German broadcaster ZDF is launching a show where the public can vote for the greatest German of all time. However, the most notorious figures from the country's history have been omitted.
Hitler and Co. are out of the running
Following in the footsteps of the successful BBC television production "Greatest Britons", German public broadcaster ZDF is planning to launch its own version, "Unsere Besten" - Our Best - chronicling history's greatest Germans as nominated by members of the public and well known figures. However, ZDF has said that it will not allow German viewers to vote for Adolf Hitler or any of his Nazi entourage.
Sources for the network have described the idea of voting for the fascist dictator as "grotesque" and that persons eligible for the vote should not include "criminals or people who committed crimes against humanity." Guido Knopp, head of ZDF's history department and a noted author on the Third Reich, told the German press agency dpa, "If we were to allow the nomination of someone like Hitler for this title, it would be an insult to the genuine best of German history."
Wide definition of German
As a result, the broadcaster has subsequently excluded Hitler's name from the list of 300 people vying for the title of Greatest German. Addressing the point that Hitler was in fact Austrian, Walter Hellebrand of BBC Worldwide, co-producers of the show, said the competition would be very open as to who qualified as German. "Hitler was an Austrian but then so was Mozart. But to the outside world, everyone perceives them as Germans, even the Germans themselves," said Hellebrand in an interview with the BBC.
While the British list included everyone from William Shakespeare and Princess Diana to the eventual winner, wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, the German list is likely to be even more impressive.
The Germans have an embarrassment of riches. In philosophers alone, voters can choose from Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer and Marx among others. The choice of classical composers who made such musical impacts on the whole world could well include such luminaries as Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Wagner for starters.
The Germans are no slouches when it comes to masters of literature either, choosing from the likes of Schiller, Heine, Mann and Brecht - and that's without even considering the man whom most Germans of the last 200 years tend to revere as their own greatest son - Goethe. And then there are Frederick the Great, Dürer, Marlene Dietrich, Bismarck, Hildegard of Bingen, Kepler, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Albert Einstein, Franz Beckenbauer, Claudia Schiffer and Michael Schumacher to consider.
If the success of the BBC production is anything to go by, ZDF are likely to have a hit on their hands with the final show of Greatest Britons commanding an audience of three million. "The concept could not have found a better home in Germany," said Mark Young of BBC Worldwide. "It will be a very exciting show if you think of all the strong candidates." A panel of experts will nominate the first 250 people with members of the public being invited to choose 50 more before the final voting begins.