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Culture

Fears of Nationalism as Pop Pushes German Pride

Young Germans have long labored under the weight of guilt from the nation's past but have recently pushed for more pride in their country. However, pro-German lyrics in pop songs are causing concern.

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Berlin band Mia promotes pride in Germany but is it really nationalist?

Germany's gradual relaxation towards its national identity is causing concern among recording artists and musicians as an increasing number of songs appearing in the pop charts seem to contain lyrics which could be misconstrued as nationalist.

Mieze mit Band der Berliner Band Mia Fotograf H. Flug

Mieze and other Mia members in a publicity shot

For months, the single "We" has been riding high in the German charts. A collaboration between techno DJ Paul van Dyk (photo) and Wolfsheim singer Peter Heppner, the song proudly recounts German post-war history with lyrics such as "I ask myself who we are. We are we. Divided, defeated but, nevertheless, in the end, we're still alive."

The song is accompanied by a video that contains images of women rebuilding bombed cities with their bare hands and amputee soldiers returning from the war.

"We" portrays Germans as victims in a land split between the allies and its people humiliated. But there is no mention of the war, of the Holocaust or the Third Reich. Instead the song celebrates the German success history: the reconstruction, the miracle of Bern and the reunification.

It is, essentially, a love song to Germany.

No more shame over nationality

Another example comes from the group Mia in the song "It is what it is." Front woman Mieze sings about German pride and the creation of the national colors displayed in the post-war flag: "A gulp of the black coffee wakes me up, your red mouth touches me gently, at this moment, it clicks and the yellow sun rises," referring to the colors in Germany's national flag: black, red and gold.

euromaxx fragebogen Paul van Dyk 04.12.2003

Paul van Dyk

Mieze later sings about the rejection of past generations and the embracing of a new German identity: "If anyone asks me now where I come from, I no longer feel sorry for myself…I risk it all for love, I feel ready."

Such words and images are making some people uncomfortable. Germans have struggled for years with the weight of guilt associated with the nation's record in two world wars but younger generations have begun to reclaim German identity and move on from the crimes of the past to take pride in their country.

Target audience rich pickings for neo-Nazis

But some commentators see a danger in popular music becoming the voice of a new German pride, fearing it could be hijacked by far right organizations and used as nationalist propaganda in a market targeted at a young, impressionable record buying public.

Kahlgeschorene Demonstranten stehen am Samstag (01.05.2004) in Berlin in einer Gruppe von rechtsextremen NPD-Anhängern

neo-Nazi demonstrators

Anetta Kahane of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a group based in Berlin which promotes democratic initiatives to resist right wing extremism, views the development in German pop music with concern.

"Far right organizations think this is great," she said. "They rightly perceive this as national pride suddenly becoming something normal."

Far-right groups use music's influence

The reactions of the neo-Nazis show that Kahane is right. The National Democratic Party (NPD) mouthpiece National Voice wrote that Mia stands up for a "relaxed attitude to its own nation." Mia's attitude has "scratched out" the left-wing supremacy in German youth, wrote the paper.

Ostdeutsche Band Rammstein

Rammstein

Flirtations with the far-right are not a new phenomenon. Groups such as Rammstein (photo) and, more specifically, Böhse Onkelz which made no secret the fact that it was a part of the German skinhead scene in the 1980s and published songs with titles like "Turks Out" and "Germany for the Germans," were championed by neo-Nazis but have since renounced their right-wing leanings.

Mia on the other hand keeps pointing out that they do not want to be associated with rightwing extremists. They add that they simply want to help jump-start a discussion about German identity.

But musicians cannot choose their fans: At a Mia concert in the western German town of Bielefeld, three rightwing extremists attacked a dark-skinned student, according to local news reports. Organizers of another festival at which Mia was scheduled to appear asked the band's management to comment on the incident. They didn't receive a reply.

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