Letter from Munich – 031
Letter from Munich – the Joseph Affair – 31
EINE DEUTSCHE FASSUNG STEHT WEITER UNTEN.
10 August 2001
Dear Mr. Graf, dear friends,
A continuation of the letter of last week:
About the same time, the mayor of Sebnitz, a CDU member, was also interviewed on German state television. At the end of a discussion with a reporter, he added ominously, staring directly into the camera and with a deadly serious expression on his face, that the investigation of these events would be pursued to their conclusion, no matter how “painful” that conclusion might be. Why the mayor of a town should be commenting in this way on the details of an ongoing police investigation or why he should have such an interest in the investigation remains, at least to an American, rather puzzling.
At any rate, new statements in the media soon followed. It was suggested that Dr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, the mother, was unbalanced. However, she was never referred to by her title. Even the fact that she had obtained her doctorate was rarely if ever mentioned. In a country like Germany, where titles and status count for much more than in the English-speaking world, and where everyone with a title of any kind is referred to by that title in public, those omissions were striking. Nor did it ever become public knowledge that the Drs. Kantelberg-Abdulla had survived two wars in Iraq. During that time Dr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, the mother, had worked as a university lecturer, under tremendous wartime stress, instructing medical students on subjects related to pharmacy.
Dr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, the mother, was depicted in the media as a woman isolated and shunned by her neighbors in Sebnitz. She was said to be haughty and arrogant, and the implication clearly was that she now deserved what she was getting. In fact, in addition to her professional duties, Dr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, the wife, has been a popular local politician, elected by her constituents to a seat on the Sebnitz town council. She was not, however, elected as a member of the seemingly all-powerful CDU, but as a member of the left-of-center rival SPD, the Social Democrats.
It may not be very relevant here, but it could perhaps be useful to remember that the Social Democrats are a party whose members have, since the time of Kaiser Wilhelm, suffered what no American politician could ever conceive of. Heinrich Mann, in his novel “Der Untertan,” wrote of their ostracism and imprisonment during this period. Many more writers have described what happened to Social Democrats during the Third Reich. Chancellor Schroeder himself reminded the country in a recent, surprisingly emotional remark before television cameras in the Bundestag that members of his party, the Social Democrats, had during the Nazi period suffered imprisonment and detention in concentration camps, physical and emotional trials that amounted to torture in the extreme, and of course execution.
This letter will be continued next week.
Robert John Bennett