Yesterday while biking along the Rathausstraße, a popular restaurant and shopping area in Alexanderplatz, I came across several anti-Muslim stickers that are too offensive to post on Stickerkitty. I’ve been debating what to do and how to write about them in a neutral and ethical way. Posting offensive images can be a dangerous thing, I think, even if I were to simply describe what was going on in the stickers (i.e., what is being represented and/or communicated). The stickers were out in public and in plain view, but posting them online seems different.
I’ll share a little of what could be considered acceptable in this situation, though. When I was there, I took a few photographs and learned that last year, right near where I was standing, a 20-year-old Vietnamese man had been badly beaten and later died. A shrine with candles and flowers has been created to honor him.
You can read about the incident in The Local (October 15, 2012) and Der Spiegel (October 17, 2012). At the time, the alleged perpetrators were identified as “southern Europeans,” though in a more recent story in Der Welt (May 13, 2013), six suspects have been named, with one, a Turk, identified as the main perpetrator. He fled to Turkey after the beating and returned to Germany just a few days ago to be charged with the murder.
One of the stickers that I found in the area read, “Nur ein toter Muslim ist ein guter Muslim,” or “Only a dead Muslim is a good Muslim.” Another sticker showed the silhouette of a mosque and the words above it, “Gegen Islam[i]s[i]erung” or “Against Islamization.” Instead of the letter “i,” were tall minarets. The sticker also included “2045 werden 52 Mio Muslime in Deutschland leben!” or “In 2045, 52 million Muslims will be living in Germany!” and a Web site for <pi news dot net>. PI stands for Politically Incorrect. That’s all I’m going to say about these stickers. The others were much, much worse.
At the end of the block where I was walking, I found a recognizable sticker image from Storch Heinar that read “Hier Verschwand ein Nazi-Aufkleber” or roughly “Here disappeared a Nazi sticker.” The sticker (though now in my notebook) did indeed cover an offensive anti-Muslim sticker.
Storch Heinar, with his little Hitler moustache, is a word play on Thor Steinar, a German clothing company that has been criticized for a logo and other designs that are very similar to what were used on SS uniforms during World War II. Thor Steinar clothing has been banned in government buildings and several football (soccer) stadiums in Germany. You can read more about Thor Steinar in a previous post. Doing research today, I found an informative article by Simon Englar that discusses right-wing clothing and a group in Berlin, Rechtes Land, which tracks right-wing and neo-Nazi activities across Germany. According to Englar,
- “Rechtes Land, or ‘Just Nation,’ is a database of present and historical far-right activity that will be displayed geographically in a searchable map online. Every beating, every murder, every bombing—Rechtes Land aims to cover it all, in a consolidated and accessible interface. But the data mapped won’t be limited to events of official illegality. Felix Hansen [one of the organizers] explained that the project will also map marches and rallies—events which are technically legal, but which play an important role in the far-right scene. ‘Whether or not [right-wing] groups have broken the law plays no role for us,’ explained Hansen. It’s with this understanding that Rechtes Land will pay close attention to the commercialized far right. Brands like Thor Steinar… will be mapped, their networks of distribution exposed…. That’s a new level of exposure for the German far right—an exposure that will be meticulously catalogued and documented. Rechtes Land follows a simple logic: exposure is necessary for awareness, for research, and, ultimately, for policy. This strategy of exposure is particularly well suited to Germany, where the most successful far-right groups tend to be dispersed and obscure.”
Interesting how this mapping relates to my geo-tagging project, too. I looked at Rechtes Land, and markers identify where right-wing activities have taken place (marches, demonstrations), who were the organizers, their mottos or chants, how many participants, etc., as well as news items and a rich collection of historical Nazi sites and more contemporary post-World War II monuments, museums, and documentation centers, such as the Topography of Terror.
What a great way to learn about the political history of the city. I’m going to ask people at Rechtes Land about the anti-Muslim stickers I found. Maybe they will want to add photos of them to their Web site.