Tag Archives: Germany

Celebrating Fredy Hirsch’s queer legacy of bravery

The day I first learned about Fredy Hirsch was a normal workday in 2017. I’d just gotten off the bus and was walking to my home in south Tel Aviv. I’d recently been spending my commutes listening to the six-hour testimony of Dina Gottliebová Babbitt, an artist and Holocaust survivor, on the USC Shoah Foundation’s YouTube channel

I was absorbed in the story of her heroic and traumatic experiences as a young woman in the Theresienstadt ghetto and Auschwitz-Birkenau. Then she started talking about a fellow prisoner in Theresienstadt, Alfred “Fredy” Hirsch. “He looked like a toothpaste advertisement. He had this shiny, slicked-back hair, very handsome face and an incredible grin, white-white teeth. He was the epitome of tall, dark and handsome.”

And then, in what would be a deeply meaningful moment of affirmation of my own queer and Jewish identity, she casually mentioned that Fredy was gay. “It was an open thing, we all knew that he was gay…. We didn’t make anything out of it at that time. He was just one of us.” 

Her tone was so nonchalant it was hard to believe her words had been recorded almost two decades earlier, in 1998. And it made me very emotional. It was the first time in my life I’d heard a Holocaust survivor referring to the existence of an LGBTQ prisoner. 

Before I could process my reaction, she added, “Very often gays are maligned, spoken of badly. I think it’s important that if we know somebody that great — and he was great — who happened to be gay, that we say so. It should be known.”

So I set out to do just that: learn everything I could know about him. I searched for more information on Fredy Hirsch but, at the time, was disappointed that there wasn’t much to find.

Eventually I learned that he was a gay German-Jewish refugee to Czechoslovakia and a gymnastics teacher. As Jews were marginalized, incarcerated and ultimately systematically murdered, he took on an increasingly important role as a community leader and youth counselor to many children — first in the Zionist youth movement Maccabee Hatzair and later in Theresienstadt. When he was deported to Auschwitz he created and managed two children’s barracks, making them a relatively safe haven for hundreds and brightening their final months. They had heat during the winter, enjoyed bigger portions of food and received an education that included Hebrew and English classes, sports, arts and a strict hygiene protocol. Many Holocaust survivors have said that they owe their lives to Hirsch.

Somehow, under horrific and brutal circumstances, he was able to achieve the unthinkable — and this in spite of being Jewish and homosexual, which put him at the bottom of the camp’s cruel hierarchy. Survivors who knew him testified that SS officers treated him relatively well since he was a native German who managed to keep clean, maintain a neat appearance and practice sports. He eventually died at Auschwitz in March 1944.

I reached out to some LGBTQ and educational organizations, hoping they might consider introducing Hirsch’s story into their educational activities for teenagers, but nothing really came of it. It felt like a great injustice that his legacy and contribution were not being acknowledged.

Today Google is commemorating Hirsch with a Doodle appearing in Germany, Israel and several other countries on what would have been his 105th birthday.

It’s a step towards greater recognition of an important story that isn’t widely known. According to Rubi Gat, who created the documentary “Dear Fredy,” Czechoslovakia’s communist regime quashed Fredy’s story because he was a Jew and because his homosexuality didn’t fit into their narrative about who qualified to be a hero. 

Dr. Michal Aharony, editor of The Journal of Holocaust Research and author of the article “The Unknown Hero Who Saved Children at Auschwitz,” says that while Holocaust survivors who knew Hirsch spoke of him fondly and mentioned that he was openly gay, academic texts only started mentioning his sexual orientation in the past couple of decades.

I'm full of hope that Hirsch’s story will inspire others to commemorate the many LGBTQ historical figures who have never been properly acknowledged, and that future generations will benefit from their legacy. 

Above all, we should remember Hirsch as a symbol of solidarity and generosity, as a great believer in the power of a healthy lifestyle and mindset to deal with terrible circumstances, and as a hero who chose to help those who were most in need rather than to save himself. 

International Volunteer Day: a spotlight on GoVolunteer

In 2015, more than 1 million people sought asylum in Germany. Faced with this overwhelming humanitarian crisis, many Germans wanted to help but didn’t know how. Inspired by his fellow citizens’ willingness to lend a hand, Malte Bedürftig founded GoVolunteer, an online platform connecting people and corporations to volunteering opportunities and social initiatives. After GoVolunteer joined the Google for Nonprofits program, they gained more online visibility through Ad Grants and more team structure and efficiency through G Suite for Nonprofits. 

“We were a group of people who wanted to help others, inspired by the dream of changing things,” says Malte. Since then, Malte and his friends have built GoVolunteer into a full-fledged nonprofit, connecting 250,000 people to more than 3,500 volunteer opportunities in 250 cities across Germany. 

Today, in honor of the UN’s International Volunteer Day, we’re recognizing GoVolunteer and everyone else who makes time to help others. Watch the video to learn more about GoVolunteer’s journey and how Google for Nonprofits has supported their growth.

