We picked the darkest day of the week to drive out to the Nazis in the countryside. The thought that Nazis had become foodies, that they transmit their ideologies to their fellow citizens with regional eats, excited me. Klaber, a village in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, came especially recommended, a paragon of the Völkische Siedler, homesteaders influenced by the concept of an original Germanic Volk or people. Klaber is where right-wing extremists go to drop out of society, in the style of ecological leftist communes, only on the other side of the political dichotomy.
After missing both exits on the autobahn, we were rewarded by the sight of the “Mecklenburg Switzerland” hills, which we would have never seen had we approached Klaber from the south. Like this, the trip was more winding and more pleasant for my friend who, coming from Vienna, tends to think Germans have a habit of tailgating. There were no other cars here, just ours. Horses on low hills with bleak winds in their manes. The wind brushed the meadows so that the grass bent and turned silver. Wild joy! Wild horses! I meant, but she said they were normal ones. There used to be many of them here. The area was known for breeding. It was where Berlin sourced its riding and coach horses. Her great grandparents were such horse breeders. A nasty bunch they were. All this time I had Rainald Grebe in my head: „Stehn drei Nazis auf dem Hügel und finden keinen zum verprügeln…“ (Three Nazis standing on a hill, they find no one to batter…) But he was singing about Brandenburg. Here in Mecklenburg everything seems more contorted, less transparent, mysterious in a dreadful way. First, there are no hills in Brandenburg, which is why you always see the Nazis from afar, and secondly, Brandenburg Nazis are more recognizable. They wear bomber jackets and combat boots and you keep your distance. Sitting in the car in Mecklemburg I was scared that THAT village was just behind the next hill, Klaber, the Nazi village I had read so much about online. But it would still take a bit. We drove down curved streets lined with apple and pear trees, pulled over, picked fruit, took our time. As I didn’t know how far we were from the village – Google Maps was too abstract for my perceptive faculties at that moment – I couldn’t tell how distrustful I had to be towards the pears. Who planted them? Who usually eats them, looks at them? I didn’t know how my friend was doing. I was scared.
Then we arrived, parked the car and walked through the deserted village. A car passed, a German shepherd snarled in a kennel. We picked up some rocks from the path and put them in our jacket pockets, just to be safe. And then we were outside of the village, standing in a field. We were looking at swampy grassland with horses.
We went back to the village and took the only turn there was. I knew from the beginning that it would lead us where we had to go, but I ignored it. “Real German Honey” a sign read. A bit farther a barn-like building, bee hives, a woman pounding out stones from a wall with a hammer and chisel, and copious amounts of very cute cats. They were truly adorable, and inevitably my mind went to the kitties Daesch uses on social media for recruiting. I was warned not to reveal myself as a writer of any kind, so I masqueraded, truthfully, as a foodie. Food. A passion we apparently shared.
The woman there with the wind in her long brown braided mane, without socks, without a bra, sitting on the wall she was tearing down with her own bare hands, was a person I had also read about a lot online: the bookbinder of Klaber. Irmgard Hanke belongs to the Völkische Siedler or neo-Artamans, which of course sounds better than neo-Nazis. Neo-Artamans distance themselves from the followers of the National Democratic Party (NPD) because of their political stupidity among other reasons. Their settlements are distributed throughout Germany, and they lie low intentionally, have no truck with marches or flags, counting instead on social integration. Irmgard Hanke came to Klaber eight years ago with beekeeper Jan Krauter and stonemason Ilja Gräser.
I tried everything. But my subtly targeted questions proved futile. Nothing they said suggested any kind of political conviction or ideology. I bought German honey and allowed myself to be guided through beehives and the small unattractive bindery, which with its batik book covers reminded me of a Christmas market. Everything was very shabby, Irmgard Hanke depressed. Nobody wanted printed matter any more, let alone good craftsmanship. Nobody buys their honey either, except for a few stray visitor who end up in Klaber. The beekeeper stays afloat by selling his queens. He ships them all over the world, including to Iran. Gone now too is the stonemason who moved to another village some time ago. Kittens were jumping up to the door outside, locked out, but not even they could scare me now.
