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Nazi Grandpa

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"I'll never forgive the Nazis for what they did to my grandfather in Dachau: twelve years he was manning that machine-gun tower, and not promoted once!"
Really, really bad joke

That kindly old European man who lives at the end of the street, who tends his garden and waves at you with a smile when you walk by? Yeah. Seems he has a Dark Secret. Back during World War II he was a card-carrying member of the NSDAP and a fervent supporter of Adolf Hitler and all the man stood for.

But that was then. Now? Now he's an old, and very bitter, Nazi.

If they're living incognito in some other country (usually the United States), it's not uncommon for them or their offspring to be the target of Nazi Hunters who have found out his true identity. On the other hand, if the grandparents of a Nazi Hunter happened to be Nazis themselves, it can result in an awkward situation.

A very specific Sub-Trope of Grumpy Old Man. Often married to a Racist Grandma. Related to Evil Old Folks and Retired Monster.

For obvious reasons, this evolved into a Stock Character in German Media; in serious works, but often also played for laughs, where the joke is for example that he seems to be oblivious to the fact that his attitude isn't acceptable at all in mainstream society anymore, or that he's been decayed by age into a Harmless Villain. See also Racist Grandma, and Sub-Par Supremacist for cases where the character is meant to be both awful and pathetic.

However, as of The New Twenties, this trope is literally dying off, as the remaining Nazis would be nonagenarians at their youngest, making it more difficult to play it straight outside of Period Pieces.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In one Black Lagoon arc, the crew gets hired by a Spanish salvage company to loot an old Nazi submarine in international waters before any of the nearby nations can lay a solid claim to it. The owner of the salvage company turns out to be an old SS officer, who wanted to use the crew for a plan as a Secret Test of Character for some of his subordinates. Dutch is slightly less than pleased to discover this.

