Nazi Scandal or Witch Hunt? German Rower Quits Olympics

Controversy is raging in Germany over the case of Nadja Drygalla, a 23-year-old rower who left the London Olympics last Friday after her relationship with a leading member of the far-right neo-Nazi scene in the northeastern city of Rostock was revealed.

Drygalla herself has denied holding the right-wing views of her boyfriend, Michael Fischer, who, according to the German magazine Der Spiegel, is “widely reported to have been a leading member of the Nationale Sozialisten Rostock (National Socialist Rostock) group and who campaigned for the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD);” Fischer used to row himself.

Drygalla chose to leave London to avoid distracting her teammates, says the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB). Politicians are now accusing the DOSB of knowing about Drygalla’s relationship long before the Olympics and not taking this into account. Last October, Drygalla had been pressured to resign from her job as a policewoman because of the relationship and, according to Der Spiegel, the Interior Ministry of the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania had known that Drygalla and Fischer were in a relationship in early 2011.

In an interview on Sunday with the German News Agency DPA, Drygalla said that she had considered leaving Fischer and that their relationship was “very heavily burdened” by his political activities. She also said that Fischer had “personally broken with the whole scene and said goodbye to it.”

As the New York Times details, Drygalla is from Rostock, which has indeed been associated with neo-Nazi activity. In 1992, crowds cheered as a building housing Vietnamese guestworkers was firebombed, amid days of riots against foreigners. This past year, a number of Germany’s senior law enforcement officials have resigned over their decade-long failure to bring members of the extreme-right National Socialist Underground to justice. Over a decade, at least ten people (nine of Greek or Turkish origin) were killed and several banks robbed by members of the group. Last year, two of its leaders were found to have committed suicide and, after a failed bank robberty, a third, Beate Zschäpe, turned herself in.

Is a “witch hunt” going on in which Drygalla has been in effect put on trial about her possible political views and personal choices, or is this is a case of a Nazi scandal? Der Spiegel asks these questions in presenting a round-up of responses to the controversy:

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “… hardly anyone has been asking what Nadja Drygalla is supposed to be guilty of — and whether an athlete should be ostracized simply because of her choice of partner.”

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung argued that it is not Drygalla who has been at fault: “The issue isn’t the political convictions of an athlete but how German sports bodies and interior ministries handled the case. Drygalla even ended her police career in 2011 because of her circumstances. But she went to the Olympics and was about to get sponsorship from the German army. And now (Thomas) Bach, the political head of the German Olympic delegation, is complaining about uncomfortable questions being asked? They were bound to arise.”

The Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel has been more outspoken in its criticism: “Drygalla voluntarily hitched up to a scene that glorifies Germany’s darkest years as its brightest. The rower is either unbelievably naïve or stupid or infected by Nazi demons herself. None of those variants lends itself to letting Drygalla appear as a model sportswoman for Germany, but the German Olympic Federation and the German Rowing Federation could have known that sooner.”

Germany’s sensitivity about its history is apparent in its outraged response to a front-page article in an Italian newspaper, Il Giornale (which is owned by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi), in which Chancellor Angela Merkel’s domination of European politics is called a “Fourth Reich.”

Greek high jumper Voula Papachristou and Swiss soccer player Michel Morganella were both removed from their countries’ Olympic teams after posting racist tweets. Was Drygalla forced to leave her team because of “guilt by association”? Is Germany overreacting or, given the rise in neo-Nazi views and violence, it is taking prudent steps to address dangerous attitudes?

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Photo via Wikimedia Commons


Jessica L.
Janne O5 years ago

I couldn't agree more, Michael P. and Sarah G

It's either about sports or it isn't.

I thought there were freedom of thought in the free world? That only seems to be true when it's aligned with temporary PC views. She can have whatever views she wants, all that matters in the Olympics is that she isn't cheating.

More PC thinking gone amok. I hope they are equally hysterical no matter who it is and what kind of extreme views they hold!
Oh sorry, I forgot; extreme right is the only one that is bad. Go figure!

