Letter from Munich – 026
Letter from Munich – the Joseph Affair – 26
EINE DEUTSCHE FASSUNG STEHT WEITER UNTEN.
6 July 2001
Dear Mr. Graf, dear friends,
“‘Die Zukunft gehoert uns!’ bawls Hitler in Leni Riefenstahl’s documentary on the Nuremberg rally of 1934: ‘The future belongs to us!’ And at the Christian Democrat party conference on 1 July 2001 in Berlin, the CDU candidate for mayor of Berlin, Frank Steffel, shouted, ‘Die Zukunft gehoert uns!’: The future belongs to us!”
“I do not believe that,” said Dietrich.
“Get a videotape of Riefenstahl’s documentary, and you’ll see,” Anne-Marie replied.
“You know what I mean,” said Dietrich. “I don’t believe that any CDU politician in Germany today would be stupid enough to use a phrase like that.”
Anne-Marie reached down and slipped a cassette into the video recorder next to her chair. The opening title of the regular evening news broadcast of ARD – German state television – for 1 July 2001 appeared. She fast-forwarded to an image of Frank Steffel at a podium and then played the cassette at normal speed. Steffel’s eyes were blazing. “Die Zukunft gehoert uns,“ he was shouting excitedly. The audience cheered.
“So?” said Dietrich defensively. “What does that prove? Or do you think that Nazis are alive and well among the membership of Germany’s Christian Democrats?”
“Of course not,” said Anne-Marie slowly, patiently, “but it does show the extreme that the Christian Democrats are willing to go to, just to appeal to certain elements in the electorate.” She leaned forward in her chair and looked at us all with more than her usual intensity. “The European Union issued a report a few days ago that contained a description of the extent to which right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism has once again become a problem in Germany. The Christian Democrats of course trotted out their leading Jewish member and had him promptly reject the report, but that won’t solve the problem. It won’t solve the problem, for example, of the bizarre behavior of the authorities when confronted with this phenomenon. Last week in Germany’s highly reliable Sueddeutsche Zeitung there was a report about the district attorney of Dusseldorf who had six neo-Nazis arrested after they attacked three other Germans who looks they didn’t like – and don’t you just love it,” she added parenthetically, “the way Nazis always attack in groups? The scum are afraid to go one on one with their victims. Anyway, two of the three victims in Dusseldorf were so brutally beaten they had to be hospitalized. The third managed to run away. And what did the district attorney do? Why of course –“ and here her grim smile seemed shot through with irony and sarcasm “– of course he did what any rational district attorney in Germany would do. He released the six neo-Nazis on bail and threatened two of the victims with coercive detention. Why? Because they refused to give him the name of the third victim, who was terrified he would be attacked again by one of the six thugs now running around free.”
She removed the cassette from the video recorder as she said, “Look. Germany has a problem that it simply will not confront. Do you know what the mother of the boy Joseph said recently, the mother of the child who was killed by neo-Nazis in Sebnitz? She said she doesn’t care what the government says about her. She doesn’t care how much it tries to portray her as some crazy woman who cannot accept the death of her son. She is determined to keep fighting for justice, for the rest of her life if necessary. ‘Hardly anyone believes me,’ she said during a recent conversation, ‘when I tell them other children in eastern Germany have been killed for the same reasons my son was killed. But I would feel responsible for their deaths and the deaths of other children that might occur in the future, if I did not do everything I could to show what really happened to my son, and to bring his killers to justice.’”
There was a kind of terrible determination in Anne-Marie’s aristocratic features as she added, “Yes, the future does belong to us – not to them.”
Could be. Maybe. What do I know? Politics in Germany is a complete mystery to me. I write only what I hear.
Robert John Bennett
======================================================== ” title=”mailto:email@example.com ======================================================== “>rjbennett at post.harvard.edu ===…
“>rjbennett at post.harvard.edu