    Comic Books 
  • Tiegel's paternal grandpa in Hitman (1993) is fairly senile and makes no secret of his past and politics. Despite the fact that his daughter-in-law and granddaughter are black.
  • The revival of Justice Society of America featured an American senator, the grandson of one of the soldiers who captured Von Braun during WW2, who is part of a mysterious conspiracy, and his daughter reveals to Mr Terrific that he has a room full of Nazi memorabilia in his house. However, it's subverted when it turns out the man isn't a nazi (he's offended at the suggestion), the conspiracy is simply taking advantage of a super cannon Von Braun launched to the moon just before his capture. The Nazi stuff is just war trophies his father took home with him. Nazism ends up being involved anyway, when the Brain in a Jar of Heinrich Himmler, which Von Braun had preserved, hijacks the super cannon and intends to blackmail Earth into making him dictator.
  • The '80s revival of the Peacemaker rewrote the lead character's backstory so that his father was a Nazi war criminal who escaped prosecution and lived for decades under an assumed name. He (the father) killed himself the moment his secret came to light, and his family changed their name from Schmidt to Smith to distance themselves from him.
  • In J. Michael Straczynski's The Twelve maxi-series, The Witness is kept in suspended animation from World War II until being revived in the present day. Several weeks after being revived, he hunts down a very old man in New York, whom he knows was a guard at Auschwitz. And he kills him.
  • Subverted in Preacher: During his stint as Sheriff of Annville Jesse encounters a cheerful old man called Gunther who openly tells Jesse (and anyone else within earshot) that he's a Nazi spy — due to his brother's death Gunther had turned somewhat cynical about the whole Reich thing, and asked to become an undercover agent in the US. Upon arriving, he promptly deserted and set up a new life in America, with his superiors none the wiser. Jesse just finds the whole story amusing, until a later run-in with someone who's an obsessive fan of the Nazis coincidentally lets him discover the whole thing was a lie. Turns out Gunther was actually a former member of the Einsatzgruppen and escaped to the US after the war to avoid retribution. He claims to be repentant of his former actions, but Jesse doesn't believe him and offers him the choice between exposure or a rope.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Arthur Denker again in the film adaptation of Apt Pupil. Ian McKellen can play a pretty terrifying ex-Nazi in hiding. Admittedly he's trying to forget his past crimes, but the scene where he's forced to play dress-up for the bratty kid blackmailing him shows that the whole "blood and honor" devotion is still bubbling beneath the surface. Having to recount his past murders inspires Denker to start killing again.
  • Von Geisler in Frontier(s) is the head of a family of Nazi cannibals.
  • Dr. Christian Szell from the film Marathon Man, a grandfatherly old dentist who pats little kids on the head if they are brave in his office. He was once known as the "White Angel of Death" when he worked as a torturer at Auschwitz, and just because he's old and grandfatherly now doesn't mean he's lost any of his old skills.
  • Subverted in The Monster Squad. The main characters believe that the scary German guy living down the street is one of these, but it turns out he's a Holocaust survivor.
  • Music Box is about a female lawyer successfully defending her own father against charges that he was a war criminal and fascist during World War II. She simply cannot believe that the kindly, friendly man she grew up loving could be a monster who systematically murdered Jews and Roma. At the end of the film, she finds previously unknown, but indisputable, proof that her father actually was a war criminal and fascist... and she just helped him escape prosecution. She ends up sending the incriminating photos to the government prosecutor who she just defeated, who has them published in the newspaper. Scriptwriter Joe Eszterhas loosely based this story on his own life, and on the shock he went through when he discovered that his own father had been an enthusiastic Hungarian fascist during World War II (while he didn't participate in atrocities, he'd burned books and produced antisemitic propaganda).
  • The German film Nightof The Living Dorks has one of the main trio get a Luger from his Nazi grandpa.
  • The Producers: Played for Laughs with Franz Liebkind, a bitter old ex-German soldier and card-carrying Nazi who lives in a dingy apartment in New York City raising pigeons and writing odes to Hitler's glory, such as Bialystock and Bloom's project Springtime for Hitler—which they plan to deliberately make flop to bilk investors before moving to Rio de Janeiro.
  • Re;member: Zev is hunting for one, the former SS blockfuhrer at Auschwitz who killed his and Max's families, Otto Wallisch. Due to his dementia, he's forgotten that he is Wallisch. Kunibert Sturm, his former comrade, is another example. Both appear to hate what they did in Auschwitz though, subverting the usual portrayals.
  • Implied with Dr Scott in The Rocky Horror Picture Show when Frank calls him Von Scott, he now works for the American government and is an expy of Doctor Strangelove.
    • His Suspiciously Similar Substitute, Bert Schnick in the sequel, Shock Treatment. He slips into Gratuitous German and says that Brad and Janet should be sent to the Danube at dawn. He was originally meant to be a returned Doctor Scott in early scripts but was rewritten into a new character when they couldn't get the actor to come back.
  • Dr. Mortner from the James Bond movie A View to a Kill. It's a bit more complicated as Doctor Mortner was experimenting with what he considered inferior bloodlines to make them super-soldiers. In the script, Zorin's Amazon Brigade is composed of his other experiments. This includes Zorin's lover and henchwoman May Day, who's black.
  • In the Israeli film Walk on Water, the Mossad agent Eyal must find Alfred Himmelman, an aging Nazi war criminal, and get him "before God does". In order to track down the old man, Eyal poses as a tour guide and befriends the Nazi's adult grandchildren, Axel and Pia, who have both obsessed about working as far (both geographically and ideologically) from their parents as possible due to their parents still keeping contact with their grandfather.
  • Sebastian Shaw in X-Men: First Class, although his mutant powers ensure he doesn't look like anybody's grandpa. He was already visibly in his mid-40s during the war before the roughly 20-year Time Skip, though given the nature of his powers, he could be even older. Magneto also hunts down two of Shaw's former SS buddies to Argentina before killing them. However, since it's set in The '60s, they are closer to middle-aged than truly "grandpa" material.

