-awaited album, released track by track every full moon, showcases Gabriel’s unique approach to music-making and his ability to blend a wide range of styles and themes into a cohesive whole.

The Evolution of Sound and Style

The album’s opener, “Panopticom,” is a standout track that immediately sets the stage for what’s to come. It combines acoustic elements with electronic influences, creating a soundscape that is quintessentially Gabriel. The use of a 12-string guitar alongside Tony Levinโ€™s deep bass tones and a blend of electronica exemplifies Gabriel’s knack for combining traditional and modern elements. This stylistic choice echoes back to his previous works, especially “Up” and “Us,” while introducing new textures and tones.

Exploring Deep Themes

Throughout “i/o”, Gabriel doesn’t shy away from diving into complex and often challenging themes. For instance, “The Court” revisits the tribal rhythms of his earlier work while layering in a haunting choir that contemplates the nature of justice in the era of cancel culture. Similarly, “Four Kinds of Horses” is a sensitive exploration of the corruption of religious faith into terrorism, backed by an evocative musical arrangement.

Personal Reflections and Contemplations

The album also has a deeply reflective side, with songs like “Playing for Time” and “So Much” exploring themes of mortality, hope, and renewal. These tracks reveal their layers over time, both musically and lyrically, providing a sense of peace amidst the inevitability of aging and change. This introspective quality is further exemplified in tracks like “Olive Tree,” which is not only the most commercially accessible song on the album but also a celebration of life and resilience.

Celebrating Life and Rebirth

Tracks such as “Road to Joy” and “Olive Tree” stand out as more upbeat, celebratory moments on the album, offering a counterbalance to its more contemplative moments. These songs embody a sense of joy and rejuvenation, resonating with themes of rebirth, which is particularly poignant considering the long hiatus since Gabriel’s last album of new material.

The Production and Collaborations

The production of “i/o” is notable for its use of both “Bright-Side” and “Dark-Side” mixes, showcasing the postproduction skills of producers-engineers Mark “Spike” Stent and Tchad Blake. This dual approach adds depth to the album, allowing listeners to experience it in different lights. Additionally, the involvement of artists like Brian Eno adds another layer of sonic depth to the album.

A Culmination of Artistic Journey

At 73 years old, Gabriel demonstrates that his creative spark is as bright as ever. “i/o” is not just a collection of songs; it’s a complete artistic statement that encapsulates Gabriel’s career-long journey of musical exploration and innovation. It’s a testament to his ability to stay relevant and compelling in a constantly changing musical landscape.

In summary, “i/o” is a rich, multifaceted work that showcases Peter Gabriel’s unique talents as a songwriter, composer, and musical innovator. Its blend of introspective lyrics, diverse musical styles, and thematic depth make it a noteworthy addition to his already impressive discography. For fans of Gabriel’s work, and for those new to his music, “i/o” offers a profound and rewarding listening experience.

Order or listen here.

Destroyed Residential Building Under Gray Sky

The Complexity of Engaging With My Russian Fans

Disclaimer for Russian Readers

Before we proceed, I want to make it abundantly clear that I fully support Ukraine in the ongoing conflict. This post may contain viewpoints that are upsetting to some, particularly my Russian fans. While I appreciate your support for my music, it’s crucial to be transparent about where I stand on this issue.

As you might know, I have a diverse fan base that spans across the globe. I’m grateful for the love and support I receive from all corners of the world. Especially strong are the Latin American countries, the Baltic region, but also Turkey, Northern Africa, Southeast Asia, Japan and โ€“ of course โ€“ Russia.

However, the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has put me in a difficult position, particularly when it comes to engaging with my Russian fans. I feel compelled to address this issue openly, as it’s something that has been weighing heavily on my mind.

Music has an unparalleled ability to bring people together, regardless of their geographical location, cultural background, or political affiliations. However, in a world increasingly divided by geopolitical conflicts โ€“ most notably the ongoing crisis between Russia and Ukraine โ€“ I find myself grappling with a complex moral dilemma. Specifically, how do I navigate interactions with my fans from countries embroiled in such conflicts? To delve deeper into this issue, I’ve compiled a comprehensive Top 50 ranking of countries where my music is most popular, based on data from SoundCloud, Spotify, and Apple Music.

The Global Footprint of My Music: A Comprehensive Top 50 Ranking

First and foremost, I want to express my deepest gratitude to all my fans around the globe. Your unwavering support has been both humbling and inspiring. According to my multi-platform statistics, the Top 50 countries where my music is most listened to are as follows:

