The left-wing German magazine Stern is about to go on newsstands depicting President Donald Trump wrapped in an American flag and giving the Hitler salute, a gesture that has been deemed illegal in the country where the evil dictator once ruled.
Famous for its left-wing opinions and popular with supporters of the Social Democrat Party (SPD), the weekly magazine released a preview of this week’s cover on its Facebook page, infuriating Jewish groups and many Americans.
In addition to portraying President Trump making the Hitler salute, the new cover also contains a subtle dig in its caption, which translated from German says, “His fight! Neo-Nazis, Ku-Klux-Klan, racism: How Donald J. Trump fights hatred in America.” However, the caption plays on Hitler’s 1925 autobiographical book title of “Mein Kampf,” which translates to “my fight,” by replacing the word “mein” with “sein,” which means his.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, “an international Jewish human rights organization dedicated to repairing the world one step at a time,” which was started in 1977 and named after Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, spoke out against the violent depiction of the American president with the following statement:
Dean and founder of the Wiesenthal Center Rabbi Marvin Hier and Associate Dean Abraham Cooper stated that while Trump had been mistaken to compare Neo-Nazis and white supremacists with those who oppose them from the left, it is still wrong to compare the leader of the free world to Adolf Hitler.
“President Trump is fair game for serious criticism by the public and media at home and abroad,” they stated, “but depicting him as a latter-day Hitler in a major German publication is untrue and beyond the pale.”
Germans must surely know that by misappropriating the Swastika, the Sieg Heil, and other Nazi symbols and terms associated with Adolf Hitler, they belittle and becloud the crimes of the past, and add heat but shed no light or perspective on the serious struggles and disagreements that currently beset our democracy.
Trump was widely criticized for initially blaming “both sides” after Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a car was driven into counter-protesters at a nationalist rally hijacked by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12. However, the president never condoned the actions of the white supremacists and did, in fact, strongly disavow them.
In response to the backlash, Stern released a statement from its editor, Christian Krug, who wrongly accuses President Trump of saying that some of the white supremacists protesting in Charlottesville were “fine people” when that is not at all what he meant.
Below is a translation of his comments:
The right-wing protesters in Charlottesville raised their arms to the Nazi black, and the American president has not distanced himself from this gesture or from the mindset of the people. On the contrary, Donald Trump had seen in some of them “fine people.” With this attitude, he shares with the protesters and greets them in a transcendent sense — that is exactly what the Stern cover visualizes. It is, of course, far from us to want to minimize the atrocities of the National Socialists.
The magazine cover was also condemned by German historian Michael Wolffsohn, who said, “Unlike Hitler, Trump did not incite a world war with 57 million deaths plus a Holocaust.”
A slew of commentators on Facebook came down hard on the magazine for unfairly comparing the American president to one of the worst human rights abusers in history. Referring to Germany’s current opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, one Facebook user observed, “Erdogan interferes with us, so he’s bad. We interfere with the Americans and are the good ones. Double standard.”
Another social media user pointed to the fact that using the Hitler salute in Germany is a crime because it is illegal to willfully promote Nazism. They also pointed out that Germany has laws which forbid citizens from defaming foreign heads of state.
The law of defamation against foreign leaders is very rarely put into practice, but it was the subject of a major debate in Germany last year after comedian Jan Böhmermann was threatened with charges after reciting a lewd poem about President Erdoğan.
Stern has been looking to stir up controversy ever since the magazine was first published in 1948. One of the most infamous examples of this took place in the publication’s early years when the magazine’s editors published what they claimed were the diaries of Adolf Hitler, but it turned out that the whole thing was just a hoax.
The magazine cover is not the first effort on behalf of Germany’s left-wing magazines and newspapers to try to depict the American president as a racist. Another well-known magazine called Der Spiegel has also produced a series of covers which show President Trump sporting a Ku Klux Klan hood. In the example below, the caption calls it “the true face of Donald Trump.”
Der Spiegel has also compared President Trump to the Islamic State terror group on another of its covers, which featured a disturbing graphic of the American president holding the severed head of the Statue of Liberty in one hand and a bloody knife in the other.
Most of the attacks have come from left-wing publications, but the most ominous came from Josef Joffe, the publisher-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, who appeared on a German TV political panel and said the best way to end the “Trump catastrophe” would be a “murder in the White House.”