  • There is a whole genre of Russian/Soviet jokes where the premise is the following: a boy accidentally reveals that his grandpa was a Nazi collaborator,note  and Hilarity Ensues. For example:
    History teacher: "Tell us, where did your grandpa serve during the war?"
    Boy: "In the Electrical Engineering Corps!"
    History teacher: "Did he tell you about his service?"
    Boy: "No, but I found his helmet with two lightning boltsnote  that he'd hidden in the attic!"
    • And a similar one:
      I don't like to talk about the war because my father died in a concentration camp. He fell from a watchtower. While trying to escape. From rioting prisoners.
      • Alternately: "He got drunk and fell off the watchtower".
    • An older non-Nazi variant involves a boy proudly saying his grandfather once met a hero of the Soviet revolution. His teacher asks for the grandfather to speak to the class about it, and the grandfather confirms that he did indeed see the hero once. And immediately shot at him, because the grandfather was in the Tsarist army.
  • A German boy was upstairs playing on his computer when his granddad came into the room and sat down on the bed. "What are you doing?" asked the granddad. "You're 18 years old and wasting your life! When I was 18 I went to Paris, I went to the Moulin Rouge, drank all night, had my way with the dancers, pissed on the barman, and left without paying! Now that is how to have a good time!" A week later, the grandfather comes to visit again. He finds the boy still in his room, but with a broken arm in plaster, 2 black eyes, and missing all his front teeth. "What happened?", he asked. "Oh granddad!", replied the boy. "I did what you did! I went to Paris, went to the Moulin Rouge, drank all night, had my way with the dancers, pissed all over the barman, and he beat the crap out of me!" "Oh dear!", replied the granddad. "Who did you go with?" "Just some friends, why? Who did you go with?" "Oh!" replied the granddad. "The Third Panzer Division."
  • "My grandfather personally downed more than 50 German airplanes during World War 2. He was easily the worst mechanic the Luftwaffe ever saw."

  • In The Adventures of Stefón Rudel, Hans-Ulrich Rudel, a WW2 Luftwaffe ace and real-life example of the trope, serves as Stefón's second Parental Substitute.
  • Arthur Denker in Stephen King's Apt Pupil (real name Kurt Dussander). He pretends to be a German emigrant who fought in the army during the war; he was actually the SS commander of a minor concentration camp.
  • Area 51: Professor Werner Von Seeckt, who is pushing eighty in the first book and the only sane man at Majic-12. However, he also turns out to be a former SS member, forcefully recruited by US intelligence, and has worked for them ever since. Von Seeckt however claims he wasn't a true believer and didn't know of the atrocities (but also admits it was mostly willful ignorance), with no evidence of him participating in any. He shows no signs of retaining Nazi beliefs in any case and is largely heroic. Still, his past understandably disturbs most characters.
  • In Gentle Hands, the plot increasingly focuses on whether the protagonist's grandfather is the titular Nazi. He is.
  • Spoofed in I Am America (And So Can You!) in the chapter about family. The grandmother is identified as someone not to ask about, since "Grandpa brought her back from the war, and she might be a Nazi."
  • Invoked in the Illuminatus! trilogy, as George Dorn bumps into an old man in Ingolstadt who curses at him with all kinds of politically incorrect slurs, but he can't bring himself to be offended since the man feels like a relic of the past, rather than anyone to be taken seriously. It's actually Adolf Hitler himself, returned to Germany to receive his promised reward from the Illuminati.
  • Sort of happens in Stephen Fry's Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act novel Making History. The gentle old German scientist who wants to go back and prevent the Holocaust wasn't a Nazi himself, but we're led to believe he's a Jewish survivor until it turns out the reason It's Personal is that his father was in the SS and he feels guilty.
  • "The Man Who Ended History", a short story (framed as a documentary) by Ken Liu, discusses the use of a machine that allows people to relive history (only once). This machine is used to bring atrocities committed by Japanese medical researchers in WWII to public awareness. The beloved grandfather of one of the researchers was a senior doctor there.
  • Spoofed in The Onion's Our Dumb World. Apparently, Argentina is filled with old Nazis who will not shut up about that one time they killed a little Jewish girl with the butt of their rifle, much to their grandchildren's annoyance.
  • The Jodi Picoult novel The Storyteller revolves around an elderly man who is a fixture in his community, who confesses to the protagonist that he was a Nazi who served at Auschwitz during the war.

