Germany: Is it offensive to say ‘Nazis, get out’?
Are we being too mean to Nazis? asked Margarete Stokowski in Der Spiegel. A two-word tweet by a journalist has plunged Germany into what is surely “the most German debate ever.” The offending tweet from Nicole Diekmann, a reporter with the public broadcaster ZDF, read “Nazis raus,” which means “Nazis, get out.” For decades, the slogan has been chanted at rallies, demonstrations, and soccer games and emblazoned on posters in college dorms and as graffiti all over Germany. It was never seen as controversial—until now. Diekmann was bombarded with death threats and rape threats after she posted the message. Then came the counterbacklash. Celebrities such as tennis great Boris Becker stood up for Diekmann, the German soccer association supported her, and politicians of most parties followed suit. Even the government got involved: Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, a member of the center-left Social Democrats, tweeted, “To say #Nazisraus when you want, where you want, should be taken for granted.” But leaders of the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) disagreed, saying that such sentiments fertilized the ground for attacks on right-wing politicians. They pointed out that the beating of Frank Magnitz, an AfD leader left bleeding in the streets of Bremen, came just a week after Diekmann’s tweet.
The AfD has a point, said Richard Schröder in Die Welt. “Nazis, get out” can be understood as an answer to the xenophobic phrase “Foreigners, get out,” which is a common far-right cry. Both slogans are detestable, because both imply that an entire class of people should be expelled from the country. It is almost “an invitation to violate the constitution.” That’s ridiculous, said Katja Thorwarth in the Frankfurter Rundschau. While “Foreigners, get out” does mean literal deportation or elimination and brings up echoes of the Holocaust, “Nazis, get out” obviously means only that Nazi ideology should be banished from our discourse. Those who say it certainly “do wish the extreme right to be physically far away from them,” but the connotations are not the same.
We’re only having this conversation, said Kathleen Hildebrand in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, because right-wing extremist positions have once again become “a legitimate part of the democratic spectrum of opinion.” Germany’s postwar tradition of political consensus, which rejected all things far right, has been shattered. All we can agree on now “is that nobody likes to be called a Nazi.” Anyway, the phrase is far too smug and simplistic, said Anatol Stefanowitsch in DeutschlandfunkKultur.de. Everything “the Nazis stand for—racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia—these are tendencies that run through society as a whole.” When we say “Nazis, get out,” we imply “that the Nazis are the ‘other’ and have nothing to do with us.” This catchy slogan lets us pretend that we are sin-free and perfect. It would better to recognize the Nazi that lurks within all of us, and drive it out. ■