from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Graffiti- defaced garden shed
Damaged bus stop

Under vandalism is generally understood as a "blind destructiveness". The word vandalism is linguistically derived from the Germanic ethnic group of the vandals , who immigrated to the Roman Empire in late antiquity - but with little historical justification .

Criminological classification

In criminology today, vandalism is an intentional act that usually results in the destruction or damage of a private or public property ( damage to property ) up to bodily harm or cruelty to animals . It is mostly a form of deviant and mostly also delinquent behavior, often (but not only) by (mostly male) adolescents, which generally appears to be pointless, irrational or nihilistic. Some forms of vandalism are viewed as a form of or an aspect of hooliganism (for example, formerly in GDR criminal law ). Perpetrators try to prove their physical strength through destruction and to demonstrate the rejection of public order in their surroundings. Social rehabilitation is easy to achieve through condemnation for damages and through community hours .


The word Vandale (also Vandals ) for a "man possessed by senseless destructiveness" originally stood for a member of the East Germanic tribe or the late antique warrior association of the Vandals , who are said to have systematically plundered Rome for two weeks in 455 . While contemporary sources testify that the Vandals under Geiserich were acting in a civil war and were allowed into the Eternal City by enemies of the Emperor Petronius Maximus without a fight, the chronicler Johannes Malalas accused them of having conquered Rome as early as the 6th century and to have acted just as thoroughly as cruelly - albeit at the invitation of the Empress. The fact that Geiserich's vandals were Arians and temporarily took action against the Catholic Church in their North African territory, which authors like Victor von Vita described in dramatic colors, contributed to further darkening their image in tradition.

So from Latin Vandalī (Plur.) Was first transferred into Old French ( wandele = "robber, thief"). In 1733, Voltaire took up the term again as the French vandal (“ barbarian ”) and as an adjective for “barbaric” (cf. also barbarism ). The term was borrowed into the German language in the second half of the 18th century; accordingly the adjective “vandalism” is a synonym for “barbaric, devastating, destructive”. Before that, the term “belonging to the Vandal people” (17th century) was independent of French. In 1794, Henri Grégoire coined the expression vandalisme in connection with his criticism of the plundering of the royal tombs in the former abbey church of Saint-Denis , which was shortly afterwards borrowed into German as "vandalism".

Variants of vandalism

A distinction is made between several forms of vandalism:

  • Vandalism as defined destructive pastime, for the pleasure of destroying, from aggressive Abreaktion of anger or as a form of posturing (a swaggering ) or dare without going beyond sense (for lack or lack of interest in other pleasurable activities or as a supplement thereto). Examples: inserting discs demolishing cars or slitting of upholstered seats in buses or subway trains, damaging grave stone, see destructiveness , aggressiveness , riot and riot .
  • Vandalism in the aforementioned sense, but restricted to the field of art. Example: the use of monuments as targets ( Sphinx of Giza , which is unconfirmed; equestrian statue of Regisole in the cathedral square of Pavia ; Leonardo da Vinci's equestrian image of Ludovico il Moro in Milan, 1796; and others). In the vicinity of this is the destruction of images of rulers ( statues of kings, busts of Stalin ) in political uprisings. The reformers , on the other hand, understood the iconoclasm of the Reformation as "cleaning" the prayer rooms of allegedly "pagan" aberrations.
  • Destructive acts against cultural goods by the mentally ill, who often suffer from misguided sense of mission . Examples: Antiquity: Herostrat ; 20th century: Acid attacks on paintings such as the fall of the damned by Rubens in Munich in 1959 or the blessing of Jacob by Rembrandt van Rijn in Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe in 1977; Damage to Michelangelo's Pietà in Rome in 1972.
  • Destruction out of fanaticism or ideology such as the felling of oaks that were consecrated to Thor by Christian missionaries (e.g. Boniface ) as well as the destruction of images of gods or religious symbols such as the Buddha statues of Bamiyan by the Taliban in 2001 can also be viewed as vandalism.

