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Memorialization in Germany

Germany's past role as the prime perpetrator of the Holocaust and the Second World War, and as a nation formerly divided into capitalist and communist states, have made for a very strong national culture of memorialization: die Erinnerungskultur. There are many memorial museums, sculptures, and plaques dedicated to the memory of victims of the Nazis and the former communist state of East Germany. There is also a project called Stolpersteine ("stumbling stones"), initiated in the late 1990s by a German artist, which has installed tens of thousands of small brass plaques throughout Europe into the sidewalks outside the houses where people persecuted by the Nazis once lived. Let's take a look today at some Yabla German videos that feature the theme of memorialization.


The German word for a memorial—sometimes a museum and sometimes just a place of memorialization—is die Gedenkstätte:


Und im Rahmen dieses besonderen Tages wurde auch die Gedenkstätte für die ermordeten Wiesbadener Juden ihrer Bestimmung übergeben.

And in the framework of this special day, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Wiesbaden was consigned to its set purpose.

Captions 8-10, Holocaust-Gedenktag: Gedenkstätte am Michelsberg

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Auf dem Gelände der neu errichteten europäischen Zentralbank ist nun eine Gedenkstätte entstanden.

On the grounds of the newly constructed European Central Bank, a memorial has now arisen.

Captions 19-20, Rheinmain im Blick: Neue Gedenkstätte an der EZB

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And here, along with the term das Gedenken ("memory," "remembrance," or "commemoration"), are some other words that use das Gedenken as a root word:


Anlässlich des Gedenkens an die Befreiung von Auschwitz vor sechsundsechzig Jahren...

On the occasion of the commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz sixty-six years ago...

Captions 2-3, Holocaust-Gedenktag: Ausstellung "Frankfurt-Auschwitz"

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Neben dem Kunstprojekt sind im Jubiläumsjahr viele weitere Gedenkaktionen geplant.

In addition to the art project, many further acts of remembrance have been planned for the year of the anniversary.

Captions 38-39, 25 Jahre Wiedervereinigung: Ampelmännchen wird Einheitsmännchen

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Der 27. Januar ist in Deutschland ein offizieller Gedenktag.

The 27th of January is an official day of remembrance in Germany.

Caption 15, Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Einbürgerungstest

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Eine gigantische nationale Gedenkfeier...

A gigantic national commemorative celebration...

Caption 8, Rhein-Main-TV: Feier zur deutschen Einheit in Frankfurt wird gigantisch

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Further Learning
Go to Yabla German and watch the videos above in their entirety. One active research aspect of memorialization is the return of stolen and looted cultural assets, such as artworks, to the families of victims of Third Reich. You can watch the Restitution von Raubgut series on Yabla here.

A Singular Million

We had a Yabla lesson some time back about false friends in large numbers, where we discussed how a million is eine Million in German, but that bigger numbers get confusing, since a billion is eine Milliarde but a trillion is eine Billion. 


Smaller numbers like a hundred or a thousand are treated like standard adjectives in German: they are written in the lower case, and the plural nouns they modify remain the subjects of the sentence: 


Über hundert Leute der Bundesregierung dürfen sie einsehen.

Over one hundred people in the Federal Government are allowed to see them.

Caption 15, Deutsche-Welle-Nachrichten - Massenprotest gegen TTIP

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Also, beim Finale waren halt auch tausend Leute.

So, a thousand people were at the finale.

Caption 29, Eva Croissant - Interview - Part 1

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As you see in the two examples above, hundert Leute dürfen and tausend Leute waren, the adjectives hundert and tausend modify the subjects of the sentence, which remain plural and require the plural conjugation of the verbs. 


However, larger numbers are treated differently in standard German. If you have a million of something, the core of the subject remains the term "a million" and the verb is conjugated for a singular subject, even if the subject appears plural.


Rund eine Million Menschen wird in der Stadt erwartet.

Around one million people are expected in the city.

Captions 23-24, Rhein-Main-TV - Feier zur deutschen Einheit in Frankfurt wird gigantisch

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Note that in the above, the verb werden is conjugated for a singular subject as wird, rather than the plural werden that you might have expected. That's because the core subject of the sentence is the singular eine Million, not the plural die Menschen. 


As a rule, it's just good German to use eine Million and larger numbers in the singular as that is standard usage, but an article on the topic of the German Duden dictionary states that der Plural wird aber auch akzeptiert. So at least if you say eine Million Menschen sind instead of the standard eine Million Menschen ist, then it's not really a mistake, it's just an accepted variation of the standard German. 


Further Learning
Look for more examples of eine Million and other larger numbers on Yabla German and re-read the original Yabla lesson on large German numbers.

False Friends in Big Numbers

It's easy to get confused by the names of large numbers in German, as many of them are false friends — number names that are the same as in English but represent different numbers entirely. Let's start relatively small with a mere million: 



Rund eine Million Menschen wird ... in der Stadt erwartet.

Around one million people are expected in the city...

Captions 23-24, Rhein-Main-TV - Feier zur deutschen Einheit in Frankfurt wird gigantisch

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Thus "million" in English is the same as die Million in German: a 1 followed by 6 zeros, 1,000,000. But when we ramp it up to an English billion, we find our first false friend:


Drei Milliarden Jahre lang war kein Lebewesen auf der Erde mit bloßem Auge zu erkennen.

For three billion years no living thing on earth was visible to the naked eye.


An English billion is die Milliarde in German (plural Milliarden). That's a 1 followed by 9 zeros, 1,000,000,000. Let's get even bigger with our next false friend: 


Ich bin eine aus sechs Billionen.

I am one of six trillion.

Caption 7, Frida Gold - 6 Billionen

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An English trillion is die Billion (plural Billionen) in German. That's a 1 followed by 12 zeros, 1,000,000,000,000. I'm not sure what Frida Gold is referring to, since the population of planet Earth is 7.4 billion (in English, 7,4 Milliarden in German), so even if she means the English "billion," the count should be 7 billion, not 6 billion! Maybe it just sounded better in the song...


So let's recap what we've learned and go a bit further (false friends are highlighted in bold): 


English / German 
Million / die Million (1 plus 6 zeros)
Billion / die Milliarde (1 plus 9 zeros)
Trillion / die Billion (1 plus 12 zeros)
Quadrillion / die Billiarde (1 plus 15 zeros)
Quintillion / die Trillion (1 plus 18 zeros)
Sextillion / die Trilliarde (1 plus 21 zeros)
Septillion / die Quadrillion (1 plus 24 zeros)
Octillion / die Quadrilliarde (1 plus 27 zeros)
Nonillion / die Quintillion (or: die Quinquillion) (1 plus 30 zeros)


Note that all plurals of these high-count words in German end with -en.


Further Learning
Take a look here at the complete list of names of large German numbers and do a search for some big numbers on Yabla German and see some more examples of how they are used in German in a real world context!