Fun guerrilla teases ex-federal president: kohler and his cuckoo clocks

The ex-Federal President was invited to Warsaw by the "Executive Club". Kohler’s biography on the club’s homepage reads strangely.

A picture from Mr. Kohler’s hobby cellar? Hardly. Picture: imago/sepp spiegl

They actually advertise it: Horst Kohler, off-duty German president, "was a central figure in Argentina’s 2001 financial crisis and proved himself a righteous believer in neoliberal policies."

So it says in English on the website of the "Executive Club," which uses it to promote Kohler’s participation in an elite meeting in Warsaw. The biography also praises Horst Kohler as the son of a butcher and known in Germany for his impressive collection of cuckoo clocks. For people with a fine sense of humor, there are a few other niceties in the few lines.

The fact is: The organizers of the "European Executive Forum", which is supposed to bring together an elite of Polish and international executives from business, science and politics on April in the Sheraton Hotel in Warsaw, fell for a group of German fun guerrillas who run the site www.horst-koehler-consulting.de. On the site, for example, Helmut Kohl is referred to as a "team member" and "Head of Secret Accountance". Behind it is the Berlin action artist, clown and former taz columnist Jean Peters. He had put the satirical homepage online in June 2010, directly after Kohler’s resignation from the office of Federal President.

The organizers of the Polish elite meeting turned to the contact address on the site and asked for a biography of Kohler. They were not surprised when Horst Kohler’s impressive collection of cuckoo clocks was foisted on them. In a reply e-mail, a staff member thanked them for the biographical compilation, saying, "That’s perfect!"

This Kohler biography is not directly authorized. Screenshot: executive-club.com.pl

Kohler had resigned from his post as German president at the end of May 2010, citing criticism of his comments on Afghanistan. Previously, as president, he had said that "in case of doubt, in case of emergency, military action is also necessary to protect our interests, for example, free trade routes."

And it went "bangĀ”"

The satire site, which was not particularly elaborate, caused a stir even then. After it had recorded extremely high access figures for a short time, the site suddenly went offline. A threatening e-mail that surfaced gave rise to the suspicion that the Federal Office of Administration, an authority subordinate to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, was behind it. However, the ministry always denied any involvement. In the end, the facts of the case were never clarified.

On Tuesday, Peters commented on Kohler’s biographical note to the taz newspaper as follows: "It is regrettable that Horst Kohler has actually taken the direction that we predicted at the time – with satirical means. He’s heading in precisely the field between business, politics and the military that we wanted to warn against at the time with a bit of fun."

Peters is one of the co-founders of the Berlin action group "Peng!". This orients itself at models such as the US-American Yes Men, which made headlines in the past again and again with spectacular actions. "Peng!" promotes more actions of civil disobedience and a more subversive protest culture. Most recently, the fun guerrilla caused a stir in international media when Peters and a colleague blew up a so-called science slam hosted by the Shell oil company.

"Here you can pull the plug"

The two activists had applied for a speaking opportunity under fake names and announced they would present an engine that would clean the air. During their performance, however, their engine blew up, spraying gallons of imitation oil. The protest was against oil drilling in the Arctic. The message: "You can pull the plug here, but not in the Arctic". The artists’ action made it as far as the U.S. and African media.

Whether this mini-hoax will now make it into the Polish media remains to be seen. But at least among Polish security experts, there should be an opportunity in April to clarify the matter of the cuckoo clocks. In any case, a spokesman from Horst Kohler’s office responded encouragingly to an inquiry from the taz. He was not aware that Mr. Kohler owned a cuckoo clock collection. But he would like to check it out.

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