It turns out I saw an illegally leaked video of the Rammstein song “Deutschland” several hours before it was supposed to be released. This meant that I fell into the hype a few hours before I could see if I was the only one in awe, and I couldn’t talk or read about what I had just seen. My excitement on Twitter was so apparent, it led to a few others being hyped to see the video only because of my reaction it.
Later that night at 1 a.m. I had a 2.5-hour chat with a stranger on Twitter who had been influenced by my hype to watch it. Since this Twitter stranger “Thor” was someone I had had only sporadic interactions with before, aware that he is an anti-Zionist Jewish-American and taking German language class, I wasn’t quite sure what reaction to expect from him and knew my German guilt complex was kicking in either way.
Post-edit from Thor: maybe you could add an addendum that’s like “‘Thor’ mostly chose his pseudonym in homage to the [Marvel] comic book character, but he acknowledges the irony in his pagan-adjacent nom de guerre and yet he embraces it as signifying the irony of a Jew reclaiming his Germanness as a diasporic project, much like Rammstein playfully reclaim rightwing aesthetics”
German media had latched onto the controversy that Rammstein was trivializing the Holocaust in their new music video based on a 35 second teaser trailer, underlining that the typical non-listener in Germany still views them as right- and not left-wing, and I still have to defend myself to Leftist friends shocked I would listen to “Nazi music”. In fact, this chat about the video and the expectations on Rammstein as a band led to the exchange of family stories between Thor telling me about how his grandfather had become stateless and they had just regained German citizenship when he was 16 as well as other family members who had survived the Holocaust, and on my side there was me mentioning my grandfather’s role as a German soldier in WWII and the Wehrmacht blowing up our family house to stop Allied Forces from crossing the town’s bridge for liberation.
We would have had the typical dynamics of an oppressor-victim scenario as the controversy over the video would welcome, but ultimately this meant bonding over how bizarre the phenomenon of the “anti-German” Antideutsch aka (usually non-Jewish) German Zionists is. The Antideutsch who choose to compensate for German guilt complex by unconditionally preaching pro-Israel government policies no matter how violent towards Palestinians, is most bizarre for any international Leftist but especially for Jewish anti-Zionists, as Antideutsch intentions defeat themselves in an ironic self-own of oppressor-turned-victim fragility.
What follows here is a rundown of German anti/nationalism and the complexities of the German Left based on this historical accountability, inspired by the Rammstein video “Deutschland”.
Germania (as told by Rammstein)
First thing’s first, Rammstein’s music video “Deutschland” wouldn’t have been half as fascinating without the talent that is Ruby Commey in the role of “Germania”. Only a non-white woman depicting the role of Germania would lend the unexpected twist to the 9:22 long song with the ultra-nationalist title “Deutschland” in fracture script, and in this case a young Black actress from Berlin was superbly cast. Viewing the song in full length after it had initially caused controversy already (by choosing to extract a 35 second trailer in the form of the concentration camp lynching scene wedged between 2000 years of German history in the rest of the 9 minutes), a Black Germania was the representation of German femininity I needed to see until I could comprehend the underlying lyrics some more.
When I first became aware of the new video earlier that day and saw snippets of commentary outraged by that trivializing homage to the Holocaust, I felt that there was going to be more to it. But also in my gut I knew I couldn’t rely on previous reasoning of Rammstein using and playing with Nazi aesthetics in self-irony to still be the case of irony in 2019, when many formerly or nominal Leftist politicians had jumped ship to the other side and internet memes and jokes become throwaways for right-wing terrorist attacks. Even throughout 2018 I was still shocking friends when outing myself as a Rammstein fan, something that is seen as “Nazi music” to many BPOC Germans in particular, whereas I had probably begun listening to them around 1998 growing up abroad, where they’re the hottest German export that isn’t a car.
