In July 2019, a viral quote ostensibly uttered by German film director Werner Herzog that compared modern day Americans to World War II-era Germans recirculated on social media:
The alleged Herzog quote reads: “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.”
Herzog has written and directed dozens of movies, helmed numerous documentaries, and has even published a few books. While the German filmmaker’s work is extensive, he did not write or say the above-displayed quote.
This quote originated with a message posted by the “Werner Twertzog” Twitter account. This Twitter account is not owned, operated, or affiliated with the German film director. Rather, it is run by William Pannapacker, a professor of American literature at Hope College in Holland, Michigan:
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.
— Werner Twertzog (@WernerTwertzog) August 23, 2017
A few messages from Pannapacker’s parody account were included in the anthology “The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017.” Editor Sarah Vowell noted: William Pannapacker has a Ph.D. in American Civilization from Harvard University; he lives in the woods and teachers courses on American literature, opinion journalism, and comedy writing. Since 2013, Pannapacker has been inspired by the great New German Cinema director, Werner Herzog, to channel his voice in a semi-eponymous short-form genre called the “Twertzog.”
As far as we know, Herzog does not have a Twitter account. In fact, the German director said that he has “never seen a single tweet that I found interesting at all” while speaking at the Sundance Film Festival.