Racist German Hooligans Pollute European Soccer Championships

The motto of the 2006 Soccer World Cup in Germany was "The world is our guest, you're staying with friends" [Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden] -- or, in the simplified official translation, "A time to make friends." Two years later, however, the prospects of a good showing by the German national team in the European soccer championships, currently being co-hosted by Austria and Switzerland, appear to be inspiring anything but friendly sentiments among some German soccer fans.

As first reported by the Austrian news agency APA [link in German], around 140 "mostly German" fans were arrested Sunday night in Klagenfurt in the run-up to the German team's opening match against Poland. The rowdy German fans were chanting what the APA describes as "obviously racist and anti-Semitic slogans" that "recall the Nazi period." More precisely and more bizarrely, they were in fact adapting anti-Semitic motifs from the Third Reich in order to insult their Polish rivals: chanting "All Poles have to wear yellow stars" and "Germans defend yourselves! Don't buy from Poles!" The latter is a variation on the slogan with which the Nazis unrolled their infamous boycott of Jewish shops and businesses in 1933: "Germans defend yourselves! Don't buy from Jews!"

The distinctive mixture of aggressiveness and Nazi nostalgia appears, moreover, not to have been limited to just those German fans that made the trip to Austria. The German team would go on to beat the Polish team 2-0 on Sunday night. Immediately following the match, the German blogger who writes under the pseudonym "Leonard Zelig" reported observing at least equally disturbing and eerily similar behavior from German fans coming from a nearby sports center where they had just finished watching the match on television. "The masses are streaming past my window," Zelig wrote on his Wind in the Wires blog, "waving German flags, bellowing drunkenly, and convincing me that the absolute evil in fact exists: it is as if Uncle Adolf had pushed open the gates of Hell and they are now spitting forth his dreadful brood right onto my doorstep."

"Zelig" noted the slogans chanted and insults shouted by the German fans as they passed in front of his apartment. His vivid account is worth quoting at length:

"Now we're going to Poland, with knives and pistols!" bellows one group of drunken revelers. [In German, "pistols" (Pistolen) rhymes with "Poland" (Polen). - JR] It then supplements this with "We're in a good mood now, we'll kill all the Poles!" Mixed in with the other slogans, one hears again and again "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles," loud honking of horns, and cheering. Now someone is yelling "Hey, you freak of nature [Missgeburt], you Polish twat!" and at the same time some idiot is blowing into a contraption that is specially designed to produce loud and shrill trumpeting noises to fire up the crowd. There is frenetic clapping, loud honking, the ringing of bells on bicycles, and then: "Sieg, Sieg, Sieg, Sieg" ["Victory, Victory, Victory, Victory"], followed by a mean and aggressive "Shitty Poland!" Interspersed I hear the sound of breaking beer bottles.

A tasteless photo-montage that appeared in the Polish tabloid Super Express last week undoubtedly contributed to the aggressive mood of some of the German fans. The illustration -- which was widely reproduced and commented on in the German media -- depicts the Polish team coach, Leo Beenhakker, holding up the severed heads of his German counterpart, Joachim Löw, and German team captain Michael Ballack.

But this does not explain the German fans' evident enthusiasm for Nazi allusions. "Zelig" also reports fans chanting "Ruhm, Ruhm, Ruhm und Ehre!" -- "Glory, Glory, Glory, and Honor!" -- yet another slogan that is heavily loaded with Nazi connotations. "Glory and honor to the Waffen-SS!" is a slogan that is commonly employed by contemporary neo-Nazis.

"Let's give all Poles one in the mug!" Zelig reports another man shouting.

The greatest irony of the German fans' anti-Polish outbursts: both of Germany's goals happen to have been scored by none other than the Polish-born star striker Lukas Podolski.