Newspaper prints racist caricature: saxon generosity

A cartoon in the "Sachsische Zeitung" newspaper shows Muslims and blacks as racist stereotypes. The editorial staff has no problem with this.

Holocaust, building of the wall and shooting orders are forbidden – in contrast to racism: Caricature of the "Sachsische Zeitung" Photo: Tarek Soutani

The drawing looks like it was designed in the graphic studio of Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann: Angela Merkel, her hands folded into a rhombus, above her slogan "We can do it." In the background, a horde of bloodthirsty Islamists, with scimitars and turbans, is on the rampage, chasing policemen and gays, attacking the Brandenburg Gate and setting fire to the Reichstag.

A wild black man with spear, bast skirt and bones in his hair also enriches the scenario. The message of the drawing is quite clear: Angela Merkel has brought naked terror into our house.

On New Year’s Eve weekend, this cartoon appeared in the Sachsische Zeitung, prominently on page 5, above the letters to the editor. Did the newspaper want to please the Pegida sympathizers among its readers with it?

Editor-in-chief Uwe Vetterick cannot understand the criticism and finds the question almost insulting. After all, his paper and its journalists are themselves subject to constant attacks from the "lying press" shouters.

Limits of satire

Nevertheless, Vetterick defends the drawing: "It is part of the nature of caricature that it exaggerates things. It’s allowed to exaggerate, even to be evil – whether this is then also funny, there are certainly different tastes."

There have been no complaints about the cartoon so far, and he can’t see anything racist about it. He does concede that there are limits to satire, even for his newspaper: "We wouldn’t print cartoons about the Holocaust. There are a few topics that are forbidden," citing the building of the Wall and the shooting order as examples. "Otherwise, the rule is to be generous and relaxed."

Caricatures play a major role for the Sachsische Zeitung, and it is not unusual for one to appear on the very first page. It draws on the work of various caricaturists. In 2000, it launched the German Caricature Prize, which it recently announced jointly with the Weser-Kurier in Bremen. That is why the Sachsische Zeitung considers itself to be quite competent when it comes to caricatures.

The creator of the caricature is also a luminary. 60-year-old Valeriu Kurtu was born in Moldova, on the border with Romania, and studied in Moscow while the Soviet Union was still in power in order to become an animator. He published cartoons in renowned satirical magazines of the Eastern Bloc such as Krokodil (USSR) and Eulenspiegel (GDR), with which he made a name for himself.

Wimmelbilder and naive painting

Since 1994 he has been living in Berlin, where he and his wife have been running a gallery called "Kurtu-Kunst" for over ten years. He has received several awards for his drawings, winning first prize in caricature competitions from Argentina to Italy and China. His motifs are mostly rather harmless and quite people-friendly; they are reminiscent of hidden object pictures and naive painting, and distantly reminiscent of the drawing style of the Argentinean cartoonist Guillermo Mordillo.

Only recently has Kurtu apparently turned to political themes. Since 2015, he has produced a number of cartoons on the subject of terrorism, in which he attempts to denounce an allegedly naive "multicultural tolerance" on the part of Europeans.

His Merkel cartoon was also created in this vein, and he is certainly not alone in his stance. But implemented in such a cliched way, his drawing is strikingly reminiscent of the hate cartoons that appear on anti-Muslim hate sites like Pi-news.

The fact that this cartoon has hardly caused a stir in the Sachsische Zeitung may be due to a specifically Saxon sense of humor. Or the fact that public debate has shifted so far to the right that many have become desensitized to such defamatory images.

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