Presenter and former newsreader Eva Herman was sacked on 9 September by German public broadcaster Norddeutschen Rundfunk (NDR) after she praised Nazi family policy. The affair is even spreading throughout the Russian media and appearing in Russian blogs. Many commentators are full of sympathy for the sacked presenter, who, in their view, only wanted to 'warn' people about Germany’s population crisis.
At the launch of her new book Das Prinzip Arche Noah – warum wir die Familie retten müssen ('The Noah’s Ark Principle — Why We Must Save the Family'), Herman explained that in the Third Reich 'there were some very bad things, like Adolf Hitler.' On the other hand, there were supposed to have been some good aspects too, 'for example, the way mothers were valued.' Russians are increasingly surprised at how sensitively Germans react to this kind of trivialisation of national socialism.
In Russia, the country’s Soviet past has not yet been fully reviewed or reflected upon: no one finds it surprising that under Stalin’s rule, women were awarded medals for motherhood. The fact that women in the socialist era were not liberated, but rather had to take on a double workload - labouring in the factories as well as in the home - is an understandable reason for Russian women to condemn Western feminism.
Importance of apple pie
Of course there are some feminists in Russia too. You can find them in the Russian women’s blog livejournal.com/feministki. 'She was never married and had a string of boyfriends!' gossips one blogger, ‘Mrs. Schmerler’. 'She concentrated on her career, had a kid, and now she’s writing books about how children, a husband and baking apple pies are the most important things in a woman’s life.' In the free forum of website Kasparov.ru, male blogger DpInRock describes the dismissal as like 'turning a blind eye, which doesn't solve the problem.'
Even conservative newspapers and those that support the government are showing sympathy for the sacked presenter. It does not seem surprising in a country where both men and women turn up their noses at the mention of feminism and where no examination of their totalitarian past has yet taken place.
Respected Russian economics magazine Expert praised Herman in its online edition for having the courage to speak out. In their view she had touched on an 'ideological taboo' and had simply wanted to warn people of the population crisis in Germany. Her concerns were 'arrogantly thrown back in her face by the German establishment.' For them the 'defamation' recalled similar events in the former Soviet Union. It seems to the magazine that if a German journalist promotes 'traditional family values,' it obviously constitutes an 'unforgivable mistake' in Germany. Herman has become a victim of 'completely meaningless accusations.' Now that she has been labelled as a 'renegade' and the fact that she is a supporter of anti-Nazi group Laut gegen Nazis ('Loud against the Nazis') has not even been considered by her colleagues. Liberal newspaper Kommersant preferred not to take its own standpoint on the affair, and instead reprinted an entire article from the Süddeutschen Zeitung in its comment section, entitled The Latest Misunderstanding.
Pro-Kremlin publication Izvestia is also full of compassion for Herman. According to the paper, the 'TV diva' had worked for twenty years in television 'with no complaints' and her dismissal is 'harsh. Herman has always behaved with perfect political impartiality, distancing herself from both left and right-wing parties.' However, the newspaper fails to mention the presenter’s planned appearance in support of the FPO, the right wing Austrian People’s party. Herman is simply supposed to have 'slipped up' by praising Hitler’s family policies.
Nevertheless, the paper goes on to note that there was a downside to the medals the Nazis awarded to mothers: 'It was the duty of German women to produce sons to send to the Front, to advance the Aryan race, and to ensure the successful population of newly won territories.' Women born with hereditary health problems at that time were allegedly sterilised.
Sideswipe at the Bundeswehr
Izvestia is using the Herman case to hit out at the German armed forces. It wonders why their commanders have not also been dismissed, since they send soldiers to a military competition in Estonia, called Erna. Through the competition’s name, the Estonians honour the reconnaissance force known as ‘Erna,’ which, under German command during the Second World War, blew up bridges behind the lines of the Red Army.
A spokesperson for the German Ministry of Defence explained in an interview with the newspaper that the event was solely about 'an international military competition,' in which German soldiers, along with soldiers from other NATO member states, have been competing for many years. The representative did not wish to make any comment on the historical connotations.