Photo Gallery: A German Comedian Takes On Turkey

Foto: Britta Pedersen/ dpa

Erdogan and the Satirist Inside Merkel's Comedy Conundrum

With his insulting poem about Turkish President Erdogan, Jan Böhmermann has triggered an affair of state. Now, Chancellor Merkel has elected to allow legal proceedings against the German comedian. What, though, was Böhmermann's intent?

Jan Böhmermann has disappeared. He's not giving interviews; he's not answering his phone. Since Monday, he has also gone silent on Twitter, where he is normally extremely active. He has hardly left his home in Cologne in the last few days and he is also now under police protection.

He had his Thursday show on the German public broadcaster ZDF cancelled and his Sunday radio show on RBB will likewise not be broadcast this week. It was cancelled last Sunday as well. Böhmermann was already in his home studio ready to record when he realized that he was in no mood to be funny. So he called it off.

Friends and acquaintances who have had contact with him in the last few days are worried that he won't be able to withstand the pressure. The ZDF satirist is a sensitive person, even if that hasn't always been part of his public persona. The scandal surrounding the disparaging poem he wrote about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan  has affected him more deeply than many have realized. Perhaps one has to be vulnerable to emotional pain in order to know how to inflict such pain on others.

Two weeks ago, when he was still active on social media, he tweeted out the Beatles hit "The Fool on the Hill." The song is about a simpleton sitting alone on a hill with a silly grin on his face -- and everyone can see that he is a half-wit. It is essentially how people see Böhmermann, and it is how he wanted to be seen: The misunderstood fool. The tweet went out two days after his insulting Erdogan poem was broadcast on his ZDF show "Neo Magazin Royale" and one day after the broadcaster deleted the show from its video hub and distanced itself from Böhmermann's verses. And that was just the beginning.

Prior to the scandal, Böhmermann had led a niche existence in Germany's media landscape, but now everybody in the country knows who he is. The 35-year-old has triggered an affair of state, one which has served to demonstrate just how limited  Chancellor Angela Merkel's power really is. And how absurd German law can be . If Böhmermann intended to show just how powerful satire can be, he has been incredibly successful.

The Böhmermann scandal is now entering its third week, and only now is it becoming clear just what the five-minute clip has set in motion. It didn't just shine the spotlight on the Turkish president's sensitivity and the limits of chancellor's steadfastness, it has also unsettled all of Germany -- a country which normally doesn't spend much time thinking about satire and art and the freedoms associated with them.

On Friday, the need for doing so became even more apparent. Chancellor Merkel announced that the federal government had granted permission for criminal proceedings to go ahead against Jan Böhmermann under the controversial Paragraph 103 of the German Criminal Code. The law makes it illegal to insult the representatives of foreign countries. The federal government must approve the initiation of Paragraph 103 proceedings.

By granting permission, Merkel has gone against the advice of Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Justice Minister Heiko Maas, both of whom are members of the Social Democratic Party, Merkel's junior coalition partner. The chancellor confirmed that the coalition partners had expressed "differing views."

Yet even as she announced that legal proceedings would go ahead, the chancellor also signaled her intention to abolish the law before the end of the current legislative session, saying it was "unnecessary." The chancellor also shared her concerns about the situation of the press in Turkey and the plights of individual journalists in the country. She added that the German government would ensure freedom of expression at home and she emphasized that the independence of the judicial system applied as much in Turkey as it does in Germany and "other countries in the democratic world."

'Kicking Kurds, Beating Christians'

Merkel, in short, was doing her best to walk a political tightrope -- trying to satisfy Erdogan while at the same time seeking to assuage those voices which have accused her of sacrificing European values in the interest of securing a political deal with Turkey aimed at reducing the number of refugees coming to Europe.

Ironically, it was a tightrope not unlike the one Böhmermann was trying to walk. His Erdogan poem was cleverly constructed. In the televised skit, he is talking with his sidekick Ralf Kabelka about the limits of what is allowed in Germany. Abusive criticism is not allowed, Kabelka says, whereupon Böhmermann -- to make it clear exactly what isn't allowed -- recites his poem about Erdogan. When the audience started applauding, Böhmermann prevented them from doing so.

The poem includes references to "goat fucking" and "oppressing minorities." It calls Erdogan "dumb as a post, cowardly and uptight" and "perverse, lice-ridden and a zoophile." "Kicking Kurds, beating Christians all while watching child porno films." It goes on in that vein.

