Many Germans care a lot about political correctness — except for a few days every year when they celebrate Carnival.
On Monday, parades took place all over the country, and many of the floats built for that day had a political message this year.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in particular gained negative attention in the western city of Düsseldorf. One Carnival float showed him crying over his defeat in Iowa last week and shouting at the Statue of Liberty. “Make fascism great again,” a slogan painted on Trump's hair reads.
Floats meant to send political message are part of the Carnival tradition in Germany. The motives are publicly discussed, and the best ones are eligible to win awards. Some of the processions are broadcast on national television.
Trump is getting a lot of attention in Germany because of the comments he's made about the country: On Jan. 7, he tweeted that Germany was now “a total mess” with lots of crime. The tweet referred to sexual assaults that took place at the main train station in Cologne on New Year's Eve. Dozens of men — some of them allegedly asylum seekers — are accused of assaulting women in the incident.
Trump’s comment angered many Germans, but others would probably agree with him. Recently, the leaders of the Alternative für Deutschland party suggested that German police officers should not hesitate to use their weapons to stop refugees from entering the country.
At the moment, between 10 percent and 12 percent of Germans eligible to vote would support the party in coming national elections — an indication of how frustrated conservative and right-wing voters have become with the welcoming approach of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Another Carnival float, designed to resemble a tank and with the words “Asylum Defense” written on the side, captured the sentiment that the country needs protection against refugees. German prosecutors are looking into whether those responsible for building the fake tank could be charged with “incitement of the people.” The symbol on the side of the tank is similar to the symbol of the Wehrmacht, the Nazi army in World War II. Given the slogan, investigators believe it could be an encouragement by right-wing extremists to shoot refugees.
Other Carnival enthusiasts came up with controversial ideas, although those carnival floats are less likely to get their creators into legal troubles.
For instance, one float showed Merkel sitting in a boat that was about to capsize. The influx of refugees — which is supposed to be represented by a gigantic wave — has become a major political challenge for the German politician.
Support for Merkel has diminished domestically, and much of Europe has been weary of her approach to solving the refugee crisis for months.