A Georgetown University professor was arrested for calling a German Federal Police Officer “Nazi” (among other choice words) at Frankfurt International Airport. Word of warning: that’s a bad idea anywhere, but especially in Germany.
I lived in Germany for two years, I visit several times per year, and my wife is German…if there is one thing I have learned about German culture it is that the issue of World War II remains extremely delicate. There is still shame over Germany’s role in the war and freedom of speech guarantees in the German constitution do no protect Nazi and Neo-Nazi propaganda. It is not explicitly against the law to call someone a Nazi, but it is a thorny legal and cultural issue in Germany.
However, many people outside Germany use the word “Nazi” flippantly, employing it as a basic pejorative to anyone who they deem to strict.
At Frankfurt Airport, a woman’s hand luggage was flagged for secondary screening. Baggage screeners thought it might contain explosive material and immediately alternated the German Federal Police.
Upon investigation, the Federal Police determined the bag contained no explosive material, but that the passenger had too many liquids and they were not inside a clear plastic bag, as required.
Officers suggested she either place a stick of roll-on deodorant in her checked baggage or discard it. That’s when she flipped.
How the German Police Handled the Situation
In a press release entitled, U.S. Passenger insults Federal Police Officers at Frankfurt Airport, the Federal Police recount what happened next:
The U.S. passenger reacted angrily towards these suggestions and became increasingly uncooperative. She began to insult the Federal Police officers, by calling them, among other names, “fucking bastards” and “fucking German Nazi police”, as witnesses can confirm.
She was taken to a local police office and held for defamation (damaging the good reputation of someone). Authorities asked her to pay 260USD in anticipation of the legal costs in a proceeding against her. She reluctantly paid, was released, and traveled on a later flight to Istanbul.
The press release continues–
Subsequently, the U.S. traveler claims on her Twitter channel and via an Internet blog to have been robbed by the police in Frankfurt. She also continues to insult the Federal Police officers and the security staff as “bully” and “thugs in uniform”, among other things. These insults have also become evidence in the preliminary investigations.
C. Christine Fair, the passenger in question, is an Associate Professor at Georgetown University. She addressed the issue in a column in the Huffington Post.
She uses big words like incommodious, harridan and quotidian, which impresses no one.
Claiming her innocent and polite questions were construed as a defiance of authority, she explains how she was humiliated by authorities unpacking her bag in the view of the others (then lamenting that she did not bring her dildo along…).
She derides officers for enforcing the rules, namely arguing whether her deodorant stick was liquid or not. Then she admits to becoming “irked” at how terribly ill-behaved “these people” were. She starts berating a supervisor.
His English is obviously better than my German: but my chemistry is much better than his.
(she’s still arguing over whether deodorant is a liquid or not)
Was this petty? Sure. Would I have been better to let the thugs have their way? No doubt about it. But the capricious and arbitrariness of the entire proceeding really pissed me off.
But don’t worry, she’s a stable genius.
I also kept thinking, if these rubes behave this way with me how would they behave with a more vulnerable passenger?
The American Witnesses
Another twist. Professor Fair mentions three American travelers appeared behind her. One “was actually sporting a Hitler’s youth haircut” (whatever that means).
But she is unrelenting:
But Inspector Clouseau and his daft sidekick was too busy impounding my solid deodorant and offering various preposterous explanations for why it was a liquid when it was clearly a god-damned solid to notice the fellow conspicuously sporting the preferred coiffure of the Hitler’s Youth.
Wait a moment. We’ll come back to that.
I explained that, in my country, our law enforcement personnel wear name tags and that citizens have a right to register complaints when they believe they have been maltreated. (PS: I am totally aware that this is a privilege generally reserved for white people. This is truly a white privilege.) But, I continued politely but firmly, he had no name tag. He bellowed that he would arrest me if I insisted upon filing complaint.
I’m an American! I’m an American!
She claims the officers threatened her with arrest for complaining and refused to back down unless she dropped her demand to file a complaint against him. She refused. As she was packing her bags, preparing to travel to the police station, she claims to have muttered to herself, “The crack German police have seized my deodorant…but they don’t seem to care about that Nazi-looking dude over there!”
That’s odd, because she admits the “Nazi-looking dude” had already departed.
The security screener standing next to her heard her say “fucking German Nazi police” and alerted the Federal Police once again. She was taken to prison, booked for defamation ,and released after paying $260 (she claims against her will). She is now taken to Huffington Post and Twitter, promising to take this all the way to the U.S. Ambassador to Germany.
You can read all the lurid details here.
Lesson: Stay Calm
I don’t know the nuances of German defamation law, but in many U.S. jurisdictions a key element of successfully proving slander is harm. I’m not sure what harm comes to the police officer in question or the German Federal Police based upon her mutterings only overhead by one the security screeners involved in the incident.
