Let’s talk about what a modern tattoo can look like

The ritual awakened memories of the Nazi era in some people.

Image: imago images / STEFAN ZEITZ


14.10.2021, 18:2014.10.2021, 19:40

Martin Niewendick

I can imagine how the German Jewish painter Max Liebermann looked out of his window and exclaimed: “I can eat Janich as much as I want to throw up!” Then he saw the Nazis marching through the Brandenburg Gate with torches on the day of the transfer of power.

Just as figuratively I can imagine how shocked or disgusted some German Jewish people reacted to the pictures of the great tattoo that took place in front of the Reichstag on Wednesday evening in honor of the mission in Afghanistan. There were torches there too, the light of which made the steel helmets shine.

And while we are in the process of imagining things: I can also imagine how irritated or injured soldiers react to comparisons of their honor with the rites of National Socialism. They are members of a democratically controlled parliamentary army, citizens in uniform who ultimately embarked on deadly missions on behalf of all of us.

How do you get these three dimensions together in a sensible way?

Everbody’s Darling is not a democratic concept

Perhaps most likely by recognizing the fact that in a democracy not everyone can be satisfied. Somebody is always offended, the limits of any good taste are exceeded. Everbody’s Darling is not a democratic concept.

Maybe like this: We first acknowledge that there has been profound criticism of the torch-and-steel helmet ceremony that goes beyond aesthetic points. Then we take note that this will not be the last tattoo of the armed forces will have been. And finally we start a debate – just not on the backs of the emergency services, please – about what a modern and less slapstick-archaic version of the tattoo might look like.

And respectfully, without denying people their right to be irritated. And of course without hasty Nazi comparisons.

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