Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Germany's Rising Right

"You can say 'I'm not a Muslim', but most people can't say 'I am a Christian'. There is an emptiness. And I think that's a society wide thing."
"It's not just one group. It's a very wide problem."
"People like Hoecke [Bjorn Hoecke, Alternative for Germany party] are pushing against this thing [exploiting the identity taboo in German post-war culture]."
"He knows to put his words right there."
Cornelia Reuter, Protestant pastor, Buch, Germany

"[Germans are] the only people in the world to plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital [Berlin, memorial to the Holocaust]. Identity is the question [of the day for German society]."  
"Germany needs a positive relationship with our identity. Because at the foundation of being able to move forward is identity. The foundation of our unity is identity."
Far-right politician, Bjorn Hoecke
A typcial street scene in Bad Godesburg.

Strange, that. German Jews up to the mid 1930s had convinced themselves they were German first, Jews as an afterthought; though they were proud of their heritage, they were fiercely proud of being German. German Jews felt superior about their full integration into German society, its cultures and its values. They identified ultimately with their German status as citizens. The intellectual culture of Germany, its language, music, art, laws and politics was quintessentially Jewish. The unity that German Jews experienced as being one with their ethnicity and citizenship was profound.

And what a rude awakening it was to discover their ethnicity, their religion, and their pride in the culture and its values were not theirs after all, when the Third Reich made its fateful distinction between Semites and Aryans; the former despicable, deformed and degraded grubbing lice infecting the world, the latter representing pure physical grace and beauty; blonde, blue-eyed, statuesque, strong and courageous. None of the fine attributes of Aryans were invested in the grotesque physical specimens that identified Jews as the vermin of Europe.

The penance of democratic Germany seen in the 'monument of shame in the heart of the capital', is the hairshirt that Germany is meant to wear in perpetuity for its adoption of fascism and its success in eradicating six million Jews from the face of the Earth, in a genocidal operation of stunning intent and efficiency to which manpower, treasury and rolling stock were devoted at a time when the Axis powers led by Germany mounted their challenge to the free world represented by the Allied powers which eventually destroyed the Third Reich's ambitions.

A result of the ignominious horrors discovered in the death camps with their incinerators and half-dead survivors was universal blame and shame leading to defining German identity became synonymous with ferocious inhumanity on a scale that shocked the world and sent German identity reeling for cover. Now, there is a struggle in Germany for its citizens to rediscover who they are, what they belong to; certainly not the shameful history of Nazism. Germans, eager to make amends to their dignity and their reputation, have become tolerant and eager to please.

Their initial enthusiasm in embracing the invitation of their redoubtable Chancellor's invitation to refugees and haven-seekers from the world of Islam has abated considerably under the real weight of supporting an influx of millions first through immigration, then through absorbing a substantial number of those flooding Europe. The nation that once murdered six million Jews of Europe now is home to six million Muslims from across the Middle East and North Africa.

Enthusiasm has waned among Germans, still struggling to find their pride in German identity harking back to its cultural heritage before it went berserk under the National Socialist German Workers Party. Germans now see that identity and the culture and the heritage smothered by the presence of a foreign culture, heritage and religion. No longer quaint, but threatening to the stable presence of their own, where the familiar has become exotic and strange and intrusive.

Buch, Germany, remains an island not yet breached by the tide of refugees. It does have a small refugee centre in mid-town where a few hundred people live, but nothing comparable to other German cities, towns and villages, crowded with foreign elements, intruding on the hospitality of Germans and committing crimes both large and small as they begin to accommodate themselves to their new surroundings, discovering how different the culture and its expectations for conformity to German values are.

The relative paucity of Muslims in Buch does not warrant that supermarkets bother to stock halal meats. But it does exist fairly close to other places whose familiarity with the past appears to have been hugely diluted by the presence of Muslims representing the present. Townsfolk feel the borders of their nation have been lawlessly trampled. And of course, the presence of hundreds of thousands without identifying papers, without proper visas to enter but with the invitation of Frau Merkel put the stamp on that impression.

Buch citizens have voted largely for what is termed the far-right political party in Germany. Their vote expresses their distaste and their fear of becoming like other places in Germany where the influx of foreign elements has frightening implications in the fact that they now outnumber the indigenous residents of those German towns, jealous of their heritage and their culture, suddenly under threat of disappearing under the weight of strange people with a strange religion.

A Woolworth's store in Germany has stopped selling Christmas decorations because it is now a Muslim shop
A Woolworth’s store in Germany has stopped selling Christmas decorations because it is now a Muslim shop - Image: CenWoolworth

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