    Live-Action TV 
  • One of these is the Asshole Victim in a certain sketch of 1000 Ways to Die ("Master E-Raced"). He was shot in the head and survived, but the bullet was stuck inside and located near a major artery. Fifty years later, the former Nazi (now living in New York City) accidentally bumps his head while getting milk from his refrigerator. The bullet finally hits its target and the Kraut goes kaput.
  • In 30 Rock, Jack once remembered that his kindly German teacher who was obsessed with classifying people got kidnapped by Israeli commandos.
  • An episode of Barney Miller has a Romani man apparently harassing an elderly prank shop owner. Turns out the prank shop owner was a guard at a concentration camp who tormented him.
  • One of the victim in Bones was a Nazi war criminal who fled with part of Nazi Gold to Argentina.
  • The old concentration camp guard posing as a Jew also showed up in another Bruckheimer show, Cold Case. Both were likely inspired by the case of Elfriede Rinkel.
  • CSI: NY: An antique dealer with Nazi sympathies is murdered. It turns out his killer was a concentration camp guard who had escaped prosecution by pretending to be Jewish after the war was over (going as far as to put a fake "serial number" tattoo on his arm).
  • An episode of ER had an old man attack another old man (described as a kindly grandfather) at a bus stop. When the two men are brought to the hospital, the assailant reveals that the victim sold him and his family out to the Nazis during World War II.
  • In an episode of FlashForward (2009), there is an old convicted Nazi in a prison in Munich, who claims to have important information about the Blackout, and offers it to the Mosaic Team in exchange for his release. Too late it turns out that they have been tricked by him, and this info isn't that important after all. Or is it?
  • In the Forever (2014) episode "Hitler on the Half Shell" Erik Haas learns that his grandfather, who he insists was a good man, was actually S.S. Commandant Otto Heydrich, a part of the Reichsleiter Rosenberg which stole valuable works of art across Europe, and this is the true source of the art collection his father had been quietly returning to their rightful owners for decades.
  • Harrow: In "Lex Talionis" ("The Law of Retaliation"), the Victim of the Week, who was supposedly a Czech and a champion of migrant community, is revealed to have been an officer at Auschwitz. He was murdered by one of his victims who recognised him and had herself admitted to the same nursing home specifically to kill him.
  • In El internado, there are several Nazi old men that managed to escape justice when World War II ended by hiding in Spain. In fact, Iván's adoptive grandfather, as well as Marcos and Paula's grandfather (who put his daughter Eva to the illness he developed, and then cloned her twice, which resulted in Irene/Sandra, whom he adopted when she was five, and Paula, who became Sandra's daughter) were two of those high-ranking Nazis.
  • Dennis and Dee's maternal grandfather was a Nazi in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Being who they are, Charlie and Mac attempt to exploit it for profit.
    • Seven seasons later, Dennis and Dee try to console themselves with the fact that their grandfather left Germany and probably wanted to forget his past; only to find that he was involved in creating an American branch of a Hitler-Youth-like organization.
  • Law & Order went to this well a few times. In "Night and Fog" (where the culprit was actually a Jewish man who'd collaborated with the Nazis and killed his Holocaust victim wife when she found out) and "Evil Breeds" (where a Holocaust survivor is testifying in a federal war crimes investigation against a suspected Nazi war criminal but gets killed by the manager of a "hate rock" act who's trying to exploit the criminal's rep for sales).
  • An elderly man suspected of being an SS officer ends up being a murder suspect in Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
  • The grandpa in the sketch "Weihnachten bei Hoppenstedts" by German comedian Loriot may have traces of this, considering how he insists on playing his military marches on full volume - at Christmas Eve! Though to be fair, because this sketch is from 1978, it is quite possible that he is merely a Monarchist Grandpa, feeling nostalgia for the good old times of the Kaiser's reign, which were just 60 years ago, back then.
  • Similarly, in one episode of Magnum, P.I., there was a Nazi couple hiding in Hawaii disguised as Jews.
  • It becomes clear from some of his comments that Dwight's grandfather in The Office (US) fought on the side of Germany during World War II and was probably a war criminal and not just an average soldier.
    "I tried to go visit him once, but my travel visa was protested by the Shoah Foundation."note 
  • NCIS has an unusually sympathetic example. Agent Gibbs's father Jackson was a fighter pilot in WWII, at one point his plane was damaged and his compass malfunctioned so he was flying the wrong direction, another fighter pilot showed him the right way back to base letting him get to safety before he crashed, now the pilot is on his deathbed and Jackson asks his son to help find him before he dies, Gibbs tries but begins to think his father might be going senile because there wasn't any airman with his friends name serving in his unit, turns out Jackson was telling the truth, but he never mentioned the guy who saved him was from his unit, or from his side for that matter.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): One of the single-vilest villains of the anthology was the old Nazi known as Karl Rademacher from season 5's time-travel episode "Tribunal". Once a sadistic commander of a concentration camp, he murdered hundreds of people during the war before disappearing and living out the rest of his days in the United States as "Robert Greene". The protagonist, the son of a Holocaust survivor, tries to bring Rademacher to justice but eventually resolves to have Rademacher killed by his own younger self.
  • In the German Sitcom Pastewka, Bastian's brother acquires a foosball table on eBay, and they have to drive out to the seller's house, in order to get it and take it home. Said seller is an old man who seems to be nostalgic for the Third Reich: His house is filled to the brim with war memorabilia, his most precious one being the handkerchief of the Führer himself.
  • Dr. Krieg in The Pretender episode "Hazards".
  • In Son of the Beach German character Chip Rommel has an antique diamond ring. "It voz mein grandfather's. He collected jewellery during the war."
  • In the first series satirical UK puppet show Spitting Image Mrs Thatcher's elderly neighbour, Herr Jeremy Von Wilcox, who lived at No. 9 Downing Street, was actually Adolf Hitler.
  • Opa Adolf Frey, from the recurring segment Was Der Großvater Noch Wusste (What Grandpa Still Did Know), of the German Sketch Comedy Die Wochenshow is implied to be one.
  • The X-Files: The episode "Paper Clip" features an ex-Nazi scientist named Victor Klemper, who was involved in wartime experiments on concentration camp inmates and later came to the US, where he helped the Syndicate's experiments with alien-human hybrids. When Mulder and Scully meet him, he's a gentle old man working in a greenhouse, but he expresses little remorse for his past actions.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Cyberpunk: Saburo Arasaka is Imperial Japanese, rather than Third Reich, but otherwise fits the trope to a T. Arasaka fought in the war, founded the Arasaka corporation in an attempt to restore Japan's place as a world superpower, put his children through Training from Hell to ensure they would be as tough and hate Americans as much as he did, and eventually push the Arasaka corporation into all-out war to try to settle the grudge that started at Midway.

