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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 October 2006, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
German press agonises over skull row
Front page of Bild newspaper on 25th October
German tabloid Bild was the first to break the story

The scandal caused by photographs of German soldiers posing with human skulls in Afghanistan prompts some angry soul-searching in Germany's newspapers.

The popular daily Bild - which broke the story earlier in the week and on Saturday published new pictures, one showing a beret perched on top of a skull - wrings its hands over the latest revelations.

"How much filth is yet to emerge?" the paper asks. "Again pictures of bones have surfaced, again from Afghanistan, again with German soldiers!"

Concern has already been expressed that the photographs could spark a backlash against German troops serving in Afghanistan.

In an interview with Focus magazine, Chancellor Angela Merkel seeks to reassure the Afghan people that Germany does not condone such behaviour.

"It is important for Afghanistan to see that such acts are not tolerated, but are punished severely," she says.


A commentator in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung also expresses concern that the photos could be used to stir up hostility against German forces.

"The desecration of corpses is unforgivable, and photos showing this are also potentially dangerous. They could be used by Islamist rabble-rousers," Peter Muench writes.

Another commentator in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung wonders whether lack of respect for the dead is not just a problem in the military, but is something that affects society as a whole.

"The basics of decency are laid down much earlier - in the family and in the personal sphere," Peter Blechschmidt writes.

"Schools already frequently prove themselves to be incapable of counteracting dwindling respect for the physical integrity of others... Soldiers are trained to fight and if need be also to kill. On the other hand, they should treat a skull with respect," he adds.

Fashion symbol

A commentator in Die Welt points out the ubiquity of the skull in popular culture, and muses that it is perhaps hypocritical for society to condemn the soldiers' behaviour while being prepared to tolerate the skull as a fashion symbol.

"The stir caused by the pictures of young soldiers with skulls is on the one hand understandable," Holger Kreitling writes.

"On the other hand, the photos show that the soldiers are perfectly in tune with the Zeitgeist. The symbol of the skull has haunted society through pop culture for decades - bikers, rock musicians and fans of horror films wear it as a mark of honour.

"It might sound tasteless within the agitation of the political debate, but the skull has never before been as fashionable as it is today."

"A brief trip to fashion boutiques and the youth sections of department stores reveals belts, handbags, scarves and caps all bearing the skull emblem... Yes, the German army must not tolerate this. But hypocrisy is nevertheless out of place," he concludes.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.


German army acts over skull row
27 Oct 06 |  Europe

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