Meanwhile… good-looking hipsters with tats go looking for herbs in Grundwald and attempt to lower their carbon footprint with products from the immediate environs. Consciousness is cool now, regional the new organic. When what actually passes as humane or sustainable based on organic labelling came to light, the distress was widespread. “Regional,” however, is not about directives. It’s about consumers knowing the region where the vegetables they eat grow. They know how the ground smells of rain or days of sunshine. Perhaps they know the farmers their purchases come from and even pick what they buy from time to time. Or at least the chef does at their favourite restaurant. Food is moving away from the abstraction that made Chicken McNuggets possible for so long. Food is becoming emotional. Food is getting political. Improve the world with food! Love the food you eat. Get to know it so you can love it. The more regional the better. “Brutal Regional,” or “brutally regional,” is the slogan of an excellent new restaurant in Berlin, which serves highly experimental food from Germany with the aim of revamping German cuisine’s identity.
Where does our food actually come from? From a down-to-earth point of view, a very worthwhile question. The first time I asked myself that question it was very serious but not down-to-earth. Rather romantic. I wanted to go work on a farm and maybe never come back. It was not the romanticism of Eichendorff, with a Good-for-Nothing lying in the shade of a tree with a piece of straw in his mouth; it was more that of Novalis, whose characters flow into one another, transcendent. Where do the tomatoes I eat all the time come from? What is the tomato, what is it made of? I wanted to be one with the tomato. For Novalis love is religion, religion lust, the interior infinite and nature the expression of a poetic transformation. For me flowers were stars and stars flowers until I saw in the Alps that flowers are also feed for a particular kind of juicy steak. By the way, Novalis as I would later find out, is an author that both left and right wings have been fond of reading. With his nature-oriented esotericism he spoke to the hearts of Flower Power and Blood and Soil followers alike and especially anthroposophists, who figure strangely, ambiguously in between. Novalis was an idealist, a magical idealist even, and he wanted to make the world a better place. In his speech, “Christendom or Europe,” he raves about the bygone Golden Age (of the Middle Ages) that will come again: “When and when sooner? that cannot be asked. Just be patient, it will, it must come, the holy time of eternal peace…” And all of this is, of course, abominable. Some would translate this into: Make Europe great again.
Leaving the bindery in Klaber, my gaze fell upon a pile of freshly bound books titled in Fraktur font: Sturmvogel. As I would later find out, the author Wilhelm Gellert was a founding member and of the ethnic nationalist DAAD party, (Deutsche Arbeiter- und Angestellten-Partei), anti-Semitic and pre-fascist, during the Weimar Republic. In his science fiction novels he fantasizes about a large Germanic Reich arising from the wreckage of the world.
This text was supposed to be an article about absurd Nazi farmers, but that would have been too simple as they are nothing more than absurd. What really bothers me isn’t them at all, but rather something about the leftist green foodies who in terms of environmental policy stand for the same things I do. And here the disgust is much greater because it’s about me somehow. And yet it is also about these green Nazis. There are always so many things happening at once and sometimes people are afraid to place them in relation to one another, to make parallels explicit. Depending on which nutrition fad they’re currently following, foodies can be very totalitarian toward their bodies and to those of a different mind. They want to make the world a better place. They fight for the ground they love after days of sunshine or rain. But sometimes you get the feeling they have forgotten that others have always done and continue to do exactly the same, only with competing visions of what a better world is – at times with dramatic consequences. As long as there is no awareness about this problem inherent in desiring to change the world for the better, for me everything related to it is dangerous or naïve or both, especially in times of the AfD, FN, FPÖ and UKIP. And nonetheless I keep on: in a down-to-earth way it is extremely worthwhile to keep on asking where our food actually comes from.