October 31, 2003

I assume they'll end up re-editing this

A German politician uses an ugly, repellent analogy to argue against collective German Holocaust guilt, saying that blaming the "German race" for Auschwitz is like blaming the Jews for the Russian revolution. "One could describe Jews with some justification as Taetervolk [a race of perpetrators]." As Instantman points out, playing "the moral-equivalence game" is a guaranteed loser for Germans when they're talking about Jews. It is particularly shocking when, as here, the analogy involves charges and rhetoric that are identical to Nazi-era antisemitic propaganda. How could this guy have possibly believed that including such an analogy and such rhetoric in an official public speech would be a good idea? I don't know enough about German politics to judge, but it does appear to reveal, at minimum, something ugly and disturbing about contemporary German political culture.

The BBC's assessment of the story is downright bizarre, and perhaps similarly revealing of something disturbing about British journalistic culture:

Our correspondent says any criticism of Jewish people is still a taboo in Germany, which makes this extremely embarrassing for Mr Hohmann's party.

Perhaps I have an over-active imagination, but I can't help visualizing the BBC's anonymous correspondent as in a film, a close-up frame on a mouth whispering into a telephone receiver, hissing, sputtering with indignation and regret over the fact that "any criticism" of Jews is "still taboo" even after all these years. OK, there's no "perhaps" about it. I do have an o.-a. i. Still, how could the BBC web folks have felt it to be a good idea to describe this talk of Taetervolk as just "any criticism"?

(A statement from a leading Social Democrat that "there is no place for anti-Semites in the German parliament" is described as "a harder line.")

Posted by Dr. Frank at October 31, 2003 03:38 PM | TrackBack

Maybe it's just me, and maybe i'm just not that smart, but why are people still bringing things like that up? But, if people insist on doing so, comparing those two instinces in a way to justify something, which is what I took from the article, is just ridiculous. If you're going to start doing that, let's really start grasping at straws and find excuses for every big war and political movement in all of history. Why don't we just accept that shit has happened and try to move on and grow from it. I know this is a rather naive way of thinking and has a lot to do with why I got a "D" in my political science class, but at the same time, even my professor agreed with me, "as simplistic and naive of thinking it may be." So, whatever, i hate politics..

Posted by: Amy 80 at October 31, 2003 06:06 PM

You would think at this point that an elected official of a western nation would know enough not to say something like this. I would think that in Germany, with the "holocaust guilt" that many Germans do experience, one would be even more aware not to refer to an event like this in a context where it isn't very appropriate. For some reason, it seems strange that the outrage that feels so natural to most us wasn't seen by the BBC. The statement made by the Social Democrat in response was far from "a harder line" in my eyes. Perhaps this is a good example of the whispers of Jewish resentment running through many areas of Europe, as they feel Jews are responsible for at least some of the dangerous tension in the Mid East.

Posted by: Adam at October 31, 2003 09:25 PM