To that effect, both my history nerd self and my 20 years of Rammstein listening were being satisfied by the rendition of German history and homages to previous music videos throughout the 9:22 video. So what more does Rammstein have to do after vehemently arguing they aren’t Nazis and releasing a song “Links 2 3 4” “Left 2 3 4” in 2001 with a martialist marching beat and the lyrics:
“Sie wollen mein Herz am rechten Fleck, doch sehe ich dann nach unten weg, da schlägt es links.”
“They want my heart on the right side, but when I look down there it is beating on the left.”
“Links 2 3 4” is the same song I impose on the friends who are shocked by the revelation of my fandom, and they still remain unconvinced of a Leftist leaning Rammstein, while for instance the song “Haifisch” is a clear homage to a piece in Leftist Bertolt Brecht’s “Threepenny Opera”, who had been in political exile during the Nazi regime for his political writing. A debate that would be more suitable for rebuking Rammstein would be questioning their imagery of a toxic masculinity and misogyny while being a female fan of the band.
This time the lyrics again stated clear antinationalist themes and with a Black Germania they literally aimed their rifles into Nazi faces and shot off their heads. What I perceive as a bit role of a lynching of concentration camp inmates (not only Jewish but also the detail of homosexual symbolism in the form of a pink triangle stitched on one of the inmates’ striped costumes, as well as one of a political dissident) turning into the shooting off Nazis in retaliation, was by media and many German critics the main and only theme for judgement of the whole.
The various other scenarios: between Germanic tribes fighting off Romans in 16 A.D, the Crusades of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nations with a beknighted Ruby, a boxing scene between musicians Till Lindemann and Richard Kruspe in Weimar Germany, the GDR regime and then a West German RAF kidnapping, contemporary and past prison and May Day riot police violence of molotov cocktails and baton-beating, burning witches at a stake and Nazi book-burning interspersed with monks feasting sauerkraut and meat off of Germania’s literal body, an exploding Hindenburg zeppelin, rockets and more tanks and soldiers, a pregnant Germania in the form of both Mother Mary and a winged angel giving birth to German Shepherd puppies and ultimately being launched into space in a red glass casket by the astronauts of Rammstein with the symbolism of red lasers running through the video as a red line, mean little to place the concentration camp lynching into historical and visual context according to some media and critics?
To simply disregard the whole context of the rest of German history including the fact that a Black woman plays the role of Germany itself, might even be read as another erasure of German colonial history and the genocidal atrocities against the Herero and Nama in its African colonies, yet again for the sake of German atonement to the exceptionalization of our WWII history and the singularity of the Holocaust as the defining point to German history. In addition to being dressed as a German/Prussian colonial officer, Germania was costumed in various roles as a woods witch cutting off the head of singer Till Lindemann as a Roman legionary (which she carries severed with her throughout her roles), as a flapper girl parallel to Josephine Baker’s time in 1920s Berlin, as a sworded Jeanne D’Arc-esque knight in gilded armour, as a robed and crowned Queen in Ruby’s most striking role, as the angel of the song “Engel”, or as a GDR functionary and as an eye-patched SS-officer herself (tellingly with her right eye covered in allusion to the German phrase “auf dem rechten Auge blind”, an idiom of being oblivious to or disregarding right-wing violence).
Essentially the video in its entirety and the lyrics of “Dein Atem kalt, so alt und doch so jung” “Your breath cold, so old and yet so young” depict this fracture simultaneousness of German identity and nationhood being based on either a short duration since its current democratic post-1945 Constitution or even shorter since post-reunification (as all Rammstein band members are from the former GDR). However, a territory named Germany existed as a unified nation-state since 1871 as the German Reich expanding into an empire mainly in Africa and the Pacific, this is by standards still a young nation-state for Europe. Yet the “old” in the opening scene of Germania encountering Roman legionaries in 16 A.D. also illustrates the nationalist defining moment of a German nation, with the battle of Arminius of the Germanic tribe of the Cherusci defeating the Romans from expanding their Empire North of the Rhine at the battle of Varus (in 9 A.D.).
