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Germans defend Greek honour amid debt crisis

The Local · 16 Nov 2011, 10:15

Published: 16 Nov 2011 10:15 GMT+01:00

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"These caricatures make me so angry. And what is so serious is that the politicians join in," said Edit Engelmann, a fifty-something from Kassel in central Germany who has lived in Athens for the last decade.

Engelmann was so incensed by the portrayal of Greece in the German press that she wrote a book to explain the reality of Greek life - insisting it is not all Retsina and relaxation.

Like many Germans living here, she tells AFP of her unease and anger at seeing Greeks treated as lazy cheats in certain German papers.

The xenophobia reached a peak ahead of the first bailout of Athens by the EU and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in May 2010, which was followed by another set of loans this year as Greece struggled to pay its bills.

The German magazine Focus ran a picture of the Venus de Milo, one of the most famous works of ancient Greek sculpture, brandishing her middle finger on its front page in March 2010.

At the same time, a number of German lawmakers suggested Greece sell some of its famed islands to pay off debts, while a popular ditty repeated in the mass-selling Bild tabloid suggested it add the Acropolis to the fire sale.

"I think that the Germans, who because of their history don't attach great importance to national symbols, don't realise what this means to the Greeks," said Ulrike Drissner, director of languages at the Goethe Institute in Athens.

In Engelmann's book, "Crisis! Crisis! Blame Olympus", published in Germany in July, she hopes to make clear the realities facing Greeks.

These include "that a teacher in Greece can earn barely €800 (a month), that buying food costs far more than in Germany, and that in some buildings, including mine, the heating has still not been turned on to save money", she said.

The book is already having an impact. At the Frankfurt book fair last month, Engelmann said she faced "very aggressive" questions about Greece, but also surprise from compatriots who were previously ignorant about what she described.

"It is only in the last few weeks that serious articles about Greece have appeared in the German press," said Drissner of the Goethe Institute.

The negative stereotypes are not confined to the German side, however. In Greek newspapers, the image of the Nazi ordering the Hellenic people about is everywhere, while during protests and in the political graffiti daubing on the walls of Athens, anti-German slogans and Hitler moustaches abound.

Both parties have historical grievances to bring to the argument, from the Bavarian prince who ruled Greece in the 19th century and established Athens as the modern capital, to the fraught question of World War II reparations.

Greece was occupied by Germany during World War II and claims it lost out in negotiations for compensation for damages after the peace was agreed.

However, ordinary Germans living in Greece say these issues rarely come up in their day-to-day lives. "I never see this animosity in my daily relations with the Greeks," said Diana, a German woman married to a Greek who has lived here for 25 years.

Story continues below…

Ute Petkike, who has lived in Greece for more than 30 years, agreed, telling AFP: "We don't argue, we have animated discussions and the same question returns again and again: why don't the Germans want to help us?"

Diana, who did not want to give her family name, said she saw herself as a mediator who tried "to explain Greece to Germans, and Germany to Greeks."

This was in fact what the Goethe Institute was set up to do, although these days it no longer flies the German flag outside, just in case.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:01 November 16, 2011 by murka
The worse are the economy is in Greece and co,. the better it is in Germany. It's interesting how German public is overlooking the fact is that Germany is compensating it's trade surplus at the cost of other fellow states. It is Germany who should be evicted from the Euro zone.
15:07 November 16, 2011 by koll

Germany has trade surplass almost all countries.According to your logic Greece should demand money from china due to her trade deficit
16:03 November 16, 2011 by murka

There is no common currency with China. However I agree with your analogy, where China is manipulating it's currency into low exchange rate and purchasing foreign currency and derivatives like crazy, Germany can relax and avoid any punishment for pushing the currency up. In a federal structure they would quickly be asked to return the cash back to the system in exchange for nothing.
16:07 November 16, 2011 by maxbrando
What Germans in Greece are trying to do is to preserve their priveleged life style. What hippocrites!
18:34 November 16, 2011 by FlatronL1917

It is amazing that there are people who still believe that life style in Greece was privileged.

You obviously have never been in mainland Greek cities for more than a week.
18:57 November 16, 2011 by derExDeutsche
The situation in Greece will not end well. Could be 2 weeks, or it could be 6 months. But the conversation 1 year from now, will not be about a wondrous Euro success story, it will be about chaos and destruction. It isn't hard to see why Eurpoe has had so many problems. This Greece crisis will end in a coup or a revolution. And lets face it, Germany is pushing them to it.

Iceland went bankrupt 2008, and got it over with. Now, the Icelanders can begin on the path back to prosperity. But such blessings will elude the Greeks with friends like the Germans around.

after all a good German Eurocrat never takes a step back.
05:27 November 17, 2011 by abu gerhard
It¦#39;s evident that Greece can¦#39;t keep their own house in order, so let¦#39;s just blame the Germans for Greece¦#39;s own shortcoming and inability to fiscally manage their socialistic government.

