August Landmesser, Rassenschande, and the Courage to say No.

Rassenschande.  Almost sounds like “rise and shine” though in the German language it means quite the contrary.  You know what “schande” means — a shame or embarrassment.  Rassenschande had a specific connotation in Nazi Germany as part of the Nuremberg Laws, translated as racial shame stemming from the “crime” of an Aryan having sexual relations with a non-Aryan.  This was the crime of August Landmesser, a German who sought to marry Irma Eckler – Jewish enough under Nazi guidelines even though her mother wasn’t Jewish.

I was reminded of Landmesser’s story by an article from Aeon in my inbox this morning.  His famous act of defiance to mob mentality has been posterized, and made the internet rounds.


It took a great toll on him, and on his family – as previously chronicled in Mental_Floss.  And as one blogger wondered aloud, how many among us would be part of the crowd with outstretched arms today, as opposed to a Landmesser with folded arms in defiance?

Though not addressed in the Aeon piece, I found myself thinking about Colin Kaepernick.  Initially I felt it inappropriate that Kaepernick would use a public display to protest during the national anthem, and the fact that it signifies the flag as symbolic of the land of the free and the home of the brave.


San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, middle, kneels during the national anthem before the team’s NFL preseason football game against the San Diego Chargers, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

And then I found myself reflecting on how much Kaepernick’s action differed from Landmesser’s.  Is it mostly a matter of perception?  Or something deeper …


About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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