Publisher takes Winnetou books off the shelves

German publisher Ravensburger Verlag has announced it is withdrawing two books it had published to accompany the new children's film The Young Chief Winnetou from the market after facing accusations of racial stereotyping. The publisher said it wanted to acknowledge the oppression of Native Americans and avoid cultural appropriation with the move. Is it right to banish the popular children's fiction characters Winnetou and Old Shatterhand from the shelves?

Open/close all quotes
Tageblatt (LU) /

This is going too far

Tageblatt finds the publisher's decision hard to understand:

“It's a pity that the German publishing house, founded in 1883, has now presumably placed itself in the hands of blackmailers. Because today it's Winnetou, tomorrow it's Yakari, and then perhaps for Wickie or other writings at some point it will be: 'We surrender you to the flames!' [a reference to a speech by Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels in 1933] ... You have to permit indignation and then observe what it does. ... It becomes worrying when all the barking leads to self-censorship, to anticipatory obedience, even to laws and regulations. When books and artists are taken out of circulation, when people are criticised because they do not fit into the limited world view of a few, then we must say stop and set an example for freedom.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

We have to let go

The taz calls for understanding for the move:

“Anyone who grew up with Karl May's Winnetou universe probably spent much of their childhood dreaming themselves into this world, into a 'Wild West' where, after exciting adventures, what is supposedly good triumphs. ... It can hit someone hard, even as an adult, when in retrospect all this is declared bad. That's understandable. ... And you can't blame the children of that time for not having recognised stereotypical representations of indigenous people. The necessary knowledge was not everywhere. But today it is. ... We also have to be able to let go.”

Kurier (AT) /

The end of a hero

For Kurier the publisher's backtracking is a grave mistake:

“The hero of generations of German-speaking children, the symbol of bravery and friendship, is no longer permitted to be good. ... And what child, to whom it was explained at the same time that the fanciful inventions of Karl May have little to do with reality, has been harmed by the adventures of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand? What indigenous child is harmed when a German child leafs through the book of the Winnetou film? ... Karl May's complete works are still on the bookshelves, but for how much longer?”