Where Not to Go on Holiday

This week, Die Zeit has an interesting map (g) of the ultra-right presence in Germany, sorted by individual German federal states. 

The numbers in the black circles indicate the number of people killed by right-wing groups since 1990; the chairs show the number of elected representatives from far-right parties.  (The bigger the chair, the more important the legislative body.)  The smaller political units (kind of like counties) are shaded according to the percentage of votes far-right parties get there.

Keeping things in perspective, it should be noted that even in the brownest regions, far-right parties are still in the minority.

10 thoughts on “Where Not to Go on Holiday

  1. Dear Andrew, I am a real fan of your blog. But I have to admit, that I am a bit disappointed that you follow this ZEIT sales-booster so uncritically (as it seems). I am sorry, though, if that’s a wrong assumption.

    Please don’t misunderstand me: there is nothing that I loathe more about the country of my origin than the fact that it still produces people who think, speak and behave as Nazis – after all that history could teach them. There is no group of people (defining themselves as such) that I despise more than them. To me that’s a truism that shouldn’t be necessary to express. But it seems it is from time to time.

    My problem is that the way the ZEIT’s staff is not at all driven by the desire to seriously analyse the situation – of course not, after all, it’s an entertainment enterprise (“Genießen Sie die ZEIT”). And so it does, in my opinion, what Germans call a “Baerendienst” to the cause of fighting these terrible and monstrous symptoms. It’s almost as brainless as the “Nazis raus” buttons of some leftists (where would “raus” be, after all?)…

    There is surely a need for all kinds of actions against neofascists (living in Rome right now, where such a person was just elected as mayor, I am well aware of the dangers of such thoughts getting too easily into the “center” of the political spectrum).

    Still I think: to headline this map of Germany “where not to go on holiday” is a bit too superficial compared to the high standards that I am used to from your blog…

  2. So, Stephan, I gather you didn’t like Die Zeit‘s recent Dossier section devoted to neo-Nazism in Germany (which I read in its entirety and found pretty interesting). Fair enough. But instead of just hurling insults, why don’t you actually tell us why you didn’t like it? You know, critique specific points of the argument, or point out factual mistakes?

    I’m all ears…

  3. You’re right, I should have been more specific. I may do so, I just didn’t find the time, yet, and should therefore probably have not written anything at all. Nevertheless, I hope you didn’t take the “insults” as directed at YOU!
    I am just a bit disappointed about the ZEIT’s drift towards an increasingly superficial, neo-liberal (on the German sense of the word) way of journalism, that I dislike. One that puts Nazi-Leaders, painted in oil regularly on the frontpages of the SPIEGEL, for instance. After all, the ZEIT once stood for a serious, very sound form of rather independent journalism and I am just saddened to see this gone, okay?

    I apologize, should I have caused anger on your side. That was not my intention. I just disliked the way you headlined your recommendation for this article. More about the actual content of the ZEIT-Dossier as soon as I find the time to write my thoughts down and the patience to express myself more precisely (after all, English isn’t my mother-tongue).

    All the best to you! St

  4. A big title ‘Where Not to Go on Holiday’ with a map of Germany below.

    I certainly prefer France, Spain, and Italy but I think this is going too far. I’d certainly consider certain parts of Germany for a holiday, particularly points south in late September.

    Or is this your way of expressing your hate for tourists, Andrew? 😉

  5. I must admit, I don’t understand the criticism here, either of this image or of Andrew’s title.

    The map strikes me as a very restrained and objective way of trying to quantify the influence of far-right parties in Germany. Nothing shrill, no gimmicks, just well-presented information. (This is, I think, something that Die Zeit does quite well. I mean: present information in graphic form.)

    I didn’t read this particular dossier (only a few bits of what was online), but I have been a fairly regular reader of Die Zeit over my past seven years in Germany. And I have to say: I think it is quite a strong paper, with good and quite serious political writing.

    I also don’t understand the accusation of being ‘neo-liberal’, unless this term simply has come to refer to ‘anything bad’. (Very much like the term ‘neo-conservative’ has, funnily enough.) Maybe this is the German sense of the term. If so, it could use a bit more precision.

    Moreover: which newspaper (or magazine) seeking a wide audience does not have to give people some enjoyment along with whatever data they have to sell?

    Being quite familiar with the British newspaper market, I have no problem recognising Die Zeit (along with the FAZ and Sueddeutsche) as purveyors of comparatively serious and high-quality journalism. There are indeed parts of Die Zeit that are usually a bit on the shallow side, but–as in most of the German press–these sections are usually pretty well demarcated from the more serious stuff. (In sections called ‘Panorama’ or ‘Leben’ for example.) One of the major problems with the British media over-all is that the barriers between news and trash doesn’t seem to exist any more.

