KISS and Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung

June 21, 2010

As per part of our study in Berlin it is our task to evaluate how well Germany has done with remembering their past and trying to move forward. In Germany this process, this ever changing vibe and flow in regards to the past, present, and future is referred to with a word far too big, to ever properly translate into English, Vergangenheitsbewältigung.

Essentially, describing how a country deals with its historical skeletons in their closet be it genocide, slavery, imperialism, war, or the holocaust, the really long German word aforementioned is one of the core themes of our class.

 Thanks to my graduate education my eye has been keenly trained to interpret all physical space and look far beyond the material manifestations in front of me. For that reason, I am able to interpret even the most innocuous details or aspects of the city in an effort to bring to the forefront what ever theoretical disposition I am working from.

 Well, upon arriving in Berlin I became aware of advertisements for my favorite band KISS who were coming to play the O2 center as part of their latest world tour.

German Concert Flyer

However, after glancing at the advertisement, I noticed a stark difference between the logo on the advertisement and the actual logo of the band. To make this clearer I took a picture of a man in a KISS shirt on his way to the concert.

Notice the difference in the band’s logo from t-shirt to German advertisement for the band. The bands original logo is present on the t-shirt with the letter s in a lighting bolt style with the advertisement having modified the font for the letter S.

As per explanations for this discrepancy I am sure there are as many as the day is long. However, I claim it has much to do with the idea of Vergangenheitsbewältigung and the German establishment and or government attempting to not invoke any king of nostalgia for Germany’s past especially under Hitler’s third Reich. And as per this agenda the rules and regulations regarding use of the swastika in any manner are band as well as a restriction of free speech in general. In German as I understand it, there is no guarantee whatsoever of freedom of speech and the alteration of this bands logo stand as evidence.

Relegating this against the American experience I commend Germany and give them a completely satisfactory score in relation to remaining culturally and historically sensitive in regards to speech and art production in their country. To this day America continues to add insult to injury with professional sports teams being named the Redskins, the Braves, and even in California a high school football team referred to as the “wetbacks”.

Nonetheless, Germany has not done such a good job that it does not deserve the same level of critical analyses as my country does. In that vain I think it is fair to engage the whole picture as in relates to the KISS logo.

Founded in the early, 70’s by front men Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons the current logo for KISS came about after long discussion. And in that discussion the idea of the letter s for the band being done in a lighting bolt style almost entirely revolved around the idea of it looking cooler than a regular s, not any nostalgic throwback to the Nazi SS or Hitler. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. Gene Simmons was actually born in Israel and his mother was a Holocaust survivor.

So if Gene Simmons himself and his mother (who has attended every kiss concert ever played in NYC) did not find any offense to the lighting bolt style s for the band logo, it does not seem logical for Germany to modify the logo.

I mean where or how do they even begin to draw the line between what is blatantly offensive and what is benevolently so. Understandably, benevolent racism or ignorance can be just as harmful if not more so as the manifest form (see AVATAR). But in a sense almost anything can be interpreted as innocently malicious. I mean not drawing a line can provide for some large inconsistencies that could make the force trying to implement Vergangenheitsbewältigung hypocritical and maybe even complicit in the process they are trying to manipulate and or overcome.

So to close I will now continue on a small tangent channeling the discrepancy I see in German application of Vergangenheitsbewältigung.

So if the logo of the band KISS can be so insightful or feared by the government why even allow the band to play in the country at all. Why allow the songs on the radio and the endless promotion for the band thorough the city when they are on tour if you think they mean ill with their logo. And if it is really the lightning style letter s that offends German sensibilities then why stop with KISS. Why not sensor or modify issues of National Geographic that cover lighting storms, prohibit all Germans from being outside in a lighting storm to prevent them from viewing it.

I mean aside form lighting bolts many things can be interpreted in a bad fashion going against a positive notion of Vergangenheitsbewältigung. For example if you ever watch superman fly his position resembles a Nazi soldier salute, however I have yet to see a modified superman in flight.

And finally I don’t k now where the blame lies but for certain be it Vergangenheitsbewältigung or just a new international norm understood the world over the Hitler/ Himmler style moustache can not been see on to many faces if any at all in today’s world.  And if it is not illegal in Germany to have this style of facial hair I could definitely see it being next on the chopping block if the style were to become popular again.



  1. Well, you make a bold claim – there is no freedom of speech in Germany whatsoever? There is but there is also the notion of “protective democracy”. The underlying principle is that there is freedom of speech, organization, media, etc. within the constitutional limits. If you attack the democratic order of this country, your right to free speech ceases. Of course, this principle was established right after the end of WWII in reaction to the experiences in the Weimar Republic. By the way, the claim that the “SS Runen” have been removed due to government pressure is wrong. The company that promotes the band decided that it would be better to remove them.

  2. By the way, this is the cover of Kiss album “Destroyer” in Germany:

    And this one in the US:

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