Letter from Munich – 014
Letter from Munich – the Joseph Affair – 14
EINE DEUTSCHE FASSUNG STEHT WEITER UNTEN.
13 April 2001
Dear Mr. Graf, dear friends,
“Selective morality?” said Horst-Eberhard. “Such a thing doesn’t exist. No country, no society, no newspaper, no individual can decry injustice in one area and remain indifferent to it in another. In the end, a choice has to be made. Either you are critical of every injustice or you become indifferent to every injustice – and suffer the consequences.”
“Oh, not in Europe, not in Germany,” said Waltraud. “We can do what we want.”
If Old Testament prophets still existed, I suppose they would smile as Horst-Eberhard smiled: solemnly, as if observing human affairs from a great distance or a great height, with a certain compassion for the folly of human beings. But if ancient prophets used to sometimes thunder with outrage and indignation as well, Horst-Eberhard responded calmly, with a kind of immeasurably profound gravity, “Certain elements of the German press and the German public are incensed at the way Helmut Kohl’s party has gotten away with murder: nearly no one has been called to account for the millions in campaign contributions that were used to influence German elections, keep Kohl and his henchman in power, and pervert the course of German and European history for sixteen years. The same individuals and organizations are also affronted by the unwillingness of any German district attorney to investigate the destruction of an estimated 1.3 million pages of government documents in the Chancellor’s office in Bonn, the night before Kohl left office. The documents would have been used to investigate charges of corruption and bribery during the Kohl administration.”
Now it was Waltraud who smiled, and with what looked very much like a certain satisfaction.
“For years,” Horst-Eberhard went on, “Kohl’s party and its allies functioned as a kind of shadow government in Germany, a gray eminence, the real power behind what appeared to be a legitimately functioning democracy. And the party still functions that way in states like Saxony and Hesse, where everyone pretends things are running normally, and always have. In Saxony, the authorities are made to understand that they must reach a conclusion that the boy Joseph was not murdered by neo-Nazis, but instead died of an accident. In Hesse, the house of two highly regarded African-American jazz musicians is broken into and ransacked, and Nazi and racist graffiti are sprayed on the walls. The neighbors of course hear nothing, and on April 11 Germany’s ‘3 Sat’ television channel reports in its ‘Kulturzeit’ program that the police have determined the crime may not have been committed by right-wing extremists at all. Indeed, the police hint darkly, they think the crime may have been carried out by one of the victims himself. In Germany, whenever possible, you blame the victim of a racist attack, unless he or she is a member or representative of one of the ruling elites. And in Germany, if rape were to be part of a racist attack, you would of course blame the woman, or at least ‘hint darkly’ that it was really her own fault after all.”
Horst-Eberhard sighed, as if the accumulated weight of centuries were bearing down on him. “The problem is that in Germany, investigative journalism is synonymous with ‘muckraking.’ And as Bruno Schirra, writing recently in ‘Die Zeit’ pointed out, in this country muckraking is considered somehow ‘disreputable, offensive, and indecent.’ Or as a respected German newspaper editor, Hans Leyendecker, quoted in the same article, expressed it, ‘for a considerable number of German reporters, investigative journalism and research means finding a telephone number without having to ask your secretary for it.’ “
Robert John Bennett