Professor Fair reminds me of some of the worst professors I ever had. But I’m not ready to say she also doesn’t have a point…at least a small one. I’ve seen some fairly deplorable antics by German Federal Police officers that I won’t even get into here.
This part of her story gets me–
In retrospect, what I experienced was little more than jack booted thuggery. I also suspect that this was deeply gendered. These two men were annoyed that a woman (whom they repeatedly called “Miss” despite the fact that I am a 49-year old woman) dared to seek accountability for their unprofessional behavior.
Could it really be this simple? That Ms. Fair was a jerk, a total jerk perfectly befitting of the “Ugly American” moniker. And yet, she just asked for their names…
I’m trying hard not to take sides here. Some of the statements in Professor Fair’s story suggest to me that she is at fault. I don’t really buy the whole Hitler youth story. At the same time, I’ve also had arguments with German airport authorities over deodorant (and actually prevailed, though I was polite and jovial). And I’ve also seen German Federal Police officers treat people very poorly.
So for now let’s see how this plays out. I’ll post an update once we learn Fair’s fate.
What are your thoughts?
Love this story, it couldn’t have happened to a shittier person. This is the same woman that harassed a former Muslim coworker for voting for Trump. Google “C Christine Fair Asra Q Nomani” if you’d like to see for yourself.
The University should immediately part ways with her.
I travel thru FRA quite often. My experiences differ from those described above.
The security employees have always been polite, patient and also helpful. Last week they politely reminded my daughter that she had a banana in her bag. I questioned why this was an issue and they explained that it was not an issue till we get to the USA.
I did have issues with gate agents and uniformed people that help supervise boarding for the upstairs train between terminals. Both of the above have people that I would have called out for Nazi like behavior. I speak German having been brought up by parents that studied german during their guest stay in Auschwitz.
How can you refer to an internment at Auschwitz as a guest stay?
Have you heard of irony? Sarcasm?
Quite funny because I am right now at lhr and been to lcy before and both Airport securities are über-Nazis regarding liquids. I’ve never seen that strict enforcement of the liquid rules _nowhere_ in the world, including 6 US airports at Minimum. It’s a complete joke.
I agree with you on German Police behavior. They don’t shoot people like in the US but they are pretty bad. Also, in general Germans security officers are not the most efficient ones, I have to admit. I was just surprised because I always thought Germans would be so efficient. And probably Germans are also the least pleasant to interact with, be it customer service or public officers.
I was a bit surprised how they treated a bag with potential explosives. Maybe it is the common procedure but I thought they would take it a bit more seriously. Also, I am not sure how this Nazi thing came into the discussion according to her side of the story. Even so, she was stupid to use even hitler youth thing (sadly many young kids these days do not know how that side cuts were associated with hitler youth and are now becoming popular with white supremacists) Mentioning it definitely would ring someone else’s ear, especially in German. She wanted to make a point and that was heard, whether it was misinterpreted or not. Also, I am just shocked that they did not have a name tag. If they truly tried to shut her up with an arrest threat, that is an abuse of power. i am curious to see whose side is the truth. keep us posted
in my opinion the whole story was overdone and i believe it doesn’t really reflect the truth.
It’s funny how she started off the story with all her worries focused on being able to make her flight connection.
“I rushed to reach the security line and found that it was oddly empty. For a moment, I felt relieved that I may get to my re-booked flight on time.”
“I apologized again for not speaking German and tried again to restate my question about process: what was going to happen, and over what time frame? Would I be allowed to fly? Should I contact the conference organizers in Delhi about a delay?”
And in the end, she decided to make her stand on deodorant. Making a stand on deodorant vs. missing my flight…
Hmmm, which to choose?
I have many, many complaints about my various transfers over the years at FRA. The behavior of the security staff, though, oddly isn’t one of them. Yes, they are inefficient, but I’ve always found them professional. I once left a bottle of perfume in my hand bag traveling back from Italy. That predictably triggered a secondary search of my bag. The woman told me I’m not supposed to have it. I apologized and said I thought it was OK since it was in sealed packaging. She put it back in my bag and sent me on my way. Never felt even remotely threatened.
The tale reminds me of something I’ve often had to remind others of, though – American Constitutional protections and customs don’t apply in foreign countries. Just because cursing out a cop is protected speech in the US doesn’t mean you can get away with it elsewhere. That’s something you think would be obvious, but a lot of people can’t seem to figure that out.
American Constitutional protections don’t even apply in American airports.
Her disgusting comments are pretty rich, coming from someone who openly promotes drone killings! What a sweetheart this menopausal princess seems to be! Hope she gets dragged through the slow horror that is German goverment bureaucracy for a long time. So sick of these entitled primadonnas!
As I have mentioned before, I have German Citizenship, but choose to use my US passport to not be separated from my wife, who has a US passport.
