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Simon Erlanger on Hurra, wir kapitulieren: Von der Lust am Einknicken

Filed under: Anti-Semitism, Europe and Israel, Israel
Publication: Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review

Jewish Political Studies Review 19:1-2 (Spring 2007)


Europe and Appeasement

Hurra, wir kapitulieren: Von der Lust am Einknicken (Hurray, We’re Capitulating: On the Desire for  Appeasement), by Henryk M. Broder, Wjs Verlag, 2006, 197 pp. [German]

Reviewed by Simon Erlanger

Since publishing his book Der Ewige Antisemit (The Eternal Anti-Semite)[1] some twenty years ago, the German Jewish journalist Henryk Broder has emerged as perhaps the sharpest observer of German politics and society. With irony, sarcasm, and great humor he describes things as he sees them, never concerned about social convention or political correctness, never shunning controversy.

Born in 1946 to Holocaust survivors in Katowice, Poland, Broder moved with his parents to West Germany in 1958. He studied law and economics, became a journalist, and got heavily involved with the New Left. Soon, however, he broke ranks with his comrades. More than two decades before the term “new anti-Semitism” had become fashionable, he asserted that anti-Semitism had made a vigorous return, albeit in new forms that were compatible with the antiracist sensitivities and political correctness of the time.

In Der ewige Antisemit, Broder described and denounced the emergence of an anti-Semitism of the Left that was linked to anti-Zionism, anti-Israelism, and Third Worldism. He observed that the Schonzeit, the customary break in the hunting season, was over. He then left Germany for Israel, only to return to Berlin in the early 1990s.


A Caustic Critic

Since then Broder has not only published critical books on reunited Germany but also vivid descriptions of the social and political realities in Israel. Since 2001 he has emerged as a relentless defender of Israel, which he sees Europe as abandoning in an attempt to appease Islamist aggression against the West. Today he writes for the magazines Der Spiegel and Weltwoche.

His latest book, Hurra, wir kapitulieren, gives a devastating assessment of German and European behavior since 2001. Europe, he maintains, is once more on the path of appeasement, sacrificing its hard-won freedoms, delegitimizing and abandoning Israel to its fate in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat.

Broder begins his book with a story. In an effort to save taxpayers money, the Danish populist politician Mogens Glistrup proposed over thirty years ago that Denmark should abolish its army. For the main phone number of the Danish Defense Ministry, he suggested, an answering machine should be installed with the message: “Dear Russians, we surrender!”

Glistrup is long forgotten, notes Broder, but his idea of easy surrender is gaining currency all over Europe, which this time is capitulating to radical Islam. In Broder’s view, since the episode of the Mohammed cartoons and Europe’s submission to Muslim pressures, it has been clear that Europe is again seeking its salvation in appeasement, or “preventive obedience” to real or imagined Islamist demands.


The Return of Appeasement

Broder cites many examples, using a collage technique perfected by the pre-World War II Austrian Jewish satirist Karl Kraus. In speaking of “the end of Europe” Broder echoes the title of Kraus’s famous drama, The Last Days of Humanity. Kraus collected articles and stories and recombined them in his writings in a new, absurd, satiric context where they took on new meaning. His aim was to warn his contemporaries of impending catastrophe.

Broder, similarly, collects ample evidence of German and European appeasement and presents it satirically. Among many examples of Western submissiveness, he notes that the Nestlé Corporation placed advertisements in the Arab media assuring its Islamic clients that none of its products contain Danish ingredients. He also refers to the late Oriana Fallacci’s trial in Italy.

Broder also describes the peculiar debate in Germany in early 2006 on whether and how to receive Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the World Cup soccer tournament. How would Germany deal with Ahmadinejad after he had announced his intent to commit a new Holocaust while denying the previous one? In the end Germany was lucky since the Iranians were eliminated early from the tournament and the Iranian president did not come.

Broder sees the European reaction to radical Islam as motivated by fear, not only where major issues are concerned but also in such trivialities as the annual Rhineland carnival. Whereas traditionally everybody and everything was a legitimate target for often crude humor and satire at the carnival, including the church and often the Jews, it has become almost impossible to take aim at Muslim topics. Fear of violent retribution, Broder suggests, reigns supreme. Although no one who offends Christian or Jewish sensibilities must fear a physical threat, it is very different when Islamic matters are involved.

Broder also observes how in Germany courageous Muslim women such as Seylan Ates, Necla Kelek, and Serap Cileli, who fight to reform Islam and for individual rights and democracy, are betrayed by the chattering class of liberal intellectuals and social workers who do not support them against repeated threats. These women are left to fight alone because their putative German allies fear provoking the Islamists.

Throughout the book Broder decries European intellectuals’ failure to support Muslims who stand for a liberal, law-abiding Islam. He describes a growing tendency to preemptive surrender especially among the groups that supposedly represent the values of the Enlightenment and democratic discourse. The lack of European firmness, he asserts, only encourages the Islamist challengers. In his view, Europe’s transformation into a sharia-abiding Eurabia is already under way.

Broder does not suggest what could be done to prevent that from happening. His aim is to highlight the problem so that people will finally become aware of it and start to defend European democratic principles. The success of the book, which has been a German, Austrian, and Swiss bestseller, suggests receptiveness to his ideas. The book is well written in Broder’s witty and entertaining style. Unfortunately it lacks footnotes and a bibliography; one would have liked to know where Broder’s quotations and examples came from.


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[1] Henryk M. Broder, Der Ewige Antisemit: Über Sinn und Funktion eines beständigen Gefühls (Berlin: Berliner Taschenbuch Verlag, 2005; 1st ed., Frankfurt, 1986). [German]

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SIMON ERLANGER teaches Jewish history at the University of Lucerne and works as an editor for Telebasel, a television station for northwestern Switzerland.