Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Soccer, Germany and Nazis past & present

It is only nine days before the World Cup 2006 begins in Germany. The first series of the world-wide soccer (football to the rest of the world) play-offs begin in Munich and Gelsenkirchen on June 9th. Thirty-one national teams play at twelve different stadiums throughout Germany until all are eliminated but two. The final two teams meet at the World Cup Final on July 9th in Berlin. For more information about the World Cup check out the BBC here and the World Cup 2006 site here.

In the shadows behind the international sports competition are not only reminders of Germany’s past but chilling examples of present day events indicating that past has not entirely been laid to rest.

The final game in Berlin is the site of the 1936 Olympics. The stadium is surrounded Nazi-era statues depicting the Aryan superman archetype including those sculpted by Arno Breker, one of the more famous artists of the Third Reich and a member of Hitler’s inner circle although never a member of the Nazi Party. The controversy has raged about what to do with the statues with solutions proposed to destroy them, cover them up or provide text explaining the history of the statues.

According to Expatica,

Writer Ralph Giordano said merely covering up the Nazi statues was not
enough. "They should be removed and destroyed," said Giordano. "Just to cover
them up would be very symbolic of the way in which Germany has dealt with its
Nazi past."

In the same piece, Christoph Stoelzl, a city historian and vice chair of the Berlin City Council said,

There is no danger posed by these sculptures. The connection between a cult
of the body and racism is very complicated because there was both a rightist and
a leftist variation of the cult of the body.

Dealing with symbols of the past should be easy compared to addressing problems racism in present day Germany. There were earlier warnings that Neo-Nazis may try to disrupt the World Cup. And there have been warnings of certain no-go areas for soccer fans with dark skin. According to Der Speigel,

A former government spokesman on Wednesday suggested that dark-skinned
visitors to Germany should consider avoiding the eastern part of the country
where racism runs high. "There are small and medium-sized towns in Brandenburg, as well as elsewhere, which I would advise a visitor of another skin colour to avoid going to," said Uwe-Karsten Heye, who now leads an anti-racism
organization called "Show Your Color." "It is possible he wouldn't get out

Eastern Germany has seen an increase of right-wing and neo-nazi movements. These range from thugs attacking individuals such as an Ethiopian-German beaten into a coma in Potsdam in April and a German –Kurdish politician attached by skinheads in Berlin this month to the development of the National Democratic Party of Germany (NDP) whose top candidate in regional elections this fall is Udo Pastors, also referred to as the Gentleman Nazi.

For the next six weeks we can only hope these creeps don’t slither out from under their rocks and leave the international guests alone. Beyond that, Germany needs to start to address the conditions which make these nuts appealing and to not tolerate violence against minority citizens.

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