The satirical verses drove a wedge through the country. Böhmermann managed to demolish a nationwide consensus that hadn't really been up for debate for years: What are the limits of humor? For Böhmermann, though, consensus generally isn't the solution; it is the problem. He views consensus as poison.

His lines -- and Merkel's decision to allow legal proceedings to ensue -- have now divided Germany into two camps. One camp views Böhmermann as an uncompromising political artist. Those in the second camp are unable to get beyond the insulting nature of the poem -- the "pig fart" and the "shriveled testicles." They wonder if it is really worth it to defend Böhmermann's freedom to distill art out of insults.

The real provocateur, of course, is Erdogan himself , the man who is Böhmermann's target and the man who is making life extremely difficult for Chancellor Merkel. And his provocations have nothing funny about them. It is a context that cannot be forgotten when discussing the insulting poem that Böhmermann composed.

Those who criticize Erdogan are, depending on the circumstances, accused of being "terrorists," "traitors," "provocateurs" or "agents" of a foreign power. In a country where the majority is politically illiterate and gets its information from pro-government television, most people believe the dominant narrative of an evil world trying to keep Turkey in its place. In such an atmosphere, it is even possible for a schoolchild to be prosecuted over an ill-considered Facebook post.

No longer is the discussion focused on whether the satirical poem successfully made its point or not. The work of art has become much broader than that. ZDF, the chancellor, Erdogan and the German public: All have become part of Böhmermann's work.

Kowtowing to Erdogan

The chancellor's role in the drama, put on full display on Friday, has been that of a politician who is trying her best to stay above the fray without getting her precious hands dirty. On the one hand, she sought to soothe the irascible prince of the Bosporus, on the other, she didn't want to seem as though she were kowtowing to Erdogan. She has failed on both counts.

Germans are no longer certain if the chancellor still knows where the limits of her power lie. And in Turkey, the desire to take legal action against Böhmermann has only become greater.

Böhmermann is both provocative and exasperating -- which helps explain why this scandal has not generated the reactions one has come to expect when an artist is being threatened with prosecution. The country has neither joined together to laugh at Böhmermann's poem nor has German society unanimously rejected the stereotypes used in the insulting work.

Indeed, the effect of Böhmermann's sketch is akin to that of a real work of art: It is a puzzle that has inspired people to think hard about our crazy world and the mad times in which we live. Instead of holding up a mirror to the country, which is allegedly the function of cabaret, Böhmermann has sent the country into a hall of mirrors and has provoked all kinds of strange reactions. It is, in fact, these reactions which have transformed the mini-sketch into a bona fide work of art.

Mathias Döpfner, head of Springer Verlag, the publishing house that puts out Germany's mass-circulation tabloid Bild, wrote an open letter in which he expressed "full and complete" support for all of the insults in the poem. Bild publisher Kai Diekmann tried his own hand at satire by inventing and printing an "interview" with Böhmermann -- one which wasn't funny at all. The German government has elevated beating around the diplomatic bush to a new art form. Government spokespersons have been reduced to stammering. The culture pages of German newspapers have dubbed Böhmermann's transgression as the only kind of real satire that is possible anymore. And other artists have expressed solidarity with Böhmermann.

But a surprising number of people, many of whom are usually among the first to jump on the freedom-of-expression bandwagon, have declined to sign on this time around.

Germany, it would seem, is unsure how to respond. Böhmermann has triggered a debate over a question that, it was thought, had long since been answered. When, after all, was the last time that Germany has seriously discussed where the limits of freedom lie?

Even ZDF head Thomas Bellut, who approved the satire's broadcast, considers the poem to be borderline. "You can see it both ways," he says. The ZDF editor responsible, who talked about the controversial scene with Böhmermann before ultimately giving it the green light, "will not face any kind of disciplinary measures," Bellut says.

The Least Bad Decision

He made the decision to remove the scene from ZDF's online video hub based on "my personal system of moral values," Bellut says. "It was not an easy decision. But I still think it was the least bad decision that I could make."

The decision taken by the ZDF head and its program director is not uncontroversial among the broadcaster's employees. On Thursday, the station's committee of editors sent employees a letter that wasn't shy about praising Böhmermann's poem. The letter noted that the ZDF program had a direct effect on heads of government and launched a debate. "Program mission fulfilled."