The intention of the lyrics and the video that I interpret as antinationalist in all their wordplay and allusion to the first line of the “Deutschlandlied” by Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, “Deutschland, Deutschland, über allen” vs. the original “über alles”, are used to mock the “überheblich” or pompously overbearing “Übermenschen”. In turn their use of this word as well as the first line of the German national anthem (in disuse post-1945) are in part what makes critics judge their aesthetic as pandering to right-wing terminology as opposed to appropriating it in ridicule. More explicitly in the lyrics voiced in the controversial Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp scenes, Lindemann states that he cannot give his love to Germany, that his heart is in flames in conflict between an affection to and condemnation of Germany, whose violent history of superiority leads to an ambivalent but deserved hatred over any possible patriotism.
“Deutschland — meine Liebe/
Kann ich dir nicht geben”
“Deutschland — mein Herz in Flammen/
Will dich lieben und verdammen”
“Man kann dich lieben/
Und will dich hassen”
Regarding this rejection of patriotism, the motif I saw as most striking for the German present was the imposing massive statue of Karl Marx’s head in the shadows of tanks and flames. Before last year’s riots in Chemnitz where this statue stands, it now depicts the hundreds if not thousands of East German nazi hooligans (and “concerned citizens”) that marched with torches “reclaiming the streets from the migrant invaders” in attempts at intimidating mostly Muslim male refugees, and in turn marking anyone not phenotypically “German” to them as the Other. Likewise, at first I wasn’t sure if Germania was birthing wolves, as Hitler’s codename had been Wolf and an artist installation after the main Chemnitz riots was a setup of bronze statues of wolves reaching out clawing in front of the Karl Marx bust as a warning. Through both the statue and the wolf dogs I read the warning of the Rammstein video about history repeating itself at this current moment in time.
It’s ironic how a band like Rammstein known for causing controversies and not treading lightly in their lyrics on cannibalism, incest, or orgies, and performances which are filled with homoeroticism and self-irony in dress-up, could still be seen as scandalous on depicting German history, when there are politicians elected to sit in parliament meanwhile, who pick fights with guides at concentration camp memorial sites claiming historical revisionism. To me the whole video and song bring this historical paradox to question: how is literally shooting Nazis in the head in a music video seen to be potentially more right-wing due to the aesthetics of a less-than-self-serious hard rock band, than an elected member of parliament saying the “12 years of bird shit” (of the Third Reich) aren’t worth mentioning, as they besmirch the greatness of German history on top of a lot of Holocaust denial and institutional disinterest in surveillance of right-wing terrorism?
The most questionable depiction in the video in my personal opinion was having a Black woman birth dogs, which could mean nothing more than a parallel to a previous Rammstein video of the band members being dogs on leashes, as it’s unlikely that it’s meant to be appropriating the insult by BPOC Germans of all white Germans being “Hunde”. Nonetheless, in my interpretation of this decision, it’s worth noting that for most Germans racism cannot be discussed, as “there are no races” having erased any mention of the word “Rasse” referring to people since 1945, while it’s in standard day-to-day use for dog breeds such as the most German dog breed of all: the German Shepherd. By including a Black actress in a narrative of German history, Rammstein is acknowledging that Black Germans are German and that they are a part of German history and future (a statement to also enrage the far-right and still oblivious right-wing fans), a clear parallel also for German colonial history only now being reckoned with, more than 100 years later due to having been sidelined from German memory.
While racism and race cannot be discussed in German discourse without using Anglophone concepts and continuously being misunderstood on terms of skin colour or political Blackness, meaning there is a strong resistance to accepting that “looking” German is not based on anything specific considering legal interethnic marriages since 1945 (as well as clearly before regarding imperial German history). At the same time the terminology of “Migrationshintergrund” or “migration background” has become a redundant euphemism that is typically used towards phenotypically not looking “German”, but at the same time any white Danish-German can claim the term of having at least one parent born in a territory outside of Germany post-1945 and tick the box if needed for “diversity”.
