Join Date: Nov 2003
Germany: Informal Censorship
German TV stars taken off-air over Nazis references
By Ofer Aderet, Haaretz Correspondent
German late-night television host Julianne Ziegler, 26, lost her job last week after jokingly using the German phrase "Arbeit Macht Frei" (translated as "Work makes you free"), inscribed over the gates of the Auschwitz death camp in Poland, during a live broadcast.
Ziegler made the statement to a guest who voiced his displeasure at having to go to work following the interview.
ProSebien, the station on which the program airs, is the second largest private station in Germany. It is unclear whether the fact that the station's owner, Haim Saban, is Israeli had anything to do with the decision, but the station managers decided to fire Ziegler immediately.
"It was an unjustified slip of the tongue," the station's spokeswoman said. "These things should not happen. Ziegler will not host on our station anymore."
The late-night program's production company backed the statements, saying Ziegler would no longer appear in the company's productions.
The host's slipup was followed by a rolling laughter. Shortly after, she was taken off-screen, and when she returned, she offered the audience a nervous and serious apology: "Earlier I had a slip of the tongue. It was unintentional."
Facing the camera, she said, "this is a live broadcast. It was a silly mistake. I'm sorry." The apology failed to save her job.
A week before Ziegler's dismissal, the Polish Berlin resident DJ Tomekk was thrown off a German reality program after a homevideo featuring him making a Nazi salute and singing "Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles" was posted online.
The reality show, "The Jungle," airs on a competing private station, RTL and leads the station's ratings. Contestants on the show, a German version of "I'm a Celebrity? Get Me Out of Here," are local celebrities sent to a remote Australian jungle.
The video footage was taken in an Australian hotel room, shortly before production on the reality program began. It also features DJ Tomekk saying, "So many foreigners in this building."
The contestant apologized and attempted to offer explanations, saying he has more foreign then German friends and that he's "anything but xenophobic."
"It was a stupid joke. I sincerely apologize," he added. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry."
Nonetheless, he was booted off the show and the station managers wasted no time in condemning the video, saying "This type of humor is unacceptable and not tolerable on a television broadcast."
But not all "Nazi scandals," as they are termed in German media, end with apologies. Prior to both of the above incidents, popular talk show host Eva Herman was fired from the public television network NDR.
Herman presented the news on the network for 18 years and in recent years hosted the talk show, but last September, she praised Nazi family values during a press conference to promote her new book on child-rearing.
"It was a gruesome time with a totally crazy and highly dangerous leader who led the Germans into ruin," she said. "But there was at the time also something good, and that is the values, that is the children, that is the families, that is a togetherness."
Praise for the Nazi regime, even if preceded by reservations, is taboo in Germany, and the network's director general fired Herman immediately. The presenter, however, refused to retract her statements, and shortly after her dismissal, said on a talk show on the ZDF station: "If we can no longer discuss the Nazis' family values, then we also cannot discuss the fast roads they built. We can't discuss German history without endangering ourselves." She left the studio before the broadcast was over.
Some of the veteran presenter's fans tried to overturn her dismissal, but most of those who arrived at the rally to support Herman were members of Hamburg's far-right party.