Smutty that leads me straight to Einstein and Uhse
"Du bist Albert Einstein. Du bist Deutschland." a billboard poster I've seen in Frankfurt.
Well, a whole lot of the Germans I run into every day sure aren't Albert Einstein, or even anything close, but then, who is? , pride is a sticky issue in Germany, that the word pride, Stolz, is never, ever heard under any circumstance.
They can be proud of their cars and Beate Uhse! she was, in the waning days of the war, a Luftwaffe pilot. After the war, unemployed, widowed, with kids to support, and looking around at the devastation of Germany, she took what little funds she had and printed up a booklet giving women straightforward information about birth control, a very controversial subject in those days, which she sold for a nominal fee via mail-order. Busted for obscenity, she stood trial and defended herself with common sense. She won, and began selling birth-control devices -- condoms and diaphragms -- through the mail. From there, she moved into other sex-related areas, and finally added bricks-and-mortar shops to her empire, selling sex toys, erotic clothing, and lots and lots of pornography. Today, it's a very small town indeed which doesn't have a Beate Uhse shop in it, and she'll probably best be remembered by East Germans as the name on the first piece of mail they got after their government fell: the Beate Uhse catalogue. Some of the very first capitalistic businesses in the East, too, were her shops, setting up in quonset huts and containers until she could get a more stable piece of real-estate. When she died a few years back, she must've been a billionaire: among her holdings is a virtual supermarket over by Zoo Station here in Berlin which also contains her Erotic Museum, which was once the collection of an erotica specialist in Munich. He offered to donate the whole collection to the city of Munich, and when they sniffed at him, Beate Uhse stepped right in and bingo! Instant museum. The real estate it's on isn't cheap, either: it's as centrally located as you get in West Berlin.
Which is to say that, next to some of the other choices -- Michael Schumacher, Otto Lilienthal, Albert Schweitzer, and our pal Herr Einstein -- she sort of sticks out...snort.
But what's most intriguing here isn't using Beate Uhse as an exemplar of German initiative -- by being proud of your country and its culture, you run the risk of slipping down the greasy slope into full-blown fascism again. The idea that national pride equals nationalism seems pretty much universal in Germany, although I would think that, having been there before, they'd be in an excellent position to stop the crazy train well before it pulled into that station.
They skate around a lot of dicey issues -- dicey to Germans, anyway. You can't invoke the past, because, uh, well, it was dicey. You can invoke the "Denker und Dichter" (thinkers and poets) image, although you have to use people like Lilienthal and Frau Uhse because there's been a certain lack of universally-loved authors since the war, nobody reads poetry, and nobody pays any attention to philosophers -- particularly post-war German ones. So instead of talking about national pride, it invokes rooting for your football team (not nearly as loaded with fascist baggage as it is in, say, England or Italy, although a meeting of rivals here can still scare the crap out of visiting Americans due to the massed singing and chanting -- and the rioting which sometime erupts when a left-wing team like St. Pauli meets a right-wing one). Germans, they are worth their carbon foot print !