Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
March 23, 2015

On Der Spiegel's Jolly “Angela Merkel and the 7 Nazis” Cover

Not being aware of the long running Greek-German debate over WWII reparations, my immediately take upon seeing this was that the presence of Nazi’s on this viral Der Spiegel cover was heavy-handed.

Given the story, though, the fascist gaggle is perfectly appropriate. What strains credulity, on the other hand (besides the spot-color photo-illustration and the oddly lighthearted tone), is the actual presence of Chancellor Merkel, especially because her name never even appears in the article.

If you read the piece, Nazi Extortion: Study Sheds New Light on Forced Greek Loans,” you understand that there is considerable substance and history to the Greek war grievances and the German debt, in this case, from loans the Third Reich forced on the Greek central bank.

Given they did put stick her in there, though, one could say that Merkel’s presence is a way to personify the present-day German government and its alleged accountability for past debts, right?

Well, I doubt it … because of the tone. To be realistic, this composite is more aligned with the inflection of the Broadway: “Springtime for Hitler.” I mean, what sells this as social media bait is the confusing emotional combo of the Nazi monsters with Angela Merkel in a lemon-and-lime pant suit, looking to the sky as if well into cocktail hour — the white background she was cut out of too-breezily supplied — surrounded by what, in sum, reads as Angela’s combined “yes men” chorus or SS back slappers.

What’s going on, if you ask me, is the use of exaggeration and a bit of mockery to minimize the Greeks. How do you make light of economic superiority, and stifle the concern that Europe is pushing around the Greeks (and their escalated demands for not-insignificantly large WWII reparations)? How do you pacify Greece in the perceptual sphere without having to attack them for refusing to pay their existing debts or submitting to harsher economic austerity measures?

It’s called, hyperbole.

Confusing as this is, one comes to recognize how the black-and-white period photo alone — of the Nazi soldiers strolling the Parthenon — would have more than set the stage for the article and reflected its seriousness. But then, as the 1940-era German said to the cheery 2015 German, “It’s all Greek to me!”

(update: Copy referencing the cover title was removed. The article in the issue about Angela Merkel gives the title double play.)

(photo-illustration: not credited)

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