Similarly, the term of “Heimat” is being capered by the right-wing and conservatives as a nativist euphemism to delineate themselves from whom they view as migrants, which is also causing a reactionary movement by these as such defined migrants to reject a term that simply means “home” with an underlying sentiment of coziness and of belonging. This is admittedly a Leftist reaction I don’t align with, considering even the term of “Führer” hasn’t been as vehemently debated or erased in history with our German driver’s license still being called a “Führerschein”, but also for particular reasons of my personal background growing up abroad as a German, and thus not having as reactionary a perspective towards Germanness rather than choosing to be at ease with it as my default identity.
Those who continue to claim this momentous video criticizing German historical reckoning and renewed right-wing revisionism is in fact a marketing strategy for Rammstein and mocking the memory of the Holocaust by including a scene that explicitly ends with shooting Nazis, should then also surely argue against Quentin Tarantino having been allowed to make an entire feature film in the form of “Inglourious Basterds”, and any comical depictions of the Third Reich or Hitler to mock the Nazi regime shouldn’t exist as they do in the form of Nazis in space in “Iron Sky”. Refusing to see the continuity of German racism and Antisemitism from the Crusades and Lutheran Reformation during the Holy Roman Empire of German Nations, through the German colonial era, through the Third Reich and past the Holocaust, to current cases of neonazi violence and the mainstreaming of anti-Muslim sentiment, is what allows the right-wing resurgence to thrive in the first place: when no racism is regarded as noteworthy in perpetual comparison to the German atrocities of World War II, no German racism will be confronted unless 6 million people are systematically murdered again? The NSU neonazi terror cell was able to murder at least 10 people in cold blood over a decade, while police and law enforcement chose to blame and frame the “migrant” victims and their families of being part of a mafia and racistly dub the murders “döner kebab murders”. This right-wing violence is given institutional support as long as racism can’t be named, and anti-Muslim racism is always weighed against definitions of Antisemitism that are based on pre-1945 historicity as well, while fingers are pointed to “both sides” in a horseshoe extremism theory.
“Heimat” and a sense of belonging
Contrary to what the German far-right may believe, and as a motivation for me to punch more Nazis, my family history is more embedded in Germany than my appearance gives away. My last name Hermes is a dialect form of Hermanns, as in “of the Hermann” or Arminius the Cherusci warrior who defeated the Roman invasion, considering my family is roughly from the area the Germanic tribes of the Cherusci and Chatti who fought in the Varusschlacht were residing in. I have been to the Hermannsdenkmal in the Teutoburger Wald not too far from my grandparents’ house. Coincidentally, my grandparents’ hometown is also where the penman of the “Deutschlandlied” Hoffmann von Fallersleben has his grave, which is in no way a pilgrimage site for the German far-right as the Hermannsdenkmal is. This is why when reading Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities” I immediately noticed the error when it stated it was located in the Schwarzwald (the cliché and more famous German forest in the South). When I actually met Anderson over a lunch where he offered me some dessert cake, I pointed out this error in the Verso edition I had him sign. His scribbled acknowledgement references my then-current M.A. research on nation-state formation in Papua New Guinea and West Papua, something that was partly motivated by having lived in the former colony of German New Guinea as a child.
With the growing tolerance towards right-wing racism and the AfD entering German parliament, on top of encountering far too many neonazis in Berlin including having accidentally moved in with a right-wing flatmate at one point, my personal interest in history have strengthened my resolve to dig deeper into my own history to German WWII atrocities as well as before. My German grandfather born in 1914 lived until 2010 to the age of 96, so I know some first-hand WWII stories. I can’t ask him further questions now, and am at the last moral crossroads of “respecting elders” to ask anything more from my one last great-aunt that I have from that generation, who is soon to turn 99 and who lived in Berlin during World War II working as a technical drawer for a mechanics manufacturer.
