'Ich bin Charlie': French satire mag hits Germany

Angela Merkel on the toilet? Welcome to the German version of Charlie Hebdo.

BERLIN // Some put Chancellor Angela Merkel on a pedestal, but French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo placed her on a toilet seat as it tries to conquer Germany with its provocative brand of humour.

The magazine hit German news-stands on Thursday with its first foreign-language edition, an innovation that comes nearly two years after its staff was almost wiped out in a deadly attackby extremists in Paris.

Known for its biting cartoons and commentaries, the no-holds-barred publication launched in Germany with a poster showing Merkel sitting on a porcelain throne and reading the weekly, with the slogan: “Charlie Hebdo — it’s liberating.”

Although the maiden edition spared its new readers any truly outrageous content, it could not resist lampooning Mrs Merkel with a gallery of offensive cartoons inside the 16-page paper.

One showed the German leader, who faces elections in 2017, wearing an Adidas tracksuit in the style of the late Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro, in which a wrinkled “Merkel Cancellaria Maxima” demands “a mandate for 50 years”.

Charlie Hebdo star cartoonist and publisher Laurent Sourisseau, better known by his nom de plume, Riss, believes Germans will grow to love his magazine.

“Humour is everywhere, even in Germany,” he told public broadcaster ARD this week.

“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.”

Morning sales, at four euros ($4.25) per copy were brisk at Berlin’s busy Alexanderplatz train station. “They’re an instant collector’s item,” said a news vendor.

Despite its many loyal fans and supporters in France, Charlie Hebdo has never been short of enemies and took delight in outraging the Vatican and the French political establishment.

It angered many with a cartoon of Syrian refugee boy Aylan Kurdi, who was photographed dead on a Turkish beach in 2015, by imagining he would have grown up to be one of men who committed mass sexual assaults in the German city of Cologne last New Year’s Eve.

Charlie Hebdo is now produced in a secret location, a legacy of the January 2015 massacre at its former offices that claimed 12 lives, including some of France’s best-known cartoonists.

The German version is edited from France by a 33-year-old from Berlin who on the advice of her colleagues uses a pseudonym, Minka Schneider.

Ms Schneider recalled that the “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) solidarity movement after the killings was especially strong in Germany, where the magazine sold 70,000 copies of its “survivors’ edition” one week after the shootings.

Charlie Hebdo’s German version, with an ambitious initial print run of 200,000, consists mainly of articles and cartoons translated from the French, but its editors plan to create more German content.

German media were mainly positive about the German Charlie Hebdo, which will compete with home-grown satire publications Titanic and Eulenspiegel, The Frankfurter Rundschau daily judged there was only one response to its arrival in Germany.

“The magazine is pure impertinence. From December 1, German readers will be subjected to it. What can we say? Quite simply: Welcome, Charlie Hebdo.”

* Agence France-Presse