But Bellut rejected the demand by the editorial representatives to put the satirical poem back on line as a "historical document."

Still, Bellut says, Böhmermann can count on the full support of ZDF. The broadcaster has ensured him comprehensive legal support in his legal dispute with Erdogan. "We will accompany him through all levels of jurisdiction," he says.

Bellut was on vacation when the episode of "Neo Magazin Royale" was aired. He was watching the program live, but switched it off before the controversial scene with the poem came on. It was only the next morning that he and his program director Norbert Himmler were alerted. Together, they decided to block access to the piece of satire and take it off of the station's video hub.

Because the piece was removed on April 1, there was initially some confusion surrounding the move. Was ZDF's decision to take down the piece just a gag? Was it Böhmermann's next satirical coup, carried out with the approval of ZDF?

Searching for Allies

The comedian had already been involved in a similar caper. Last March, after German public broadcaster ARD aired a video of then-Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis showing his middle finger, Böhmermann claimed that it was a fake and that he had been involved in producing it. ZDF management had been previously informed of the stunt and the station only came clean after several hours. It was a precedent that led many to believe that ZDF was merely pulling a prank when it pulled down Böhmermann's Erdogan poem.

Böhmermann himself was in his Cologne studio on April 1 recording his next show when news arrived that his video was being taken off line. In the corner stood the leftovers of a cake that Twitter's German office had sent him two days before due to his heavy use of the social media site.

Wearing a hoodie and with his smartphone pressed to his ear, Böhmermann paced up and down the halls. He seemed distraught, say colleagues, like he couldn't believe the news. And he seemed unsure of himself.

He had been censored before. During the presentation of the 2012 German Television Prize, similar to the Emmys, Böhmermann attacked TV host Oliver Geissen, an important figure at private broadcaster RTL. When the show was later broadcast by RTL, the controversial parts had been removed, but the episode had no effect on Böhmermann's career.

The removal of the Erdogan poem from the ZDF media hub, though, has really shaken him. It was his program, after all. Was he not able to do as he liked?

Those who have spoken to him in recent days say that he doesn't seem to know exactly what exactly has happened to him. Much of what he has done since the scandal broke has seemed despondent. Böhmermann has written and called a number of public personalities, including journalists and intellectual leaders -- even those who he doesn't know personally. It is unclear what he was expecting to hear from them. Advice? Encouragement?

In his search for allies, he wasn't particularly picky. He chose Christian Schertz as his attorney, a prominent lawyer in Berlin who Böhmermann has frequently lampooned on his show in the past. He also sent a direct message via Twitter to Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, asking him for help. He addressed Altmaier simply because they both follow each other, but after an initial reply, Altmaier didn't write back.

Seeking Shelter at the Slaughterhouse

Böhmermann also tweeted directly to Kai Diekmann, the publisher of Bild. He sent a joke wondering how someone named Himmler (like the ZDF program director) could be in a position to make decisions regarding humor in Germany. He also sent a photo of himself in his bathroom wearing only boxer shorts with a smiley on the back. He wrote: "Kai, stand by me." In a further message, he requested that Diekmann respect his privacy, which is a bit like a pig seeking shelter at the slaughterhouse.

Diekmann behaved as one would have expected: He tweeted out some of the personal messages he had received along with the message that he was "seriously concerned" about Böhmermann's wellbeing.

It is difficult to say whether Böhmermann has realized that he has written a work of satire that will go down in history. He isn't talking, after all. Perhaps he is simply overwhelmed by the perfect cultural, medial and political storm he has created and has been unable to withstand the buffeting.

The situation is such that Cologne police undertook an analysis of the possible safety issues facing Böhmermann and drew the conclusion that an attack is not out of the question. There haven't been any concrete threats, they said. However, it is "very likely that Erdogan himself wasn't the only one who felt insulted, but perhaps one or two of the Turks living in Cologne," said one high-ranking officer.