Cultural vandalism

Cultural vandalism or negative cultural history denotes the raw destruction of works of art, because the vandals under Geiserich are said to have lived in Rome in this way ( Lucan's so-called Furor teutonicus in another context ); further rhetorically canonized horror figures in the sense of the term vandalism represent Alaric and his Goths ( Gothorum et Vandalorum furor, the rage of the Goths and Vandals, inscription on Charles Bridge in Prague from 1648), Attila and his Huns and the Vikings .

Cultural vandalism is the damage or removal of works of art and monuments in a larger political, ideological or economic context, with the intention of or with the result of a change in consciousness, i. H. the violent attempt to eliminate or change memory (Demandt 1997).

Virtual vandalism

The term vandalism is often used for deliberate deletion or disruption of digital content, for example blogs or the manipulation of advertising content ( adbusting ), but also in connection with Wikipedia : content and articles are deliberately emptied or changed. Since May 2008, experienced authors have been viewing all changes made by beginners in the German-language Wikipedia; only when they release what they have seen does the change become generally visible. Many vandalisms are typically pubescent and have topics from vulgar language as their content.

Many media, on which one can comment on articles or other content, have switched to viewing comments and, if necessary, shortening or deleting them, or allowing only registered users to comment.

Concept emergence

The term used in the French Revolution

19th century fantasy of the sack of Rome by the Vandals in 455

The term vandalism for blind mania for destruction goes back to Henri-Baptiste Grégoire , Bishop of Blois . In his text Rapport sur les destructions opérées par le vandalisme , published in the Paris Convention on August 28, 1794, he denounced senseless murders and the destruction of Christian art and iconography by radical Jacobins in the French Revolution with this new word . As early as 1798, the Académie française included the term in their dictionary.

The term in the Baltic-Prussian area

In the German-speaking countries [Prussia-Baltic States] the term vandals was already familiar at the beginning of the 19th century, as evidenced by the letter from the Governor General of Riga , the Marquis Paulucci , to General von Yorck shortly before the Tauroggen Convention on 22. December 1812, in which the latter formulated: “Our victorious armies reduce (as you will see for yourself from the papers that I have the honor of sending you) the importance of owning those permanent places (this meant Danzig , Konigsberg and Pillau ) by a considerable amount, since there is no army to cover them - especially when the Prussian troops have left the party of the modern Vandals (this was Napoleon and the Grande Armée ). "

The term in Germany

The use of the term vandalism in the legal context of 1840/1841 can be proven for the first time in the rest of Germany: During the construction of the Hermannsdenkmal near Detmold , the Lippe court architect Brune accused the builder of the monument of 'vandalism' and sued him. The sculptor Ernst von Bandel (1800–1876), for whom the erection of the monument to the victor in the battle in the Teutoburg Forest was an affair of the heart and to whom he dedicated his life, had to gain material for the base of the monument, “a Celtic site of the Latène period (5th-1st century BC) [...] used as a quarry . ”Bandel, who previously described the site as impressive, said“ four years later, after he said he had half of the Walls had destroyed and built, [...] the found walls were only 60 cm high and were "mistaken for remnants of old walls" ".

In the book The Staircase Joke of World History in 1925, such language usage was criticized as follows:

“In any case, the Germanic people of the Vandals does not have it on their conscience that most of the wonderful works of art dragged together in Rome - a second people made of statues (such as Cassiodorus !) - are either not preserved at all or only mutilated. With the word vandalism the people of Geiserich were wrongly branded. The Ostrogoth Totila did not destroy Rome either. The most terrible plundering of Rome is said to have been that by the Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II (641–668), after which not much of importance can be left. "

Derivation of the term from the people of the Vandals

Vandalism derived from Grégoire from the Vandals, a Germanic tribe who defeated the Western Roman Emperor Petronius Maximus in 455 , invaded Rome and sacked the city . Since the Vandals plundered the city of Rome for the time without major massacres, systematically, but without a blind rage of destruction, the etymology of the term is historically incorrect. Pope Leo I had assured the vandals that there would be no resistance, so that fighting, conflagrations and rape would be avoided. In the descriptions of later historians, the achievements of Pope Leo may also be overrated in order to be able to emphasize the atrocities and destructiveness of the vandals.

