The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler Ben Urwand Belknap, 2013 327 pages, $39.95 (hb) Throughout the 1930s, movie-goers all over the world got to see the German Nazi’s cut of every Hollywood film. Any movie touching on Germany contained no mention of Nazism or Jews. Both these silences, as Harvard University’s Ben Urwand unearths in The Collaboration, were the result of a remarkable agreement allowing the Nazis to dictate Hollywood movie content in return for Hollywood studios keeping their access to the lucrative German market.
About 300 West African refugees reached the German city of Hamburg early last year after a long and perilous journey from Libya. They had, like countless other refugees travelling from north Africa, crossed the Mediterranean to the Italian island of Lampedusa the name that the group of 300 later adopted for themselves. The refugees had hoped to receive refugee status from the German state. However, authorities, deferring to European Union guidelines, refused to provide them with any sort of accommodation and tried to expel them from Hamburg.
Germany’s September 22 federal elections delivered victory to the ruling conservative Christian Democratic Alliance, despite forces to their left winning a majority of seats. Die Linke (the Left Party) has emerged the third largest in the Bundestag (German parliament). The Chancellor Angela Merkel-led alliance scored their best result since German re-unification in 1990, with more than 18 million votes (41.5%).
The upcoming federal elections in Germany, scheduled for September 22, are unlikely to change the character of German politics regardless of the outcome. The two main parties remain committed continuing to represent the interests of German corporations over its people. Die Linke (The Left Party) provides a left parliamentary alternative, but it has not succeeded in convincing ordinary, working people that a break of the status quo is possible.
A 700-strong march wound its way through the medieval streets of Freiburg, in the south-west German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, on April 20 to protest against the imminent resumption of deportation flights from the state. The theme of the protest was “Those who want to stay should stay”. Those targeted for deportation are Roma refugees who fled Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, and their German-born children.
All That I Am, A Novel By Anna Funder Penguin 2011 370 pp, $29.95 Germany at the end of World War I entered a political and cultural maelstrom that tested the integrity of all its participants. This factually based narrative, or “open-source novel” as author Anna Funder calls it, brings to life some of those who committed their lives to trying to bring socialism to Germany and combat Hitler.
Refugees coming to Germany right now are largely from known regions of crisis. They come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, many African countries and the Turkish-ruled part of Kurdistan. They also include many Roma who want to escape extreme poverty and racial discrimination in Kosovo and other East European countries.
A group of 57 refugees, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, have pushed the plight of the more than 100,000 asylum seekers in Germany into the national spotlight. In September, they rejected regulations that constrain their movement and began a long march to the German capital, Berlin. They came from as far as Wuerzburg, a Bavarian town in Germany’s south. Some of them completed the 600 kilometre journey on foot over 29 days. Arriving in early October, the refugees and scores more German supporters established a tent city in the Berlin suburb of Kreuzberg.
Germany is usually presented in the mainstream media as having successfully weathered Europe’s vast economic crisis. German Chancellor Angel Merkel from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has gained enormous influence on the European political and financial scene. By contrast, in protests across Greece, Spain and other countries hit hardest by the crisis, references about Germany as the “Fourth Reich” are increasingly being voiced.
Germany's Die Linke (The Left) party elected a new leadership team at its June 2-3 congress. It came at a time of rising economic and social crisis in Europe, as well as losses for Die Linke in recent state elections. Die Linke was formed in 2007 as part of a unification of two parties, one with a base in the old eastern states (the PDS) and the other based in the western Germany (the WASG). Between 2007 and 2009, Die Linke achieved strong electoral results in federal elections and was represented in all state parliaments.
Up to 30,000 protesters from across Europe took to the streets on May 19 in the financial district of Frankfurt. The rally, which lasted for seven hours, ended outside the European Central Bank (ECB). The protest, “Blockupy Frankfurt”, was part of a three-day action, organised to oppose the European debt crisis policies of the “troika” made up of the ECB, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission. These polices include the so-called Eurozone bailout funds, which have helped push people across Europe into poverty and the dismantled democratic rights.
Economic collapse drives workers into hunger and destitution. Foreign powers extort huge payments, forcing the national economy toward bankruptcy. The government forces workers to pay the costs of capitalist crisis. This description of Greece in 2012 applies equally to Germany in 1921. How should a workers’ party respond? The German Communist Party (KPD) proposed a simple fiscal policy: tax those who own the country’s productive wealth.
Voters in Germany’s largest state of 18 million people, North Rhine Westphalia, went to the polls on May 13 to reject Chancellor Angela Merkel’s politics. This came a week after the loss for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the election of Schleswig Holstein. These results mark a rejection of the hard line austerity politics pushed across Europe by the Merkel-led coalition government.
Elections in Schleswig Holstein on May 6 delivered yet another blow to the federal coalition government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). As well as forming government federally, the CDU and FDP were also in government in the small northern German state. The CDU lost nearly 100,000 votes, slipping 0.7 points to 30.8% — its worst result in the Schleswig Holstein since 1950.
Literature Nobel laureate and Germany's most famous living author Gunter Grass labelled Israel a threat to "already fragile world peace" in his poem “Was gesagt werden muss” (“What must be said”). The work, published by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung on April 4, accuses "the West" of hypocrisy in relation to the arming of Israel. In publishing the poem, Grass, who regards himself as "irrevocably connected to the country of Israel” has made a big contribution to breaking a long standing German taboo about publicly criticising Israel's warmongering.
About 215,000 public service workers struck on March 27 as a warning to their employers a day before talks between the public sector union and the bosses. Two weeks earlier, 130,000 took part in the first round of strikes. The award being negotiated by the United Services Union (known as ver.di) covers more than 2 million public service workers from national to local level. Ver.di is Germany's second biggest union, with a membership of about 2.1 million people.