Letter from Munich – 010
Letter from Munich – the Joseph Affair – 10
EINE DEUTSCHE FASSUNG STEHT WEITER UNTEN.
16 March 2001
Dear Mr. Graf, dear friends,
“Reasonable people,” said Erich, “have always supported the idea that corruption, limited civil rights, turning minorities into scapegoats – all that is acceptable as long as we can live untroubled lives in a society where order rules.”
Many of us were giving him skeptical looks, but Erich seemed not to notice. “Austria’s Joerg Haider publicly makes a shockingly anti-Semitic remark about the head of Vienna’s Jewish community and weeks go by before the Austrian Chancellor finally meekly contradicts him. Chancellor Schuessel is certainly not going to offend the leading politician in the other party making up his own government coalition. The Chancellor knows – as European politicians knew sixty-five years ago – that one must accommodate oneself to such people – and to parties like Haider’s, which one of its own members recently referred to quite happily as ‘brown’ (the color used in Europe to designate right-wing extremist and Nazi parties). The Chancellor is a reasonable man.”
Everyone was silent. “And in Germany, of course, politicians like former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, together with German state prime ministers Roland Koch, Kurt Biedenkopf, and Edmund Stoiber, all members of the same political union, can be involved in any amount of corruption, and no one cares, as long as they produce explanations that are not too laughably implausible and as long as they just make sure that everything in the country or in their state is orderly. That’s all people really care about. That’s all even the Americans care about, just as long as people like Avi Primor, former Israeli ambassador to Germany, keep reassuring them that things are really all right in central Europe these days.”
“And in Sebnitz?” someone asked.
Erich laughed at the mention of the town where the boy Joseph had died, in a case where the parents had accused a group of neo-Nazis of murder. “Sebnitz?” he almost sneered. “Sebnitz? Nobody remembers Sebnitz, my friend. And the authorities in Sebnitz – the mayor and the police there – and the authorities in Dresden have managed to completely isolate the parents. And in their isolation they been turned into a couple of jabbering paranoids that nobody will ever believe. They rant on that skinheads openly give them the Nazi salute in broad daylight, that they are publicly insulted, that they still receive death threats, that their daughter is harassed in school, and that their own lawyer has accepted a fee of fifteen thousand dollars from the state chancellery, from the very government he is supposed to be protecting them from – and it’s all true – but we have managed to destroy the parents’ credibility and perhaps even their sanity so completely that no one will ever believe them.”
He smiled with satisfaction. “In Berlin today, the social democrats may control the federal government, but it is we, my friends, who control Germany.”
I left. I didn’t want him to have any further opportunity to call me one of his “friends.”
Robert John Bennett