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From Spiegel Magazine:

Abarbanell wollte sich als Kind von seinen Eltern nicht vorlesen lassen, er war "nicht geduldig genug". Er musste rauf auf alle Bäume, aber still sitzen? Auf keinen Fall. Die Schule interessierte ihn zunächst nicht. Als er 13 war, nahm er ein paar Stunden in zeitgenössischem Tanz, und dann war da plötzlich der Wunsch, seinen Körper auf diese Weise verstehen zu lernen.

What does the bolded sentence mean? Is it that Abarbanell's parents required him to go up all the trees and sit still? (I was guessing that auf alle Bäume is an idiom, but could not find anything from Google search to confirm that.)

Also, why is it necessary to use both rauf and auf next to each other?

  • Note that rauf is short for "hinauf", denoting direction. Don't confuse ist with the preposition "auf" that is used with the destination of the movement. – Matthias Nov 20 '14 at 9:34
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You can roughly translate the bold sentence as "He had to climb every tree he came across, but would he ever sit still?"

"Er musste" is a self imposed must, a very strong desire. You get this from the context as it makes no sense that parents force him to climb the trees. If the sentence had been "Er musste jeden Sonntag zur Kirche gehen" you would probably read it as "His parents made him go to church every Sunday".

"auf alle Bäume" isn't an idiom. There is "alles, was nicht bei drei auf dem Baum ist", meaning "whoever cannot escape quickly enough" ("I count to three and if you're not on the tree by then, I'll get you"), but that is not meant here.

Regarding having both "rauf" and "auf": this translates as "he had to go up on all trees" -- there you have your rauf (up) and auf (on). You could write it as "er musste auf alle Bäume rauf", does that make it easier to understand for you?

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I'd say that he felt the need to climb a lot of trees as opposed to sitting quiet. The author wants to say that he was very active, and I don't recognize it as a specific idiom.

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Maybe it helps to divide it into two sentences in order to understand the second part.

Er musste rauf; auf alle Bäume..

He had to go up; on all trees..

(hope you get the idea). Here we also use "up" and "on". I think Robert was going in this direction, too.

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