By Rebecca Fiedler
There are about two types of Germans that the average American knows, at least from what I’ve seen. They are Nazi soldiers and Augustus Gloop from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. As someone of German descent who loves German culture, I find this frustrating.
We are constantly bombarded in our American sphere with a limited view of the German people. Our fascination with the gravity of World War II and the evils of Adolf Hitler leads us, I believe, to focus on the image of a German as a harsh, cold and bitter creature, spitting phlegm while he speaks.
I also feel like we also make references to the Nazis so lightly and far too often when we talk about Germany. Obviously, few of us actually believe that Germans in today’s world are cruel Nazis, but it’s almost undeniable that when a thought about Germany pops into our brain, that thought tends to lean, even slightly, towards the butch, the hard, the rigid.
This stereotype is evident in the way we portray Germans on TV and in film, with characters reminiscent of Austrian actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and has even reached the online world, where there are memes commenting on the supposed bully of the German language. The so-called “romantic” languages based on Latin are advertised as beautiful, while the Germanic, Russian, Slavic and Nordic languages are called ugly.
The only somewhat positive American view of the Germans seems to be that of the cuckoo and yodeler Ricola, a young man wearing the traditional Lederhosen, with rosy and round cheeks.
Although this image of German culture is much more positive than that of Nazi culture, it is a view that remains discouraging and biased. I believe I am lucky beyond what I will ever comprehend that as a white person I am spared the racial discrimination that so many different ethnicities are unduly burdened with on a daily basis. However, I don’t think that’s a foundation of my heritage and of a culture that I like to be sullied.
I find linking modern Germans to Hitler and the Nazis, as I have often seen, just as insulting and cruel as linking a Persian to Saddam Hussein. I believe that there shouldn’t be an automatically accepted consensus that German is an ugly language, but that people really should get to know the language as real Germans speak it in their daily lives before decide what they think about it.
Germany’s beauty lies beyond its drinks, its chocolates and its old churches, and it transcends negative stereotypes. Personally, I find the language beautiful and pleasant to speak. The country’s educational system today is enviable and the German spirit is positive and progressive. The Germans are hard-working and innovative and resourceful. The Germans I have come to know are nice, kind and very intelligent, and none of them are tough or tough in the least.
We have taken Germany and its people and reduced them to a grossly inaccurate personification.
I encourage everyone to examine their mindset towards different cultures. The beauty of a nation and its people, much like the beauty of a race or gender, is often overlooked in lieu of more iconic and often gruesome samplings of the group. I admire the person who really gets to grips with the German culture which I have come to find beautiful and love so much.
Rebecca Fiedler is a young journalism student from Waco. She is an editor for The Lariat.