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Springtime for Hitler

A TELEVISION IMAGE from the reunified Germany of 1992–93: a long-haired, bearded man, beer can in hand, wearing a cowboy hat and a black leather jacket with fringes, repeats “They have to go, they have to go, they don’t have our German culture, they have to go.” In the background, a building burns; it is a dormitory for immigrants seeking asylum in Germany.

This image—the neo-Nazi cowboy, obviously impressed with “American” culture—was perhaps the most monstrous in the series of images that have been broadcast, with increasing frequency, from eastern Germany since the attack on the Rostock dormitory last August. Monstrous because easily readable; yet at the same time incomprehensible. On the one hand a disoriented, even idiot figure, who knows nothing but his nationality. On the other, the idea, disorienting for Germans on the left, that not even long hair and a leather jacket—the left-wing

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