Before I read the op-ed below, I was quite familiar with Anetta Kahane and her privatized Stasi organization, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, but I had no idea where its name came from. An extra layer of irony has now been added to the quasi-governmental body charged with enforcing goodthink among citizens of the Federal Republic.
Many thanks to MissPiggy for translating this piece from Henryk Broder’s website Die Achse des Guten:
Amadeu Antonio and the Dead Boy From Frankfurt Central Station
by Chaim Noll
Amadeu Antonio, a guest worker from Angola, was beaten to death in November 1990 by a group of young Germans in Eberswalde, Brandenburg. I remember the impression that this brutal and senseless act made on us. It seemed symbolic of the emergence of right-wing extremist moods in East Germany. In 2002, the former Stasi employee Anetta Kahane and the interest groups behind her founded the Amadeu Antonio Foundation — today nothing more than a poorly-veiled, state-subsidized institution for monitoring undesirable attitudes and thoughts.
The name Amadeu Antonio was thus not only used for dubious purposes, but also — and this is the positive aspect — saved from oblivion. And with it the atrocity that led to the death of the young African. It has entered the collective memory of Germany: Amadeu Antonio has a Wikipedia entry, documenting his death with newspaper articles and radio broadcasts, his case is mentioned in schoolbooks and contemporary historical works, a good dozen full-time employees of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation live off him, off the memory of him. This is what his name is all about. A name can become a symbol. But what happens if the victim remains anonymous?
The name of the “eight-year-old boy” whom another African bumped in front of a train arriving at Frankfurt main station on track seven on 29 July 2019 — i.e. deliberately murdered — hasn’t been disclosed. (I avoid using the sensitive word “push”, which Dirk Maxeiner pointed out was misused in a murder case a few days ago.) The German authorities — and with them the media loyal to the state — conceal the victim’s identity. There may be plausible reasons for this: Respect for the family, especially for the mother, who barely saved her own life, and whom one understandably wants to spare public attention. This argument is so serious that no reasonably considerate person will criticise the measure. However, there’s a hidden aspect. A clandestine side effect, which I assume will be well known to those responsible.
Remembrance is bound to names and facts
Anonymizing the victim is the guarantee that he will be forgotten. And thus the crime that led to his death. Every historian will agree with me: Memory is bound to indices, to names and facts. So far, the authorities and the media have only let us know how old the murdered boy was, that he came from the “Upper Taunaus District”, that he was on his way to Austria on holiday with his mother and that he has a twelve-year-old sister who was informed by the police immediately after the crime. On the other hand, the perpetrator has long since been named, at least with the first name and the initial of the surname, Habte A., whereby a name is mentioned, but his identity is still protected. We are provided with details about him, especially about his psychological state, his problems, his fears of persecution. Once again, symbolic things float in the air. He can thus be remembered. The victim is not.
And that leaves me feeling helpless. Isn’t this completely innocent child, who was cruelly murdered by an adult man of whatever motivation, a symbol? Not worth remembering? No memorable newspaper articles? No foundation in his name? Why not? Because, according to all conjecture, he was a white child, a genuine European, a German? I confess that it is difficult for me to live with it. We have to wrangle for some information from the authorities, his initials, a few details about his short life, a picture — even if it is pixelated — so that this senselessly sacrificed child does not disappear in the fog of namelessness and is forgotten in a few weeks.