While 2010 and 2011 when my own German grandparents were still alive in my grandmother’s childhood home rebuilt after WWII are nearly a decade ago, my father is only now finding the time to go through their possessions. Among the revelations we came across due to my grandfather being an avid collector of coins, stamps, correspondences, newspaper clippings, and books, as well as having spent his last decades in retirement doing family genealogy: the real and certified “Ariernachweis” or “Ahnenpass” document of Aryan ancestry. This is where my personal background of being non-white and having a foreign-born mother come into play that cut my Nazi certified Aryan proof into 50%, but also leads to more self-reflection in my formal research on Indigenous Studies, where blood quantum is debunked but the role of ancestry, elders, and previous generations are uplifted. How do you look back on and pay respects to ancestors not only complicit but in active roles in German WWII history? When I once brought up my grandfather’s combat role in the Wehrmacht and the international friend asked wide-eyed how much of a war criminal that made him, I said not much to the extent that everyone was, “or I would be Argentinian and not German”.
A book that I whole-heartedly recommend that interrogates personal history not to absolve individual Nazi history in the family, but to reckon with it: the graphic novel “Heimat” by Nora Krug. Inspired by marrying into a Jewish-American family, Krug breaks with the usual German silence on family history shrouded in the “never again” of collective history of the German imagined community, and looks into various family members’ involvement in the Nazi regime. This echoes my discussion with “Thor” on Twitter and with other Jewish friends, where the counterstory to one’s own is easier to contemplate for me than I can discuss with any white Germans, who tend to either claim their own family had nothing to do with WWII, or state that their deceased ancestors they never met were pure evil. Both those reactions aren’t confronting actual family history to productively deal with German racism before or beyond WWII. In contrast even, it’s as if white Germans would like to self-victimize themselves into the role of guilt in perpetuity, therefore absolving them of contemporary racism, which I myself am a target of in Germany for being non-white and racialized as Muslim.
When the last witnesses and survivors of the Holocaust pass away throughout the coming years, books like “Heimat” (only possible due to the geographic and social distance it takes for a German to reflect on Germanness) are greatly needed. Since there is no reckoning with family histories, Generation Z of Germans who are three or more generations removed from World War II are in full contempt of having to regurgitate shame and guilt. What happens after silencing own family histories combined with collective ethnic shame and guilt? The NPD and AfD party happens for those sick of the shame and guilt, the Antideutsch happen for those overcompensating in self-victimization, then choosing to unconditionally support Netanyahu. What’s dangerous and behind both trajectories is that non-Jewish Germans see Jewishness as a thing of the past, and have no tangible contact with present-day Jewish culture. As a result of conflating present-day Jewish culture with Zionism and Israel, the Antideutsch silence and condemn any living Jewish people and their individual opinions on Israeli policies, BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions), and relegate Jews to being a shadow or ghost of German imaginations.
I think this book does well in digging into individual history instead of rejecting a notion of self, and it’s telling that the English version which Krug herself translated has the title of “Belonging” instead of translating the word “Heimat”. A problem with the current form of teaching German history and Vergangenheitsbewältigung is how it chooses to wrap all contemporary citizens and residents of Germany into the collective guilt complex. How do you explain to Muslim migrants and refugees, who either have personal histories embedded in the conflict region of Israel-Palestine or are simultaneously seen as perpetually foreign for being Muslim and excluded from the German imagined community, to accept being a vessel of German guilt complex post-1945?
Another factor that doesn’t compute with some migrant Germans is that there are in fact non-white Germans who are of German ancestry and perhaps even Christian, and I have often wondered if their reactionary attacks towards others such as the tiresome “go talk to your Nazi family over Christmas dinner!” is a belief in racial purity, too. It’s as if you can’t have German ancestry pre-1945 and be a current target of neonazi violence in 2019. So I have to fight both the far-right and some on the reactionary Left for having a sense of self and belonging in Germanness. If I could choose to combine the knowledge of my grandfather’s Aryan passport with not having to be in the position of quitting my most recent minimum-wage sales job for a neonazi loitering at my workplace, I would in a heartbeat. As it is, I’m simultaneously seen as not German (enough), while carrying with me my family’s dark history and branded a Nazi by default of being ethnically German on one side.
