NYT: In Germany, Taboo of Patriotism Fueling Far Right

From “In Germany, the Taboo of Patriotism Is Fueling Far Right’s Rise” in the NYT:

POTSDAM, Germany — As the far right rises across Europe, its ascent in Germany has seemed among the most alarming and puzzling.

For decades, Germany was thought to be inoculated against far-right politics by its history with Naziism and the Holocaust. But today, Germany is experiencing a resurgence of the right — driven, at least in part, by its effort to overcome past misdeeds by suppressing any vestige of nationalism.

Since World War II, trying to define the German national identity, much less celebrate it, has been taboo. Doing so was seen as a possible step toward the kind of nationalism that once enabled the Nazi regime. Flags were frowned upon, as was standing for the national anthem.

The German flag, not the Nazi flag, was frowned upon…. As is (not was) standing for the national anthem. Think about that.

But spurred by a sense of lost control over the country’s borders, economy and politics, many Germans are reaching for a shared identity but finding only an empty space. Into that vacuum slipped the Alternative for Germany, known by its German initials, AfD, the nation’s fastest-growing party with recent polls showing support at 12 percent, ahead of some mainstream parties…

[The] focus on identity has allowed the AfD, even if it is unlikely to win enough votes to govern, to shape the national conversation to its advantage, and to present itself as the champion of ordinary Germans…

Immo Fritsche, a professor at the University of Leipzig who studies group identity formation, said, “There has never been a positive definition of German identity since the Nazi era.”

That last sentence is quite astonishing.

Then bring in millions of low skilled, high fertility immigrants from cultures largely antagonistic to Western values, but who have very healthy and strong senses of ethnic and/or religious pride.

The influx of refugees into the country in recent years has caused particular stress, Professor Ben-Ghiat said. “In Germany, you’re not even allowed to say you’re proud to be German. You have to say you’re European,” she said. “So when these people come in, what are they left with?”

Notes Björn Höcke, one AfD leader:

Germans are “the only people in the world to plant a monument of shame in the heart of its capital,” he said, a thinly veiled reference to the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. Germans had “the mentality of a totally vanquished people,” he argued, but it was time for the country to re-embrace its history and develop a positive relationship with its identity.

Many moons ago, I spent 3 weeks in Germany touring the country. In Berlin, I was struck at how, wherever one turned, there was some sort of monument or marker about WWII and the evils the German people did. It was almost… suffocating. I can’t imagine the collective weight that this constant stream of reminders must have on an indigenous German’s psyche.

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