What, though, was Böhmermann trying to achieve? Was he trying to create a scandal, or was it just an accident? The skit itself seems rather hurriedly produced, not at all comparable to the professional video productions that Böhmermann normally assembles. But perhaps it is this rather naive approach that ultimately led to the skit having such an explosive impact. It begins with a cumbersome, pedagogical explanation of what makes for insulting criticism, recited in a humorless tone. Böhmermann then interrupts the lesson to give an example: the Erdogan poem. It is almost reminiscent of a Monty Python skit. There is that scene in "Life of Brian" where a character is to be stoned for saying Jehovah, and yet the protagonists keep saying Jehovah by accident. Jehovah. Jehovah. Jehovah.

Whether Böhmermann really wanted to insult Erdogan isn't the point. It seems likely that he just wanted to reach a higher plain of humorous debate, one that is neither commentary nor protest. And as with all artists, it is not up to him to interpret his own work or to ask before it is presented whether it is permissible, whether it is a constructive contribution to the public debate or what people might say about it.

Something of an Oddball

Böhmermann is part of a new generation of television personalities in Germany, but he is also the best of the bunch. He is the cleverest and most ambitious of them and also the best at marketing himself. He is political and takes positions on the issues. And there is another difference: For Böhmermann, television is only one of several mediums he uses to distribute his content. He also approaches his audience elsewhere, such as in social media.

When Böhmermann last year claimed to have faked the middle finger of the Greek finance minister, he initially made the announcement in the Internet, and not on television, a move that stirred up the German media world. But for online city dwellers in their thirties, Böhmermann has become something of an idol. Those who like him can take comfort in knowing that they are on the correct side of the political spectrum.

Like many comedians, Böhmermann was something of an oddball as a student. He had friends, to be sure, but even as graduation was approaching, he was more interested in Legos than in girls. As a teenager, he built a website for small, local businesses. And even today, he doesn't take part in activities that most people consider normal. He doesn't drink alcohol and he doesn't like going to parties.

His father was a police officer, and was occasionally tasked with providing security during neo-Nazi marches. Böhmermann learned early that even extremists are protected by the state and he has a deep appreciation for the police. His father, though, died of leukemia when he was 17 and Böhmermann began writing for the local newspaper to earn a bit of money. He has never spoken much publicly about his father, nor does he talk about his wife and children.

Early on in his radio career, Böhmermann frequently found himself at odds with the system, partly because he regularly provoked his bosses. He was deeply troubled by the constraints and rituals that characterized conformist, bland public broadcasters. At the station Bremen 4, he says he was suspended from presenting on air for a month because he refused to say "This is Bremen 4" four times an hour, instead having a 60-year-old show assistant do it -- or he would change the words around. Another station took him off the air after just six months. Then, Böhmermann submitted his own resignation from state broadcaster Hessischer Rundfunk because he felt he wasn't getting the respect he deserved.

He has remained pugnacious throughout his career. He believes in public broadcasting, but he modifies it according to his needs. Television is his prisoner and he does with it as he pleases -- knowing full well that there are senior managers at the broadcasters who believe that people like Böhmermann are out to ruin television.

Along the way, he has undergone an astounding transformation. Just four years ago, he was still insisting that he had no interest in politics. That may have been, of course, simply part of his image, but at the time he seemed much more intent on producing complete nonsense. Back then, he said that he sees himself as a comedian and not as a maker of cabaret. Or perhaps performance artist would be more apt.

Racist Clichés

Even Böhmermann's music videos are political today. A few weeks ago, he filmed one in which he paraded out all the clichés about Germany. It was intended as proof that the recycling-obsessed, outdoor jacket-wearing, nice Germans are in the majority and not those who vote for the right-wing populist, anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany or those who join Islamophobic Pegida protests. It ran under the slogan: "Make Germany great again." At the point in the video where he calls out to the mob, "You're not the people, you're the past," it's no longer the character speaking, but Jan Böhmermann himself.

The fact is that he does have a problem with the rise of AfD and Pegida. That becomes apparent when you speak with him privately. He's very much troubled by German history. That's why the fact that some consider him to be racist following the Erdogan episode is so deeply upsetting to him.

The Political Disaster

Yet while Jan Böhmermann's personal drama is happening quietly behind the scenes, the political game is being played out very publicly. As it unfolds, the Böhmermann affair of state is slowly detaching itself from its protagonist. The satirist is merely the trigger for unfolding events. It is others who are causing it to escalate.

Within days, what began as resentment between two countries has become an outright political disaster. It is one partly triggered by Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, ironically a former ZDF journalist himself.