    Video Games 
  • In Do Not Feed The Monkeys, one of the storylines has an Expy of Hitler as a retired old man in an old folks' home.
  • After the destruction of the Poseidon Oil Rig in Fallout 2, the remnants of the Enclave have been trying to integrate silently to society, with varying successes; some were found out and executed. In Fallout: New Vegas, there are five elderly Enclave Remnants whom you can convince to aid the final battle at Hoover Dam. Though only Orion Moreno truly believed in the Enclave's cause, while the others were Punch Clock Villains.
  • Late into the plot of Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield, it's revealed that the true Big Bad is Nikola Gospić, the man whose estate and several other assets had been attacked by terrorists across several earlier missions in the game - or as he's really known, Dejan Blazevic, a former member of the Croatian Ustaše regime, whose vast fortune was started by liquidating the assets of countless victims of the Holocaust and then fleeing to Cayman Brac.

    Web Original 

  • In a Biter Comics strip, A prospective job candidate learns his new boss may at the very least be a Nazi sympathizer.
  • In Scary Go Round, the professor who accompanies Shelley, Amy, and Desmond during their journey to Atlantis is implied to be one.
    Shelley: "Gosh, it's like they took a Nazi war criminal and pressed him like a flower!"

    Western Animation 
  • Krieger from Archer has a pretty significant Nazi dad. He's one of The Boys from Brazil. (Oddly enough, he already knew he had been raised by Nazis.) It's even implied he may be a clone of Hitler (or at least some kind of genetic relative). Subverted in that while he is creepy and has a lot of bizarre obsessions with genetic engineering, he's never been shown to be racist or homophobic. Krieger himself eventually gets sick of the implications and points out that he looks absolutely nothing like Hitler.
  • The Family Guy episode "German Guy" deals with this subject, featuring a kindly old German man named Franz Gutentag who befriends Chris before pedophile neighbor Herbert recognizes Franz as a Nazi who put him in a concentration camp for not being gay. Herbert and Franz face off in a slow-motion fightnote  of Grey-and-Gray Morality (is the audience supposed to root for the pedophile or the Nazi)?
  • F is for Family: The neighborhood kids are terrified of elderly German immigrant Otto Hossenwasser, who they believe is a Nazi Grandpa. In reality, he's actually a Holocaust survivor; the kids thought his camp tattoo was a tally of all the people he killed.
  • Mike Tyson Mysteries features the characters of the day's mystery, Alex and Elsa, trying to decide what to do with their 96-year-old dad Herman. Before he's found frozen and thawed out, they discover a Nazi room behind a secret panel. He dies via the Abominable Snowman that he's been looking for endlessly.
  • Grandpa Nazi is a recurring sketch in Monkey Dust.