Of course there haven’t been any more Christmas dinners to talk to Nazi relatives with, but it’s also fascinating how much does stay hidden. Among the shoeboxes kept by my grandparents was also the revelation that there are photos of my grandmother in her 20s before having children. The entire duration of the war, photos of my family had been put away and I hadn’t thought much of it: aside from the photograph of the great-uncle who never returned from Stalingrad at 20, and the photo of my grandparents’ wedding during World War II with my grandfather in uniform next to my grandmother in a white dress with her bouquet, everything was pre- or post-war. It is in fact shocking when hearing from others about how their older family members reminisce over the period of the Nazi regime, whereas there was never a positive reference to it from my grandparents, whose political views were staunchly in praise of the Socialdemocrats of the SPD.
The major difference between those reminiscing over the olden days seems to be having no direct involvement in the consequences of the war after being complicit in it. For others such as my family, there are missing and dead uncles, and ironically a family house that was fully destroyed and had to be rebuilt after the Wehrmacht itself caused its destruction. When googling about the town bridge a year or two ago, I came across a newspaper article online that had interviewed my own grandparents during the time I was actually living with them in high school. Suddenly I was learning more about how the bridge over the Weser River was blown up to keep the Allied Forces from liberating the town in the last days of the war in April 1945: Allied shelling over a neighbouring house had set the neighbour’s house on fire, but the actual impact for destruction was the bridge detonation at the hands of the German Wehrmacht. The following years my great-grandparents and grandmother were moving around town, staying with others until the house was rebuilt in 1947, while my great-grandmother never came to terms with her only son missing and presumed dead. Where would the praise in the Third Reich lie for that?
The problem with the German understanding of an “exceptional” genocide and Hitler as the ultimate embodiment of evil, shuts down conversations of any other evils elsewhere, be it Srebrenica or Myanmar or other ethno- and genocides. This leads to helplessly or even complicitly watching history repeat itself. To repeat my recommendation for the compelling “Heimat”, it’s definitely worth reading for non-Germans to understand German hangups, and for non-Jewish Germans with German ancestry and involvement in WWII to question any reactionary overcompensation of guilt such as the Antideutsch embody when cheering on the murders against another ethnic group. Of course there is no one-size-fits-all resolution to this and I have little comprehension for AfD parliamentarians who themselves came to Berlin as “Vertriebene” refugees from former German territories post-1945.
Reactionaries and misfits in the German Left
German resentment over our history and atonement for the Holocaust in perpetuity not only link German history with Jewish history, present, and future, but also with Palestinian present and future, a fact that the German Zionism in the Antideutsch movement would like to ignore or erase. If German guilt complex is what makes nominal “Leftists” twist their logic to unconditionally support the right-wing Israeli government, I ask how we can justify erasing Palestinians from existence in this guilt complex, as Nazi Germany attempted with previous populations?
An antinationalist movement that arose after German reunification, the anti-German Antideutsch has no shame in waving USA flags at Leftist protests and in making internet memes calling for the bombing and full destruction of Gaza. The simplest and one of the grossest manifestations of the Antideutsch illogic is calling the existence of any Palestinian person Antisemitic by default.
There are issues that would be best left out of the hands of non-Jewish Germans to deliberate on Israel-Palestine, including decision-making on one- or two-state-solution or about the extent and strategies of supporting BDS, as both in superficial analysis will in Antideutsch turn to the ultimate (and wrong) question of “Does Israel have the right to exist?” (yes, it does within the definition of legal agreements and other states’ right to existence in a democratic framework?). The usual still reasonable German reaction to BDS is if it’s any different than the Nazi slogan “Kauft nicht bei Juden!” “Do not buy from Jews!”. Here, I recommend the maximum extent for non-Jewish Germans with the reminder to not conflate Judaism with the economy and policies of the Israeli state: avoid buying products and supporting companies from the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. Further deliberations on BDS and settler colonialism as a whole in Israel-Palestine are not in the realm of superficial activism for the German Left.
