German Army Racism Scandal: "Pretend You're Shooting at Blacks"
This is precisely the sort of publicity that Germany has been trying to avoid. A socially liberal country, Germany, like much of Europe, has seen racism and xenophobia creeping in from the fringes of society and into the fore.
A video showing a German army instructor telling one of his soldiers to envision African-Americans in the Bronx while firing his machine gun was broadcast Saturday on national television.
The video, coming after scandals involving photos of German soldiers posing with skulls in Afghanistan and the abuse of recruits by instructors, seemed likely to raise more questions about training practices in Germany's conscript army.
"We can no longer talk about an isolated case," said Lt. Juergen Rose of the Darmstaedter Signal, a group of current and former army officers and sergeants who independently review military procedures.
"Things like this don't happen in the army on an everyday basis, but unfortunately in recent years there have been a number of comparable incidents."
The Defense Ministry said the video was shot in July 2006 at barracks in the northern town of Rendsburg and that the army has been aware of it since January.
"We are currently investigating the incident," said Florian Naggies, a spokesman for the army and Defense Ministry.
He did not identify the instructor or the soldier, who are shown in camouflage uniforms in a forest.
The instructor tells the soldier, "You are in the Bronx. A black van is stopping in front of you. Three African-Americans are getting out and they are insulting your mother in the worst ways ... Act."
The soldier fires his machine gun several times and yells an obscenity several times in English. The instructor then tells the soldier to curse even louder.
The existence of the video was first reported on the home page of the German news magazine Stern on Friday and excerpts of the video were aired on the news television channel n-tv on Saturday.
According to Stern, the 90-second video had been posted on a Web site used by soldiers to exchange private videos. A soldier who used the site alerted his superiors, the magazine reported.
As we are A) in the 21st Century, and B) growing closer as cultures by dint of high-speed travel and even-higher-speed Internet, racism is a poison that weakens us as a people. It's good that another soldier brought this video to light.