Pink Panther will never be the same again. Out of all the characters that enjoyed cartoon fame in the 90s, the neo-nazi trio from Zwickau chose the effeminate, rose feline to represent them.
In the 15 minute propaganda video found in the ruins of their home in Zwickau this weekend, cartoon clips with the original German voice-over are mixed with news coverage of the crimes that the group committed over the past decade. Stills of the trio’s murdered victims are mounted in a cartoon television set, policemen are shot in the head by a cartoon gun as they arrive at a crime scene. “Paul,” as Pink Panther is called in German, presents the accomplishments of the National Socialist Underground with a billboard: 9 individuals of Turkish (and in one case, Greek) descent killed, a nail-bomb, a policewoman. The small matter of Pink Panther’s original nationality is overlooked as he reads a poster addressed to the German people and shoots up a Turkish store—the absurdity of fundamentalist xenophobia is most evident here, as even their propaganda video appears to be riddled with foreign elements that undermine the all-holy concept of German cultural unity.
The complete video has not yet been publicly released, though a shortened, commentated version can be found on Spiegel Online. The state seems to be concerned that it will end up serving its original purpose if the video were to be made available in its entirety. With due reason: with its retro mix of cartoon and original footage, the clip is uncannily familiar to an entire generation that grew up on Sunday morning’s beloved Maus Sendung.
Though pondering the psychological reasons behind political evil may not get us anywhere, the video is an invaluable insight into the self-image of the right-wing serial killers. Extremism at this level is akin to the cartoon world: inconsequential violence, polarization of enemies, and the grand narrative of a means to an end. The overlapping of juvenile symbolic landscape and the official visual rhetoric of newscasts reveals the psychosis of radicalism: the attempt to apply a cartoon world’s simple rules—where banging on a person’s head with a gigantic hammer is the way to go—to a complex world riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions, resisting simplification and eluding control.
The last credits on the video read “Paul 2000”. The propaganda video could not have been finished anytime before 2006, the last so-called Döner-Murder. The chilling question is: how many people have already seen it? Surely, it did not just lie around in Uwe Mundlos and Beate Zschäpe’s apartment for five years.
Without going as far as belittling the acts of the Zwickauer group, it is clear that they were not a particularly large or sophisticated group, falling short of a brown RAF-equivalent in the former Eastern German Bundesländer. Still the discovery of the cell is alarming on many fronts: it points to the vast underestimation of the potential of right-wing violence by local and also national security forces, as well as the involvement of intelligence services in indirectly financing criminality.
Yet most disturbing is what Pink Panther reveals. He is not speaking into a vacuum: he proudly explains how “acts not words” are necessary—a slogan that has been floated many times before. In areas of former East Germany where foreigners hardly ever set foot, and right-wing extremism has become the norm, our furry friend may very well have found many tacit supporters before the police finally caught on to the seriousness of his words.