  1. ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ United States
  2. ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ช Germany
  3. ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ Russia
  4. ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง United Kingdom
  5. ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Ukraine
  6. ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ Mexico
  7. ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Canada
  8. ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต Japan
  9. ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ท Turkey
  10. ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท France
  11. ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ณ India
  12. ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Australia
  13. ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡บ Hungary
  14. ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ธ Spain
  15. ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ญ Switzerland
  16. ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ช Belgium
  17. ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Netherlands
  18. ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ท Argentina
  19. ๐Ÿ‡ง๐Ÿ‡ท Brazil
  20. ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ฑ Poland
  21. ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Israel
  22. ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ช Sweden
  23. ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Italy
  24. ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡ด Romania
  25. ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡น Austria
  26. ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฑ Chile
  27. ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ท South Korea
  28. ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ญ Philippines
  29. ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด Norway
  30. ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ฎ Finland
  31. ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Nigeria
  32. ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Saudi Arabia
  33. ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡น Lithuania
  34. ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡ช United Arab Emirates
  35. ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡พ Malaysia
  36. ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ช Kenya
  37. ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Czech Republic
  38. ๐Ÿ‡น๐Ÿ‡ผ Taiwan
  39. ๐Ÿ‡ญ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Hong Kong
  40. ๐Ÿ‡ธ๐Ÿ‡ฌ Singapore
  41. ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ช Ireland
  42. ๐Ÿ‡ฐ๐Ÿ‡ฟ Kazakhstan
  43. ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡ช Peru
  44. ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ญ Ghana
  45. ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ถ Iraq
  46. ๐Ÿ‡ฉ๐Ÿ‡ฐ Denmark
  47. ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡ฉ Indonesia
  48. ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡ฌ Egypt
  49. ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ท Costa Rica
  50. ๐Ÿ‡ช๐Ÿ‡จ Ecuador
red and black heart illustration

Fan Support by Continent

When we consider the fan support by continent and adjust it for the total population, the list becomes even more telling:

  1. North America (Approx. 579 million population)
  2. Europe (Approx. 748 million population)
  3. Asia (Approx. 4.6 billion population)
  4. South America (Approx. 430 million population)
  5. Africa (Approx. 1.3 billion population)
  6. Oceania (Approx. 42 million population)

It’s interesting to note that despite Asia’s massive population, it ranks third in the list, suggesting that the per capita fan engagement is higher in North America and Europe. Similarly, Africa, with a population of around 1.3 billion, ranks lower.

Europe’s second-place ranking is particularly noteworthy given its smaller population compared to Asia. The high level of engagement from European countries speaks volumes.

The Weight of the Numbers

The presence of Russia (#3) and Ukraine (#5) in my Top 50 ranking is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it’s a testament to the universal language of music, its ability to transcend political and cultural barriers. On the other hand, it serves as a constant reminder of the ethical tightrope I walk on. Engaging with fans from countries actively involved in conflicts that have resulted in atrocities is a moral minefield.

The Fan-to-Population Ratio: A Revealing Metric

One of the most striking aspects of my fan base is the disproportionate level of support I receive from Ukraine. Despite the vast difference in population sizes, Ukraine ranks impressively high in my Top 50 list, even surpassing many larger countries. This outsized support from Ukraine is not just heartwarming; it’s a testament to the love and passion I receive from the Ukrainian people.

  • ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Ukraine (5th in the ranking, 37 million population): The support from Ukraine is remarkable when you consider its population size. The country ranks impressively high on the list despite having far fewer residents than many other nations in the ranking.
  • ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ‡บ Russia (3rd in the ranking, 144.4 million population): Despite its large population and high ranking, there’s a discrepancy here. The per capita support from Ukraine is significantly more intense.
  • ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธ USA (1st in the ranking, 331 million population): As the largest country on the list, it’s not surprising that the USA tops the ranking. However, in relation to its population size, the support isn’t as intense as it is from smaller countries.

This contrast adds another layer of complexity to my ethical considerations. While the sheer numbers from Russia are higher due to its larger population, the intensity of support from Ukraine is incredibly meaningful. It serves as a constant reminder of the human aspect behind the statistics and the ethical tightrope I walk on when engaging with fans from these conflicting nations.

The Harsh Reality of War

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine is not merely a political issue; it’s a devastating humanitarian crisis. Reports of war crimes, including targeted attacks on civilians, forced deportations, and sexual violence, are more than just headlines โ€“ they’re a horrifying reality for countless individuals. What complicates matters further is the seeming indifference or even tacit approval of these actions by a significant portion of the Russian populace. This societal lethargy in the face of human suffering adds another layer of complexity to my dilemma.

Specific Atrocities

It’s crucial to understand the gravity of the situation in Ukraine. The invasion by Russian forces has led to a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions. According to credible sources, including the International Criminal Court, there have been numerous war crimes committed, ranging from targeted attacks on civilians to mass killings, forced deportations, and sexual violence.

  • Over 121,000 Ukrainian children have been kidnapped and deported.
  • During the siege of Mariupol, thousands of residents were forcibly deported from Ukraine to Russia.
  • Arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances of civilians are rampant.
  • Attacks on civilians, including the use of cluster munitions in populated areas, have been documented.
  • Massacres like the one in Bucha have occurred, where hundreds of civilians were killed, some through execution.

Just to name a few.

A Balancing Act

Herein lies the essence of my moral quandary. My music enjoys popularity in the Top 50 across multiple platforms, including in countries like Russia and Ukraine, which are embroiled in a deeply troubling conflict. This presents a precarious situation: How do I reconcile the love and support I receive from Russian fans with the harsh realities of their country’s actions? How can I engage with my Ukrainian fans without appearing insensitive to the immense suffering they are enduring?

No Easy Answers

I hope this post, framed by my comprehensive Top 50 ranking, offers a nuanced perspective on the moral and ethical challenges I face. While I am profoundly grateful for the love and support from all my fans, the ongoing geopolitical crises compel me to reassess how I engage with fans from countries involved in such devastating conflicts.

For those interested in learning more about the situation, I recommend visiting the Wikipedia page on war crimes in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. As we navigate these complex issues, let’s all strive for a more peaceful and just world.