Monday, December 27, 2004

Germany's relationship with Patriotism

I came across an interesting article today in the English edition of a German newsmagazine, Der Spiegel. The article, entitled “Debating Patriotism” talks about Germany’s dilemma with national pride. After experiencing American patriotism, French “La Patrie”-ism, and British “modest pride” I found Germany’s lack of patriotism particularly fascinating.
It’s not a lack, per se…it is more a fear to express pride, as if one would be reprimanded and branded as being a neo-Nazi, if you dared to suggest German superiority in anything other than soccer, and even then, the German soccer fans would never start chanting: “Deutschland, Deutschland” like the American fans chant U-S-A.
I can remember talking about the benefits of school uniforms in the US, how children can concentrate on schoolwork, instead of competing in some fashion show. And my German interlocutor responded, that you would never find uniforms at German schools, because it is against the idea of individuality that is promoted in Germany, and too reminiscent of the Hitler Youth, etc. Yeah…well, not very logical, because in Britain most schools (public and private) have a uniform. But this is just an example of the spastic relationship Germans have with their collective past.
Another one is the ban of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. It is impossible to buy that book legally in Germany. Some libraries have copies of it, but you are only allowed to read it, in a special room after signing a form revealing loads of personal details and your intentions. Alternately you can seek connections to the local underground neo-Nazi chapter, who have become the sole distributors of the book in Germany.

[Interesting nugget of information I got from a German friend of mine, and found more detail of in Wikipedia:

Today, the copyright of all editions of Mein Kampf except the English and the Dutch (Dutch government seized that in the same way) is owned by the state of Bavaria. The copyright will end on December 31, 2015. Historian Werner Maser, in an interview with Bild am Sonntag has stated that Peter Raubal, son of Hitler's nephew Leo Raubal, would have a strong legal case for winning the copyright from Bavaria if he pursued it. Raubal, an Austrian engineer, has stated he wants no part of the rights to the book, which could be worth millions of Euros.
The government of Bavaria, in agreement with the Federal Government of Germany, does not allow any copying or printing of the book in Germany, and opposes it also in other countries but with less success. Owning and buying the book is legal. Trading in old copies is legal as well, unless it is done in such a fashion as to promote hatred or war, which is generally illegal. Most German libraries carry heavily commented and excerpted versions of Mein Kampf.
In the Netherlands selling the book, even in the case of an old copy, is illegal as promoting hatred, but possession and lending is not. In 1997 the government explained to the parliament that selling a scientifically annotated version might escape prosecution.
1999, the Simon Wiesenthal Center documented that major internet booksellers like and sell Mein Kampf to Germany. After a public outcry, both companies agreed to stop those sales.
Mein Kampf was an influential text among the Arab Ba’ath Party activists. An Arabic edition of Mein Kampf has been published by Bisan publishers in Lebanon. It ranks on the best-seller list among Palestinian Arabs.
Public-domain copies of Mein Kampf are available at various Internet sites with links to
banned books; also, several web sites provide copies of the book. However, some of those copies are edited in a dubious way, for example to replace the many references to Christianity in the book with neo-Pagan ones.]

I digress…

Oh, and the word ‘Nazi’ there doesn’t mean someone who is abusing their power, and behaving despotically…it actually means Nazi. I found this out, when wanting to change the channel of one of the TVs in the cardio room at my local (thus German) gym: the only answer I got when asking if there were any “TV Nazis,” were aghast expressions. No Seinfield fans there, I guess. The closest expression they have would be “Fascists.” But you still don’t bandy about with such terms there.

Ah, here is another characteristic that will have many Americans baffled and scratching their heads: German university is free, however there is absolutely NO accountability on the students’ part. A student may take and drop as many classes as he or she wants, fail as many classes as he or she dares, and up until recently, study as long as he or she liked to get his or her degree. Now, some schools have set a 15 semester (thus 7 ½ year limit) to “free” studies…after that one must pay the *gasp* exorbitant tuition of 600 Euros a semester. The universities’ demands of accountability were met with hysterical screams that Big Brother was coming.

The Spiegel article’s author pretty much summed it up:
When the French are criticized, they barely respond. Comfortable with their own identity, they do not react to the midge-bites. Still in search of normality, the Germans have not yet reached that state of calm.


Blogger ac blue eagle said...

I'm not sure what you are getting at in all of this, but I lived in Germany (courtesy of the US ArmY) from 1962-64. I revisited the country in 1994 and then again in 1994, and the biggest thing that struck me is how different it was between when I left in 1964 and when I returned in 1994. I didn't realize it in 1962 through 1964, but Germany had still not recovered fully from World War II--though most vestiges of the war were gone. The only thing in Frankfurt (where I was stationed) still showing signs of the war was the old opera house, which was still bombed out. Barbed wire shielded its blackened ruined. Today, that building has been re-built and turned into an arts and crafts facility, as I recall.
I remember, too, in 1994 and 94 being very aware of all the bright lights in Frankfurt at night, its wonderful subway system and all those wonderful museums along the Main River (including the Jewish Museum of Frankfurt). What a great city it had become from what I remembered of it in the 1960s. I remember asking a German I casually met at a bar, when did the money come back to Frankfurt? He said about 1980. So, that's how long it took, from 1945, the end of the war and total rubble in the city, to 1980 to a city so beautiful I could and would love to live there again.
I might add that Gutleut Kaserne, where I'd lived, was very near the Banhauf in Frankfurt. It is still there, but it is a totally civilian facility now. The drab red brick has been coated with some shiny substance. The quadrangle where our motor pool was is a garden with waving landscape covered with all sorts of plants. And, against the back wall, where my barracks had been, the structure has been covered with another structure all white and striking. And, banners or flags wave gaily in the wind along the roof top. What a great change.
The IG Farben Buidling, which had been an American military headquarters and where I worked, also has become a part of Frankfurt University. All great changes in Germany.
I might add the Germans I met in my last several visits to Frankfurt were all very happy to give instructions on how to find this or that site. They seemed to be very friendly and helpful--especially to me, an American.

2:41 PM  
Blogger SpotlessMind said...

It is only a minor point, but German soccer fans attending a game of the national team very often chant "Deutschland, Deutschland", regardless if the game is in Japan, Poland, or at home in Germany. Players sing the national anthem before the game (or at least move the lips), athletes who win a medal at the Olympic Games don't hesitate to take the German flag on their honor round through the stadium... I would say that sports is one of the few fields where Germans show their national pride.
For my part, I don't like the term "National pride", but that has nothing to do with German history. I am happy to live in Germany, but definitely not proud of. I think that is a big difference.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Sminklemeyer said...

I've heard that Germans are very much ashamed of their past. I guess there's still a little bit of fear too. Very educational post.

9:26 PM  
Blogger Kevin F said...

I have been told that it was illegal to say "Deutschland Uber Alles" (sorry, no umlauts on my keyboard) in public in Germany.

8:36 AM  
Blogger dissertation said...

I liked this post very much as it has helped me a lot in my research and is quite interesting as well. Thank you for sharing this information with us.

Essay on Patriotism

12:47 PM  

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