    I also haven’t recognised any drastic fall in standards over the last seven years. (Though I do, like many, get a bit tired of all those Hitler portraits on the cover of Der Speigel and Stern. There, Stephan, we do agree.)

    Actually, outside of the NY and LA Times or the Washington Post, the American newspaper landscape is also (like Britain’s) a pretty barren one.

    I often find it to be the case that Germans are unaware of how good they really have it. Perhaps this is another example.

    As to the post’s title: is it only a peculiarity of one variety of American (pitch-)black humour to use a flippant/amusing reference to make a serious point? I wouldn’t have thought so.

  6. @J. Carter Wood:

    I also don’t understand the accusation of being ‘neo-liberal’, unless this term simply has come to refer to ‘anything bad’.

    “Neoliberal” in the German context means: In favour of free markets, deregulation, privatisation, low taxes, low cost of labour. It is considered a right-wing position, although it has hardly been wholeheartedly adopted by the Christian Democrats; nor has it been wholeheartedly rejected by the Social Democrats. (As for the extreme right-wing parties being discussed here, I don’t know whether they have any coherent economic programme at all, other than “the Turks are taking away our jobs”.)

    I note that Stephan still hasn’t said what he doesn’t like about the chart. Graphics like these are very much part of quality journalism; presenting data graphically is a useful art. Unfortunately in many picture agencies, the art ends with drawing a bar chart of, say, the GDP of European countries so that the bars look like little stacks of coins. It is nice to see, now and then, high-quality graphics like this map.

    As to the post’s title: is it only a peculiarity of one variety of American (pitch-)black humour to use a flippant/amusing reference to make a serious point?

    Not at all. At least since the football world championship (which of course was in the summer of 2006), I remember that we have had a lively public discussion about whether one should not warn foreigners, especially the more dark-skinned ones, against venturing into certain parts of East Germany. Naturally the people in these regions (which often have significant tourism industries, think of the Baltic Sea cost, Saxon Switzerland, etc.) did not appreciate the suggestion very much.

    That said, you can see on this map that the connection between political success of extremist right-wing parties and what the map calls “right violence” (killings with a right-wing political motive) is a rather loose one. Compare Schleswig-Holstein to the NPD stronghold that is Saxony: The very light shade and lack of little chairs doesn’t mean it’s safe, obviously.

  7. I agree: The map is well done graphically and, ta-dah, I did change my perspective: When asked which state would be the the one where Nazi like parties are represented most strongly, I would have immediateley pointed to Saxony-Anhalt. You know, bleak economy, the highest unemployment rate, no tourist area, basically just one Autobahn, the only big employer of note being some pollution spawning chemical plants around Bitterfeld.

    But in fact, the new Nazis seem to have built their stronghold in Saxony, which is actually much more successful on an economic scale, boasts a more advanced infrastructure, and is usually cited as the showcase example of a former GDR region that is relatively well-off. It goes to show, you never can tell.

  8. Wasn’t anybody else taken aback (or gobsmacked, as my English half would put it so charmingly) that there are no right-wing representatives in Thüringen? At all? I was about to say the only state in Germany with that kind of record, before I noticed the guys up north. Anyway, just to put my 2c in to the whole ZEIT debate – in Stephan’s argument, neo-liberal, I am guessing, must refer to bleached out liberalism in terms of young, hip and middle-class, instead of that awful abuse of that glorious term in the “Anglo-Saxon” (as in: what Germans think Americans are like) world, else it does not make much sense.
    But, I have to agree, the ZEIT is still great, quality without forcing it down your throat like the FAZ, but not the great, shining light from the Gräfin’s old days. Sad.

  9. The reason why there are no right-wing representatives in Thuringia and Schleswig-Holstein is most probably that until recently, in these two states there used to be a 5% “barring-clause” for municipal elections. That is, in municipal elections a party needed at least 5% of the valid party votes or must have won at least 3 constituencies to have a seat in parliament.

    As recently as February 2008, the German Federal Constitutional Court declared the barring-clause in Schleswig-Holstein null and void as it violates the principle of election equality. The Thuringian Constitutional Court has issued an equivalent ruling in 2007 against the corresponding Thuringian law.

    So don’t be gobsmacked, there will most likely be NPD assholes in municipal parliaments in those two states soon.

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