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Attacking President Bush with Nazi Symbol

Two weeks ago, the award-winning German-Turkish director Fatih Akin was seen in Hamburg wearing a T-shirt inscribed with the name "Bush" in which a swastika replaced the letter "S." Since the display of Nazi symbols is illegal in Germany, the police began an investigation. 
Bede Moore wrote an article for ABC News: He looked into different sources and carried out interviews to get an opinion on Germans' view of Nazi symbolism and their stance on German-American relations. Werner Schmidt, spokesman at the German Consulate General in New York, pointed out that "using the swastika [or the Hitler salute] is a punishable crime in Germany."  Joerg Geier, one of three editors of this publication, told Bede Moore that the symbolism on Akin's T-shirt should not be confused with Germans' attitude on German-American relations.
But not only in Germany is Nazi symbolism used out of context. Bede Moore also describes the use of Nazi symbolism on US television and concludes with a quote from Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League:
"The trivialization of the Holocaust has been going on for quite a while," Foxman said. "If that period of time is to have any impact … [we must] keep accurate that which is horrific and that which is a poor joke or ignorance."

Many Americans still remember media reports about certain Anti-American comparisons by Social Democrats in 2002 and still mention them in the comments section of this and other blogs. Alvin H. Rosenfeld wrote a summary for the American Jewish Committee:
In one especially notorious incident, Schröder's justice minister, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, reportedly compared President Bush's tactics toward Iraq to those of Hitler: "Bush wants to divert attention from his domestic problems. It's a classic tactic. It's one that Hitler also used." In another instance, Ludwig Stiegler, a member of Parliament from Mr. Schröder's party, likened Mr. Bush to an imperialist Roman emperor bent on subjugating Germany. (Embarrassed by these incidents, Schröder relieved both of his colleagues of their jobs in the postelection period, but by then the damage had already been done.) If further proof were needed that the climate had turned nasty, it was provided by Rudolf Scharping, Schröder's former defense minister, who reportedly stated, at a meeting in Berlin on August 27, 2002, that President Bush was being encouraged to go to war against Iraq by a "powerful-perhaps overly powerful-Jewish lobby" in the United States. In Scharping's formulation, reminiscent of older, far-right claims about excessive Jewish power, anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism come together as common bedfellows.
GM Roper, co-founder of the Carnival of German-American Relations, is:
sick and tired of Americans, Europeans and others comparing their political opponents to Nazi's. It is rampant in the blogosphere, it is rampant in political advertising, it is rampant in the MSM and it is absolutely disgusting.
Related post in the Atlantic Review: The National Review labels Joschka Fischer as Nazi Propaganda Minister.
German Joys comments on Nazi comparisons, Fatih Akin and even goes so far to "imagine what our world would look like if George W. Bush really were a Nazi" for a thought experiment to debunk Akin.


More Nazi News from Dialog International:
In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to promote his upcoming autobiography - Beim Häuten der Zwiebel (Peeling the Onion)- Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass made the shocking admission that as a youth he had joined the Waffen SS. (...) One reason why there has been such a public outcry over this is that Grass has always presented himself as some sort of moral authority: he is always the first to castigate the United States for its moral lapses.
Grass' autobiography is not yet published in the US, but his novel The Tin Drum about "the eternal three-year-old drummer" is a funny and serious must read. It is set in Danzig in the 30s and 40s, where Guenter Grass grew up as well:
             

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GM on :

Joerg, your usuall excellent reporting. If I could wipe out every political reference to Hitler because someone doesn't like someone else's politics, I would do so. Except, that would end freedom of speech. So, the alternative is for everyone to condem the use of the Hitler analogy. That said, again you have done well, and thanks for the link. GM Roper http://gmroper.mu.nu Cancer Sucks!

David on :

Unfortunately, the Bush administration has repeatedly used Nazi allusions to justify its policies: -prior to the Iraq invasion, Saddam was repeatedly compared to Hitler. -earlier this year Rumsfeld said in a speech that "leaving Iraq now would be like turning Germany over to the Nazis after WWII". -most recently, Rumsfeld compared Hugo Chavez to Hitler, perhaps giving us a taste of things to come. President Bush himself has repeatedly (and pathetically) tried to equate the Iraq War debacle to WWII, while everyone knows the correct analogy is Vietnam.

Don on :

I googled on Rumsfeld and Chavez and found the following quote: I mean, weve got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money, Rumsfeld added. Hes a person who was elected legally just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. Morales and others. I wouldn't say it's quite the same thing - one could compare any legally elected leader of a democracy with Hitler on that narrow basis. I would think a more apt Chavez comparison would have been with Fidel Castro (was Castro ever elected?) or with Ferdinand Marcos or Salvadore Allende. Unfortunately Allende has acquired a martyr status which is completely undeserved. On a very narrow basis Rumsfeld is correct: Chavez was democratically elected and yes he is consolidating power in an undemocratic manner, as Hitler did. Chavez is obviously completely unlike Hitler in other respects; he is unlikely to plunge South America into war and unlikely to attempt genocide upon one or more racial groups in the Venezuelan population. I'll note one more thing; republicans are routinely called nazi, fascist, and compared with Hitler, Rumsfeld as much as anyone in recent years. He probably thinks it is no big deal. And it hasn't been until recently. If this kind of thing offends people I would encourage them to cease using tactics like this in their own political discourse. As a number of German bloggers (including our host) have noted in recent days - Bush is nothing like Hitler. Nothing at all. Saddam Hussein may have been in certain respects because murdering your own citizenry in job lots is the practice of a select group of 'leaders'. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao come to mind, and even Mao is a bit doubtful because while millions died - was it deliberate murder?

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Regarding the Rumsfeld, Chavez and Hitler controversy, check this: [url=http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/2/3/54025/03074]While Chavez was elected president by more than 50% of the popular vote in 1998, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor by President Hindenburg in 1933. Hitler's party had been the strongest party in the Reichstag, but did not receive more than 35% of the votes. Still it was a failure of the Weimar democracy. Hugo Chavez was able to consolidate his power due to the high oil price and the US addiction to oil. Venezuela received $ 16 billion in oil revenues from the United States in 2004.[/url] Read [url=http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/2/3/54025/03074]the full text[/url]. The style of writing and grammar mistakes might sound familiar. ;-)

Sonja on :

Although I agree with GM Roper, and although I don't think claiming Bush was a Nazi (which is, basically, what Akin did with his T-shirt - the Swastika stands for nazism, not for Hitler) to be a sophisticated, clever or even appropriate statement - at least it's a statement! And look what an outpoor of comments one T-shirt caused! Since I've been reading and translating Howard Zinn (see www.howardzinn.de or www.schwarzerfreitag.com), I've been thinking about civil disobedience a lot recently, and I can't help but applaud Akin for this tiny act of civil disobedience. He broke a law in order to provoke. I think we all have to keep speaking up and provoking thoughts and discussion and criticism of what is going very, very wrong in the U.S. and the world.

John on :

Wearing a stupid T-Shirt as civil disobedience? Oh pleeeease! Yeah, you are right, Fatih Akin is the Rosa Parks of Hamburg.

John on :

You think Akin wants us to provoke thinking whether Bush is a Nazi. And that is a good thing? I think Akin is not "speaking up" or "provoking thoughts" but ridiculing himself and hurting Germany's image abroad. ABC News should not give a damn what a director says, but they do. Both Akin and Grass are artists. And artists usually don't know much about politics.

Olaf Petersen on :

The day might come (surely not) we'll be joking about Hitlary Clinton. =D

Anonymous on :

Bush = Hitler is a popular theme. See [url=http://medienkritik.typepad.com/blog/2006/02/spiegels_karen_.html]Davids Medienkritik concerning the translation nightmare[/url].

Pinkerton on :

The use of Hitler has been used on both political sides of the fence in the US for as long as I can remember. He is the symbol of hatred and evil that is too easily used to make a point, IMO. I don't think that all politians associate Hitler with the country of Germany as much as he is a ruler who terrorized Germany and its citizens, as much as he terrorized the Jews. That said, elected officials should know better than to associate others with Hitler. The word fascist has been over-used as well. I can certainly see that the German citizens would be uneasy when Hitler's name comes into play, and I just don't understand how American politians cannot understand this or at the very least, try to be more diplomatic. Whatever happened to respect for ones allies? Look at the terrible bashing that France has endured because of their role in handing the Jews over to Hitler. They are called cowards and surrender monkeys. It's time to let go of that part of history and focus on what we need to do to insure peace in the world today. I'm not saying we should forget history, but we certainly don't have to throw Hitler into the faces of the German citizens today. I wish the United States had the same laws as Germany does regarding the swastika. It sickens me to see the racial hatred that rears its ugly head in America and above all, our politicians should refrain from such references about Hitler in order to make a dubious point. We have free speech, this is true. But we also have laws about inciting riots. Walking down the street while wearing a swastika is a reminder to all Jews in America that hatred kills innocents. As much as I am not a fan of our current President, I don't think he hates people. He just doesn't know how to lead a country.

Don on :

Sorry Pinkerton, but the moral equivalency argument won't wash. The words Nazi, Fascist, and Hitler were almost exclusively used by members of the Left in the US to describe Republicans until quite recently. It was extremely rare to hear even a wing-nut right winger use those terms about someone on the Left until the late 90's. Before that the favored term of scorn for the US right was 'communist'. I have seen a tendency on the Right to use the words more in very recent times, particularly since 2002 and specifically against Germans. Why? For the unattractive and rather nasty reason that these are particularly loaded symbols for Germans. If you wish to get under a German's skin this is a good way to do so. The fact is that many of us on the US right no longer regard 'nazi', 'fascist', or Third Reich comparisons as particularly loaded symbols. We once did, but I can assert that after having been personally attacked in such manner several hundred times the words tended to lose their sting.

Anonymous on :

[url=http://www.crooksandliars.com/posts/2006/08/15/scarborough-is-bush-an-idiot/]I thought Scarborough was a conservative... He and his guests have a serious discussion whether Bush is an idiot because of the Bushisms. What happened to the US media? The clip makes a big fuss about Bush and the pig in Germany.[/url]

Don on :

Has you missed the fact that lots of conservatives are less than pleased with George Bush this year? It's not surprising to see one of them taking a bash.

Anonymous on :

"Look at the terrible bashing that France has endured because of their role in handing the Jews over to Hitler. They are called cowards and surrender monkeys." Ahem. I don't think the french are called cowards and 'surrender monkeys' because of the Jews. I think it is because of the surrender in 1941 (insofar as it has a cause at all other than as a gibe to throw back in the face of French gibes aimed at the US). People who think the French are cowards should look back a little further in history to WWI, specifically the bataille of Verdun. And maybe a little further to the seige of Paris in 1871. I think they were insane to sacrifice perhaps a million men to hold the small city of Verdun against the German army, but cowardice it was not. There was a direct connection between the French bleeding themselves white in WWI and the fall of Paris in 1940; they simply didn't have the men or the moral will to fight well in 1940.

Pinkerton on :

My reference to the French and the insults they endure because of the history of WWII does indirectly take into account their handing over the Jews during that time. If you go on most French sites you will see many comments made from troll bloggers who site the connection between handing over the Jews to being cowards. They comment that they would hand over their own mother if it would save their asses. So, maybe it isn't the number one reason they are called cowards, but it is a reason. My response to people like that who are American bloggers, is to point out that it is the French who are fighting at the sides of the Americans in Afghanistan today. The problem that I see in thinking that the overuse of the insult of being called a Nazi or Hitler makes it seem unimportant or having less sting, makes me wonder if when one becomes complacent with insults that this just encourages it to continue and become almost accepted behavior. In my opinion, hatred and hateful remarks should never become accepted behavior.

Zyme on :

The french surely lacked the moral and the preparation to withstand germany in 1940. In 1871, it was similar. And in 1914, germany had to fight against not only against the french, brits, americans and russians (like in ww2) but also against italy and japan. Maybe it was a bit too much, but hey, we were the primary economical power at that time :) And by the way, I dont know many people here either that can be insulted by calling them Nazis. It is totally overused here too, and that is why you wont be taken seriously after using it. At least this works with the younger generation, you might even hurt some older ones by it though.

Sonja on :

Ok, ok, maybe you're right. Maybe I've been trying too hard and too desperately to fine SOMETHING positive and inspiring within this whole story.

alec on :

Excellent reporting, nothing is more annoying then Nazi comparisons. You should check out this Daily Show report: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN69BbQsL3c

Anonymous on :

Good point from Anglofritz: [url=http://www.anglofritz.com/2006/08/grass_druber.html] The awful truth about his recent revelation isnt his recent revelation, its the sobering fact that Nobel Prize winners like him are just as hypocritical and flawed in their thinking as their compatriots are; the rest of us, in other words. He has spent most of his career haranguing Germans about their inability to face up to their Nazi past and they kissed his feet for it. And now he casually asks them to accept the fact that he, one of their greatest moral apostles, was no better than they were. He was never on that moral high ground he seemed to be preaching from after all. No wonder everybody feels so verarscht (tricked, ripped off).[/url]

Check it out on :

Look, we use the analogies to Hitler to deter people from taking for granted that the U.S. can not morph into a totalitarian regime. No one is saying that the Bush administration is currently guilty of the same level of criiminal behavior as the Nazis post 1938. But things are resembling 1933 a little closely for comfort. The U.S. has more history as a constutional reblic and more weopans to fight authoritarianizm than Germany did, but the point is we could still go down that road if we don't start using them now.

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