Michael P.
Michael Price5 years ago

Look either it's about the sport or it isn't. If it isn't what's the point? If it is then the Olympics have no business throwing people out because of their political convictions, let alone because of their partner's.

Shan D.
Shan D5 years ago

Voluntarily quitting the Olympics was the only honorable thing this athlete could have done, and she did it. There is no room in the Olympics for Nazis or Holocaust-deniers. In my opinion, there's no room ANYWHERE for such "people."

Edo F.
Edo F5 years ago

Palestine can't build a nation while isreal keeps beating at its door, and building empty apartment blocks on their land. Maybe they could help eachother out, instead?!
The problem here is extremist beliefs, on all counts.

AbdulAziz A.
AbdulAziz A5 years ago

Steve R: I can not comment about the worst President but your comments (Israel was given it's territory to form it's own state - a right that it has, just as Palestine has a right. Israel is getting on with the job - Palestine is not, preferring to bitch about bits of territory that it should simply forget about, and get on with building a nation, just as Israel did).

The land given was stolen and not simply given by the UK and US from Palestinians. Why did they not give them a piece in Texas, Australia or Canada? There is plenty of unused land there and it would have been no near neighbours and no quibbles. BUT they chose to drive a massive wedge in the heart of the poorest people.

The Zionists have since that time enslaved the entire indigenous population and using the deadliest arms by the "Humane USA" killed, maimed, expelled hundreds of thousands (as a revenge for Hitler's actions and using the same tactics as the Nazis. This practice is continuing and the world does nothing because the US is too strong. UK had the power at one time, Romans, Russians, Chinese and others have been there and done the same injustices. The time will turn and justice will be done BUT when???

In the mean time the land, houses, crops and trees, water and other possessions are being stolen on the daily basis and the Zionist rejoice as no one dares to stand up against them (not even the USA)

Sarah G.
Sarah G5 years ago

People used to look for communists under every rock; now it's nazis and racists. Meanwhile, just outside the Olympic gates, two women are arrested for protesting shariah law.

Prentise Wylie
pre,tpse w5 years ago

I wouldn't have such a boyfriend, but if I discovered that I did, I'd leave him and stick with my team. On the other hand, I have a liberal/progressive friend whose daughter has an extremely conservative boyfriend -- I realized that if people talk long and well enough, they will find areas of agreement -- let us hope that human beings are able to do more of that.

Lynn Squance
Lynn S5 years ago

No matter what happens, we are individually responsible for our own actions and resulting repercussions. She was pressured to leave her job as a result of her association with her boyfriend. Now she has left her Olympic rowing team. She has said that her boyfriend's politics are a burden in their relationship, but that he has now given that up. How long will it take before enough is enough?

My sister-in-law was born in Germany during the war. She moved to Canada during the late 60's. Working for several different Ontario provincial government ministries, she endured years of abuse at the hands of supervisors. Yet she was not a Nazi (she was about 3 years old at the end of the war).

Still the world over, the atrocities of Naziism and the German Nazis lead by Hitler are still too fresh in people's minds. And there are people around the world that embrace that ideology which helps to keep the memories fresh --- neo Nazi movements in the US and in Canada are two and there are more. Until we learn to respect others, there will always be problems.

@ ANM --- "...if every American who adheres to Nazi ideology were removed from the Olympic team, there would hardly be any US contestants left...."

Pray tell, on what factual source do you base your statement? It is a very broad and serious claim.

Carl O.
Carl O5 years ago

I would not worry much about Nazis rowing. The problem is when thay start manning warships like the U-boats, Bismarck, Tirpitz and Prinz Eugen.

Phillip Ferrell
Phillip Ferrell5 years ago

National socialism(nazi for short) is and always has been identified as a radical right wing group of people. It holds nothing in common with American democracy. Any thinking person who actually compares the two ideologies will see that right away.