Following a complaint by the Turkish government, Merkel held a telephone conversation with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. The next day, Seibert reported in a press conference that Merkel was of the opinion that Böhmermann's satire text had been "deliberately hurtful" and that she had described it as such to Davutoglu. It was an unusual thing to say given that Seibert normally blocks questions from journalists about Merkel's phone calls -- and the move was intended to prevent Erdogan from taking legal measures on his own. Four days later, it became clear that this had been a miscalculation.

That's the day a fax containing an official diplomatic note verbale from the Turkish Foreign Ministry arrived in the legal department of Germany's Foreign Ministry. In it, the Turkish government announced that it would submit a criminal complaint in Germany against Böhmermann for insulting a foreign head of state under Paragraph 103 of Germany's Criminal Code, a relic dating back to the era of the Kaiser.

A Lack of Unity

Because such legal proceedings may only be carried out if authorized by the federal government, the ball was now in Merkel's court and the maneuvering got underway in earnest. In formal terms, a letter from Germany's Foreign Ministry to the responsible public prosecutor would suffice to get things rolling. But Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD) didn't want to personally take on that level of responsibility. He informed Merkel that he felt this was a matter for the entire German government. The debate went on for days but no consensus developed.

On Monday afternoon, officials from the Chancellery, the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry met to brief each other on the latest developments. The meeting -- led by Merkel's foreign policy advisor, Christoph Heusgen, and Stephan Steinlein, Steinmeier's state secretary -- failed to produce any results. In the Chancellery, officials tended to favor allowing the criminal proceedings under Paragraph 103 to go ahead as a way of deferring ultimate judgment to the justice system.

Berlin government officials made the case that a precedent had been set in the case of former Swiss Federal President Micheline Calmy-Rey, who was the last person to successfully place a criminal complaint under the law in Germany in 2007. After a Swiss national had posted insults about her on the Internet in Regensburg, Germany, a German court prosecuted the man. Besides, government officials argued, Seibert had already said what the chancellor thought of Böhmermann's poem. How could they now refuse Erdogan's demand?

Fear of Turkey?

There is also a feeling in the Chancellery that Germany has shown Turkey the "cold shoulder" in recent years and that there is an opportunity right now to draw the country closer to Europe again. And of course there is also a nightmare scenario: The chancellor fears that Erdogan may scrap the refugee deal with the EU if she doesn't yield to the Turkish demand.

The treaty is more than just a piece of paper to Merkel -- it's proof that the refugee crisis can be solved with means other than barbed wire. If Erdogan were to scrap the treaty, which was so painstakingly hashed out, it would be a significant defeat for the chancellor.

The Böhmermann scandal also became the source this week of a serious row within the government coalition. The SPD and the conservatives are in no way united on the issue. In contrast to Merkel, Foreign Minister Steinmeier does not want to yield to Erdogan on the issue. Officials in the Foreign Ministry fear that giving in might encourage other foreign government leaders who somehow feel offended to take similar action. "We are skeptical about whether criminal law is the right path here," one source close to Steinmeier says.

When leaders of the government coalition met up on Wednesday night in the Chancellery, they actually had more important issues to talk about than the Böhmermann affair. Germany's new integration law was on the agenda as was a reform of the country's inheritance tax and the Energiewende plan to eliminate nuclear power. But that night, at 12:30 a.m., Horst Seehofer, the head of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to the CDU, asked Merkel and SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel to private meetings.

Merkel told Seehofer that she wanted to grant Erdogan's request. Seehofer answered that the German people viewed the deal with Turkey very critically. "Under no circumstances can we allow ourselves to become dependent on Turkey," he said. But he also said he would not stand in the way of Merkel's decision as long as she also noted when making it that freedom of the press must also apply in Turkey.

But Merkel proved unable to sway Gabriel during a meeting with him. This led the chancellor to consider once again cancelling the usual Thursday noon press conference in which the results of the coalition committee meeting are presented. Merkel had been concerned that the Böhmermann affair would overshadow everything else. But then she changed her mind. At the press conference, she addressed the Böhmermann scandal only by saying that the government was still reviewing the matter. She didn't mention a word about the political dispute behind the scenes that had led to the delay.

