Letter: Perpetuating the German 'dark soul' stereotype

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The Independent Online
Sir: Conor Cruise O'Brien's 'Next door to Nietzsche's children' (2 July) is disgraceful. His suggestion that Germans of my generation might 'decide to set up retirement camps for the aged' which would be 'amply equipped with technical facilities for voluntary euthanasia' is bornout of blatant Germanophobia.

Dr O'Brien pretends to be sophisticated by invoking Nietzsche to back up his preposterous premonition of a holocaust of the aged. In fact, he is wilfully and without any credible proof perpetuating the vicious stereotype of a German 'dark soul', if not a genetic predisposition of Germans to organised mass extermination.

Incidentally, the demographic reality that fewer people of working age will have to support more and more elderly people is not a problem unique to Germany. Nor is it news to us Germans. For years, the German authorities have been planning a 'Nursing Insurance'. A comprehensive Bill for such an insurance - which would provide medical care for all Germans, but especially the aged - is pending in the Bundestag and projected to pass and go into effect on 1 January 1994. Moreover, last October a Bundestag committee on 'Demographic Transformation' was commissioned, whose report is expected for autumn 1994.

It is such democratic foresight that Dr O'Brien ought to report if he is really interested in informing the British public about Germany. Shamefully, he is more interested in scribbling about obtuse visions of a Germany forever chained to repeating her history.

Yours faithfully,


Washington, DC

5 July