BONN, JAN. 20 -- The world's most widespread and emotional anti-Persian Gulf War movement -- a wave of protests that has canceled classes, halted factory work and splashed city streets with pig's blood -- has split Germany between its postwar pacifism and its official support of the coalition against Iraq.
In a country that has not sent troops to the gulf region, the reaction to the war nonetheless is sharp and pained.
Across the country, every day since the war began, hundreds of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets. Many stand in silent witness, holding candles, encouraged by the commitment of their neighbors.
A relative few take more provocative actions, blocking the entrances of American military bases, bursting into a TV studio to protest war coverage they consider slanted or pouring a trail of pig's blood through central Berlin.
In Frankfurt, about 120 anti-war demonstrators blocked the main entrance to the U.S. Rhine-Main Air Base today, Reuter reported. But in another part of the city, about 150 German Jews, including survivors of Nazi death camps, marched outside the U.S. consulate in support of the Persian Gulf War and against German companies alleged to have supplied chemical weapons to Iraq.
Politicians said today that protesters failed to see the danger of appeasing an aggressor.
"Anyone who yields to unscrupulous and amoral aggressors and tolerates their behavior out of fear is consciously accepting even greater catastrophe," Finance Minister Theo Waigel said in a statement.
"Again and again we see a misconceived pacifism which does not restore peace but puts up with the aggressor," Waigel said, recalling initial efforts to appease Adolf Hitler.
In Germany this week, schools have closed to allow children to join anti-war protests and government-supported radio stations have urged listeners to take to the streets, as did the government in Saarland state. A poll by the respected Infas institute said 80 percent of Germans believe the use of force against Iraq was wrong. Workers at Volkswagen and BMW auto plants, among others, staged strikes of a few minutes duration to express opposition to the war.
The reaction, a sudden revival of a peace movement quiet since the mass protests against U.S. missiles in the early 1980s, has surprised German leaders and virtually paralyzed a government that had been keen to prove its solidarity with its Western allies.
Although Chancellor Helmut Kohl supports the coalition's decision to go to war, he used the occasion of his formal reelection last week to promise Germans that their country will not get involved in the combat. The fear that a second front in Turkey could pressure Germany to defend its NATO ally produced a stream of such reassurances from nearly every corner of the Bonn government.
More than four decades after foreign powers divided Germany with the aim of turning its people away from militarism, the success of that effort is frustrating Germany's allies, according to diplomats here.
Bonn now faces sharp criticism from U.S. congressmen who believe Germany is not doing its share in the gulf conflict. And the Bush administration plans to push both Germany and Japan for more support at the economic summit of the seven largest industrialized nations in New York this week.
Germany, like Japan, has not participated in the military operation because of post-World War II constitutional restrictions designed to prevent the country from ever again posing a threat to other nations. But unlike Japanese Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu, who proposed to add $2 billion to the $4 billion his country has contributed to the gulf effort, Kohl has made no move to increase assistance over the $2.2 billion he pledged after the Bush administration asked for the money last fall.
Kohl's Christian Democrats last week defeated a resolution proposed by the opposition Social Democrats which said that the international coalition had not given diplomacy enough of a chance. But German reluctance to get more deeply involved is creating a rift between Bonn and its American, British and NATO allies, diplomats here said.
"Even if they don't send troops, they could be stepping forward and announcing that they will give more money, more technical support, even just stronger statements," a Western diplomat said. "Instead, they're running in the opposite direction. This will not be forgotten."
Germans are split between those who see the strong popular reaction against the war as a proud moment and those who believe Germany ought to show more gratitude to and solidarity with the United States, whose military protected West Germans against the communist threat from the Berlin blockade to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Most of the German street protests have been aimed primarily, and often exclusively, at the United States. The reaction has been so heavily anti-American that the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper blasted its own countrymen, saying that "many Germans have obviously not understood what is being fought for in the Middle East.
"Instead of 28 nations" that are opposing Iraq militarily, "they see only one, the United States," the newspaper said, adding that "many, perhaps most Germans" have failed the first test of the reunited Germany's obligation to take on more responsibility in global affairs. "What distinguishes the Germans from other peoples is not that they fear war, but that they fear war more than they love freedom."
The massive anti-war protests typically are marked by banners demanding "Amis Raus!" (Americans Out!) and "U-SS-A," equating the United States with the Nazis' SS storm troopers.
Such protests drew an angry comment from Edwin Huber, a leader of the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union, who said those demonstrating against the United States are "blind in one eye" and "forfeit any moral claim on the ears of others."
"In all these demonstrations, I never heard, 'Hands off Israel,' " said Heinz Galinski, leader of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. "I miss solidarity from a nation where survivors of the Holocaust are living, and I expect solidarity particularly because German companies are involved in arming Iraq."
But the liberal Frankfurter Rundschau newspapers defended the thousands of schoolchildren who took to the streets. Demonstrators last week saw the war as the beginning of an environmental catastrophe and a threat to Germans' own future, the newspaper said. "Egotistical?" the newspaper asked. No, it answered, to the contrary, German youth have brought a moral quality to the usual protests.
Although accusations against German manufacturers have been passed on to the Bonn government by U.S. diplomats for months, the issue captured public attention only last week, as demonstrators and politicians alike demanded severe punishment for merchants who supplied Iraq with material for its chemical weapons and nuclear industry.