Land of Ideas: 2013.

24 Jan

In case you were wondering to which lows some white German people are not afraid to sink during the current “debate” about racist language in children’s books: take a look at the comment sections of online articles, letters to the editor of every other newspaper and magazine, and this piece of writing by the German author Claus Cornelius Fischer.

Fischer has written this e-mail to Mekonnen Mesghena, the father whose explanatory letter to Otfried Preussler and his family has resulted in their and the Thienemann publishing house’s decision to delete racist language from their new editions of Preussler’s children’s books, such as “The Litte Witch.” Fischer, to be clear, has not been contacted by Mr. Mesghena nor asked for his opinion, but decided to chime in the chorus of terribly affronted German middle-class intellectuals (and I use that term loosely) who agree that this is the single event that has sealed this forsaken place’s fate of terrible, terrible, not-good doom.

We have already heard that an author’s decision to substitute a single racist word in his book constitutes “censorship,” that not using racist language is counterproductive to the cause of anti-racism, that if you don’t read racist bed time stories to your kids, how will they ever learn about racism, and that this is very close to the book burnings by the Nazi regime and its millions of enthusiastic followers.


(c) Beatrice Murch


Mr. Fischer, whose crime novels have been successful not only in Germany but in many other countries according to his former publishing house Bastei Lübbe has now successfully solved another riddle in a piece of (potentially) criminal writing: how to expose yourself as the racist that you are. May I quote?

[Content Note: racism, sexism]

“Dear Mr. Mesghena, How pathetic you are! Thanks to your ridiculous initiative, the Thienemann publishing house is acting as a censor of children’s book classics. Heinrich Böll would turn around in his grave, given the rubbish you are staging under the guise and letter head of his foundation! I am not in the mood for anything but writing a children’s book that is full of Neger, Eskimos, Turks, Gypsies, Sheiks and Indians, and all of them are eating Negerküsse or Mohrenköpfe [racist terms for chocolate coated marshmallows]. After that, surely “the” [using the neutral “das” instead of feminine “die”, thus mocking germany’s federal family minister for giving an interview saying that she thinks God has no gender] family minister Schröder has a reason for outrage, and you and she can blush while reading to somebody. Oh, God – blushing! That’s a no-go! And dressing up as a Turk or an Indian, good gracious! Why don’t you rather care about the literature of your home Ethiopia than the country that has admitted you? Surely you can annoy many people with your laughable political correctness there?! Alert regards, Claus Cornelius Fischer, author” [translation of his German letter that you can find here]

I trust I don’t have to explain why this is a racist letter by a person who seems to lack every trace of basic human decency? Even better: according to Wikipedia, Fischer himself is a children’s books author, using a pseudonym.

The one thing Fischer did not anticipate, however, is that Mr. Mesghena published Fischer’s e-mail (…whoops! Suddenly, racism in public isn’t all that fun, I suppose?), and Fischer is now actually threatening to sue Mekonnen Mesghena.

The other thing that Fischer also might not have expected is that I and, as I hope, many more people will write to his publishing house and alert them to the kind of person they are paying to write tacky crime novels and what said person does in his spare time – not merely as a “private person,” but explicitly as an author fantasizing about discriminatory literature to punish uppity minorities, I suppose. I would like to ask Bastei Lübbe Random House whether this is the kind of example it wants to set, and let them know that I wouldn’t want to throw money down the drain either as a (non-white) reader or a (non-white) parent and thus won’t indirectly subsidize a racist author by buying any of Bastei Lübbe’s Random House’s books.

So please, join me in sharing the benefit of our knowledge with them (cf. a letter proposal by Sula in the comment section):

Edit: According to the e-mail I received from Bastei Lübbe, Fischer is no longer affiliated with them, but solely with:

Random House’s “Karl Blessing Verlag” that published his latest books: tweet @randomhouseDE or write to

And if you’d like to let Mr. Fischer know (politely, of course) why his attitude is a bit problematic, here’s where you can reach him:

Finally: many thanks to the most courageous Mekonnen Mesghena to whom you can write a note of support.

[Update, January 25th:] Claus Cornelius Fischer has now written a letter of apology after, as he notes, he has received many objections to his previous two letters to Mr. Mesghena. Mekonnen Mesghena has accepted his apology (while noting that he disagrees with Fischer’s line of reasoning in this third letter yet again). Not being even half as gracious as Mr. Mesghena, I believe that the mere fact that Fischer essentially (and passive-aggressively, I might add) apologizes solely for the “severity” of his “tone,” defines “German” as white (by saying that his previous racist letters could have been sent to a “well tanned German,” too… m( ), cites the opposition he has encountered as the primary reason to apologize, and finally, given the fact that one has to issue a [Content Note: racism, victim blaming] for this link to his apology (in German) shows that Fischer and many other people still do not understand what racism is and, despite being horribly offended when being associated with that term, can’t help but argue in the most blatantly racist ways themselves. And here’s a random thought: perhaps Mr. Fischer’s attorneys, who he swore he would contact because Mr. Mesghena published his hateful letters, might have told Mr. Fischer that Mr. Mesghena has a better case in pressing charges against him than the other way around? That would certainly explain this nonpology of a person who essentially told Mr. Mesghena to go “home” just a few days earlier but firmly believes he is “not a racist.”


3 Responses to “Land of Ideas: 2013.”

  1. accalmie January 24, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    Sula has come up with a letter that could be sent to the publishing houses (in German) – thank you!

    “Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

    mit Entsetzen las ich zwei von Claus Cornelius Fischer verfasste, offen rassistische Briefe an Herrn Mekonnen Mesghena, die derzeit im Netz zirkulieren. Es wundert mich, dass ein solcher Autor von Ihnen veröffentlicht wird. Sicherlich ist es nicht im Interesse Ihres Verlages sich mit den Pöbeleien mit denen Herr Fischer auf den Gebrauch, den Herr Mesghena von seinem verfassungsmäßig geschützten Recht auf freie Meinungsäußerung gemacht hat, reagiert hat, zu solidarisieren. Als Verbraucherin fordere ich zumindest eine klare Distanzierung Ihrerseits von den Äußerungen Fischers. Sicher ist Ihnen klar, dass Ihre Kund_innen auch Menschen mit Migrationshintergrund sowie Menschen of Color und Schwarze Menschen sind, die durch den Inhalt der von Herrn Fischer versendeten E-mails angegriffen und in ihrer Menschenwürde verletzt werden. Ein solches Verhalten gebührt sich nicht für eine_n Autor_in und sollte nicht von Ihrem Haus toleriert werden. Für eine zügige und aktive Auseinandersetzung mit diesen Ereignissen wäre ich Ihnen sehr dankbar.

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen”


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