German Advertising Innuendo To Sell Curvaceous Mountain Getaways

Who knew these were the reasons to visit the scenic Black Forest.

Exploring the Black Forest in southwestern Germany
Exploring the Black Forest in southwestern Germany
Nakissa Salavati

MUNICH — The claims are true, at least. Germany's Black Forest does indeed have tall mountains, moist valleys prone to fog, and plenty of trees. So the tourism association known as "Ferienland Schwarzwald" (Vacationland Black Forest) isn't promising too much when it states the facts in promotion campaigns.

But you know there's more to it when Martin Sonneborn, a German satirist and member of the European Parliament, reacts to a Black Forest ad in the Ryanair in-flight magazine by commenting on a social network, "Black Forest? Hot place!")

That breathless appreciation was a reaction to the tourism association's new campaign to promote the Black Forest communities of Schonach, Schönwald, Furtwangen, Sankt Georgen and Unterkirnach in southwestern Germany.

On the poster, next to the words "Big Mountains, Moist Valleys and Forest Aplenty" is the stylized outline of a naked woman wearing a Bollenhut — a traditional Black Forest ladies' hat with two pom-poms on top. The viewer is apparently also meant to register the placement of the words "Ferienland Schwarzwald" — between the lady’s legs.

Such a heavy dose of double entendre is so blatant it hasn't escaped the attention of Schwarzwalders themselves. "The ad doesn't fit in with our style," Südkurier newspaper quoted the head of Unterkirnach local government as saying. He added that the sort of people who vacation in the Black Forest have high standards and wouldn't appreciate the ad.

Meanwhile, Sonneborn's Facebook page was inundated with outraged commenters. One person opined that the ad was sexist and primitive. The "Ferienland Schwarzwald" association responded by saying provocation and advertising go together, and anyway, the poster was designed by a woman.

Unfortunately, that doesn't make it any better, aesthetically pleasing or imaginative. Then again, this is an area where local T-shirts also feature the hat-wearing lady in garters. And the unofficial hymn of the region refers to the Black Forest's "beautiful girls." The song dates back to the 19th century. The Schwarzwald doesn't seem to have advanced much since.

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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