A German army instructor ordered a soldier to envision himself in New York City facing hostile blacks while firing his machine gun, a video that aired Saturday on national television showed.
The president of the Bronx, the New York City borough that the army instructor referred to in his directions to the soldier, demanded an apology from the German military and said the clip “indicates that bias and assumptions and racism is alive and well around the world.”
Coming after scandals involving photos of German soldiers posing with skulls in Afghanistan and the abuse of recruits by instructors, the video seemed likely to raise more questions about training practices in Germany’s conscript army.
The Defense Ministry said the video was shot in July 2006 at barracks in the northern town of Rendsburg and that the army has been aware of it since January.
“We are currently investigating the incident,” said Florian Naggies, a spokesman for the army and Defense Ministry.
He did not identify the instructor or the soldier.
‘You are in the Bronx’
The clip shows an instructor and a soldier in camouflage uniforms in a forest. The instructor tells the soldier, “You are in the Bronx. A black van is stopping in front of you. Three African-Americans are getting out and they are insulting your mother in the worst ways. ... Act.”
The soldier fires his machine gun several times and yells an obscenity several times in English. The instructor then tells the soldier to curse even louder.
In New York, Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr. said whoever was responsible for the video should be disciplined.
“We need to put to rest the prejudices and the hate that is allowed ... to be perpetuated so easily and cheaply,” said Carrion, who is of Puerto Rican descent.
“The German government obviously has work to do to correct something that is insidious ... Clearly these folks don’t know anything about African Americans or the Bronx,” he said.
Sharpton: ‘Blacks as target practice’
Carrion, who just returned from a trip to Germany to promote Bronx tourism, said he would be willing to go back to talk to people in the German military about his borough.
“If we can get a delegation of German military officials to come or government officials, I will host them,” he added. “I’ll take them around the Bronx.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton said he was outraged that Germans were “depicting blacks as target practice.”
“I think this is an incredibly racist kind of insult to African-Americans and it speaks to the kind of institutional racism that people think we are hallucinating about,” he said.
The existence of the video was first reported on the home page of the German news magazine Stern on Friday and excerpts were aired on the news television channel n-tv on Saturday.
Latest in a string of embarrassments
According to Stern, the 90-second clip had been posted on a Web site used by soldiers to exchange private videos. A soldier who used the site alerted his superiors, the magazine reported.
The video is the latest embarrassment for the German army. Eighteen army instructors are currently on trial for allegedly abusing and humiliating 163 recruits in 2004. Last year, newspapers published photos of German soldiers in Afghanistan posing with a skulls — including one who exposed himself while holding a skull.
“We can no longer talk about an isolated case,” said Lt. Juergen Rose of the Darmstaedter Signal, a group of current and former army officers and sergeants who independently review military procedures.
“Things like this don’t happen in the army on an everyday basis, but unfortunately in recent years there have been a number of comparable incidents.”
Carrion said he spent much of his visit to Germany telling people about the “turnaround of the Bronx,” which became a national symbol of urban decay after a 1977 visit by President Jimmy Carter. Movies like “Fort Apache: The Bronx,” about a police precinct overrun by crime, added to the negative images.
Unemployment and crime have fallen dramatically in the borough, while investment in housing, office space and other projects is way up, Carrion said. The New York Yankees are building a new stadium next to their old one in the borough, a 53,000-seat open-air ballpark that is set to open in 2009.
The people of the Bronx, especially black residents, “deserve an apology from the German military,” Carrion said.