By Rebecca Fiedler
There are about two kinds of Germans that the average American knows of, at least from what I’ve witnessed. Those are the Nazi soldiers, and Augustus Gloop from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” As a person of German heritage who loves the German culture, I find this frustrating.
We are constantly bombarded in our American sphere a limited view of the German people. Our fascination with the grimness of World War II and the evils of Adolf Hitler causes us, I believe, to home in on the image of a German as being a harsh, cold, bitter creature, coughing up phlegm as he speaks.
I also feel we also make Nazi references so lightly and way too often when speaking of Germany. Obviously there are few of us who actually believe that Germans in the world today are cruel Nazis, but it is almost undeniable that when a thought about Germany pops into our brains, that thought tends to lean, however slightly, towards the butch, the harsh, the rigid.
This stereotype is evident in the way we portray German people in TV and film, with characters reminiscent of Austrian actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and has even reached the online world, where there are memes commenting on the supposed brute of the German language. The so-called “romantic,” Latin-based languages are heralded as beautiful, while Germanic, Russian, Slavic and Nordic languages are called ugly.
The only somewhat positive American view of Germans seems to be that of the cuckoo clock figure and Ricola cough drop yodeler, a young chap wearing the traditional Lederhosen, his cheeks rosy and round.
While this image of German culture is a much more positive one than that of the Nazi-esque, it’s a view that’s still discouragingly narrow and skewed. I believe I am lucky beyond what I will ever understand that as a white person I am spared the racial discrimination that so many of a different ethnicity are unduly burdened with on a daily basis. I do not, however, think that this is grounds for my heritage and a culture that I love to be smeared.
I find relating modern-day Germans to Hitler and Nazis, as I have often seen done, is just as insulting and cruel as relating a Persian individual to Saddam Hussein. I believe that there should be no automatically accepted consensus that German is an ugly language, but that people should truly get to know the language as actual Germans speak it in their everyday lives before deciding what they think of it.
The beauty of Germany lies beyond its beverages, chocolates and old churches, and it transcends negative stereotypes. I personally find the language to be gorgeous and pleasant to speak. The educational system of the country today is one to be envied, and the German spirit is positive and progressive. The German people work hard and are innovative and resourceful. The Germans I have come to know are kind, personable and very bright, and none of them harsh or rugged in the least.
We have taken Germany and its people and reduced them to a vastly inaccurate personification.
I encourage everyone to examine their mindset toward different cultures. The beauty of a nation and its people, just like the beauty of a race or gender, is often overlooked in lieu of more iconic and often horrible samplings of the group. I admire the person who truly acquaints themselves with the German culture I have come to find beautiful and love so much.
Rebecca Fiedler is a junior journalism major from Waco. She is a staff writer for The Lariat.