The manager of Germany’s national soccer team, Joachim Loew, deserves a pat on the back and a congratulatory handshake.
Much to his credit, he lambasted German hooligans who shouted “Sieg heil” — a popular Nazi slogan — during a World Cup qualifying game in Prague on September 1, the 78th anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland, the event that sparked World War II.
“I’m full off anger and I’m very much shaken to see that some so-called fans use football, and an international match, for their deplorable demonstration,” he said at a news conference after the game. “They bring shame on our country. We don’t want them, we’re not their national team and they’re not our fans.”
Driving home his point with further vigor, Loew added, “Given our history, it’s very important for us to represent our country in a dignified fashion and its values of tolerance, respect and openness to the world. These troublemakers demean this image.”
Loew, a member of Germany’s postwar generation, understands that it has a special obligation to come to terms with its Nazi legacy. That means, among other things, that all representations and symbols of the Nazi era must be unequivocally condemned and utterly rejected.
Germany, through various means, has tried to make amends for the central role it played in conceiving and implementing the Holocaust, which wiped out approximately one-third of the world’s Jewish population.
The first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Konrad Adenauer, set the tone by agreeing to compensate Holocaust survivors for their suffering. His successors, from Willy Brandt to Helmut Kohl, carried on with his policy of reconciliation with Jews. There have been hiccups along the way, of course, but Germany has changed beyond all recognition and bears no resemblance whatsoever to the despicable Nazi regime that ignited the war and committed monstrous crimes against humanity.
Indeed, Germany is a thriving democracy which upholds human rights and respects ethnic and religious diversity.
These values are reflected in the German national soccer squad, one of the world’s best.
In the last World Cup championship, 11 of Germany’s 23 players were of foreign descent. Among them were Mesut Oezil and Serdar Tasci, who are of Turkish origin; Sami Khedira, whose parents are from Tunisia; Jerome Boateng and Dennis Aogo, whose fathers are respectively Ghanaian and Nigerian; and Miroslav Klose and Marko Marin, who were born in Poland and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“We are a team,” said Khedira a few years ago. “We all want success, never mind where you come from.”
The German hooligans who incurred Loew’s wrath cannot grasp this universal notion. Nor can they let go of their fondness for and attachment to the Nazi period. Despite Germany’s disastrous dalliance with Nazism, there are Germans who still haven’t learned a thing from the past, Germans who adore Adolf Hitler and his henchmen. These Germans represent a minuscule proportion of Germany’s population, but the damage they do to its image is not insignificant, as Loew correctly indicated.
Hooligans of their ilk should be forbidden to attend games, or, at the very least, immediately ejected from games after exhibiting objectionable behavior. As Loew suggested, there is absolutely no room in German soccer for neo-Nazis.