I have implored international anti-Zionist friends and BDS supporters living in Germany to not use the “from the River to the Sea” reference unless they are Israeli themselves, and voiced that it’s also unwise to disrupt any events including Holocaust survivors speaking on behalf of the Israeli government. I don’t use the terms of Apartheid or “open-air prison”, which deems me as hardly a radical for international anti-Zionist standards, while I also don’t recommend claiming the label of anti-Zionist as a non-Jewish German. Voicing these opinions now is radical enough by German Leftist standards, where moderates would even question why this Middle Eastern conflict has to be a topic in other Leftist organizing: maybe because it’s international consensus among a Progressive Left that oppression and second-class citizenship and limited human rights for Palestinians should be fought against in solidarity? It’s only the German Left that swings into overdrive for support of a right-wing government that Israel currently has? The German Left accepts that nominally Leftist/Green/Socialdemocrat politicians retweet Ben Shapiro as long as it’s against Palestinians, which is bizarre to even happen but more bizarre to remain unquestioned.
My differentiation and nuances are unheeded by the Antideutsch themselves, as it’s fully within their logic to shout down Jewish anti-Zionists including Holocaust survivors making any critical remarks about the Israeli government, and call these Jewish anti-Zionists “self-hating Antisemites” or just “Jew-haters”. For adult Antideutsch it appears to be fully within reason to call Palestinian teenagers terrorists.
Not to absolve myself from German Antisemitism, but the peculiar conflation of Jewishness = Israel lets both tangible Antisemitism and anti-Muslim racism fester, while finger-pointing any current Antisemitism on Muslim migrants and refugees to let the German far-right off the hook. The fact of the average German not knowing anyone Jewish and basing any knowledge of Judaism on Antisemitic tropes from pre-1945 laid out in German history books in schools, makes us prone to not being able to differentiate anti-Zionism from Antisemitism, while conflating Jewishness with Israel is considered Antisemitic in itself, as can be seen in slandering Leftist Jewish Israelis as “self-hating” for being anti-Zionist.
As with the nuances and self-reflection that are usually unwelcome among Germans and with dogmatic German Leftists in particular, I fail to see much of a space for myself when I am told by white men that I am more privileged than they are for not being working-class, while having to deal with blatant racism and sexism. The dogmatism isn’t only a brand of the white German Left, but also of BPOC Germans who can’t move past a reactionary anti-German sentiment of a polemical “yes, all white Germans”, while also espousing their own views on racial purity and brandishing identity politics with an all-encompassing “listen to Women of Colour”. For the record, in Germany, I am a Woman of Colour, but having moved in different spaces where I’m not racialized as Muslim or where my German ancestry is of greater value for white privilege, I know of the fluidity and hybridity of this identity.
I also know of the particular German anti-Turkish racism, which often targets me in the street but never systemically for having a German name (and not being Turkish in fact), the same German racism that made the NSU case possible as well as the whole underlying racism towards Mesut Özil during the World Cup 2018. It always strikes me as ironic though, when the very German bad habit of self-righteousness and demanding groupthink comes from BPOC Germans, and then I end up being the misfit talking-back as I clearly am here with my Rammstein defense. Apparently my own opinions differ from German mainstream based on growing up abroad as a “German”, being non-white, and moving to Germany as a teenager to live with my grandfather. With regard to that closeness to my grandfather, the Wehrmacht soldier, I am closer in experience to the post-war generation who had to come to terms with their own parents’ complicity and agency in World War II.
