Who would have thought that one day xenophobia would have become once more socially acceptable? History shows us one thing very clearly: man is capable of learning only to a limited extent. 73 years after the end of World War II, the extreme right-wing and racist party AfD, shorthand for “Alternative für Deutschland” (alternative for Germany), has made it into the German Bundestag. One generation between the holocaust and today. A blink of an eye in terms of history. The unspeakable suffering on the face of this planet brought about by the German people seems to be forgotten. Despite education campaigns at schools. Despite huge memorials in large German cities. Despite myriads of documentaries about the atrocities of the NS era, ubiquitous on German TV channels. What is going wrong?
Once again, it is tolerated and “okay” to express and justify one’s aversion towards the foreign. To reject and – what is worse – despise somebody who comes from a different cultural background. Who looks different, who has a different lifestyle. It is not only incredibly unfair to demand complete tolerance for oneself but refuse to tolerate others, it is also inconceivably dumb. If I deny somebody a right then I cannot take that right for granted myself, but I always have to expect that somebody will contest in turn the rights I claim to have. Where does all that xenophobia stem from? It is probably an incorrect inference drawn from the feeling of one’s own inferiority and failure. My own grandparents, who 75 years later still struggle with the collective guilt of the German people and who can only gradually begin to express their horror and misery, still suffer from the unspeakable grief once caused by socially accepted xenophobia.
Berlin 2018. Farid Bang and Kollegah – two German gangster rappers whose lyrics are not particularly renowned for their outstanding quality – are awarded the “Echo”, up to that point the most important music award in Germany. Their song “0815” contains the following lines:
“Und wegen mir sind sie beim Auftritt bewaffnet
Mein Körper definierter als von Auschwitz-Insassen”
Literally translated the lyrics read as follows:
“And because of me they carry guns on stage
my body more defined than Auschwitz inmates”
The whole creative output of the two gentlemen can in general be dismissed altogether for being abominable, contemptuous and grammatically a nightmare for everybody who knows how to read. But apart from that, what is simply appalling is to honour such a work as “außerordentlich wertvoll” (extraordinarily valuable) and put it in the spotlight. Music constructs culture. And the culture thus constructed is the framework in which the memory of the atrocities committed during World War II starts to wane. The framework in which more and more people are not shocked anymore by comparisons drawn to the inmates of Auschwitz. After this year’s Echo awards, at the very latest, one cannot deny anymore the hatred that Jews still face in Germany. But anti-Semitism is not a “German” problem – anger and prejudices against Jews are also widespread in many countries with a predominantly Muslim population and culture. In mid-April, two Jewish students walked through Prenzlauer Berg, a hip neighborhood in Berlin, wearing Kippas. In Berlin, you can walk barefoot, dress up as a member of the opposite sex or even wear a concrete pillar as a fashionable accessory without anyone batting an eye – people couldn’t care less. The two young men, however, were attacked by two Muslims and beaten up with a belt because the Muslims in question did care very much about the Kippas the young men wore as a display of their religious confession. At the moment, there is a lot of talk about so-called “immigrated anti-Semitism”, accusing particularly those Muslims who have come and are still coming to Germany from countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan since the peak in immigration rates in 2015.
Wolfgang Kauder, faction leader of the conservative CDU, issued the following statement: “We do not accept anti-Semitism in our country.” Those who wished to come to Germany and live in this country ought to be aware of that.
Meanwhile Alexander Gauland, faction leader of the AfD, claimed in the Bundestag that whoever burned Israeli flags forfeited his right to hospitality. Paradoxically, however, Gauland also seizes every opportunity to highlight how proud he is of the achievements of German soldiers in World War II, those soldiers who made possible the most horrible anti-Semitic crime in history of mankind. It is frightening to observe how a party that every day seeks to shatter into pieces the German culture of memory points the finger at Muslim fellow citizens and thus instrumentalizes the increasingly visible anti-Semitism to indulge in dreams of Germany within the borders of 1918.
Our society rightfully expects its immigrants to respect others’ lives, but it ought to set an example itself, unconditionally and without exceptions. We all have the moral responsibility to stand up against injustice – regardless of whether it is against Jews, Muslims, Christians or atheists. Every human being is precious, every life must be respected. And this all begins with establishing a dialogue, enhancing mutual understanding and reducing prejudices. Who knows – maybe one culture will enrich the other in the end? Our contribution to a positive evolution in Germany is our “workshop of religions” that takes place regularly at VISIONEERS. We want to create a common basis and a sound understanding of one another without adhering to a misconceived idea of tolerance and without thus permitting once more everyone to cling to his or her prejudices.