What the Kölner Hold Dear

Posted by John Rosenthal

The following from Henryk Broder in the latest issue of the Berlin weekly Jungle World.

Last year, in Cologne, a city that is particularly convinced of its own tolerance, there was a vigil held over the course of several months in front of the cathedral. Guess against what? You can well imagine: against the wall in Palestine. I lived for 23 years in Cologne, from 1958 to 1981. The Berlin Wall was built in 1961. In the 28 years from 1961 to 1989, there was not a single demonstration or vigil against that wall. Now there are demonstrations and vigils, because the wall that is meant to prevent terrorists from serially blowing up Israelis – that really pains the residents of Cologne. Such a reaction is truly nuts. It belongs to the domain of collective psychopathology.


This is not my day for picking on the residents of Cologne, a city that I have only had the pleasure of myself visiting for about a half hour or so, literally on the run, in between trains. But reading Henryk Broder’s remarks, I could not help but think of an observation made by the late East German dramatist Heiner Müller some ten years ago also involving Cologne – though, if memory serves, Cologne was meant to serve in Müller’s comments as a place-holder for West Germany or, by this time, "western" Germany more generally. In any event, here’s what Heiner Müller said:

When… I take a walk in the pedestrian zone of a city like Cologne, for example, I am always struck by the faces of the people, which don’t reflect the slightest trace of culpability. I have to confess that this good conscience irritates me. It is indecent.

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