For Merkel, the Böhmermann scandal is a debacle because it lays bare the shortcomings of her own refugee policies. It was right to negotiate a treaty with Turkey in order to reduce the flow of refugees, and of course this must also entail making some concessions to the Turkish autocrat in Ankara. Global politics, after all, is not an ethics seminar. The problem is that Merkel made it sound as if there were no other way for getting the refugee crisis under control than entrusting herself to a man who has no qualms about exercising any power he has at his disposal.

A Bow to Erdogan

Merkel's political approach is based on finding consensus to solve problems and breaking even the most difficult aspects of politics down into manageable portions. This also served as her approach in the Böhmermann scandal. She emphasized, of course, that the values of Germany's constitution are "non-negotiable." She said: "Journalistic freedom applies to us, but we will also demand it in Turkey." At the same time, she snubbed Böhmermann's disparaging poem. It was a bow to Erdogan's belief that heads of state always know best when it comes to how far satirists should be allowed to go.

On this issue, it will be hard for Merkel to win with anybody. In Germany, she will now be viewed as a chancellor who has a wavering stance on artistic freedom. With a bit of good will, one might be able to accept the decision as having been a necessity in terms of realpolitik. But realpolitik must also be measured against the results it produces. In this case, Merkel's efforts at rapprochement with a man who seems to view his country as more of a sultanate than a democracy did little to prevent Erdogan from taking action against Böhmermann. To the contrary: It appears that her actions encouraged him to tap all the avenues available to the Turkish leader in the German Penal Code to launch a legal challenge against Böhmermann for insulting him, including personally filing a criminal complaint, which he has also done. The move ensured that the public prosecutor would have to investigate the case even if the federal government made the decision not to pursue it.

The provocation actually serves Erdogan because it will enable him to close his ranks even further. The more effort his critics make in poking fun of him, it seems, the more solid support among his backers grows. His efforts to snub his opponents are a targeted political instrument that Erdogan frequently deploys in a way that fits well with his quick-tempered character.

Still, Turkey has a tradition of satire and it still exists in the country. There isn't just one Böhmermann-like case in Turkey, there are hundreds. The situation there for satirists is so dire that most Turkish humorists don't want to talk publicly about the conditions under which they are currently forced to work.

"Today I talk and tomorrow I'll be buried," says one, who prefers to remain anonymous. "It's enough that we risk our lives with our texts and drawings. We don't have to talk to the media as well."

For Merkel, the Böhmermann affair comes at a bad time, just as the refugee deal with Turkey  -- a deal which she is almost entirely responsible for putting together -- is beginning to gain traction. On Wednesday of this week, European Council President Donald Tusk spoke before European Parliament in Strasbourg, noting that the numbers of migrants coming to Greece from Turkey across the Aegean Sea has dropped significantly. In January, he said, it was 70,000 people, in March it was just 30,000 and in April, just 1,000 people have arrived thus far. "How many would have come in April if we had not taken action?" he asked.the European Parliament in Strasbourg, noting that the numbers of migrants coming to Greece from Turkey across the Aegean Sea has dropped significantly. In January, he said, it was 70,000 people, in March it was just 30,000 and in April, just 1,000 people have arrived thus far. "How many would have come in April if we had not taken action?" he asked.

Top Commission officials who are critical of the deal also admit that Turkey has at least partially upheld its end of the bargain and that the number of refugees heading for Greece is dropping.

But there are problems. According to Amnesty International reports, Turkey has sent up to 100 Syrians back into Syria every day this year. "Is this true? And if this is true, can we continue with a deal that is against international law and against our obligations?" asked Guy Verhofstadt, floor leader for the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, in Strasbourg. His party believes Erdogan is using the deal to force Europe to back away from its values.

"We have already given him the keys to the gates of Europe and now we risk handing over the keys to our newsrooms to him so that he decides and controls our media," Verhofstadt said. Böhmermann's skit, he said, is "not my taste in humor, but in a free society such satirical poems must be possible. That is the price we pay for our freedom, and we pay happily for our freedom."

With his skit, the artist Jan Böhmermann has created a monument to himself. And even if hardly anyone has been able to see the Erdogan number in its entirety, it already belongs in the German Historical Museum.

By Markus Brauck, Jörg Diehl, Dietmar Hipp, Isabell Hülsen, Hasnain Kazim, Alexander Kühn, Nils Minkmar, Martin U. Müller, Peter Müller, Ann-Katrin Nezik, René Pfister, Fidelius Schmid and Christoph Schult

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