Politicizing the nursery

Joe Slater, Going Postal

The following article appeared in the February 2016 edition of Baby und Familie (Baby and Family), a magazine distributed free at German pharmacies, which means with state endorsement. A wrap on the minor rumpus it caused is given on Gates of Vienna (Don’t let your babies grow up to be Nazis) and on various bad-thinking German-language websites. But as far as I know, nobody has done a proper translation into English. Which is a pity, as few things I have read in recent years capture so succinctly what is wrong with Germany today. So here goes.

Original German text by Julia Jung
Increasingly, day nurseries are seeking help because they have to deal with RIGHTWING PARENTS: How do you react to this, when their ideology and discrimination penetrate into the everyday life of the kindergarten?
Rightwing extremism: the word prompts fear, you think of burning refugee shelters, men with shaven heads, or even of the crimes of the NSU (Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund, National Socialist Underground). You do not generally associate it with women, families and children. And precisely here arises a great danger.
Because it doesn’t always begin at extremes. The rightwing presence has many forms. “The division between what is extreme and what is not is difficult [to state]. The fact is that this way of thinking has its origins within society at large,” says Prof Dr Michaela Köttig, sociologist and researcher into rightwing extremism at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences. And the middle ground of society also is encountered in playgrounds and in the day nursery.”
“Children of rightwing parents are not necessarily different from children of other parents. It often takes a long time to notice them. (They stand out) for example because they are very quiet or very obedient,” says the education scientist Dr Heike Radvan, director of the gender and rightwing extremism unit at the Amadeu Antonio Foundation in Berlin. “Or the children behave very abusively or offensively, especially if it concerns people’s countries of origin, disabilities or only gender. “Often in those households, there is a climate of inequality of worth [Ungleichwertigkeit]. Other people are divided into friends and enemies,” Radvan explains. “Children of extreme-right parents are mostly used from an early age to keeping their family and everyday life secret,” says Köttig, “but they may have certain characteristics of clothing, which serve as symbols to the right.” There are some symbols which show up rightwing viewpoints, but in a codified way. Somebody who does not know what’s going on will not necessarily notice it,” explains the graduate social worker Eva Prausner. “If the parents belong to certain rightwing organisations, you notice their daughters for example through very careful hair braiding and long dresses. Likewise, the sons may look very traditional and for example not wear American words on their clothing.
… Parents with rightwing viewpoints exist in all forms of community, in the countryside and in the town. They do not only always aim to spread their views. “Others casually drop discriminating remarks, and at the moment or course often about refugees,” says Prausner. Others say clearly that they do not want their children to play or appear in photos with foreign children … There are also those who consider themselves to be links between the rightwing scene and the abovementioned midlevel of society. They are not visible at all initially. “These parents are nice and engaged. They create and build personal relationships and take on official positions in the parent council or in similar forums,” says sociologist Köttig. And then it all kicks off. They drop their ideology into conversation casually or specify clearly that they do not want for example a [certain] male teacher. With such a case Prausner had to deal a few years ago. Several parents had insisted that the man should go, and finally they objected to his homosexuality. “When the mentality comes to the fore, many of these parents have already built up such good relationships that they cannot be ostracised despite such remarks, and in the worst case, they get support,” says Prausner.
… Rightwing families mostly do not educate children differently from normal families. “Just as we transmit our values to our children, rightwing ideologies flow into the education of these children,” explains Köttig. In some extreme rightwing groups, men and women lead lives that are closely based on Teutonic custom and tradition. This worldview is then reflected in their children’s education. “It is often no different than in a sect,” says Köttig. “Because the children have no contact with children outside the scene, they naturally do not ask questions for a long time.” In these groups or organizations, which exist all over Germany, there is often an extremely authoritarian climate, quite often characterised by violence. “Others of these parents are less violence-oriented. They strengthen self-consciousness in children rather through education. They hope that their children will also carry their ideology self-confidently in the world,” says Prausner.
All of these parents knowingly accept that their children will be ostracised [ausgegrenzt] and through their learned intolerance could have severe problems in social interaction. “They also often also have a conflict of loyalty, when the day nursery and parental home represent completely differing viewpoints. That quickly overwhelms children,” Radvan explains.