How little Grégoire's word creation does justice to the Vandals can also be seen from the words of Bishop Salvanius of Massilia ( Marseille ), who wrote as a contemporary witness in the 5th century: “If someone leads a vicious life under the rule of the Goths or Vandals, then it's a Roman. Because the Goths and Vandals set such a high standard through moral purity and straightforwardness that they were not only disciplined themselves, but also purified the Romans. "

Nevertheless, Italian and French humanists have denounced the Goths and Vandals as the proverbial destroyers of culture since early modern times . In the German humanist literature, however, the Germanic tribes were positive rezipiert , about the humanist Beatus Rhenanus :

Nostri… sunt Gothorum Vandalorum Francorumque triumphi ( Ours are the triumphs of the Goths, Vandals and Franks ).

Proto-national disputes in the early modern period are thus reflected in the different interpretations of the vandals .

The historical vandals were used in the French Revolution of 1789 to negatively identify the aristocracy - as supposedly descending from the Germanic conquerors. As a political term, Henri-Baptiste Grégoire vandalisme served to delimit an ideal bourgeois revolution from radical forces. In the excesses of violence in the French Revolution - as in the upheavals of the Reformation - there was iconoclasm, which Grégoire denounced.

Initially directed against radicals in their own ranks, after the 9th Thermidor 1794 vandalisme referred to the reign of terror ( Terreur ) as a whole. Their protagonists, such as Robespierre , are the new vandals who, like their historical models, wanted to destroy the culture of France. The three reports sur le vandalisme that Grégoire submitted to the convention fixed the term, not least because of their high circulation, and were the basis for its adoption in almost all European languages.

The choice of the Vandals as namesake referred less to the sacking of Rome in 455, but to its earlier destruction and looting during the invasion of Gaul in 406. Especially in southwest France, in the foothills of the Pyrenees, the Germanic invaders in 409 behaved as the worst land destroyers , Murderers and molesters after failing against resistance from the Basques on their first attempt to invade Spain. Next to the Romans, the Arian vandals were also charged with most of the martyrdoms by the Catholic chroniclers. From then on, their worse, partly justified reputation as murderous barbarians dates from. Grégoire later regretted not being able to take back the term, as it discredited an entire tribe across the board. He had assumed that the Vandals were extinct and that no one considered themselves their descendants anymore.


Vandalism on one of the steles of the memorial for the victims of the ice rink collapse in Bad Reichenhall

As described above, the term “vandalism” refers in the broadest sense to the deliberate, illegal or standard-violating damage or destruction of third-party property. Vandalism is also often (but not necessarily) an act of conscious or unconscious provocation .

Conscious action

Vandalism occurs deliberately, i. In other words , there must be a conscious intention or at least one consciously accepts the damage. Damage that is not done consciously but due to normal wear and tear or carelessness is not vandalism.

Illegal or norm-breaking act

Vandalism is an illegal or norm-violating act. If a house is torn down by the owner or a car is scrapped after the usage phase, no one else is harmed, so there is no vandalism.

Destructive or damaging action

Vandalism is to be distinguished in particular from behavior of willful contamination, but in which nothing is destroyed, e.g. B. carelessly throwing garbage on the street, littering parks, soiling of seats in buses, urinating in house corners, etc. Sometimes the line is not very clear.

Undine - Graffiti by Harald Naegeli in Zurich from 1978, today restored and protected

But there are also phenomena that are difficult and contentious to classify. The graffiti phenomenon is the subject of controversial public debate. Some see it as a form of vandalism, others see graffiti as a legitimate form of subversive and / or intervening art in public space that is not authorized by the owner . B. guerrilla gardening or forms of intervening action art .

Since vandalism or some forms of vandalism have in some cases also been viewed as a form of or an aspect of hooliganism, vandalism must in particular be differentiated from other offenses or behaviors that are ascribed to hooligans. Among them there is, in particular, deliberate behavior that violates norms, which has neither a destructive nor contaminating effect on things, but z. B. in unusual, provocative or harassing behavior. For example:

Dealing with the problem of vandalism

Graffiti on the main entrance of a public school

The willful destruction of public goods and objects in public space is often referred to as vandalism. This includes, for example, destruction of public facilities such as emergency telephones , park benches and telephone booths , in local public transport vehicles , in kindergartens or in schools . This also includes damage to trees in public spaces - so-called tree crime .

