Thursday 1 May 2003
Hitler, friends, at 1934 Nuremberg Party Rally (from
David Irving, "Hitler's War" (Millennium Edition, 2002))
[GERMAN TV viewers to vote for greatest-ever Germans: some restrictions apply]
Germany to buy Great Britons TV format from BBC
By Andrew Gimson
GERMANY is to stage a version of the BBC's Great Britons series -- but has banned Hitler. The public broadcaster ZDF is to produce the series jointly with BBC Worldwide.
Germany is the first country to buy the format from the BBC, but a spokesman for BBC Worldwide revealed last night that France, Italy, Russia, India, Australia and the United States have also expressed interest in the format. Negotiations with the individual countries are at various stages, he said -- and there might even one day be a Greatest in the World series. "In 10 years' time, because of technology becoming more global, maybe there will be ways of doing it on a global scale, with partners all teaming up together." In Britain, the public were free to nominate any Briton they liked for the competition -- which was won by Winston Churchill -- but the Germans will face a restricted choice.
Instead of allowing the public to vote for whomever they choose, the programme makers will set up a panel of experts to choose 250 names.
The public will then be able to add another 50 -- non-Nazi -- names to the list before voting takes place, probably in July. The presenter has not yet been chosen.
Peter Arens, who is in editorial charge of the project at ZDF, said yesterday:
"We certainly won't allow National Socialists to be put up as candidates. We want people who were important and significant for German history or German culture, but certainly not convicted criminals or people who committed crimes against humanity."
Mr Arens denied that ZDF's decision was undemocratic, but German historians yesterday expressed dismay at the ruling. Professor Michael Stürmer, one of Germany's leading modern historians, said of the decision to exclude Hitler:
"That's bizarre. You've taken some of the fun and some of the drama out of the game.
"It's not that anyone can find the Nazis in any way agreeable or acceptable, but greatness is not about being nice or moral. If you follow [the great historian] Jakob Burckhardt, greatness is Caesar; greatness is Bonaparte."
In Berlin, Wilfried Rogasch, the historian, said there was absolutely no danger that Hitler would have won the competition: "I promise you, he would not figure among the first three. I'm not so sure about the first 10, because there are always silly young boys who want to provoke the public." Goethe, who, by general consent, is Germany's greatest writer, emerged yesterday as an early front-runner in the contest, with both Professor Sturmer and Dr Rogasch saying they would vote for him. ZDF confirmed that for the purposes of the competition, the definition of who is "German" will be loosely drawn, to include Austrians (except for Hitler and his cronies) and the many great figures in German culture who chose to leave Germany, including Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Marlene Dietrich.
The wide definition of Germanness also means there will be no need to decide which of Germany's sublime list of composers -- including Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Wagner -- belong more to Austria than to Germany. It will be surprising if several of them are not found in the final 10. Otto von Bismarck, who created and then dominated the united Germany in the second half of the 19th century, is certain to attract some votes from German conservatives, but he, too, is seen by so many as such a pernicious figure that he has little chance of winning.
Among post-war German Chancellors, Konrad Adenauer, Willy Brandt and Helmut Kohl will all attract some support, though Mr Kohl's reputation has suffered since the disclosure of the corrupt financial dealings by which he maintained his grip on power.
Sporting stars such as the footballer Franz Beckenbauer, the tennis players Boris Becker and Steffi Graf, and the racing driver Michael Schumacher, may well out-poll the politicians. The contest will also be a test of the popularity of the model Claudia Schiffer, now that she is married to a Briton.
Meanwhile, the exclusion of the Nazis creates a problem about how to treat the East German Communists, who were opposed to the Nazis. Many Germans, however, regard them as murderers because of the deaths of East Germans shot while trying to escape across the Berlin Wall.