When I worked as an intern at the Berlin office of Associated Press in the 1990s, I was told to look for stories involving 1. The Wall 2. Communism 3. Nazis 4. Hitler 5. The Holocaust. “That’s all the world is interested in when it comes to Germany,” my superior, a jaded reporter, told me.
It’s still true. A flip through the papers over the last few days confirms the eternal influence of Hitler on our culture and public consciousness. Like this poster found hanging around Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg. It’s a map of the Middle East where Israel has disappeared and been replaced with a country called Ramallah. And it’s titled Endlösung (Final Solution) – not the most tasteful of names.
And it’s not the work of neo-Nazis, but of the Danish street art group Surrend. In Der Tagesspiegel, artist Jan Egesborg justifies the action:
“The idea behind this poster, especially in a German context, was to spark discussion about the agressive and negative position of Israel. We never denied Israel’s right to exist, but it was a historical mistake to found Israel… As a Jew, I always found it problematic, that Israel was built on stolen land…There is no answer, other than that the Jews from Israel find a new home in the USA, Germany or Denmark.”
Inflamatory stuff, indeed. Predictably, the mayor, Jewish groups and institutions across the world – especially Israel – are outraged. Boring…
I don’t know what to think. There is nothing to think. It doesn’t bring discussion further. It furthers a few careers in that industry of idiocy we like to call contemporary art.
I do know what to think about Wolfgang Thierse (SPD) – the Santa Claus lookalike who’s the speaker of the German parliament and an MP for Prenzlauer Berg. He’d lost points with me for his baffling support of the reconstruction of the Berliner Schloss. But since he took part in a sit-down protest against the neo-Nazis marching through Prenzlauer Berg on May Day, I like the guy again. The police had to practically drag him and some other lesser politicians away to allow the Nazi march to take place – undoubtably an absurd situation to be in for one of the most powerful politicians in Germany.
Crazily, Thierse is coming under fire from all sides for his protest. The police union, the CDU, even members of his own party are accusing him of “dishonourable” conduct that is a disgrace to his high office – because he tried to hinder the freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate as guranteed by the German constitution – also for people who abhor these principles and would burn the constitution if they had the chance.
Some are calling for his resignation and state prosecutors are “checking” to see if Thierse faces criminal charges.
Only in Germany.