Heard the one about the Nazi? Thought so…
Being a Germany fan at London 2012 has, thus far, been a largely thankless task. The first few days of the Games have seen several national heroes limp out of their respective events without so much as seeing a medal, let alone wearing one. So the resurgence which started yesterday with their first gold medal, and has seen them clamber back up to 8th place, and has been a welcome one.
Even that first gold – in the Team Eventing – was a little overshadowed, however, as one reporter for national broadcaster ARD took the opportunity to dive head first into a Nazi scandal. In allusion to the fact that Germany were relieved of the Gold in Team Eventing at the 2004 games after protests from other countries over a false start, one Mr Carsten Sostmeier greeted the victory this time around with the words “Since 2008 we have been riding back. We’ve taken back the Gold – mercilessly.”
The first sentence, “Seit 2008 wird zurueckgeritten”, is a play on words from Hitler’s announcement of the German invasion of Poland in 1939: “Seit 5.45 Uhr wird zurueckgeschossen.” An instantly recognisable play on words, as this hapless Englishman found out when everyone around him started choking on their Fruechte-Quark. The use of the word mercilessly only served to sour the atmosphere further. It was a moment in which, just as with the moron who fired abuse at Tom Daley, the joke probably sounded much better in his head than it did in public.
It would be easy, from a British point of view, to trawl out the clichés at this point. The Germans don’t have a sense of humour, and particularly not when it comes to Nazis. Sostmeier’s quote wasn’t inciting racial hatred, it was simply a bad joke that he didn’t quite pull off, so why was he pressured into making a public apology? Why didn’t the whole country simply laugh it off with a hearty measure of self-deprecation? In Britain, after all, allusions to the Wehrmacht are the standard protocol for commentating on a German sporting victory. Bloody Germans just can’t take a joke.
It’s a cliché which became tiresome long ago, and yet still shows little sign of fading. The reality is not that Germans don’t have a sense of humour (see Henning Wehn, Matze Knop, Gerhard Polt etc), nor that they cannot laugh at Nazi jokes (ditto). It’s just that, when you’ve heard all the jokes four thousand times already, most of them lose their spark, somehow.
Normally, it is the British who are the worst offenders in this regard. For a nation that prides itself on a unique and superior taste for comedy, its Nazi jokes are remarkably unfunny. Not that Germans in Britain can voice this sentiment. For unless you fall about laughing at every chorus of “There Were Ten German Bombers In The Air”, you’re clearly just a typically humourless German, when in truth, it’s the British who are ignoring the golden comic law of diminishing returns.
Not that it is only the Brits of course. Particularly given the current political and economic situation, hardly a day goes by without some aspect of German life being linked tenuously to the Third Reich in a vain attempt at satire across Europe. And while their sporting success over the last half century has been a major cultural building block for Germany’s recovery, they still can’t avoid the Nazi jokes.
That is why Sostmeier was forced to apologise. His gaffe was greeted not with outrage, or humourlessness, but just with disappointment. Upon hearing the story recanted, numerous Germans will have just put their heads in their hands. Not only did he ruin the success of Germany’s winning riders by indirectly likening them to Stormtroopers, he also failed to make us laugh in the process. That’s the golden rule. Laugh at the Nazis by all means, but please make sure it’s funny.Tagged in: Carsten Sostmeier, germany, London 2012, nazi, olympics, Sport
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