Angela Merkel as Adolf Hitler. Really?

England’s Guardian newspaper cartoonist Kipper Williams must be having the time of his life during the current European economic crisis. One of my favorite cartoons from Williams is the prickly bearded Greek footballer wearing a German jersey during the Euro 2012 quarter final match between Germany and Greece.

We’re Greece – [Germany] is just our sponsors.

Referencing German control of their economy, the Greek football team, with ‘Germany’ smeared across the front of their blue jerseys, has fell victim in having to be sponsored by Germany. Even the confused expression on the refs face provokes a smile. He is dumbfounded as the Footballer, holding almost an indifferent expression on his face, explains the situation. Aiming to add a little ‘funny’ spice to the otherwise dismal situation, Kipper Williams stays within the rules of what is ethical and is able to depict the crisis in a soft, humorous, yet provocative way.

During the Euro 2012 Football tournament, cartoons like the aforementioned were making their way quite easily around social media outlets. It was a common discussion amongst my friends: “Hey, did you see that football cartoon? It was a riot! What did you think?” Whether the cartoon was directed toward Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, or even the Germans, it really didn’t matter as everyone was trying to better an otherwise unhappy situation. And while Germany was putting a whooping on Greece, it wasn’t just caricatures being drawn but also jokes being cracked.

@bill_easterly: ‘Greece at halftime of Euro match asks Germany for emergency loan of 4 players.’

To make jokes and sketch caricatures about the other less fortunate crisis-stricken countries is to be expected and as long as markets continue to fall worldwide, artists and jokers will continue to produce what they do best at the expense of others. As fellow writer David J Olsen observed back in June, “…joke-tellers across the globe continue[d] to savor the ever-increasing mountain of comedic material generated by the various races and ethnicities involved in the deepening crisis.”

I don’t see any harm in it as long as the humor (or idea) being presented doesn’t provoke violence, racism, or other similar evils; however, this is not always the case. While funny and humorous Euro crisis material was being spread throughout Europe before, during, and after the Euro 2012, so too was less humoristic, more offensive material.

Depicted in Europe’s media as an unappetizing short, extremely plump centerfold pinup or as a naked, ugly barbarian in hell, German chancellor Angela Merkel and her hard line stance on the Euro zone crisis has become perhaps the most popular popinjay. Many of the depictions are harmless; however, some artists are pushing the limits and meanwhile crossing moral and ethical lines. The most savage and unflattering images are of her as a Nazi.

In February 2012, the Greek newspaper Democratie published an image of Merkel wearing a Nazi colored uniform and carrying the famous Nazi armband on her left arm.

Chancellor Angela Merkel depicted as a Nazi

To reference the Nazis in Greece draws on a long history of national suffering during World War II and the Nazi occupation of Greece. The image led to a number debates in Europe: whether or not it is appropriate – at the very least fair to make such depictions. Nazi imagery is nothing new to the political world. Hitler and the Nazis are common references amongst people who feel subjugated and subordinate – here in America Obama has also been compared with and depicted as Hitler.

President Barack Obama as Adolf Hitler

Although her insistence on austerity rather than aid has been a sore spot amongst Europeans, her actions are a far cry from being anything related to the Nazi era. Comparing her to a past world leader that intentionally murdered six million + innocent people seems quite absurd.

Not everyone, however, feels the same as columnist Jakob Augstein states: “Her abrasive pro-austerity policies threaten everything that previous German governments had accomplished since World War II. …[Merkel] is a radical politician, not a conservative one.”

Although this observation does look to the past to find comparisons, I don’t believe Augstein is insinuating that Merkel is some sort of Hitler-type leader. She has simply failed to observe her predecessors’ achievements (post-Hitler) and has taken a course of her own. A course that Augstein apparently disagrees with.

In response to the images, chief whip of Merkel’s conservatives Michael Grosse-Broemer says “I am not worried (about Merkel’s image abroad) because the characterizations of the chancellor can be explained by her support for something other than simple, popular demands.” He goes on to say, “I think some emotionally-driven judgments about this great chancellor are off the mark.”

I am in agreement with Grosse-Broemer and would further state that the comparison is old, unintelligent, unfair, and disgusting. Many people do find Angela Merkel threatening, such as Mendi Hasan who says “Merkel is the most dangerous German leader since Hitler.” Such a statement, however, is over-the-top and, at the very least, very forgetful of what Hitler did while in power.

It is not the same as criticizing Merkel and saying she has veered away from her predecessors’ politics as Augstein suggests. Instead, Hasan’s remark deliberately inserts the Hitler comparison. To present Merkel as a barbarian or even the ever-so-frightening Terminator can indeed be on topic (as well as humorous) despite its absurdities, but to reference Adolf Hitler and his Nazi counterparts is uneducated, and, at the very least, over the line.

Angela Merkel as the Terminator

For too long Germans have had to deal with their bothersome shadows of the past. It is just fine to disagree, poke fun, and create humorous images of public figures. Whatever other European countries are going though, I can’t imagine it being worse than what people had to endure from 1933 until 1945.

Dresden, Germany after the allied bombings.

The comparison, in my mind, doesn’t even work. It is time to divorce these present day Germans (and their leaders) from their long removed Nazi past.

A protest and march in Athens, Greece.

Quick source reference:
http://www.newsfromtheend.com/2012/06/euro-zone-crisis-opens-floodgates-for.html (David J Olson)

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2012/06/angela-merkels-mania-austerity-destroying-europe (Mendi Hasan)

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/28/us-eurozone-germany-merkel-idUSBRE85R0BM20120628 (Michael Grosse-Broehmer)