Did Hamburg’s Olympic Bid Destroy Its Local Democracy?

How the Failed Effort to Bring the 2024 Games to Germany Restricted Voters' Democratic Rights

Democracy killed a bid to bring the Olympics to Hamburg, Germany, where I live. But in the process, the Olympics dealt a big blow to our local democracy.

I’ve worked on democratic issues, especially direct democracy, both as a journalist and an activist, for most of my adult life. I grew up in Bavaria, where direct democracy has been part of local governance since 1946. But in 1980 I moved to Hamburg, one of the smallest of the 16 Bundesländer (states) in the Federal Republic of Germany. Here I was shocked …

How World War II Turned Soldiers Into Bookworms

American GIs Devoured Paperbacks on the Front Lines, Spawning a New Generation of Readers

In January 1942, thousands of New Yorkers gathered on the steps of the legendary New York Public Library, at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street, wearing their Sunday best and warmest …

Yes, I’m Muslim—and German

Europe's Largest Nation Integrates Immigrants With High Ideals and Everyday Discrimination

Wars across Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan have sent millions of refugees fleeing to Europe in recent years, the majority of them Muslims. How to integrate these refugees into liberal (but …

Why Cologne Will Keep Welcoming Refugees

The Assaults on New Year’s Eve Have Made My Hometown Anxious About Safety, but I Worry More About Our Sanity

The pastry shop Cup Cakes Cologne has put two fancy cakes in its shop window. One cake shows German chancellor Angela Merkel in the style of a red angel. The …

California’s High Speed Rail Should Look Like Germany’s

Stations Can Be Vital Public Spaces That Provide Space for People to Gather, Shop, and Be Entertained

Will California’s high-speed rail system be German enough?

That question is not a joke, as I learned last month while riding Germany’s popular high-speed rail. In fact, it’s a more important …