We have repeatedly run into the Policemen who seem to get into power trips at airports in Germany, with often unreasonable, repetitive “security theater” and, when I ask for explanations, both in English and German, they essentially will tell me they are doing it because they can.
These complaints, based upon my experience, are not unfounded or isolated.
My experiences differ.
I travel thru FRA almost weekly and my experiences with Security have all been positive. They are patient with slow, overloaded families. They simply remind you when they find that yogurt that exceeds 4 ounces and you planned on eating first.
To sum up, they are polite, thorough BUT will not let anything pass.
If you have German citizenship and your wife has a US passport, you can both go through the EU Nationals line together. In fact, you can bring in your entire family on US passports, as long as at least one of you produces an EU passport. I’m in the exact same boat, and I do this all the time, at FRA and other European airports.
And by the way, if you have dual citizenship, you are technically required to use your EU passport to enter the EU, your US passport to enter the US. Not that they have any way of checking.
Ken is SHOCKED that they didn’t have a name tag… You go get ’em, Ken! You go tell those German police how they ought to operate! You give them a good piece of your mind! You get them all to wear name tags so all those privileged WHITE PEOPLE can go file their complaints! At least all those privileged WHITE PEOPLE don’t have to get worried about being shot when they are in Germany! They can worry about that here, in the horrible, disgusting, United States of America. Here, mostly every cop is going to shoot you – everyone knows that.
@Vlad: Of course it’s white privileged. Why would BLACK PEOPLE even need it. We all know BLACK PEOPLE cannot read.
Seriously, Vlad, does it hurt when YOU think?
This is such a hypocracy. Unbelievable. We all know she wouldnt have done that in some country, where socalled police can throw you in a hole, torture or even kill you at will. No, she did that in a country where the rule of law applies and the worst thing that can happen to you is a little fine. Will she do that in some ME or African countries and call the police names? That would give her something to write about…
She’s an American! She’s an American!
“Oh my god, that guy has a ‘high and tight’ haircut, he must be a Hitler Youth member!” What an ignorant clown.
Beyond dumb. On the other hand, it was at Frankfurt Airport about a month ago that security screening staff told me that I needn’t put deodorant in the clear plastic bag because it isn’t considered a liquid. It’s more like a gel.I’ve been told the same at other airports in Europe , so perhaps she has a point on that issue.
Not to turn it political but it is political already…
Typical behavior of American uber progressive “Intelligentsia”… They are starting “Revolutions” everywhere, even when discussing deodorant….Sick of it!
So under German law was the seizure of the $260 involuntary allowed? Was she allowed to hold on to the money even the polizei insisted on seizing it?
That’s the current state of academia. I don’t think it’s attributable to anything else.
Wow, you know big words, oh you think you know the US Constitution (you don’t, but even so, it is inapplicable here). You are entitled to no US protections when abroad. Your passport even says that.
I loathe this generation of academics. I’m currently in law school and the holier-than-thou attitude permeates from the first day of freshman year undergrad until now. It’s toxic. Thankfully, the vast majority of people feel the same way. Unfortunately, they’re indoctrinating so many young minds.
Thanks for letting me rant.
Americans should be aware that foreign countries often apply TSA rules more strictly than TSA officers in the USA, because they know they will get in big trouble with *the Empire* if they are caught not doing so. I’ve found airport security for flights to the USA to be much more strict in Guatemala, France or the United Arab Emirates than in the United States.
Another thought: if this woman is prosecuted and found to have engaged in criminal activity, shouldn’t her visa-waiver privileges for the Schengen area be removed and she forced to secure a visa in advance for travel/transit within the Schengen area?
I smell Trumpanzee redneck stench in some comments. You need to know your place as the most loayhsome people on the planet right now. There is no terrorist that is more hated than your vile orange baboon or his ignorance redneck followers.
Time for your pills sweetheart.
She seems terrible and has no place being a professor.
Good report Matthew, but I am not sure you need to go to such lengths not to take sides. This woman’s own bizarre and self-indulgent Huffpost contribution makes her sound like an utterly insane person, and at the very least incredibly poorly behaved.
It’s worth noting she has had similar issues before (she posted a long and equally as bizarre rant against United airlines a few years back after a pilot threatened to have her deplaned before departure on a Dulles/Zurich flight). Therefore her bizarre and (to others if not to herself) apparently very rude behaviour is a recurring theme.
“However, many people outside Germany use the word “Nazi” flippantly, employing it as a basic pejorative to anyone who they deem to strict.”
I would go as far as saying that accusing someone of being a Nazi is pretty much unacceptable throughout Europe. IME only Americans are considerably more liberal with the term (e.g. grammar nazi).
I’ve had only extremely pleasant experiences with German cops. If you are looking for trouble, then you’ll get trouble.