Physical Dramaturgy: Ein (neuer) Trend?

Dramaturgie im zeitgenssischen Tanz ist ? positiv gemeint ? ein heies Eisen. Idealerweise sind Dramaturginnen und Dramaturgen whrend der Erarbeitung eines Stcks die besten Freunde der Choreografen. more more



The fine art of whitewashing

By Arno Widmann

Baden-Württemberg's Premier Günther Oettinger claimed in his speech at the funeral of his late predecessor Hans Filbinger that the man had not been a Nazi. "To the contrary, he was an opponent of the NS regime." In fact, Filbinger had to leave office in 1978 after the writer Rolf Hochhuth exposed his earlier position as Navy judge during the National Socialist era, during which time he delivered death sentences to several deserters. And in a juristic commentary of 1935, Filbinger wrote that the people (die Volksgemeinschaft ) are a blood community "(Blutsgemeinschaft") and must be kept "pure" so that "the racially privileged elements of the German population can be advanced, according to plan." After stepping down, Filbinger claimed he had been made victim of a media campaign and said, famously: "What was lawful at the time cannot have been unlawful today." ("Was damals rechtens war, kann heute nicht Unrecht gewesen sein.")

Günther Oettinger takes it back: the claim he made in his speech at the funeral of Hans Filbinger (obit) that the man had opposed the Nazi regime. It took a long time. Now it's out. Günther Oettinger actually humbled himself. Angela Merkel is satisfied. On Monday, Baden-Württemberg premier Günther Oettinger offered an apology and now it seems to be up to us, the public, to accept it. But we didn't hear an apology. Mr. Oettinger said that he felt badly about the misunderstanding. But there was no misunderstanding. And quite apart from that: it would have been wonderful had the politicians realised that one can't excuse oneself. An apology can not be accepted by the person who speaks it but rather and only by the person to whom it is owed. So Oettinger cannot excuse himself. But he can and should ask to be excused. That he has yet to do. For days, he didn't acknowledge that he had done anything wrong. He said he was sorry if there had been a misunderstanding – the head of the CDU in Baden Württemberg was willing to go no further than that. Now he's decided to relent and retract the most repellent of his comments.

That's good. That is a first step but it's not enough. Angela Merkel persevered. She showed Günther Oettinger and his kind that the whitewashing of history has its limits. We're pleased about that. We still remember how long we waited in vain for this kind of decisiveness from Helmut Kohl.

Let us recall what Günther Oettinger said in his funeral speech: "Despite what is to be read in some obituaries, we must affirm: Hans Filbinger was no Nazi. To the contrary: he was an opponent of the National Socialist regime." Later in the same speech, Oettinger explained: "For the record: no judgement of Hans Filbinger led to the loss of a human life." These were the sentences that caused the scandal. They were lies. Worse, however, was the pithy tone with which Oettinger delivered his superior knowledge. In Oettinger's first reaction, which took days to come, he didn't take back any of his remarks. He repeated that Filbinger had been an opponent of the National Socialists. But he started the sentence with "I believe." Thus his comments left the realm of asserted facts and entered that of Credo. In the eyes of sceptical observers, this amounted to a retraction; in the eyes of his supporters, a confirmation.

He allowed Bild to ask a few questions and that's where the decisive comment appeared: "When I got to know him (Filbinger) later, he was a deeply Christian and conservative person who had distanced himself demonstrably from the NS regime." Anyone who heard the choppy staccato of his funeral speech knew that this was a retreat of sorts. But it was equally evident that Oettinger was not able to bring himself to say that it was wrong – dishonest – to claim that Filbinger had been an opponent of the Nazi regime. Oettinger had no evidence for this claim. He simply made it, hoping he'd get away with it.

That he didn't get away with it speaks for an alert public and even more, for the Chancellor and CDU head Angela Merkel. Her reaction – and of course its publication by the CDU – taught Oettinger a few mores. It would be nice if there was no place whatsoever in the CDU for such lies. And definitely not at the level of premier.

But the fact that Oettinger is getting off so easily – not naming his error as such, not having to ask for an apology but rather just modifying his comments – confirms the widely-shared sense that the governing classes have gotten quite comfortable in a self-righteousness that's immune to all people and all things. It's impossible to demand of children, students and the rest of humanity that they admit their mistakes when a political leader has yet to understand that making and admitting mistakes are pre-requisites to avoiding them. Of course, it's easy to think that this is less about the whitewashing of random mistakes and more an honouring and perpetuation of the specifically Christian conservative Nazi whitewashing of the West German post-war era. But that can't be in our interest – nor in that of the CDU and Angela Merkel.


This article originally appeared in the Frankfurter Rundschau on April 17, 2007.

Arno Widmann was born in 1948 and studied philosophy in Frankfurt with Theodor W. Adorno. A founder and editor-in-chief of die tageszeitung, he has also worked as senior editor of the German Vogue and arts editor of Die Zeit. Today he is feuilleton editor of the Frankfurter Rundschau. He has translated Umberto Eco, Curzio Malaparte and Victor Serge into German. His literary debut came with his 2002 novel "Sprenger".

translation: nb

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles. - let's talk european.