    Real Life 
  • Most Germans of the post-war generations have to deal with this within their own family. In (luckily quite rare) cases where the old people in question don't show any sign of remorse and still openly self-identify as Nazis, they are called Alt-Nazis (old-Nazis, in order to differentiate them from the neo-Nazis) or Unverbesserliche (roughly unreformables).
    • Gudrun Burwitz, born in 1929 as Gudrun Himmler and daughter of Heinrich Himmler, and mother of two, had been a leading figure in German neo-Nazi movements her entire adult life until her death in 2018.
    • A mild example applies to children who were members of the Hitler Youth or the Band of German Maidens. Because membership was compulsory, that meant that nearly all Germans who came of age in the 50s and 60s had been a part of those organizations, with many high-profile names from Chancellor Helmut Kohl to Pope Benedict XVI. Naturally, there was no attempt to blacklist child members, as it would have left Germany without young people to assume roles in politics and business. Vera Oredsson, leading member of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement, used to belong to the Bund Deutscher Mädel before emigrating to Sweden after 1945.
    • The Netherlands had a similar example to Gudrun in Florentine Rost van Tonningen, known as "the Black Widow", who continued to espouse her late husband's national socialist ideology decades after he was executed for collaboration, until her death in 2007.
  • After the war, many Nazis did hide in Argentina for many years, the most notorious case being Adolf Eichmann, kidnapped by the Mossad in 1960, who became the only person so far executed by Israel (not counting a wrongly accused man). He was only fifty-six at the time, however, so not the stereotype.
  • US Immigration and Customs Enforcement maintains a special unit dedicated to finding fugitive war criminals who have managed to immigrate to the US as war "refugees." Occasionally they will find individuals who naturalized and built lives in America, concealing their wartime experiences from their own family.
  • Normally, German citizens can enter Israel without a visa - but not if they were born before 1928. Such persons require extensive paperwork proving that at no point in their life were they affiliated with the Nazis (a difficult but not impossible requirement).
  • In April 2013, now deceased German actor Horst Tappert, who played the title character in the popular long-running detective series Derrick, was discovered to have been a member of the Waffen-SS in World War II. In his lifetime, he had always claimed to have served as a medic in the Wehrmacht. Reruns of the series were promptly pulled off the German and Dutch public channels. It remains unknown if he joined freely or with coercion.
  • In 2006, Günter Grass, author of The Tin Drum and Nobel Prize recipient, revealed that he had been a member of the Waffen-SS at the age of 17. However, this was due to being conscripted, not voluntary enlistment, and the Panzer division he served in was unusual in the SS for not committing atrocities. Nonetheless, it caused quite some stir, because until then he was regarded by many to be sort of Germany's conscience regarding the country's Nazi past. Of course, his view of the Nazi era may have been shaped in part from this. It must be noted that desertion or draft resistance in Nazi Germany were punishable by death. Much of the criticism rested on his failure to reveal this for so many years.


Video Example(s):


'Old Comrades' at the Carnival

At the 1973 Cologne Carnival festivities, German comedian Jonny Buchardt manipulated the audience into screaming "Sieg heil". Given the age and backgrounds of the various Cologne dignitaries seated in the crowd, this reply had likely been ingrained in their collective muscle memories all the way back in the '30s and '40s.

To put that joke in context: Giving the "Sieg heil" or any other such Nazi salute was, by 1973, not only strictly taboo (for obvious reasons), but also forbidden by law in Germany. While Buchardt's joke did cause a minor scandal, nobody was prosecuted.

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