What better defense mechanism can you apply than to blame someone else for your own actions and irresponsible behavior? This is a classic example of biting the hand that feeds you. Greeks, look in the mirror and ask yourselves: ¦quot;What have we done wrong to get ourselves into this mess?¦quot;
08:49 November 17, 2011 by koli
What do you know... like a goor German NOW they are experts in everything. What do these people really know about living as Greek? Let me see, I get my nice pension money from germany and then come to Greece to live (and I bet one to one hundred that THESE Germans do not pay once cent in taxes to the Greeks) then I go around telling Greeks how things are to be done and come to Germany to supply all my needs at Germans Lidel because Geece Lidels are 3 times more expensive than in Germany... so easy to talk when you have not lived the real problem and after all when sh... hit the fan, you pack and get on your RVs and back to German land... fakes!
08:59 November 17, 2011 by catjones
Hey Greece, next time germany loans you money don't use it to buy german products.
10:00 November 17, 2011 by karldehm
For those who are having a hard time telling the difference between fairy tales and reality, take your finger out of your nose or your rear and stop looking for gold.

As a German I am truly sorry for the following:

1. Having the Bundeswehr march into Greece and pointing a gun to the head of Greeks and making them borrow more than they could ever repay.

2. For having Belesconi bunga, bunga Italy

3. For stealing the leprachan's pot of gold in Ireland

4. For whatever went wrong in Portugal

5. For bullfighting in Spain

6. For whatever else is wrong in the world.

Please forgive us our sins, so the world can go on being a perfect place.

I don' hear many people talking about Ireland. The Irish have and are still going through a similar situation as exists in Greece or Italy, but you don't hear too much about them blaming Germany for their problems. They are quietly going about fixing rather than whining about the problem.
15:03 November 17, 2011 by Gray62
"it is not all Retsina and relaxation."

Of course not, and better informed folks Know that!

From reading eKathimerini and AthensNews regularly, I learned that it's also corruption, tax evasion, strikes and protests, a horribly inefficient administration, a general lack of real patriotism and disrespect for the law. Well, the problem with so many stereotypes about Greece is that they're true!
07:08 November 18, 2011 by Sastry.M
Since Roman conquest of Northern Europe, the ethnic German people (german=people of similar ethnicity) assumed the role of freedom fighters to safeguard their simple and natural ways of living. They accepted Christianity of Catholic Church and adapted themselves to the Order of Holy Roman Empire. They rebelled against corruption in ground due to absolute power of order of the Catholic Church, supporting Rev.Martin Luther in protest. The freedom of Soul which permeates Germanic ethnic individuality, however, did not extricate itself from conviction of faith to the old order and align to the protestant reformation.

In consequence the German states suffered bitterly with infighting for 30 years leaving a devastation of holocaust. Worthy of note is that the German people always restricted themselves to their European confines and their conquests around the globe as 'Wandervoegel' aspired more to 'soul' related power of knowledge rather than enjoying subjugating 'power' of colonial rule.

It is not surprising that the Germans excelled in pioneering science and technology in a newly opened up spirit of searching subtle thought horizons without forsaking natural arts during the 19'th century.

Find the relevance of above to accusations leveled against Germany and her people in the aftermath of two world wars,particularly with regard to hatred of Jews and the holocaust of genocide in KZ camps. Ask any accuser why Germans only should be blamed for everything, if their conscience is worthy of supporting with rational logical defense against the perpetual blame.
12:23 November 18, 2011 by Eastard
Does anyone know if it is possible to educate a Greek...? This is serious question for debate... I do not see any evidence of feedback from anyone anywhere having a influence on public opinion about any of their issues... Almost all outsider comments pointing at their performance as a country are reflected back not seeming to have any affect... It is always 100% not their fault and even if they did cause their problems... that also was not their fault... I ask again if it is possible to educate a Greek...? Their leaders in recent times have run into a brick wall when the rest of Europe concluded that Greece was committed to protest versus performance... Is the rest of the world really going to have to watch them go down complaining or is is possible that somewhere near the bottom they will become aware of their problems...? Many questions on exactly how anyone outside Greece could help them... There are many that want to...
11:01 November 19, 2011 by christopheuk25
As far as i'm concerned the Greeks ditched their Courage, Pride and Honour in the past couple of months and laid like a whore for the EU Commisioners to abuse at will,a sickening sight to behold.Italy much the same stance.Horrible to witness.I'm afraid serious and i mean serious civil unrest is coming to all EU countries and the blame lies squarely with the corrupt power hungry EU fanatic technocrats.
11:36 November 22, 2011 by d725
To all who have trashed Greece and for those who had good opinions about the economic crisis that Greece is facing. I would like to give my opinion, for those who have forgotten that blaming a country for its mistakes might be good (in this case talking about Greece) but lets not forget the hundred of people who died at the 1st and 2nd world war when the Germans slaughtered not only Jews but among's them Greeks,English,French etc. Lets not forget that the Germans never paid us back in the turns of causing pain to our family's from the previous years during war.

Another thing, what about SIEMENS? How come the Germans, of all people forgot to mention that they did a shity business there...!I am not blaming, Im just remind that besides the economic crisis( and yes the people who we voted in Greece to try and make things better but didnt) there have been a lot of mistakes in the past that where never resolved. Its better off not to continue blaming who did this and who did that with the economic crisis but for all of us to help and give our future kids a better life with out any crisis in the near future.

Because this crisis will and it is affecting all of us, and Germany might or might not be affected in the future but u never know when the table is turned.
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