More Staudenmaier Mistranslations

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Serena Blaue wrote (on the Anthroposophy Tomorrow mail list)

When [Peter Staudenmaier] translates "Die Negerrasse gehört nicht zu Europa, und es ist natürlich nur ein Unfug, daß sie jetzt in Europa eine so große Rolle spielt."

into

" The negro race does not belong in Europe, and it is of course nothing but a disgrace that this race is now playing such a large role in Europe."

" Unfug" does not mean "disgrace" and this is typical of [Peter Staudenmaier] to assume that no one will notice his deliberate mistranslation of RS.

Unfug, according to German dictionaries, means mischief, foolery, monkey business, shenanigans, horseplay.

Disgrace is Schande, Ungnade, sich blamieren, Blamage

I don't know the entire context to be clear about RS's exact meaning, but Unfug is not disgrace.

Also, I see that [Peter Staudenmaier] added the words "this race" in instead of just saying "that they now play such a large role in Europe." This serves to give an emphasis on "race" that is not there in the original.

Serena Blaue

Serena has noticed something important in Staudenmaier's translation, and the context is crucial. The historical background is roughly as follows. WW1 was over. Germany lost, and part of its territory – the Ruhr valley – was occupied by France. France stationed some black troops from its African colonies as part of he army of occupation in the Ruhr. This was widely seen as an insult by the German public (and was probably done by the French for this very reason). The press got a hold of the story and wouldn’t let it go. Lurid tales of the atrocities of the black troops were widely reported (if often exaggerated) for months. It became a major item of National Socialist propaganda. Whether by rape (as the public believed) or mutual consent, dozens of mixed race children were born. Against a backdrop of the indignation of three German-speaking nations Steiner made these comments to the construction workers building the first Goetheanum in answer to a question, during an informal lecture. Given what was being printed in most major newspapers on the subject, Steiner’s statement is about the mildest thing that could be said if you disagreed with the French policy.

There is another problem with the translation, one that turns the issue around entirely. The phrase “gehört zu” really means “to belong to”, making Steiner’s words:

“The Negro race does not belong to Europe, and it is naturally pure mischief that it is currently playing so large a role in Europe.”

That is right; Steiner believed that Africa and the Africans did not belong to Europe and the Europeans, and said as much. Given that most of the Africans were drafted and given no choice in coming to fight as soldiers in Europe, Steiner’s phrasing is actually the most anti-racist thing that could be said on the subject! Instead, his words are being mistranslated as an example of racism! This is so typical of Peter Staudenmaier.

That this translation is being used as an example of Steiner’s racism shows just how little attention is given to the historical context of Steiner’s statements. Peter Staudenmaier once wrote his version of the historical background, which in essence said that since many of the reports of atrocities committed by the black troops in the Ruhr appear to historians to have been exaggerated, Steiner ought to have no reason to object to these troops being there at all. Indeed, it seems that Staudenmaier would only be satisfied if Steiner were actually on the record as being FOR the occupation of Germany by African troops! Of course, Staudenmaier wrote over two pages, using references to a dozen sources on the subject, all detailing how modern historians deplore the blatant racism of the German public in the 1920's, with lurid examples of said racism. Most readers will loose the thread and fail to see the illogic of the basic argument, and once again Staudenmaier ends up blaming Steiner for the failures of mainstream German culture at the time, when in fact Steiner stood outside his own culture on the issue. In short, Steiner was against a policy of Europeans (in this case the French) forcing Africans to serve militarily in Europe. Steiner was not against the Africans themselves, either in Africa or in Europe.

Daniel Hindes

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This page contains a single entry by Daniel Hindes published on April 5, 2005 1:55 PM.

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