Source: The Guardian, December 1
French magazine Charlie Hebdo placed German chancellor Angela Merkel variously on a toilet seat and a car mechanic’s hydraulic lift as it released its first German edition on Thursday.
The cover asserts that Volkswagen, the carmaker hit by an emissions cheating scandal, “stands behind Merkel,” and shows the chancellor lying atop a platform with a mechanic commenting that “with a new exhaust, she’ll be good to go another four years.”
The launch publicity featured a poster showing Merkel sitting on a toilet and reading the weekly, with the slogan: “Charlie Hebdo – it’s liberating.”
The magazine’s first foreign-language edition is an innovation undertaken nearly two years after its staff were almost wiped out in a jihadist attack in Paris.
The initial 16-page edition – with a print run of 200,000 – features a sober four-page graphic travel reportage by cartoonist and publisher Laurent Sourisseau, better known by his artist’s name Riss, which portrays people he met and their reflections on their national identity, Germany’s refugee influx and other social issues.
Riss, who was badly wounded in the January 2015 attack, believes there is a market. “Humour is everywhere, even in Germany,” he told public broadcaster ARD. “It’s an experiment for us to publish Charlie Hebdo in another language and try to find new fans for the magazine who can help defend it.”
Charlie Hebdo is now produced in a secret location, a legacy of the massacre at its former offices that claimed 12 lives, including some of France’s best-known cartoonists.
The German version will be edited from France by a 33-year-old from Berlin who on the advice of her colleagues uses a pseudonym, Minka Schneider.
Schneider told Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily that the “Je suis Charlie” solidarity movement was especially strong in Germany, where the magazine sold 70,000 copies of its “survivors’ edition” one week after the shootings.
Despite its many loyal fans and supporters in France, Charlie Hebdo has never had a shortage of enemies.
It became a target of Islamist extremists after publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad but has also delighted in outraging the Vatican and the French political establishment.
It angered many with a cartoon of Syrian refugee boy Aylan Kurdi, whose body was photographed on a Turkish beach in 2015, by imagining he would have grown up to join the “arse-gropers” who committed mass sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany, on New Year’s Eve last year.
German media mainly warmly greeted the launch of Charlie Hebdo, which will compete with homegrown monthlies Titanic and Eulenspiegel, the local counterparts to Britain’s Private Eye and US site The Onion.
The Frankfurter Rundschau daily judged that, although the proudly tactless Charlie Hebdo regularly takes a running leap across the boundaries of good taste, its appearance on the German media scene was to be welcomed.
It contains humour “as subtle as a steamroller” and its “impudence, especially when dealing with the religions, is legendary,” the newspaper said. “The magazine is pure impertinence. From December 1, German readers will be subjected to it. What can we say? Quite simply: Welcome, Charlie Hebdo.”