Fact Check: Werner Herzog Did NOT Say America Is 'Waking Up, As Germany Once Did'

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Schmidt
Fact Check: Werner Herzog Did NOT Say America Is 'Waking Up, As Germany Once Did' Fake Werner

Did German film director Werner Herzog say, "Dear America: You are waking up, as Germany once did, to the awareness that 1/3 of your people would kill another 1/3, while 1/3 watches"? No, that's not true: The quote originated on a parody Twitter account called @WernerTwertzog, which emulates the existentialist aphorisms and dark humor for which Herzog is known. Werner Herzog has publicly stated that he is not an active user of social media, but does not mind people imitating him on Facebook and Twitter.

The fake Herzog quote reappeared in a Facebook post (archived here) published on August 19, 2021. It showed a photograph of Herzog and the misattributed quote:

Dear America: You are waking up, as Germany once did, to the awareness that 1/3 of your people would kill another 1/3, while 1/3 watches.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Facebook screenshot

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Fri Aug 27 15:57:19 2021 UTC)

The quote originally appeared on the Twitter account @WernerTwertzog on August 23, 2017, (archived here). According to the account's bio, @WernerTwerzog is "Werner Herzog's unpaid internet stooge," referring to something Werner Herzog said during an appearance on "Conan O'Brien" in 2017.

I'm not on Facebook or Twitter, however, on the internet you find me: Facebook, Twitter, but it's all impostors. I do have a lot of doppelgangers out there, and it's fine. Fine for me, they are my unpaid bodyguards. They're unpaid stooges.

The account's bio also states that the @WernerTwertzog account was featured in the anthology "The Best American Nonrequired Reading," which reveals the person behind the parody account to be William Pannapacker, an English professor at Hope College.

The tweet has been misattributed to the real Werner Herzog since 2017 and has gone viral before: the claim was fact checked by Snopes and Politifact in 2019.

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Sarah Schmidt is a fact checker, freelance journalist and translator based in Berlin, Germany. She has worked as a reporter for KCRW Berlin.  She has also written and translated cultural criticism for the Goethe-Institut in Washington, D.C. and taught English as a second language in a Berlin prison.

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