… Prausner advised the day nursery team during this time. “People who turn to us mostly have problems with children who behave aggressively and to the point where the security of other children is no longer guaranteed. Day nurseries also step in when under pressure from other parents who have established that rightwing parents are present. And of course when their symbols appear in the environment of the children.” Prausner cites a similar case. A father gave his daughter on her birthday T-shirts with such slogans. The parents were unsettled, so the day nursery stepped in and was able to impose a ban within the premises on the garb of the daughter of the extreme-right father.”
This is what you can do [sidebar]
Day nurseries can prepare themselves for the possibility of rightwing parents enrolling their children with them. There are house rules and a mission statement that clarify handling procedures and house values. That helps with contract signing with parents, and also helps the team, when a case crops up. “So everybody has a procedure and knows that the leaders and support are behind them.”
Mothers and fathers can get involved in the parents’ council and proceed firmly against relevant utterances of rightwing parents. Anybody who gets into direct confrontation should have no fear. “Even if it is hard, you should set limits and say that people do not want to hear such things,” says Kottig. “There is no place for showing understanding in such situations,” says Radvan. Instead she urges discussion of the dangers that thinking entails for the child.
End of the Baby und Familie article
For a long time I did not quite understand what so angered me, an unconcerned foreigner, about this article. Was it the division into “rightwing” and “normal” parents? Was the blurring of “rightwing” and “extreme rightwing” so that the former was assumed to mean the latter? Was it the lack of any attempt at definition of “rightwing,” just an arrogant, unthinking rejection of all “rightwing” attitudes as antisocial and beneath consideration, even casual remarks about “refugees” (who, in Cologne for example, seem to have had some difficulty themselves in meeting Germany’s oh-so-superior moral standards?) Was it the belief that living in Germany “by Teutonic customs” is an expression of fanaticism? Was it the smear that parents on the right are violent thugs? Was it the rank intolerance (“There is no place for showing understanding”)?
Yes, it was all these things. And it chimed with other state propaganda. For example, the recent government slogan: “Mit Menschlichkeit gegen deine dunkle Seite” (With humanity against your dark side). Ponder that simple one-liner, and that word dunkel, dark. If you are a German who thinks mass immigration should be curbed, your government is telling you that you are mentally disturbed person with evil tendencies and, really, you ought not be surprised if normal, nice Germans ostracise and marginalise you, and perhaps one day chuck bricks through your windows. The solidly leftwing German mass media pitch in too, of course. Last year, Stern magazine did a feature on Saxony, where Pegida began. It headlined it Ein Report über das dunkelste Bundesland—a report on the darkest German state, which it predictably accused of Fremdenhass, hatred of foreigners. (All questioning of mass immigration is seen officially as Fremdenhass in Germany). When I read a report that some bars in Munich were being urged not to sell beer to “rightwing groups,” the penny dropped. “Verkauf’ nicht an …” (Do not sell to .. ) are words that resonate in this country.
Some say this kind of thing shows Germany is slowly turning into the former East Germany. “DDR 2.0” they call it. But this was not the GDR style. Everything there was simply quelled under a huge pall of repression, without targeted campaigning. This article exemplifies the propaganda strategy used by German leaders five decades earlier, to dehumanise, stygmatise and marginalise certain minorities.
Long ago, I lived in Germany, and came to greatly like the place. Back then, I thought Germans had completely purged themselves of the totalitarian virus. It has been a shock to discover that bits of it are still there in the blood, nourished by institutions like the nest of professional German-haters known as the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, and condoned by the government. It has been a shock to have to question all my long-held assumptions about Germany, a place I thought I knew well.
Once again, thank heavens we are getting out of the EU, and away from German influence.
[Confession: Actually, this translation is full-ish. The article is pegged to the case of “Melanie,” a toddler we are supposed to consider “racist” because she abuses a Turkish-background playmate. But it is clear from the text that she is an all-round problem child, with a troubled single-parent mother, and will have a go at anybody, including other German kids if they are “vulnerable.” She is, by admission of the author, not strictly relevant to the unsubtly conveyed message of this article, which is that all rightwingers are monsters who can cunningly appear “normal” to decent, ideologically potty-trained Germans. So I have cut “Melanie” out of it, mainly for space reasons, and translated the most of the rest. About 70% of it is here. There is a little paraphrasing. If the translation seems a bit stilted, that is deliberate. I wanted the bureaucratic, very Germanic tone to remain.]

© Joe Slater 2017
(Any errors and omissions in translation are down to Google) Original German