The image of Germany in Brazil

It is astonishing how quickly Germany regained a positive image in the world after starting two world wars, setting the whole continent of Europe on fire and attempting to exterminate the Jews of the world. Thanks to the Cold War and the economic growth after World War II, I have always felt that Germany was let off too easily and thus didn’t really have to face the tough questions all of its people – including my own grandparents – should have answered.

In parts of Brazil however, the image of Germany still seems to reflect its past. From an article in The Economist about prisons in Latin America:

The Primeiro Comando da Capital [Brazil’s most powerful gang] now controls most of São Paulo’s prisons … . It has a policy of non-communication with guards whom it calls “Germans” (meaning Nazis).

“We have not forgotten our history lessons.”


About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Brazil, Cold War, Germany, History, Holocaust, World War II and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The image of Germany in Brazil

  1. Interesting how the legacy of history still remains

  2. segmation says:

    I just came back from Brazil. Anyone that wants to escape to Brazil can have it. I didn’t like Brazil at all.

  3. I have heard that Brazil has a rather “wild West” (a la American gunslingers) reputation. Or would Capone-era Chicago be more proper? ;)
    Germany REALLY got the fast-speed reform here in the States. Compliments of the USSR, our government needed German know-how AND real-estate, so we just turned the general population into a bunch of suckers who got screwed over by a fast-talking little Austrian nutjob. The one point that strikes closest for me is in the auto arena. The VW Beetle and the early Japanese cars arrived at about the same time on our shores – yet the VW was this cute little car built by those industrious and frugal Germans, while the early Datsuns and Toyotas were “rice-burning Jap claptraps” and “little tin rustbox coffins”. My father, who served a whole 3 months in the US Navy from August to October 1945, and never faced the Japanese in battle, became FURIOUS when I came home with a Subaru in 1990. It took almost 8 years (2 years after I got rid of the car) before he revealed his prejudice to me by asking what ever made me by that “rice-burning piece of Jap crap” – his exact words. Before that, I never knew he had ANY feelings like that to the Japanese – he had a Japanese camera he bought while on leave in Tokyo during the Korean war, and many of our video appliances were Japanese. Many of his generation share that same prejudice – even vets I’ve spoken with who fought BOTH the Germans and Japanese.
    I’d love to see a sociology paper on this dichotomy.

  4. The biggest meaning of the expression “German” by criminals in Brazil is “enemy”. When a gang fights another, they call the opposite one “German”. It’s something Brazilians brought back from WW2, and became a folk term in the country. Actually Brazilians very much respects and likes Germany. Thousands go to school there every year.
    But yes, it’s a rather demeaning term.
    Great blog Andreas!

  5. Georgina says:

    And yet, all the Germans I know (and the Austrians too!) were not even born and yet are expected to feel guilty about what they grandparents did.
    I heard that the sins of the fathers are only visited to the 7th. generation, so when can the Germans stop feeling guilty?

    • I don’t think anybody in Germany is “expected to feel guilty”. I have lived in Germany for 33 years and that was certainly never expected of me, by nobody.

    • Fred Prendergast says:

      As an American, I feel guilty now and then how the autochthonic tribes had their lands stolen from them by pink-skinned feudal rejects…but then I remember if I really meant my guilt I’d have to establish residency in the British Isles and that’s an offer I can pass on. :)

    • I also think there is a difference between guilt and responsibility. And the effect of responsibility doesn’t need to go that far that you leave the continent, but I do wonder why not more people are interested in bettering the situation of contemporary native Americans.
      I wondered the same in Brazil where less than 1% of the population have native ancestors. Now as I am in Bolivia, the situation is completely different because the majority of Bolivians are indigenous.

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