Archive → November, 2009
“Arbeit macht frei” is a German phrase meaning “work brings freedom” or “work shall set you free/will free you” or “work liberates” and, literally in English, “work makes (one) free”. The slogan is known for being placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps.
The slogan “Arbeit macht frei” was placed at the entrances to a number of Nazi concentration camps “as a kind of mystical declaration that self-sacrifice in the form of endless labor does in itself bring a kind of spiritual freedom.”
Although it was common practice in Germany to post inscriptions of this sort at entrances to institutional properties and large estates, the slogan’s use in this instance was ordered by SS General Theodor Eicke, inspector of concentration camps and first commandant of Dachau Concentration Camp.
The slogan can still be seen at several sites, including the entrance to Auschwitz I—although, according to Auschwitz: a New History, by BBC historian Laurence Rees, it was placed there by commandant Rudolf Höß, who believed that doing menial work during his own imprisonment under the Weimar Republic had helped him through the experience. At Auschwitz, the upper bowl in the “B” in “ARBEIT” is wider than the lower bowl, appearing to some as upside-down. Several geometrically constructed sans-serif typefaces of the 1920s experimented with this variation.
The slogan can also be seen at the Dachau concentration camp, Gross-Rosen concentration camp, Sachsenhausen, and the Theresienstadt Ghetto-Camp.
At Buchenwald, however, “Jedem das Seine” (literally, “to each his own”, but figuratively “everyone gets what he deserves”) was used instead.
In 1938 the Austrian political cabaret writer Jura Soyfer and the composer Herbert Zipper, while prisoners at Dachau Concentration Camp, wrote the “Dachaulied” (The Dachau Song). They had spent weeks marching in and out of the camp’s gate to daily forced labour, and considered the motto “Arbeit macht frei” over the gate an insult. The song repeats the phrase cynically as a “lesson” taught by Dachau. (The first verse is translated in the article on Jura Soyfer.)
In the nineteenth century, Chinese restaurateurs developed American Chinese cuisine when they modified their food for Caucasian American tastes. First catering to railroad workers, restaurants were established in towns where Chinese food was completely unknown. These restaurant workers adapted to using local ingredients and catered to their customers’ tastes. Dishes on the menu were often given numbers, and often a roll and butter was offered on the side.
In the process, chefs invented dishes such as chop suey and General Tso’s Chicken. As a result, they developed a style of Chinese food not found in China. Restaurants (along with Chinese laundries) provided an ethnic niche for small businesses at a time when Chinese were excluded from most jobs in the wage economy by racial discrimination or lack of language fluency.
Dishes that often appear on American Chinese menus include:
* General Tso’s Chicken— chunks of chicken that are deep-fried, with broccoli and seasoned with ginger, garlic, sesame oil, scallions, and hot chili peppers.
* Sesame Chicken— boned, battered, and deep-fried chicken which is then dressed with a translucent but dark red, sweet, slightly sour, mildly spicy, semi-thick, Chinese soy sauce made from corn starch, vinegar, chicken broth, and sugar, and often served with steamed broccoli.
* Chinese chicken salad — Salad, in the form of uncooked leafy greens, does not exist in traditional Chinese cuisine for sanitary reasons, since manure and human feces were China’s primary fertilizer through most of its history. It usually contains crispy noodle (fried wonton skin) and sesame dressing. Some restaurants serve the salad with mandarin oranges.
* Chop suey — connotes “leftovers” in Chinese. It is usually a mix of vegetables and meat in a brown sauce but can also be served in a white sauce.
* Chow mein — literally means ‘stir-fried noodles.’ Chow mein consists of fried noodles with bits of meat and vegetables. It can come with chicken, beef, pork or shrimp.
* Crab rangoon — Fried wonton skins stuffed with artificial crab meat (surimi) and cream cheese.
* Fortune cookie — Invented in San Francisco by East Asian immigrants, fortune cookies have become sweetened and found their way to many American Chinese restaurants. Fortune cookies have become so popular that even some authentic Chinese restaurants serve them at the end of the meal as dessert and may feature Chinese translations of the English fortunes.
* Fried rice — Pan-fried rice, usually with chunks of meat, vegetables, and often egg.
Regional American Chinese dishes:
* Chow mein sandwich— Sandwich of chow mein and gravy (Southeastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island).
* Chop suey sandwich — Sandwich of chicken chop suey on a hamburger bun (North Shore of Massachusetts — the only known remaining restaurants serving this specialty are “Genghis Salem” and “Salem Lowe.” Both are located at Salem Willows Park, Salem, Massachusetts. This sandwich is traditionally wrapped in a napkin cone and eaten with a fork).
* St. Paul sandwich — Egg foo young patty in plain white sandwich bread (St. Louis, Missouri).
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