I moved from Germany to the US when I was fifteen. I was confused, intrigued, and annoyed by the fervor with which my classmates recited the daily pledge of allegiance and sang the national anthem before every football, basketball, and baseball game. Oh how they flaunted that pride: with flags, with chants of U-S-A, U-S-A during the Olympics, with references to being citizens of the greatest country in the world. Where I came from, nobody even knew the words to the national anthem, and reverence was reserved for individuals like Beethoven, Einstein, or Goethe, not for the collective nation of Germany. On vacations abroad as a child, and for over twenty-five years after moving to the US, I played down my national origin, embarrassed by my country’s dark history despite being born in the sixties, long after the atrocities of World War 2.
But last year’s World Cup of soccer, held in Germany, changed all that. I was in a sports bar in Seattle, watching the Germany-Argentina quarterfinal game. The bar was packed with soccer fans, and almost everyone was rooting for Germany, many of the spectators even wearing German team jerseys. I had never seen anyone cheer so enthusiastically for Germany, and soon I was cheering as loud as everyone else for ‘our’ team. Afterwards I headed to a sporting good store and bought the last available German team jersey, the first time in my life that I’ve ever bought and worn something that revealed my nationality. I wore it proudly for the remainder of the World Cup, even after Germany lost the semi-final. And I am no longer ashamed to proclaim: “I am German.”