The difference between the Austrians and the Germans is like that of “a battleship and a waltz,” actor Cristoph Waltz once remarked.
“Germans always choose a frontal collision, it rarely has grace, humility or rhythm, it’s just …”, the Viennese actor declared during an interview continuing his words with a punch in the palm of the hand.
Having a German father and being married to a German woman, Waltz is perhaps best able to talk about the nature of the relationship between the two neighbors. Or Austria has just faced a new German fist, but this time without a smile, Politico notes, referring to the diametrically opposed positions of Vienna and Berlin on refugees.
German politicians have rushed to criticize Austria’s refusal to host some of the homeless refugees on the island of Lesbos after their camp burned down. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told reporters that he was “surprised” by Austria’s refusal to take part in the European initiative to resolve the crisis, especially since the Greens are part of the ruling coalition of Conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder said he was “doubly disappointed” with Austria’s position, while Chancellor Angela Merkel told her party colleagues on Monday that the neighboring country’s approach was “not good”.
“Don’t become a heartless chancellor, Herr Kurz!” Bild wrote.
The fact that German politicians are spending more and more time and energy criticizing Austria for refusing to accept more refugees than taking a stand on human rights violations in China has not convinced Austrians. Of the 27 member states of the European Union, only 9 agreed with Berlin’s initiative to find a shelter for 400 unaccompanied minors. Then why Berlin chose to point the finger at Vienna, and not Spain, Italy or Denmark, asks Politico.
An ordinary Austrian would answer that the Germans have an innate instinct to tell him what to do and to play „big Brother”.
The diplomatic mini-scandal surrounding refugees on the island of Lesbos offers a picture of one of the most complicated and difficult bilateral relations in Europe.
Although they share a common language and fought (and lost) together in two world wars, the truth is that the Germans and the Austrians never really got along. The Austrians’ fantasies of living with their German cousins in Greater Germany quickly disappeared after that happened. And the legacy of World War II still casts a long shadow over the relationship between the two countries. While Germany is seen as a model for how a country should confront its past, Austria, which for decades has clung to the myth that it was Hitler’s “first victim,” has long been seen as a counterexample to its bitterness. its inhabitants and neighbors.
In fact, Austria is the only country in Europe, even in the world, that Germans feel free to openly criticize or even ridicule without fear of international protests. The post-war narrative of a repentant Germany and a shrugging Austria finger is one of the main reasons why Berlin leaders continue to look at their Vienna counterparts with a high dose of suspicion, Politico remarks.
No German politician will say it in public, but in private she often suspects the Austrians – whose mentality she considers to be shaped by the Balkans rather than Teutonia – that she is trying to escape. The truth is, I’m not wrong. Or the recent Wirecard scandal, the biggest financial fraud in Germany since World War II, may be an argument in this regard: both main suspects are from Austria.
A German can recognize an Austrian as an Englishman recognizes a Scotsman, an Irishman, an Australian, or vice versa. If an Austrian accent provokes in Germany a hint of superiority, a German accent arouses in Austria a different impulse, namely, of silent resistance.
The place of dispute is mainly the sports arena. The milestone in the history of Austrian football is the 3-2 victory against West Germany at the 1978 World Cup, which led to the elimination of the defending champion of the competition. The victory of the Austrian Dominic Thiem against the German Alexander Zverev in the US Open final this week provoked similar reactions of pride.
However, these differences did not prevent the Germans from settling in Austria in large numbers. The number of Germans who have moved to Austria since 2010 has doubled to 200,000 today. About as many Austrians now live in Germany.