1:14 pm - 02/26/2013

Christoph Waltz’s Oscar Spurs Debate: Austrian or German?

FRANKFURT – Christoph Waltz’s second Academy Award has once again launched a very serious debate in Europe – is he Austrian or German?

Both nations have laid claim to the 56-year-old actor, who won best supporting actor Oscars for his portrayals of a Nazi soldier in “Inglourious Basterds,” as well as a German bounty hunter in “Django Unchained.”

The debate concerning Mr. Waltz stems from a long, contentious history in which Austria and Germany argue over which famous German-speaking figures belong to which country, the borders of which have historically often been blurred. For example, Austria tries to lay claim to Ludwig van Beethoven – born in Bonn, Germany, but who arguably came into musical greatness in Austria. Germans cling to the fact that Adolf Hitler was Austrian.

Mr. Waltz’s father had German citizenship, as does he. But he was born and grew up in Vienna, and the country quickly moved to offer him Austrian citizenship after his first Oscar win in 2010. He now holds both German and Austrian passports.

“I was born in Vienna, I grew up in Vienna, I went to school in Vienna, I took my university entrance exams in Vienna, I studied in Vienna, I began my professional career in Vienna, I had my first theater role in Vienna, I filmed for the first time in Vienna, and there are a few more Vienna specifics. How much more Austrian could you be?” Mr. Waltz has said, according to Austria’s ORF broadcaster.

Mr. Waltz was not immediately available for comment Monday.

The German media politely labeled him “German-Austrian” in their coverage of his win Monday, while the Austrian media celebrated the dual wins of their Austrians – Mr. Waltz and the success of director Michael Haneke for his foreign film prize for “Amour.” Austrian politicians issued congratulatory press statements, seemingly reveling in Mr. Waltz’s now official status.

Mr. Waltz weighed in on the cultural differences between the two nations on Conan O’Brien’s talk show in 2011, with the edge going to Austria. He said Austrians tend to be polite without meaning it; Germans are more direct and confrontational.

“The difference between Austrians and Germans is like the difference between a battleship and a waltz,” Mr. Waltz said.

Mr. O’Brien asked about the cliché that Germans have no sense of humor.

“That’s not a cliché,” said Mr. Waltz, smiling.

Christoph Waltz took home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor at this year's Oscars for his role as a dentist-turned-bounty-hunter in Django Unchained.

But prior to becoming the charming, Oscar-snagging performer he is today — Waltz won the same award in 2009 for Inglorious Basterds — the Austrian actor dabbled in song.

The video above, taken from a 1977 episode of the Austrian children's show At the Dam, shows a 21-year-old Waltz's more theatrical (and undeniably fashionable) side of performing. Striped leotard aside, he's still pretty charming.

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crazyventures 26th-Feb-2013 02:18 pm (UTC)
A lot of countries are openly racist lbr
kaiserschmarrn 26th-Feb-2013 02:28 pm (UTC)
Not like Austria. At least Germany isn't. There really is a huge difference as far as nationalism and racism goes and its societal acceptance.
ashtraysoul 26th-Feb-2013 02:56 pm (UTC)
ia, and this is not to minimise Germany's issues which are signficant as well and need to be discussed more openly but both in my personal experience and in what the political landscape shows, Austria is on another level (anyone who is unsure can google Moschee Baba)
evawhimsy 27th-Feb-2013 07:46 pm (UTC)
what. germany is openly racist. are you a person of color.
kaiserschmarrn 28th-Feb-2013 12:06 am (UTC)
Germany has lots of problems with racism but most of them come from never addressing them openly. Despite the racism in every-day life, society as a whole has a different attitude (or pretends to have a different attitude - at least it has a different attitude on the surface) than, for example, Austria and that's not to heap praise on Germany because it's still racist, it just means that Austria is way worse.

If you disagree, I'd be genuinely curious about your reasoning and grateful for examples.
evawhimsy 28th-Feb-2013 12:09 am (UTC)
went clubbing with 5 friends in germany, and my african-american male friend was the only person in our party denied entry despite the fact that 2 other (white) guys were permitted in alone with the girls. once we realized what had happened, we bitched out the bouncer and all left to which he responded "we run a nice place here."

people called out slurs to me from cars (i'm an asian female).

there were plenty of lovely people we met in germany, but i have never encountered more overt racism than in western europe and australia in general, and germany/austria in particular.
kaiserschmarrn 28th-Feb-2013 12:22 am (UTC)
I'm sorry about your experience and I'm a bit surprised though your story reminds me that there were several cases in the media where people were not permitted to enter clubs based on their skin colour. So that's not a single case for sure, unfortunately. It's definitely a problem, especially so when it doesn't get reported about enough, and it's even more so a problem in the Eastern/Southern parts of Germany.

I guess what I meant with openly racist was how it's portrayed in the media or utilized for politics. If stories like this come to light, there's always an outcry and shame involved and that's more than can be said for Austria, sadly (generalizing here of course). Austrian politicians are also much more likely to use xenophobia for their campaigns, something that would be unthinkable in Germany (unless for the far right which has way less voters than in Austria to the point of not getting into parlamentaries).

Still, there's lots of racism in every-day life in Germany, some based on ignorance (like, not getting why it's not okay to do blackface or not knowing what that even is) and some based on hatred. The, let's say official societal stance is that racism is unacceptable and that's more than can be said for Austria as a whole. It's debatable whether that makes any difference irl.
evawhimsy 28th-Feb-2013 12:29 am (UTC)
yeah all these little things add up when you're a POC that non-POC just don't see because generally they only see what's reported in the media. the situation in austria sounds heinous though. but i appreciate your thoughtfulness on this issue, it's nice to see germans who don't turn a blind eye to the problem or try to dismiss my experiences there as ~isolated incidents.~
kaiserschmarrn 28th-Feb-2013 01:04 am (UTC)
Sometimes I find it difficult to gauge the situation because I want to believe in the best in people and I'm surrounded by generally thoughtful, aware people. But overtime I've slowly woken up to the fact that I, too, was pretty ignorant to these matters for the longest time because I didn't know any POC and never heard of their experiences first-hand. When you grow up in an almost exclusively white, privileged area, it's difficult to get to know the other side of the story. I've got to say, ONTD has been pretty educative in that regard for me. Once you've been sensitized, you suddenly start to see it everywhere - stuff that I wouldn't even have recognized as racism before.

So yeah I don't want to paint Germany in a better light than it deserves because I've really got no idea if I'm not being too lenient. But then you get to places like Austria (where I am rn) and it's even worse and much more out in the open and it really makes you wonder. I mean idk what kind of experience you'd have here as a POC but there's lots of reactionary people. Nevermind the anti-semitism, oh boy. As a child I vacationed in Austria and an Austrian boy told all those anti-semitic jokes and I remember feeling like crying without even knowing much about history but I knew it was wrong, just wrong, because I had been sensitized at a very young age. That's part of the difference: Germany faced its demons (or most of them) after WWII and Austria didn't.

/whoop sry this got kind of out of hand
evawhimsy 28th-Feb-2013 01:50 am (UTC)
yeah i think a lot of germany's problem stems from the fact that so many people can count the POC they've really known or formed friendships with on one hand. it's not an excuse, but it makes it very difficult and intractable a problem. it's def uncomfortable but i think when more people call out the ignorance of others at the expense of their own cool factor or whatever, it's the only way to help change the mindset. so good for you for calling it out.
belkisa 26th-Feb-2013 04:37 pm (UTC)
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