Share your own volunteer story with #IVD2019 and #InternationalVolunteerDay.

How digital skills training helped three friends found a startup

Whether you’re a teacher, accountant, engineer or farmer, the digital economy is transforming the workplace as we know it. According to a study by the European Commission, 90 percent of workplaces in the European Union today require employees to have basic digital skills. And Europeans are beginning to learn these skills on their own in their spare time. This is exactly what Nik Kiene, Malte Schülein and Lennart Hartrumpf, three students from Flensburg, a city in northern Germany, did last summer. While most students spent the holidays hanging out or traveling with friends and family, the trio went back to school.

They had a vision to create a web-based startup together. “ShareSpace,” a sharing economy platform, would help users rent out rarely used goods, like sporting or technical equipment. While they’d been developing the startup idea for months, the three friends lacked the skills needed to turn their vision into reality.

That’s when 19-year-old Lennart found out about Google Zukunftswerkstatt, one of three Grow with Google training centers in Hamburg, which provides free training on a variety of digital topics. He attended one of the sessions on a whim; the next time he went, he brought Nik and Malte along. They soon agreed that the curriculum at Google Zukunftswerkstatt was the perfect fit, since it would provide them with both the technical and soft skills they needed to get ShareSpace started.

After they began attending trainings at Google Zukunftswerkstatt, their business plans started to fall into place. “The insights from the Google Analytics training helped us tremendously in properly evaluating data and improving our platform,” explains Lennart, “while the online marketing courses are now helping us get the word out about our startup.” They continued and enrolled in additional training sessions on different skills: “The training session ‘Negotiating successfully’ has helped us out on many occasions, especially during talks with older and more experienced business owners. We’re way more confident now,” says Malte.

Lennart and his friends ended up attending every training session available during their summer break, commuting six hours every day from their hometown Flensburg to Hamburg and back. “Anyone can spend their summer break at the pool! Getting up early was definitely worth it for the offerings of Google Zukunftswerkstatt”, says Malte.

Like these three budding entrepreneurs, many people in Germany might feel like they don’t have the skills needed to be part of the new, technology-centred economy. The free training sessions at Google Zukunftswerkstatt are open to everyone. So far, through Google Zukunftswerkstatt, Grow with Google has helped more than half a million people obtain new digital skills, leading to a positive impact on individuals’ careers, businesses and the German economy. At each of our training centers in Munich, Hamburg and Berlin, we aim to help people take the next step in their career, grow their business, find a job and be empowered with the skills they need.

For Nik, Malte and Lennart, spending the summer holidays a little differently has paid off. The threesome recently launched a beta of their ShareSpace platform and are now pitching for seed funding as a registered company. While their journey began with free Google Zukunftswerkstatt sessions, it has led to the exciting beginnings of a working startup and an exciting future ahead.

Berlin and Babylon meet on an Island of Museums

Nearly 120 years ago, the excavation of Babylon led to the discovery of the 2,600-year-old Ishtar Gate. Today, visitors to Berlin can marvel at a reconstruction of the gate using its original blue bricks, on display in the Pergamon Museum.

Google Arts & Culture and the Staatliche Museen Berlin, in collaboration with CyArk and World Monuments Fund, have used modern technology to build a virtual bridge between Babylon and Berlin, virtually integrating Ishtar Gate into its original location in Iraq. Now anyone, anywhere can explore the story of its discovery and reconstruction in VR with Google Cardboard.

The Pergamon Museum is one of several institutions that makes up the unique ensemble of the Berlin Museum Island, and we’ve also worked with four other museums to add their collections to Google Arts & Culture. Their combined online exhibits contain more than 4,000 objects covering more than 6,000 years of art and cultural history—including such masterpieces as the Monk by the Sea by Caspar David Friedrich, the Golden hat and the bust of Nefertiti.

You can also explore Museum Island’s treasures through the lens of themes like wanderlust, vanity and body image, YOLO, modern romance, female empowerment, and rebellion.

Start your tour of Museum Island with Arts & Culture on the web, or with our free Arts & Culture app on your Android phone or iOS.

Driving into the future with European partners

Since we revealed our plans last May to build fully self-driving vehicles for testing and learning, we’ve been working on different prototypes. We’ve now put all those systems together into a fully functional vehicle which we discussed recently at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit.

These vehicles, designed from the ground up to drive themselves, could only be possible by working with strong European partners and suppliers, including ZF Lenksysteme, Continental, Bosch, FRIMO and many others. ZF Lenksysteme, for example, brought its expertise in steering system development, driver assistance systems and safety concepts. Bosch provided expertise in powertrain development and driver assistance systems and Continental provided expertise in braking systems and other electronics.

In addition to our existing suppliers, we’re looking for automotive industry partners to help bring the vision of self-driving cars to market. We see that our best path forward to this goal is combining our technology with car maker know-how.

