German 'Alf Garnett' mirrors poor east-west relations

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The Independent Online
HE IS A FAT, foul-mouthed slob. And he has struck a raw nerve. The arrival of the testicle-scratching Friedhelm Motzki on German television caused a wave of indignation throughout the country yesterday. Indignation which may, at least in the west, be partly the result of suppressed guilt. Motzki, a new weekly sitcom, gained more than 8 million viewers for its first episode on Tuesday night. Its topic was sensitive: the strained relations (to put it mildly) between west and east Germans in 'united' Germany. Yesterday, some German politicians were so offended that they wanted the programme banned. Motzki is an Alf Garnett-style figure, who rants incessantly against all east Germans - including his sister-in-law.

Typical Motzki comments include: 'When they pulled down the shitty wall that was a black day in our history, and an even blacker day for me . . . You go across to the east, to try to get the economy going a bit. But they've hardly smelt you out as a Wessi than they want to fleece you.' Motzki insists that east Germans do not know how to work, they are greedy and they are ungrateful. They are worse than useless.

Although nobody wants to admit it, Motzki's views are a startlingly close reflection of what many west Germans think. A recent opinion poll in Der Spiegel magazine talked of the 'wall in our heads', and showed that 70 per cent of west Germans thought east Germans did not know how to work properly.

Jorn Klamroth, head of WDR, one of the companies which co-produced Motzki, hoped the programme would be a 'cleansing storm'. Still, many in Germany are not happy about what they are being shown.

The mass circulation Bild newspaper talked yesterday of a 'Motzki rebellion', and quoted the Prime Minister of the Baden-Wurttemberg region, Erwin Teufel, as one of several politicians who argued that Motzki should be banned.

Mr Klamroth insisted: 'Motzki is not somebody whom you would want to identify with.' True, perhaps - though some clearly do identify, even if they are ashamed to do so. A west German woman implied that her innermost thoughts had been revealed, and complained: 'Now, I can't look my relatives in the east in the eyes any more.'

The programme has been described as 'holding up a mirror to the nation'. But Germans do not seem keen to look in the mirror. As one viewer noted: 'There's enough people like that running around on the street. Why do we have to have them on TV as well?' A sentiment of which Motzki would be proud.