Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Germans Cringe at Hitler's Popularity in Pakistan

Germans are popular in India and Pakistan, but not always for the right reasons. Many in South Asia have nothing but admiration for Adolf Hitler and still associate Germany with the Third Reich. Everyday encounters with the love of all things Nazi makes German visitors cringe.

Pakistan is the opposite of Germany. The mountains are in the north, the sea is in the south, the economic problems are in the west and the east is doing well. It's not hard for a German living in Pakistan to get used to these differences, but one contrast is hard to stomach: Most people like Hitler.

I was recently at the hairdresser, an elderly man who doesn't resort to electric clippers. All he has is creaky pair of scissors, a comb, an aerosol with water. He did a neat job but I wasn't entirely happy.

I said: "I look like Hitler."

He looked at me in the mirror, gave a satisfied smile and said: "Yes, yes, very nice."

I decided not to challenge him, went home and tried to get rid of the strict parting he'd given me.

Embarrassing Moments

I was glad I avoided the usual Hitler conversation. Pakistanis always hone in on that topic whenever they talk to Germans. "We're Aryans too," they say, because there was an Indo-Germanic race, the Aryas. Besides, Hitler was a military genius, they add.

Sometimes it's better to keep quiet about one's German origins. It's embarrassing because people here think they're doing you a favor by expressing their admiration for the Nazi leader. I suspect most Indians and Pakistanis have no idea what this man did. They see him as the bold F├╝hrer who took on the British and Americans.

In the Islamic world, not just in Pakistan but right across from Iran to northern Africa, anti-Semitic sentiment of course plays a role. Conversations with German visitors rapidly turn to the injustice being suffered by the Palestinians who were robbed of their land.

To read more: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,683966,00.html

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