More articles

This kiss for the whole world

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Who actually owns "intellectual property"?  The German media that defend the concept of intellectual property as "real" property are the first to appropriate such rights, and they are using this idea as a defensive weapon. With lawmakers extending copyright laws and new structures emerging on the internet, intellectual property poses a serious challenge to the public domain. A survey of the German media landscape by Thierry Chervel
read more

Suddenly we know we are many

Wednesday 4th January, 2012

Why the Russian youth have tolerated the political situation in their country for so long and why they are no longer tolerant. The poet Natalia Klyuchareva explains the background to the protests on Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on December 10th. Image: Leonid Faerberg
read more

The Republic of Europe

Tuesday 20 December, 2011

Thanks to Radoslaw Sikorski's speech in Berlin, Poland has at last joined the big European debate about restructuring the EU in connection with the euro crisis. The "European Reformation" advocated by Germany does not mean that the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation will be established in Europe, but instead – let us hope – the Republic of Europe. By Adam Krzeminski
read more

Brown is not red

Tuesday 13 December, 2011

TeaserPicFilmmaker and theatre director Andres Veiel disagrees with the parallels currently being drawn between left-wing and right-wing violence in Germany. The RAF is the wrong model for the Zwickau neo-Nazi group, the so-called "Brown Army Faction" responsible for a series of murders of Turkish small business owners. Unlike the RAF, this group never publicly claimed responsibility for their crimes. Veiel is emphatic - you have to look at the biographies of the perpetrators. An interview with Heike Karen Runge.
read more

Legacy of denial

Tuesday 29 November, 2011

TeaserPicGermany has been rocked by the disclosures surrounding the series of neo-Nazi murders of Turkish citizens. In the wake of these events, Former GDR dissident Freya Klier calls for an honest look at the xenophobia cultivated by the policies of the former East Germany, where the core of the so-called "Brown Army Faction" was based. And demands that East Germans finally confront a long-denied past. (Photo: © Nadja Klier)
read more

Nausea in Paris

Monday 14 November, 2011

TeaserPicIn response to the arson attack on the offices of the Parisian satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on November 2, Danish critic and semiotician Frederik Stjernfelt is nauseated by the opinions voiced against the publication, especially in the British and American media. Why don't they see that Islamism is right-wing extremism?
read more

Just one pyramid

Monday 10 October, 2011

Activist and author, Andri Snaer Magnason is among the Icelandic guests of honor at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. His book and film "Dreamland" is both an ecological call to action and a polemic. "The politicians took one of the most beautiful parts of Iceland and offered it to unscrupulous companies," says the author in a critique of his native country. By Daniela Zinser
read more

Dark side of the light

Monday 3 October 2011

In their book "Lügendes Licht" (lying light) Thomas Worm and Claudia Karstedt explore the darker side of the EU ban on incandescent bulbs. From disposal issues to energy efficiency, the low-energy bulb is not necessarily a beacon of a greener future. By Brigitte Werneburg
read more

Lubricious puritanism

Tuesday 30 August, 2011

The malice of the American media in the case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn is a symptom of sexual uptightness that borders on the sinister, and the feminists have joined forces with the religious Right to see it through. We can learn much from America, but not when it comes to the art of love. By Pascal Bruckner
read more

Much ado about Sarrazin

Monday 22 August 2011

Published a year ago, the controversial book "Deutschland schafft sich ab" (Germany is doing away with itself) by former banker and Berlin Finance Senator Thilo Sarrazin sparked intense discussion. Hamed Abdel-Samad asks: what has the Sarrazin debate achieved beyond polarisation and insult? And how can Germany avoid cultivating its own classes of "future foreigners"?
read more

Economic giant, political dwarf

Wednesday 3 August, 2011

Germany's growing imbalance between economic and political competence is worsening the European crisis and indeed the crisis of Nato. The country has ceased to make any political signals at all and demonstrates a conspicuous lack of responsibility for what takes place beyond its own borders. This smug isolationism is linked to strains of old anti-Western and anti-political, anti-parliamentarian sentiment that is pure provincialism. By Karl Heinz Bohrer
read more

Sound and fury

Monday 11 April 2011

Budapest is shimmering with culture but Hungary's nationalist government is throwing its weight about in cultural life, effecting censorship through budget cuts and putting its own people in the top-level cultural positions. Government tolerance of hate campaigns against Jews and gays has provoked the likes of Andras Schiff, Agnes Heller, Bela Tarr and Andre Fischer to raise their voices in defence of basic human rights. But a lot of people are simply scared. By Volker Hagedorn
read more

The self-determination delusion

Monday 28 March, 2011

TeaserPicA Dutch action group for free will wants to give all people the right to assisted suicide. But can this be achieved without us ending up somewhere we never wanted to go? Gerbert van Loenen has grave doubts.
read more

Revolution without guarantee

Monday 21 February, 2011

Saying revolution and freedom is not the same as saying democracy, respect for minorities, equal rights and good relations with neighbouring nations. All this has yet to be achieved. We welcome the Arab revolution and will continue to watch with our eyes open to the potential dangers. By Andre Glucksmann
read more

Pascal Bruckner and the reality disconnect

Friday 14 January, 2011

The French writer Pascal Bruckner wants to forbid a word. Which sounds more like a typically German obsession. But for Bruckner, "Islamophobia" is one of "those expressions which we dearly need to banish from our vocabulary". One asks oneself with some trepidation which other words we "dearly need" to get rid of: Right-wing populism? Racism? Relativism? By Alan Posener
read more