Germany’s Clash of Cultures
Nationalism and patriotism are in the news in Germany in a way not seen in recent times. The increased immigration has raised questions about what it means to be German and how much Germany should impose its identity and culture on migrants.
A recent major sporting event blew up this issue into epic proportions. Mesut Özil was a German soccer star—now he’s a German media obsession. Özil played for the German national team until he quit in disgust on July 22.
The controversy revolves around a meeting Özil and fellow soccer star İlkay Gündoğan held with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in May, ahead of Erdoğan’s reelection. The strong support for the Turkish dictator among Turks living in Germany is a major issue. The two soccer stars were strongly criticized for their perceived support of Erdoğan.
After Germany’s elimination from the 2018 Fifa World Cup, Özil quit the team over the issue. He claimed that he was being subjected to a double standard, and he condemned his critics as racist. The media has rushed to cover his accusations.
“The topic has reached a magnitude that is unprecedented,” said the German soccer league’s vice president, Reinhard Rauball. “Even the Bundesliga [match-fixing] scandal in the early 1970s did not make such waves.”
Whether or not German soccer culture is racist, the story has catapulted the subject of race and identity into the headlines. What does it mean to be German? Can Germans be patriotic and proud of their country’s history? And how much of that culture should be imposed on immigrants arriving in Germany?
New German Nationalism
The argument over immigration is taking place alongside a revival of German pride. Since the end of World War ii, expressing pride in German history and culture has been taboo. Rarely was a German family seen proudly waving the German flag. But this has gradually reversed. Over the last decade, Germans have begun showing more and more national pride. But it wasn’t until the refugee crisis that Germans showed that they were willing to defend their culture.
Germany’s Christian Social Union (csu) has advanced the idea of a “guiding culture” that defines who Germans are and provides guidelines to immigrants.
The csu’s former star politician, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, defined what this means. He said the refugees have to accept the German culture, which includes Christian, Jewish and Western values.
Guttenberg reiterated this at the Gillamoos festival, warning, “When we are not ready to love our culture, then others will start to define our culture.” To prevent this from happening, Guttenberg called on the German people “to live and determine our culture, to carry it aggressively outward, rather than sacrificing it prematurely to please someone else.”
“The burka has no place on our streets,” Guttenberg declared. “Integration means that those who come into our country take it on themselves to accept our culture, our values. We can’t soften what represents our mature culture.”
The native Bavarian also strongly opposed political correctness, asking, “Could we change terms to not offend someone? Well, a Christmas market is and remains a Christmas market! And not a winter feast!” At this statement the packed audience broke out into loud applause.
At the same time as this rise of mainstream pride in German culture, more and more voters are joining the far-right fringe.
Rocking the Far Right
Since 2016, Germany has seen a drastic increase in the appearance of neo-Nazi rock concerts. More than 100 of these events have drawn thousands of listeners.
The Neu Osnabrück newspaper reported that in the first half of 2018 the government counted more than 130 events with more than 13,000 visitors. In her 25 years of observation, Katharina König Preuss said that the level of Nazi ideology among the often aggressively militant groups is unprecedented.
Rock bands are an extreme example of Germany’s cultural revival. But other mainstream bands attract millions of fans with a message that is almost as dangerous.
One of these is the rock band Frei.Wild. The band is from South Tyrol, a German-speaking semiautonomous region in Italy. Its lyrics and music arouse a patriotic spirit in many Germans. The band is so popular that 20,000 Germans traveled 100 miles from Germany to see the band live in Italy. The New York Times reported on August 1:
Frei.Wild (pronounced FRY-vilt) has become one of the most contentious and successful bands in Germany, where its lyrics about loving one’s homeland have resonated with people who want to challenge the postwar taboo against public expressions of national pride. The band sings in German, and its music is a punk-inflected variant of “deutschrock,” a form of German rock music. But a South Tyrolean identity allows the group to voice nationalist sentiments in German, for a largely German audience, while partly avoiding the backlash that a German band would encounter for making similar statements.
With songs like “Südtirol” and “Land der Vollidioten” (“Land of Complete Idiots”), which rails against the removal of crosses from schools out of respect for non-Christian children, critics in Germany have argued the band helps to foster anti-immigrant sentiment and right-wing nationalism. The musicians argue they are merely singing about their personal experiences, and that their reputation as a far-right band is a media distortion.
Listening to their famous song “Südtirol” reminds one of Germany’s national anthem during World War ii. Like the anthem, which is prohibited in Germany, the lyrics praise the homeland. Although the song focuses mainly on South Tyrol, all Germans can easily associate with it. Some of the lyrics call on the enemies of the homeland to “rot in hell.” The New York Times continued:
In one song, “Wahre Werte,” or “True Values,” [Philipp] Burger sings that “language, traditions and religion are the values of the homeland/Without them we will go under.” In an interview, Mr. Burger said he had titled one recent song “Antiwillkommen” (“Anti-Welcome”) to be provocative. After Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow large numbers of refugees to come to Germany in 2015, the government encouraged a “willkommenskultur,” or “culture of welcoming.”
Frei.Wild has earned millions of views on YouTube. The band’s most recent album, “Rivalen und Rebellen” (“Rivals and Rebels”), has enjoyed great success in all German-speaking countries. This spring, it reached the top of the German-language charts in Germany and Austria.
The New York Times continued: “Peter Söder, 52, and his wife, Claudia, 44, traveled to South Tyrol from the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg to see the band at Alpen Flair. ‘Frei.Wild isn’t just entertainment and fun, it’s also political,’ Mr. Söder said. ‘The lyrics capture the zeitgeist in Germany,’ he said.”
