Shock, horror: German government caught funding dead pants

Shock, horror: German government caught funding dead pants


norman lebrecht

November 13, 2011

A parliamentary question to the culture minister in Berlin has revealed, in a 58-page bury-it-deep reply, that the federal government is not just subsidising high culture for the betterment of the nation.

It is also pouring tens of thousands of euros into elderly rock bands that perform a dubious diplomatic service with hissing, spitting,Die Toten Hosen

borderline-fascist acts in emergent nations in the former Soviet Bloc.

Die Toten Hosen – the dead pants in any other tongue – pocketed 68,000 Euros of taxpayers money for five gigs in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Read more here.

It’s not so much the money they took as the nature of the regimes they entertained. All three are hard-line authoritarian police states that jail people en masse for a mere hint of dissent. What appeals to them about dead pants? Maybe this.


  • Rosana Martins says:

    To think that such people are allowed to sing in public is horrible, but to learn that they receive government funds for it is an outrage!
    Big changes are much needed!!!

  • I find almost any allusion to Nazi imagery offensive. Unfortunately, such allusions became a common part of rock culture in Germany beginning in the 80s (and in some cases earlier.) On the other hand, I can appreciate some of the irony in Tote Hosen’s allusion in their band logo – the skeleton of an eagle circumscribed with the words “to the bitter end.”

    The image of an eagle holding a Swastika in its talons was one of the Reich’s main logos. In the Gotterdammerung of the Third Reich, Hitler refused to surrender even though the situation was hopeless. Of the 5.5 million WWII Wehrmacht casualties, almost half took place during the last months of the war. The soldiers had few weapons or supplies left, but they were not allowed to surrender and about 2.7 million were simply slaughtered. The same thing happened at Stalingrad where the 6th Army was not allowed to surrender and was entirely destroyed. Toward the end of Stalingrad over 180,000 German soldiers died in a single month. Over 458,000 Germans died in the battle of Berlin, even though there was never any chance of victory.

    I think this is the main comment in Toten Hosen’s symbol, though many outside of Germany and not familiar with the history might not understand. All the same, I find these Nazi allusions still in poor taste, if not plainly stupid.

    As for all the naked ladies, I sure wish I’d been a famous rock musician… 🙂

  • Lucy says:

    Mr. Lebrecht: While the use of government funds to fund punk rock tours in these economically distressed times may certainly be of dubious wisdom, I believe there has been a serious misinterpretation of the social orientation of “Die Toten Hosen.” Much of the band’s music consists of biting political satire against extremism, and they have also been openly supportive of events and movements which oppose Rechtsradikalismus. As William Osborne has said above, even the ironic reshaping of NSDAP logos tends to cause a shudder. The eagle skeleton is, for the record, an album cover and not the band’s logo.

  • michael says:

    First, there is a *lot* of culture sponsoring via tax money in Germany. I have no problems if part of it goes to otherwise economically not viable pop music from Germany being sent abroad. One might argue with the wisdom of sending bands to these countries, but so be it.

    Second, it is ludicrous to say that Die Toten Hosen is a right wing band. They are not, and that is all there is to it. Absolutely, definitely not. In fact, they have supported plenty of anti-Neonazi activities in the past. And the eagle someone spotted? The eagle has been the German coat of arms bird since around 800 AD. The form of this particular eagle shows to anyone with an ounce of historical knowledge that they mean the current Federal Republic, since it is the form of our current eagle. The Nazi eagle looked *quite* different, and there is no way to confuse these two.

    • Actually, what you say about the eagle image isn’t true. The images used by the Bundesrepublik and the Dritte Reich have a lot of similarities, and its easy to create vague allusions to both in a single image. What makes the image above especially evocative of the Reich are the words circumscribing the eagle, which was a very common practice in the Reich. Readers can see a collection of Nazi eagle images at the URL below. Note the similarities to the above image, and that Nazi eagles took various forms, not just one:

      In fact, my wife played in the Munich Philharmonic for 13 years — from 1980 to 1993. A lot of their old music still had the old Nazi insignias stamped on them – a Reichs eagle holding a swastika in its talons, and circumscribed with the words “Orchester der Hauptstapdt der Bewegung” (“Orchestra of the Capital City of the Movement.”) No one could oversee the similarities to the image above.

      Munich was the birth place and spiritual home of the Third Reich, and the Munich Phil was considered THE Nazi orchestra, hence the use of that particular stamp. After the war, the orchestra blotted out the words, but left the swastikas untouched. In 1991, I had to write *two* letters to the cultural ministry to get the orchestra to remove the swastikas from its old music.