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ZDF Magazin Royale with Jan Böhmermann: "We perpetrators were somehow mainly victims"

With the Instagram project “I am Sophie Scholl” Jan Böhmermann wants to show in the ZDF Magazin Royale how big Germany’s deficits in the culture of remembrance are.

Jan Böhmermann is back on time late Friday evening. The ZDF Magazin Royale is supposed to deal with the “problem of German culture of remembrance”. But first he hurriedly devotes himself to the topics of the week. When referring to Olaf Scholz’s inaugural visit to Russia, taunts against ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who drew attention to himself with statements on the Ukraine conflict, should not be missing. But what directly affects Germany this week are the storm lows “Ylenia” and “Zeynep”. Schools remained closed in North Rhine-Westphalia – “a bit hasty if you ask me. We don’t even know how dangerous such a storm is for children.” The joke isn’t really subtle. And one might think that one has heard such a comparison to the corona pandemic umpteen times.

But so be it. Fortunately, Böhmermann finds his way to the actual topic quite quickly in this issue. The focus is on the Instagram account @ichbinsophiescholl, with which users can “participate in the last ten months of their lives up close, emotionally and in simulated real time”, as SWR explains. “@ichbinsophiescholl is an exciting experiment that reaches young people” and is intended to educate about the German resistance fighter against National Socialism. The posts are aimed at young people. Böhmermann finds that the whole thing is not only artificial, but also extremely grotesque in view of the considerable deficits in the German culture of remembrance.

ZDF Magazin Royale with Jan Böhmermann: Sophie Scholl on Instagram – a grotesque project

With interview snippets and surveys – both from the post-war period and from recent years – Böhmermann shows that Germany has a lot of catching up to do in terms of culture of remembrance. Because many respondents are fed up with the processing of German crimes. “Almost 36 percent of the German citizens surveyed believe that their ancestors were more likely to have been victims of the Nazi regime. 32 percent think their ancestors helped potential victims. In fact, it was a few zero-point percent” (Zeit Online, January 27, 2021). And according to a new survey by CeMAS, 37.6 percent of supporters of corona protests find that “the current corona measures and politics are comparable to the time of National Socialism”. And Jan Böhmermann is unusually serious. For a few seconds he even manages to refrain from jokes and sarcasm. Vaccination opponents pretend to be Holocaust victims? “Complete madness” is that.

Isn’t there an Instagram account of Nazi resistance fighter Sophie Scholl at the right time? Not exactly, thinks the ZDF man. The reason for the project of a research association of SWR, BR, Vice and Co. is to get young people interested in history without any boring history lessons. Naturally. Because young people don’t understand anything at all if it is not presented in the format of Instagram or Tiktok.

ZDF Magazin Royale with Jan Böhmermann: dealing with the Nazi era from the wrong perspective

In short, the program threatens to lose itself in the grotesque and historically inaccurate nature of the Instagram account. The fact that something is being fictionalized and made more vivid for a broad audience actually seems obvious. Things get interesting, however, when Böhmermann digs deeper into the comments column of an archive video of the Eastern Front, which is pretty much the opposite of what the account was meant to do. Far too many users share the stories of their grandfathers, claim that they did not commit any crimes on the Eastern Front, or even call them victims.

Which brings you to the core message of the show: Germans would prefer to draw a line under the topic of Nazi rule and the Holocaust. And if you do deal with it, you do it from the completely wrong perspective.

ZDF Magazin Royale: The problem with the German culture of remembrance

Friday, February 18, 2022, 11:15 p.m. on ZDF – link to the ZDF media library.

And @ichbinsophiescholl doesn’t seem to be completely uninvolved either: “First of all, we would like to express our sincerest condolences for your loss,” says the account in response to a comment. “Nevertheless, we would like to thank you for your very personal insight! It was certainly not easy to hear these stories. Nevertheless, it is all the more important to give these stories space. Thank you for letting us and the community participate.” Böhmermann does not leave this uncommented. He says mockingly: “Yes, we perpetrators were somehow mainly victims. And in resistance. Actually, we are all kind of like Sophie Scholl.”

ZDF Magazin Royale with Jan Böhmermann: Germans mainly want to relieve themselves

The Instagram account tells “more about Germany 2022 than about Germany 1942” in terms of dealing with the Nazi era. A steep thesis. The idea is anything but wrong. The @eva.stories account from Israel, which recounts the life of a young Hungarian Jewess in the time of the Holocaust on Instagram, proves that it can work.

In Germany, on the other hand, people prefer not to talk about the millions of people who were murdered, but rather to illuminate their own positive stories and characters in order to be able to feel better. A large majority of the population did not want to have anything to do with the Nazi era anyway. “Above all, offers of identification that relieve the burden are very popular,” notes Laura Cazés from the Central Welfare Office for Jews in Germany, who is allowed to speak briefly. Significant.

And the Sophie Scholl goes Instagram project is not yet complete. More than 760,000 subscribers are eagerly awaiting how the last few days, including the execution, will be staged for the platform. The outcome is known. But a look at the comments shows that many users get very involved in the story and even warn the protagonist of fatal missteps in order to somehow save them – about 80 years too late. (lrg)

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