MELISSA BLOCK, host:

As we just heard from Stefan, Germany has done well in the World Cup so far and will play Argentina tomorrow in a much-anticipated, quarter-final match.

Across Germany, fans are fired up. They're singing "Deutschland" and waving flags from cars and buildings - and just about anything else.

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BLOCK: But these fervent displays of patriotism, even for sports, are not sitting well with all Germans, as NPR's Eric Westervelt reports.

ERIC WESTERVELT: The flags are everywhere, so Lebanese-born Ibrahim Bassal is a little annoyed and perplexed why masked young men keep coming in the middle of the night to try to tear and burn his absurdly large German flag - nearly 70 feet long and 20 wide.

Bassal proudly hangs the black, red and gold symbol of his adopted country down the side of the building above his small, used mobile phone and parts shop in a gritty section of East Berlin. He says the flag is in honor of the World Cup, and is meant to show solidarity.

Mr. IBRAHIM BASSAL (Business Owner): (Through translator) We want to show that we are integrating ourselves, that we've already integrated. We belong here. When the team plays well, we are happy and all party together. We are German citizens. We participate.

WESTERVELT: But Bassal is already on his third flag this World Cup - at a cost, he says, of nearly $2,000. It's not anti-immigrant far-rightists who've attacked his property. He suspects it's local leftist protesters who've told him the big flag is simply too nationalistic and quote, reminds us of the past.

The latest attack, he says, came at 4 in the morning, when 10 masked kids climbed onto the roof, and ripped and tried to burn the banner. The Beirut-born shopkeeper says he's fed up and is now posting family sentries to protect the flag.

Mr. BASSAL: (Through translator) This time, we're not going to let them attack it. We're going to guard our flag. We are sleeping here in the shop and waiting for Saturday. We're not going to let the left-wingers destroy us, or the right-wingers. We live here. Our kids were born here. We want them to keep living here.

WESTERVELT: Such is the flag angst in Germany this World Cup. Some bars in Berlin and elsewhere are offering flag-free public viewing of all soccer matches. One garden bar is offering all the games, all the goals, none of the national anthems.

Mr. ACHIM TRAUTVETTER: Here is our flag parking space. We say to the people: Okay, we don't want flags. Maybe you just can take your flag and put it there.

WESTERVELT: Park your flags at the door.

Mr. TRAUTVETTER: Yeah.

WESTERVELT: Achim Trautvetter helped create an alternative, outdoor World Cup watching zone near an old industrial site in Potsdam, just outside Berlin.

He and the other organizers including a local soccer club are gearing up for a big crowd tomorrow. There's a humongous viewing screen, a canopy against the sun, lots of seating, and plenty of beer and bratwurst for sale in a friendly, flag-free surrounding.

Co-organizer Max Dalichow says, we all know about the German trauma and extreme nationalism. He helped put together this different kind of viewing space, he says, because soccer fandom in Germany and across Europe can too often devolve into racism and idiocy.

Mr. MAX DALICHOW: We want to direct the whole thing in the other direction. And well, actually, we think that racism is easily sparked by nationalism, and nationalism is easily sparked by many people being patriotic in one place.

WESTERVELT: A few fans, he says, have stormed away angry, feeling like the group is confusing patriotism with blind nationalism, and accusing everyone who waves the German flag of being a neo-Nazi.

But Dalichow and Trautvetter hope their flag-free experiment helps spark some debate about nationalism, patriotism and citizenship in today's Germany.

Oh, and they've made one nonpolitical move that most Germans would agree with: They've banned vuvuzelas - because the horns are annoying.

Eric Westervelt, NPR News, Berlin.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

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