It feels good to have national pride and hear someone defending it. It offers an atmosphere of unity, camaraderie and gives strength to a fighting spirit that feels suppressed. People in every nation have such national pride. It safeguards the nation’s individuality. But a dangerous problem arises when national pride comes at the detriment of others. And historically destructive nationalism has been inherent in European culture. At the beginning of the migrant crisis, Trumpet columnist Brad Macdonald wrote:
Tolerance is being replaced by prejudice, multiculturalism by patriotism, the community spirit with a greater determination for self-preservation and self-advancement.
The demons of the past are returning, and they are provoking the most significant transformation in Europe since the Second World War.
The eighth-century King Charlemagne, often called the “father of Europe,” laid much of the groundwork of Europe’s culture today. “[His work] laid the foundations for the complementary concepts of Christendom and Europe,” writes historian Paul Johnson. “It projected, in broad outline, the directions which European institutions and culture would take. And it determined in embryo many of the aspects of the world we live in now. We are right to regard the total Christianity of the Carolingian age as one of the great formative phases of human history.”
But Charlemagne did not create a culture of peace and unity among different living faiths with a guiding culture. He expanded his empire through war and preserved it through a dominating culture. People of each conquered nation or tribe either conformed or died by the sword. Many medieval tribes and their customs are today fully integrated in Europe. Thus many have wondered how his cultural revival and his aggressive war-making go hand in hand. Our book The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy explains:
To many, the image of an enlightened ruler promoting culture and education for all seems incompatible with a violent warrior converting thousands by the sword. But Charlemagne’s example teaches us an important lesson: Culture and peace do not always go together. Modern Europe may appear to be a cultured and sophisticated group of nations. But as history reveals, that does not mean it is immune to Charlemagne’s style of violence.
In fact, part of the reason Charlemagne worked so hard on education was because of his conquests. He needed trained clergymen to teach his new subjects the Catholic religion. All the new churches needed new books, which required more experts.
Charlemagne successfully created a strong spirit of unity in Europe for which he is still praised to this day. But that spirit of unity came at the expense of those who had other beliefs. All who did not conform with the cultural revival suffered from it.
Islam Does Not Want to Conform
The whole concept of integration offers various challenges. The average German expects all immigrants to learn the German language. While many do, many others don’t. This creates hostility. Germans expect migrants to support the German state rather than their former homeland. To a lesser extent, Germans expect them to accept certain customs and traditions. The more foreigners conform, the less they appear as foreigners. But the more they show attachment to their home country, the more attention and hatred they draw on themselves and those of similar origins. Thus, even someone who conforms can be discriminated against.
Some foreigners have successfully integrated into the German culture. Foreigners from other European countries are met with much less hostility compared to practicing Muslims who are also adamant about their culture.
Muslims believe in spreading their religion and ideology throughout the world. From childhood, they are trained to take a stand for their religion. Many in Germany fear that part of Islam’s agenda is to take over Europe through the infiltration of migrants. While the government insists that Islam is a peaceful religion, almost 20 percent of voters have moved to support Germany’s right-wing anti-immigration party, Alternative für Deutschland.
The German public’s fears are based on history. For centuries, Islam has tried to conquer Europe and make it an Islamic region. Europe’s response has always been a cultural revival, and the resulting clashes have led to much bloodshed.
Like Islam, Catholics believe in spreading their religion throughout the world. Charlemagne advanced their cause in Europe. He saw it as his mission to force Catholicism on his empire, with bloody consequences for unbelievers. (For more information on Charlemagne’s conquests, read The Holy Roman Empire in Prophecy.)
But one religion refused to conform to Catholicism: Islam. For centuries, European history was dominated by crusades and religious wars, many of those fought against Islam.
One of these confrontations has recently received much publicity due to the recent clash between the two religions.
In 2016, Vienna’s Cardinal Schönborn reminded the world of Islam’s ideology. While celebrating the 333rd anniversary of the Battle of Vienna, Schönborn warned about “a third attempt at an Islamic conquest of Europe” if Europeans don’t return to their “Christian roots.” (Read about Schönborn’s view on how to solve the refugee crisis here.)
The Battle of Vienna was fought on Kahlenberg, a hill outside the Austrian capital of Vienna. In 1683, the Holy Roman Empire under the Habsburg emperor defended Vienna from an invading force of Ottoman Turks. On the same mountain, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz signed his coalition agreement with the far-right in December.
Politics and even religious authorities are drifting to the right. Germany’s culture itself is changing.
The Outward Aggressions of German Culture
With cultural pride rising in Germany, it is no wonder that foreigners feel unwelcome. Historically, this has only been the beginning. Charlemagne used Europe’s new patriotism to conquer other peoples and force its religion and culture on them. After Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Empire rose four more times, attempting to revive his legacy. But a final resurrection is yet imminent and prophesied in the Bible.
Daniel 8 prophesies of a modern leader following in the footsteps of Charlemagne. He too will use Europe’s, and especially Germany’s, cultural pride to destroy many nations. Daniel 11 prophesies that he will not only prevent an Islamic infiltration of Europe but go so far as to destroy radical Islam rooted in Iran. For more on Germany’s response to Islamic provocations, read “The Whirlwind Prophecy,” by Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry.
The biblical book of Nahum compares the end-time Chaldeans (modern-day Germans) to merciless lions that devour many nations. (Request our free booklet Nahum: An End-Time Prophecy for Germany.) While Germany will put an end to Islamic aggression, God Himself will put an end to both Islamic and German warmongering forever. After that, the Holy Roman Empire will never rise again—the people on both continents will live in peace with the rest of the world.
At that point, as described in Daniel 2, the God of the Bible will set up His Kingdom. God will also reestablish His culture on Earth, which is neither Catholic nor Islamic. To learn who this God is and what His plan is for mankind, request your free copy of Mystery of the Ages, by Herbert W. Armstrong.