Now that public spaces have become generally accessible, measures against vandalism are more difficult. Preventive measures against it are for example camera surveillance , police presence , private security as well as measures to revitalize public spaces and to promote social control . In advertising campaigns of potential perpetrators is appealed or asked the coolness of vandalism in question to the conscience and social responsibility. In addition, the use of robust, largely vandal-resistant materials can make vandalism more difficult. Another strategy is to give public buildings and public outdoor areas a noble, high-quality aura and thus increase the inhibition threshold for vandalism. Consistent legal prosecution should deter potential perpetrators.

In the private sector, access to the property or building in question can also be prevented or made more difficult.

Graffiti on structures is usually illegal . Under criminal law , they are often prosecuted as a destructive act (vandalism), because a constructive act as " art in architecture " is in many cases not recognizable from the point of view of case law. In addition, the follow-up costs for the removal of the graffiti or the material damage are high (see the criminal offense of graffiti ).

In Germany, vandalism is usually prosecuted under the criminal offense of property damage . The (mostly male) young offenders are prosecuted . The clearance rate for property damage is around 25%. Dealing with vandalism perpetrators may fall. a. in the field of social work .

See also


  • Alexander Demandt : Vandalism - violence against culture. Siedler, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-88680-624-3 .
  • Henri Baptiste Grégoire: Rapport sur les destructions opérées par le Vandalisme. (August 31, 1794); 2nd report ... (October 29, 1795); 3. Report… (December 14, 1795), In: Œuvres II, pp. 256–278, 321–357.
  • J. Guillaume: Grégoire et le Vandalisme. Paris 1901.
  • Maren Lorenz : Vandalism as an everyday phenomenon. published by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research , Hamburger Edition, Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-86854-204-2 .
  • Pierre Michel: Barbarie, Civilization, Vandalisme. In: Rolf Reichardt, Hans-Jürgen Lüsebrink (eds.): Handbook of political and social basic concepts in France 1680-1820. Volume 8, Oldenbourg, Munich 1988, pp. 7-51, ISBN 3-486-54441-1 .
  • Gabriele Sprigath: Sur le vandalisme révolutionnaire. In: Annales historiques de la Révolution Francaise 52, 1980, pp. 510-535.
  • Christine Tauber: Iconoclasms of the French Revolution: The Abbé Grégoire's reports of vandalism . Rombach, Freiburg im Breisgau 2009, ISBN 978-3-7930-9591-0 .

Web links

Commons : Vandalism  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Vandalism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Vandalismus in, accessed on July 4, 2017
  2. Alexander Elster, Heinrich Lingemann: Concise Dictionary of Criminology. Volume 5. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1998, ISBN 3-11-016171-0 , p. 497.
  3. times. 14.26.
  4. ^ Vandale in DWDS , accessed on December 5, 2014
  5. ^ Julius Eckhardt: Yorck and Paulucci. History of the Tauroggen Convention . Verlag von Veit & Comp., Leipzig 1865, p. 104.
  6. Ralf-Peter Märtin: The Varus Battle. Rome and the Teutons. Frankfurt am Main 2008, p. 319.
  7. Festschrift, p. 11 and P. 51; Friedrich Hohenschwert: Prehistoric and early historical fortifications in Lippe. Münster 1978, p. 110f, quoted from: Ralf-Peter Märtin: Die Varusschlacht. Rome and the Teutons. Frankfurt am Main 2008, pp. 319 and 397.
  8. ^ William Lewis Hertslet , Hans Ferdinand Helmot: The stair joke of world history. Berlin 1925, p. 125.
  9. See Hermann Schreiber: The Vandals. Triumph and fall of a Germanic people. Bern 1979, pp. 93-95.
  10. One destroyed emergency telephone column every day. In: Rheinische Post. January 17, 2007.
  11. Brief information " Police crime statistics 2010 ( memento of the original from October 12, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 2.5 MB) ", p. 5. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /