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Exaggerating Anti-Americanism

Soeren Kern, Senior Fellow for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group, might have something interesting to say in his American Thinker op-ed "Anti-Americanism: It's About American Power, Not Policy," but I am not reading it to the end after this accusation: "They [=The Germans] routinely equate the US invasion of Iraq with the Holocaust." Such nonsense disqualifies him and the "American Thinker" from being taken as serious as their logo and name pretends to be.

The American "Thinker" has published such stupidity before (see The Superiority of American Culture and Sports), which might actually increase the popularity of the stereotype that Americans are arrogant and clueless.

Related: Top Democrat on Auschwitz, Guantanamo and Europe.

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VinceTN on :

The American Thinker site is pure bias. Although they mirror my views about the Iraq war and the Left in general they have little to contribute to dicussions. You could get as much info from a Southern Baptist Convention news letter. Why blame Germans for comparing US actions to Nazis when there are so many "mainstream" leftists in the US itself making that accusation?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Bias would be okay. I am biased as well. But was isn't okay is making up wrong factual statements like "They [=The Germans] routinely equate the US invasion of Iraq with the Holocaust."

Pamela on :

First of all, Happy New Year everyone! Remarkably, I have no hangover. I think my liver has become immune. On the Kern piece: The first thing I noticed was the reference in the beginning sentence. "Bill Clinton has promised that President Hillary will dispatch him and George H.W. Bush abroad to repair the supposed damage to our foreign relations allegedly wrought by George W. Bush." 'our'? Nothing is in quotes so does that mean that Kern is an American? I tend to 'hear' things differently depending on whether or not the writer is an American. I'll google him later. Joerg, I agree that his assertion of Germans equating Iraq to the Holocaust is a breathtaking one. I have never heard of a single instance and he provides no evidence to back it up. But I wonder if perhaps he is located in Europe or has travelled widely there, people have been willing to say such a thing to him in private conversation because he is NOT an American. I will assert we can all probably think of examples that many Europeans think but would not say to Americans, either from a sense of propriety or a surfeit of caution. Is the American Thinker a credible site? Well, it certainly has a bias. But so does this site, and I have defended this site BECAUSE it has a bias. Bias does not mean, to me, a lack of critical thought. It means thought has been given and a position taken. Deal with it. Kern is correct here: "Contrary to much of today's conventional wisdom, anti-Americanism is not a recent phenomenon. In Europe, for example, anti-Americanism is as old as the United States itself" Actually it's older than the United States. James Ceaser has done an excellent job of tracing the historical roots of European anti-Americanism in his book "Reconstructing America: America as a Symbol in Modern Thought". A precis of his book can be found in his article "A Genealogy of Anti-Americanism". http://frontpagemag.com/Articles/Read.aspx?GUID={A6C56CF6-4E0D-4CEA-B9A1-F7B0ED2BECF1} Ceaser writes --------------------- Developed over a period of more than two centuries by many diverse thinkers, the concept of America has involved at least five major layers or strata, each of which has influenced those that succeeded it. The initial layer, found in the scientific thought of the mid-eighteenth century, is known as the "degeneracy thesis." It can be conceived of as a kind of prehistory of anti-Americanism, since it occurred mostly before the founding of the United States and referred not just to this country but to all of the New World. The thesis held that, due chiefly to atmospheric conditions, in particular excessive humidity, all living things in the Americas were not only inferior to those found in Europe but also in a condition of decline. An excellent summary of this position appears, quite unexpectedly, in The Federalist Papers. In the midst of a political discussion, Publius (Alexander Hamilton) suddenly breaks in with the comment: "Men admired as profound philosophers gravely asserted that all animals, and with them the human species, degenerate in America -- that even dogs cease to bark after having breathed awhile in our atmosphere." The oddity of this claim does not belie the fact that it was regarded for a time as cutting-edge science. As such, it merited lengthy responses from two of America's most notable scientific thinkers, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. In Jefferson's case, the better part of his only book, Notes on the State of Virginia, consists of a detailed response to the originator of this thesis and the leading biologist of the age, the Count de Buffon. The interest of Franklin and Jefferson in refuting this thesis went beyond that of pure science to practical politics. Who in Europe would be willing to invest in and support the United States if America were regarded as a dying continent? ------------------ He also tells a story (perhaps apocryphal) of a dinner given by a French nobleman for visiting Americans shortly around the time of the Revolution. As they sat down to dinner the French asserted this degeneracy theory. The Americans asked everyone to stand. All the Americans were taller than everyone else in the room. The subject of conversation was duly changed. However, I would quibble with Kern on this point: "This artificial post-modern European "citizenship", which demands allegiance to a faceless bureaucratic superstate based in Brussels instead of to the traditional nation-state, is being set up in opposition to the United States. To be "European" means (nothing more and nothing less than) to not be an American." No. The origins of the EU had little or nothing to do with countering U.S. power. They had everything to do with emasculating Europe's ability to self-destruct. It provides a comforting linear narrative to rewind history backwards and conclude that the anti-Americanism inherent in the current EU was a proximate cause of the EU itsef, but comforting narratives do not promote good outcomes. If, as Ceaser demonstrates, anti-Americanism is in the soil of Europe itself, it is improbable that anti-Americanism would NOT eventually, in some manner, infuse any political construct developed in Europe. I am in full agreement with Kern's conclusions. Europe's refusal to honestly confront the threat to Western Civilization (capital 'W', capital 'C') is a grotesquery worthy of the deepest contempt. Sniveling insults about 'cowboy diplomacy' and screeching outrage about 'moral failures' are nothing more than an impotent temper tantrum thrown by EUnichs at a gang bang.

Tuomas on :

About the author Sören Kern: [i]Soeren Kern es licenciado del School of Foreign Service de la Universidad de Georgetown, con especialización en diplomacia y seguridad internacional y de la Universidad Hebrea de Jerusalén en política internacional. Como Analista del Grupo asume la responsabilidad del área de Relaciones Transatlánticas.[/i] (http://www.gees.org/articulo/3349/) In other words, he is from the U of Georgetown and Jerusalem. For well known reasons, anything that could be interpreted as relativizing the industrial killing of the European Jewry is a sore point for quite a few Jews. I guess that you, Jörg, and he come from so different backgrounds that the words [i]"routinely equate the US invasion of Iraq with the Holocaust"[/i] have to be interpreted differently if they are from him or from you.

Martin on :

"For well known reasons, anything that could be interpreted as relativizing the industrial killing of the European Jewry is a sore point for quite a few Jews." But they don't complain when US politicians compare Ahmadinejad or Chavez or some other third rate dictator with Hitler...

Pamela on :

Well, just where do I start? "In other words, he is from the U of Georgetown and Jerusalem." Matriculation at a given university says nothing about where anyone is from. Georgetown has tons of students that are not Americans and Israel admits tons of non-Jews to her universities. "anything that could be interpreted as relativizing the industrial killing of the European Jewry is a sore point for quite a few Jews." If I understand correctly, the 'relativizing the industrial killing of European Jewry' is about Kern's assertion that Germans have equated Iraq to the Holocaust. Ok, but you don't have to be a Jew to find such a thing a 'sore point'. Frankly, I'm not a Jew (yet) and you don't know that Mr. Kern is. Also, I'm not sure how to read this (the peril of the written word): "I guess that you, Jörg, and he come from so different backgrounds " What is the premise here? The Jew (Kern) and the German (Joerg)? I'd like a bit of clarification before I start bitch slapping people into next week. Jeez, and it's only January 1.

Tuomas on :

Why this hostility? Academically someone [i]is[/i] from the university one has graduated from, it seems rather odd to read a comment not understanding that. My mothertongue now is another than English, but that was the common usage also at the American university I visited some years ago. And the Third Reich do get a different meaning if your ancestors got gazed and cremated in extermination camps or if they suffered the post-war hardship (and maybe before that from firebombing terror). Since I work in Germany, I encounter references to the Third Reich rather often, not seldom contrasted to [i]America's[/i] beneficial influence on post-war Europe. Since I have personal friends of European Jewish ancestry, I am also pretty much used to their references to the very same epoch and the very same state, and at least for me it's more than obvious that the very same words may carry very different loads of associations depending on the cultural/what-ever context they come from and arrive in. So, why not try to be a little bit less defensive?

Pamela on :

Apologies for the delayed reply, Tuomas. Around here, when it rains, it's a damn deluge. I read your post to say that because Kern attended school at Georgetown, he must be an American, and because he attended school in Jerusalem, he must be a Jew. I had no impression that you were writing in an 'academic' sense. My impression was reinforced by the remainder of your post in which you assert (correctly in my view) the Jews are going to react to the term 'Holocaust' differently than others. I took that to mean, thinking Kern is a Jew, his reaction would understandably be different than Joerg's.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ Tuomas I don't know if our backgrounds are that different. Even if they are very different, we should be able to agree on the meaning of his sentence: [quote]"They routinely equate the US invasion of Iraq with the Holocaust."[/quote] a) In the context of his paragraph, [b]"they"[/b] refers to either the German elites or the Germans in general. He is certainly not referring to a few dozen "German lunatics" or "German Neo-Nazis" or "German ultra-leftist fringe groups." a) [b]"Equate"[/b] means "to make equal". It is a much stronger word than "to compare." c) [b]"Routinely"[/b] does not mean once in five years, but means something like consistently, customarily, frequently, generally, habitually, naturally, normally, often, regularly, typically, usually. I think this is not a matter of interpretation, but a matter of fact. He has not presented any evidence for his statement.

Tuomas on :

I respectfully disagree. "They", I believe, refers to Germans he's encountered. "Routinely" fits with my own perception and experience. "The Holocaust" is, I guess, the point where he actually misinterprets the Germans he's met, but to me it's unsurprising. I hear plenty of references from Germans to different bad aspects of the Third Reich in the context of disappointment with what's perceived as America being on the dangerous road away from Democracy, Rule of Law and [i]American values.[/i] Sometimes I feel these expressions to be somewhat exaggerated, but ...not much. I don't believe any of the Germans I've heard refer to Third Reich habits think of a [i]American Crusade[/i] as intending to exterminate the people of Muslim faith, but I do see how people from certain cultural, religious and political backgrounds can shape that perception and then interpret what they hear and read as stunning proofs. There is plenty more one could write on this, but I somehow feel that I then would only repeat what's written many times before.

John in Michigan, USA on :

"Routine" can mean that it happens a lot -- a high frequency -- or that when it happens, it is unremarkable -- it doesn't seem a departure from normal. Europe's obsessive anti-Americanism is routine in both senses, although happily, it is still infrequent enough to permit plenty of good discussions across the Atlantic. European equation of Iraq to the holocaust is, in my opinion, much less frequent, perhaps even infrequent. However, when it does happen, my sense is that it is seen in Europe as just another routine expression of anti-Americanism. It is seen as something much more harsh than, say, complaining about McDonalds, but much less harsh than the inverted, obscene, moral lobotomy that it is. I am not saying the situation in Iraq is wonderful, mind you. But the holocaust, not to mention the war itself in which far more blood was spilled than either side has spilled in Iraq, was so very much worse. To be fair, we should at some point consider, are there American views or myths about Europe or Germany that upset Germans as much as routine holocaust-equation upsets Americans? But maybe that should be a different post.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ John [i]"Routine" can mean that it happens a lot -- a high frequency -- or that when it happens, it is unremarkable -- it doesn't seem a departure from normal. [/i] Neither is the case in Germany. There is not a high frequency. And if it would happen, it would be very remarkable and people would get fired. There was one case more than FIVE years ago and much much much weaker than what Kern claims: German Justice Minister Däubler-Gmelin was allegedly said in the election campaign 2002: "Bush wants to distract attention from his domestic problems. That's a popular method. Even Hitler did that." She denies having said that. Still Schroeder apologized to Bush for his minister and did not let her serve in his new cabinett after the elections. So... a) This was more than 5 years ago => not frequent b) This was very remarkable. The media was all over it c) This was not treated as normal. Schroeder apologized for her, despite her denials. And she lost her job. d) Most importantly: This quote is NOT anywhere near Kern's much stronger statement of equating the Iraq invasion with the Holocaust. At Atlantic Review, we monitor such things pretty closely. See for instance this post from August 2006 "Attacking President Bush with Nazi Symbol" [url]http://atlanticreview.org/archives/383-Attacking-President-Bush-with-Nazi-Symbol.html[/url] The police began an investigation! Compare that to the frequent triviliazation of the Holocaust in the US, where people call abortion a "babycaust." Any comparison with the Holocaust is taken very seriously in Germany and produces an outcry. A talk show host lost her job a few months ago, because she said that Hitlers family policies were not that bad and that he built the Autobahn. I and the majority of Germans (I believe) approve of the decision to fire her. Some Germans just find it annoying that the Autobahn is not supposed to be considered a positive thing.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"are there American views or myths about Europe or Germany that upset Germans as much as routine holocaust-equation upsets Americans?" Exaggerations like statements about "routine holocaust equations."

Pamela on :

Soeren Kern has a blog. From the 'about page' --------------- He has served in the United States Air Force (was stationed in Germany) during the Cold War. He was also the managing editor of Arms Control Today, the strategic foreign affairs monthly magazine, as well as a defense analyst at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), one of the leading firms advising the Pentagon on nuclear non-proliferation. Soeren is specialized in US-European defense- and security-related issues. But his favorite research topic is the strange phenomenon of European anti-Americanism. Soeren, a native of Wisconsin, graduated from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and has also studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has visited more than one hundred countries, including most of those in the Middle East; he has recently returned from an extended trip to Iran, possibly the most fascinating country in the world after the United States and Israel. Soeren is a dual citizen of the United States and Germany, and is fluent in English, German and Spanish. ------------- http://soerenkern.com/web/?page_id=42 SAIC? I know tons of people who have worked there. They have some offices basically down the road. I wonder if anyone I know has worked with him?

David on :

Kern makes another ludicrous charge about Germany: "Germans desperately want their country to be perceived as a "normal" country, and its elites are using anti-Americanism as a political tool to absolve themselves and their parents of the crimes of World War II." Unless the "elites" are aging Nazis, why should they be charged with the "crimes of World War II"? Germany is a successful and prosperous democracy; why shouldn't Germans consider themselves "normal"? Looking at the other other articles in "The American Thinker" (like "Global Warming Has Ended!") I see it is just a right-wing rag where no actual thinking takes place.

Don S on :

A few years ago I might have mostly agreed with Kern - excepting the crucial word 'routinely'. I don't think the comparison between the Third Reich and the US was made 'routinely' even in 2003/2004, or when the *second* Abu Ghraib scandal broke (Abu Ghraib I does not seem to have raised any significant concern in Germany. Perhaps for the reason Stalin cited - that a single death is an outrage but a million deaths are a statistic. Frequently, yes. But not 'routinely' even then. Since then the number of such comparisons I have observed have fallen off to the point I consider them rare. Rankling, yes. It is a continuing issue for people like myself who have good memories for such things.

John in Michigan, USA on :

As far as I can tell, The American Thinker (TAT) is just another multi-author blog. I've read their posts a couple of times before this, so far the most memorable part of their site is their logo... [quote]TAT really began years ago, as daily email exchanges among a group of friends, who would send each other articles, comment on them, and often end up debating the finer points. Like Powerline's principals, we are all successful, highly educated professionals, who are motivated to participate in public affairs out of the conviction that our ideas are needed. This is a calling for us[/quote] This is from [url=http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/005487.php]a post I found[/url] on the much more established Conservative blog, Power Line, in which one of the founders of American Thinker announces its debut to Powerline readers. This Powerline post goes into a lot more detail as to their motives and qualifications than American Thinker's "About Us" page. [quote="Joerg wrote:"]"They [=The Germans] routinely equate the US invasion of Iraq with the Holocaust." Such nonsense disqualifies him and the "American Thinker" from being taken as serious as their logo and name pretends to be.[/quote] Not so fast my friend! If The American Thinker had only said "too often equate" instead of "routinely equate", I'm afraid I would easily agree with them. In support, I cite a 2003 article from the San Francisco [i]Chronicle[/i], a respectable city newspaper that is quite mainstream (for San Francisco, California that is), [url=http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/0315-05.htm]Germans Across Political Spectrum Tongue-Lash America[/url]. I fear that with more research, I would become persuaded that in both 2003 and 2008, routine is a reasonable word to use, in the sense that most of the time it happens, it doesn't make the news and is therefore routine. On the other hand, I think such research would also reinforce the opinion I posted in an earlier comment, "Germany does a much better job at speaking out against this sort of comparison than elsewhere in Europe". To be fair, in the US there are many commentators who suffer a similar problem. It is now called "Bush Derangement Syndrome". These are the sort of people who, if President Bush said it was a sunny day, would say "Liar, it's raining" without even bothering to look out the window. However, I fear that Bush Derangement Syndrome is somewhat more mainstream in Europe. I am interested in everyone's impression of the German blogosphere on this point. When someone casually compares something American to Hitler, is it common to find other blogs who attempt to calm them down, or do such comparisons generally pass without comment?

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ John, The article you linked to includes this [quote]A patron in his 30s at a Munich beer hall put it more bluntly: "We are all fed up with Americans looking down at us for the Holocaust -- something that our generation had nothing to do with," he said. "Now, the Americans are all set to start their own holocaust in Iraq."[/quote] How many beers did he drink? Is it good journalism to interview people in "beer halls"? What would I hear, if I'd interview some drunk folks in Texas about their view of Mexicans? [quote]Historian Joerg Friedrich recently shattered a taboo by writing a best- selling book "The Fire -- Germany and the Bombardment 1940-1945" about the destruction of German cities by U.S. and British bombers. The book, which condemns the attacks as war crimes and indirectly suggests that they may be comparable to the Holocaust, inspired a recent series on German TV.[/quote] The book was heavily criticized because of the war crimes charges, but I doubt that the book compares the fire bombing of Dresden to the Holocaust. Besides, please note that the article states makes an extremely weak statement, which is typical of journalists, who have no clue and want to cover their arse: "indirectly suggests that they may be comparable" Look out at "indirectly" and "suggests" and "may" and "comparable" After all, you can compare bananas with apples: While apples are green, bananas are yellow. That is a comparison. You can make an indirect statement or you can suggest something. "To suggest" is already something very indirect. The article makes it even more vague by saying "indirectly suggests." That's double vague!!!

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

@ John, one last thing. The SF Chronicle article was from March 2003, i.e. nearly 5 years ago. The height of the transatlantic quarrels over Iraq. It was the time of "axis of weasels" and "freedom fries"... The article starts with the supposedly outrageous statement by Wielczorek-Zeul: "After all, the Americans don't care about democracy in the Middle East." Do you think Americans care about democracy in the Middle East and will keep sufficient troops in Iraq until this country is a democracy? A democracy is more than having elections, but it includes protection of minority rights, civil liberties, and some understanding that political disagreements are solved in parliamentary debates rather than by shoot-outs or even ethnic cleansing, which some militias are into...

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

Sorry, but I can't resist: Here's a picture of what is going on in Munich beer halls like the one mentioned in the SF Chronicle article: [url]http://www.anglofritz.com/2008/01/zeitgeist_muesli_posthangover.html[/url] ;-)

John in Michigan, USA on :

Such a waste! That's alcohol abuse! I've already said Germany was much less bad than elsewhere in Europe. That is why for the past couple of posts I've been complaining about Europe as a whole. If it is to be a Union, then citizens (or whatever you call yourselves) have to get used to defending the whole thing. Believe it or not, you've put yourself in a position in which you have to defend the French...and that's just the beginning. Enjoy. Still think that Union is a good idea? :-) Sort of like how I now apparently have to defend Texas. Some of them are still fighting the Civil War. But maybe there are some Texans lurking on this site who will step up? If not, my defense is simple: You might routinely hear complaints about the alleged Reconquista in a Texas bar, but I seriously doubt anyone will compare it to the holocaust, and if they did, it would not be routine.

John Brickell on :

Joerg Wolf undermines his own credibility by using unnecessarily caustic language to lash out at those with whom he does not agree. The attack against American Thinker is unnecessary for Wolf to make his point, which in any case misses Kern's point. If Wolf were really the expert in transatlantic affairs that he claims to be, then he would know that American Thinker does have a considerable following in the American conservative movement. (According to Alexa, American Thinker also has vastly more readers -- 1 million per day -- than does Atlantic Review. Alexa traffic ranks AT at 62,000 and AR at 1.6 million.) True, some of AT's articles are a bit cheesy, but really no less so than many of the posts on Wolf's own blog. One of the problems with pseudo-scholars like Wolf is that they present themselves as experts on the United States because they spent a year of grad school in America, but they do not really know the country. But then again, Wolf does not really seem to know Germany either. Anyone who believes it is possible to exagerate the problem of German anti-Americanism is either dishonest or blind. And if Wolf would do a Google search of the words "holocaust" and "iraq" turns up dozens of examples of people, including some Germans, as branding Iraq as America's holocaust. Also, according to the bio posted above, Kern is German, and from the looks of it, considerably better credentialled than is Wolf to comment on anti-Americanism. As a businessman who spends a considerable amount of time in Germany and has a lot of interaction with German elites, I have to agree with Kern that European anti-Americanism is a major problem for which there are no easy solutions. But don't look to Atlantic Review for answers. Wolf could be doing a far better job at explaining the nuances of transatlantic relations on his blog. But that would require something more than a superficial understanding of the issues. As a result, Wolf takes the easy way out: bashing those with whom he does not agree. Thus his post says more about Wolf than about Kern.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

"And if Wolf would do a Google search of the words "holocaust" and "iraq" turns up dozens of examples of people, including some Germans, as branding Iraq as America's holocaust." Please present a single example for Kern's statement: "They [=The Germans] routinely equate the US invasion of Iraq with the Holocaust." Thanks. "If Wolf were really the expert in transatlantic affairs that he claims to be, then he would know that American Thinker does have a considerable following in the American conservative movement." I have not made any statement regarding the numbers of their readers. Or their "following."

Pamela on :

I've canvassed my American expat buddies who have lived or are living in Germany. They agree that anti-Americanism is rampant, but none of the 3 (still waiting to hear from 4 and 5) have ever heard Iraq compared to the Holocaust by Germans. That is a limited sample and it may be that no German would have the nerve to say it to an American. @John in Michigan: I read the article you posted, "Germans Aross the Polical Spectrum.....". It does seem to support Kern's assertion. HOWEVER. I have seen case after case of German media 'cherry picking'. The U.S. media does it too, but we've gotten very savy about it and they usually get nailed. Also, the article is Germans speaking to a German. I emailed Mr. Kern. He responded quite graciously and he absolutely stands by what he wrote. Without qualifications. I would note also that Kern has dual citizenship and may not be seen by his German interlocuters as American. @David "Kern makes another ludicrous charge about Germany: "Germans desperately want their country to be perceived as a "normal" country, and its elites are using anti-Americanism as a political tool to absolve themselves and their parents of the crimes of World War II." Unless the "elites" are aging Nazis, why should they be charged with the "crimes of World War II"? Germany is a successful and prosperous democracy; why shouldn't Germans consider themselves "normal"?" More than you know, I wish I could agree with you, but I have to go with Kern on this. In the public sphere, I distinctly remember public discussions about whether it would be ok for Germans to enjoy themselves while hosting the World Cup. How ludicrous is that? Fortunately, you/they were terrific hosts, everyone had a wonderful time and the Germans just partied away. In personal communications I have encountered the same self doubt. The saddest example came during a discussion with a male German born after WWII. I was scolding the Germans for refusing to fight offensively in Afghanistan. This man replied that Germany could never, ever engage in offensive violence again, because violence is to Germany as drugs or alcohol are to an addict. Think about that. Blood libel and collectivisation of guilt all in one fell swoop. I wish I knew how to make it stop. At least in Germany's case, the contemporary anti-Americanism is, I believe, rooted to some extent in this self-doubt. I got an email the other day telling me about a law suit being brought in Germany by 2nd generation Holocaust survivors living in Israel. They want the German gov't, i.e., the German taxpayers, to pay for their psychiatric therapy. That is utter bullshit. It plays right into the blood libel meme and Germany should not be complicit in it. So, is equating Iraq to the Holocaust 'routine' in Germany? That's the wrong damn question. The question we should be asking is when are Germans going to let themselves off the hook already? It's long overdue.

ADMIN on :

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