The same anti-German critique of Rammstein’s antinationalism within their choice of aesthetics is regularly placed on the same level of critique for any support of the German national football team. Not even in previous World Cups (before racism explicitly targetted Mesut Özil to redact/retract his Germanness), where the team had less ethnic German players on its roster and thus showed a social representation and cohesion for migrant youth with an interest in football, the team was scorned for the fact of being a “national” team. That sometimes this form of BPOC representation and integration is what it takes to keep especially young men from feeling ostracized for being Othered as foreign is clearly not up for debate. However, it belongs within the same debate of how it’s mostly EU-passport-holding youth who join Islamic jihadists in the Middle East, because it’s exactly a sense of group belonging that’s an intrinsic social need, be it a recognition of Germanness or a recognition of being a valuable player on a team.
As much as my Rammstein fandom comes as a surprise to many, when I mention how my M.A. thesis with nationalism theories acknowledges the German national team winning the 2014 World Cup, I am also met with disbelief. Sometimes this encompasses a dislike for football as a whole, sometimes it’s a masculine self-righteousness of only supporting real football in the form of a local club team, sometimes it’s plain and simple the disapproval of any German national symbolism, when it’s what I had as a teenager growing up abroad playing football on the girls’ team of a German School. However, on the topic of fearing toxic masculinity, I found no one to be interested in my local Hertha Berlin football tickets to a game one season and finally chose not to go alone as a woman, and I found no one to be as enthusiastic to want to attempt getting Rammstein concert tickets this summer. And in both cases the Nazi aesthetics of the Berlin Olympiastadion are the lesser evil than the threat and toxicity of drunk white German men.
The very real acknowledgements from my Master’s thesis in 2014:
“Thank you to the German national team for winning the World Cup 2014. Following the excitement was a minor one-month distraction to my writing, but it was nicely accompanied with all the news articles and opinion pieces dedicated to analyzing nationalism theory and the construct of nationhood (in soccer teams and fandom). This gave me a legitimate reason to spend so much time reading news blogs before and after any crucial game. Nach dem Spiel ist vor dem Spiel.”
I disapprove of the glossing over and fetishization of WoC spokespeople by white Germans, where the main speakers will suddenly be Eastern European women dictating that their brand of marginalization is the same as the police brutality and racial profiling towards Black men in Germany. I also disapprove of white “allies” who can’t even reflect on their colonial language rules and imposing demands to attack other WoC for not following WoC spokesperson’s rigid double standards based on narrow political reflection. In all this resentment of Rammstein, German football, and narrow political awareness, the Antideutsch feeds into with its militant antinationalism.
Particularly note-worthy is the phenomenon of BPOC Germans turning Antideutsch, who in my observation are typically Iranian-German atheists swinging the full pendulum away from Iranian government policies to also land in pro-Israel mode whatever it takes. That the Antideutsch is intrinsically anti-Muslim and to a great extent also anti-Black considering Black-Palestinian solidarities, can be easily overlooked if you think religions have no reason, but then instead they choose to abstract Jewish culture to be conflated with Israel the state. Major scholars on BDS and Palestine are boycotted by the Antideutsch also on topics of other political relevance, which means crossing out the canon of work by, for instance, Angela Davis, Judith Butler, or Noam Chomsky. The accusations run the gamut of the mentioned “all Palestinians are Antisemitic” by default of existence, and similarly other dangerous forms of slander will target Jewish Leftist scholars and the Jewish Voice for Peace.
Having myself only slowly but surely eased into the discussion, mainly because it’s a responsibility of solidarity standing with Indigenous communities, but also because Jewish anti-Zionist friends have voiced it was ridiculous for Germans to absolve themselves from the problem they in part caused in history, I have positioned myself to the extent I currently feel I can as a non-Jewish German. This position includes calling out the despicable antireligious leanings that couple anti-Muslim racism with a Philosemitism, when as a matter of fact Antisemitism in the form of conflating Judaism with Israel stokes the anti-Muslim far-right who cloak their explicit Antisemitism in tokenism and shifting the Overton Window further right. For all its awareness that German Vergangenheitsbewältigung brings, there is no reasoning for me in coming to terms with a German guilt complex for the atrocities of the Holocaust and then turning away from other injustices.