I found this story surprising:
A German army instructor ordered a soldier to envision himself in New York City facing hostile blacks while firing his machine gun, a video that aired Saturday on national television showed…The clip shows an instructor and a soldier in camouflage uniforms in a forest. The instructor tells the soldier, “You are in the Bronx. A black van is stopping in front of you. Three African-Americans are getting out and they are insulting your mother in the worst ways. … Act.”The soldier fires his machine gun several times and yells an obscenity several times in English. The instructor then tells the soldier to curse even louder…The existence of the video was first reported on the home page of the German news magazine Stern on Friday and excerpts were aired on the news television channel n-tv on Saturday.According to Stern, the 90-second clip had been posted on a Web site used by soldiers to exchange private videos. A soldier who used the site alerted his superiors, the magazine reported.The video is the latest embarrassment for the German army. Eighteen army instructors are currently on trial for allegedly abusing and humiliating 163 recruits in 2004. Last year, newspapers published photos of German soldiers in Afghanistan posing with a skulls â€” including one who exposed himself while holding a skull.
For starters, these represent a pattern of incidents but a minority of sentiment. I don’t think this proves Germans in general are racists.
However, I do think it strikes at the notion that Germans are uniquely non-racist and non-nationalist. Those in the U.S. often see it as an enlightened, liberal country that opposed the war in Iraq and took the lessons of World War II to heart. It even has universal health care.
In some ways that’s true. For example, they give up some free speech rights in order to ban hateful propaganda. They are also less likely than Americans to agree you should support your country whether or not it’s right (sorry, can’t find the poll online).
But the racism here is not only blatant, it’s bizarre. Germany is home to practically no blacks, and New York is an ocean away. What reason do they have to spread stereotypes about Big Apple blacks? Maybe it’s anti-Americanism via making fun of our cities’ problems. Or maybe it’s old-fashioned Aryan supremacy.
And look at two other words in the story: “conscript army.” Why in the world would an enlightened country, not under attack and staying out of the Iraq war, force people to join the military?
Small countries often have mandatory military service, citing the inability to form a professional army of sufficient size. Neutral countries, in particular, institute conscription to organize an independent defense, that is, to eliminate the need for foreign support.Communist countries, particularly the Soviet Union and its satellites, used conscription. The tradition continues in Russia and in numerous other countries formed in the collapse of Soviet Union.
That pretty much leaves Germany and Austria unexplained. Neither is particularly small or particularly neutral, though half of Germany belonged to the Soviets.
My idea, though I can’t really think of a way to test it against opposing ones, is that the nationalism of decades past isn’t as beaten out of the Germans as one would think. Even though they aren’t using the army for anything, they see it as a matter of pride to have one (especially since the Allies dissolved one forcefully).
Again, I’m no historian. Please comment, particularly if you’ve spent any time in Germany.