The self-driving car project is designed to improve road safety and help people who are blind, disabled or otherwise can’t drive, Much work remains ahead. Our hope is to test prototypes on public roads in later this year. We're excited by the progress we've made so far - and our suppliers are playing a crucial role.

Hallo, hola, olá to a new powerful Google Translate app

Often the hardest part of traveling is navigating the local language. If you've ever asked for "pain" in Paris and gotten funny looks, confused "embarazada" with "embarrassed" in Mexico, or stumbled over pronunciation pretty much anywhere, you know the feeling. We’ve now updated the Translate app on Android and iOS to transform your mobile device into an even more powerful translation tool.

Instant translation with Word Lens
The Translate app already lets you use camera mode to snap a photo of text and get a translation for it in 36 languages. From today, you can instantly translate text. While using the Translate app, just point your camera at a sign or text and the translated text will overlaid on your screen—even if you don't have an Internet or data connection.

This instant translation currently works for translation from English to and from French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and we’re working to expand to more languages.

Have an easier conversation using the Translate app

When talking with someone in an unfamiliar language, conversations can... get... sloowwww. While we’ve had real-time conversation mode on Android since 2013, our new update makes the conversation flow faster and more naturally.

Starting today, simply tap the mic to start speaking in a selected language, then tap the mic again, and the Google Translate app will recognize which of the two languages are being spoken, letting you have a more fluid conversation. For the rest of the conversation, you won’t need to tap the mic again—it'll be ready as you need it. Asking for directions to the Rive Gauche, ordering bacalhau in Lisbon, or chatting with your grandmother in her native Spanish just got a lot faster.

These updates will be coming to both Android and iOS, rolling out over the next few days. This is the first time some of these advanced features, like camera translations and conversation mode, will be available for iOS users.

More than 500 million people use Google Translate every month, making more than 1 billion translations a day to more easily communicate and access information across languages. Today’s updates take us one step closer to turning your phone into a universal translator and to a world where language is no longer a barrier to discovering information or connecting with each other.

Teaching children to program robots

"Programming is child’s play." That’s the motto of our new German cloud platform "Open Roberta" which simplifies programming for small robots for both teachers and students.

Its a priority to encourage students to program  - and indeed in the rest of Europe. Every year, the German Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media estimates that Germany lacks 39,000 trained IT experts. Initiatives like Open Roberta are designed to fill this gap, allowing students and teachers to start programming with ease - and enjoy it by making learning into a fun game.

This Open Roberta cloud-based platform allows school kids to program LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robots and control them using mobile devices. The cloud-based approach makes it simple to open the Open Roberta website and get started right away, eliminating the need for any installation or regular updating of PC software.

Researchers at Google and Fraunhofer IAIS have been collaborating since the spring of 2013 on ways to simplify programming of these little robots. The aim was to minimize technical hurdles for both students and the 1,000 certified 'Roberta Teachers'. Our solution with Open Roberta is to put the software in the cloud and open source it. Google.org provided Fraunhofer IAIS the necessary EUR1 million in funding to develop the new program. In parallel with the launch of the platform, LEGO Education introduced 160 all-new kits to be given in ten-packs to schools in the 16 German states.

Open Roberta makes it possible for kids to work on their programming projects both at school and at home, share them with others, and tinker away on them together – anywhere and anytime. At the same time, this approach is of particular advantage to schools, which often do not have enough computers for all their students.

Tutorials soon will be available for teachers on using Open Roberta in ways that meet the diverging interests of girls and boys. We at Google are proud to be supporting this initiative. Additional information is posted at open-roberta.org. To get started with programming, just visit the Open Roberta Lab at lab.open-roberta.org ... and unleash the robots!

Launching Code for Germany

At Google, we like to experiment. Today we are experimenting with a guest blogpost from the Germany’s Open Knowledge Foundation.

Many in Europe believe that computer science and the Internet is an American invention. This summer, we decided to prove this idea wrong, launching our program, launching our program Code for Germany.
The feedback so far has been amazing. In the past few months, fourteen labs have sprouted up all across the country, bringing together more than 150 people on a regular basis to work on civic tech, use open data, and make the most of their skills to better their cities.

All told, more than 4000 hours of civic hacking has produced multiple apps and projects. The OK Lab in Hamburg has a strong focus on urban development, and have created a map which shows the distribution of playgrounds in the city. An app from the OK Lab Heilbronn depicts the quality of tap water according to the region, and another from the OK Lab Cologne helps users find the closest defibrillator in their area. One of my favourite developments is called “Kleiner Spatz”, which translates to “Little Sparrow” and helps parents find available child care spaces in their city. Check out the list for yourself to see what amazing things can be built with technology.

This is just the beginning. In the coming months we want to strengthen the various communities and establish ties with officials, governments and administrations. We want to foster innovation in the field of Open Data, Civic Innovation and Public Services and create fertile collaborations between citizens and governments. Our OK Labs offer this possibility.

So far, Code for Germany has been a blast! Let me express my most heartfelt gratitude towards the community of developers and designers who have contributed so much already. Let’s rock and stay awesome!