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The title says it all. Another similar word is Nebenschauplatz or Nebenkriegsschauplatz.

Example taken from (here):

Das Rauchverbot stellt nur einen Bruchteil dieser „feindlichen Übernahmen“ dar, ist vergleichbar mit einem Sandkorn in der Wüste - ein Nebenkampfplatz, geschickt inszeniert und auf den ersten Blick sogar für viele Bürger nachvollziehbar. Jedoch: Was 60 Jahre lang kaum Thema war, wird plötzlich zum Teufelszeug erster Güte hochstilisiert. Das sollte aufhorchen lassen und mehr als nur nachdenklich stimmen.

edit for those who want to close this post

I have, of course, consulted online dictionaries, but in vain. Perhaps Nebenkriegsschauplatz is the most idiomatic of the words here.

I have no idea why anybody thinks knowledge of languages other than English and German is required for this post.

I think my question fully aligns with this answer on meta.

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    @peterh If you have No idea, what could it mean, why do you feel competent to comment here? – Walter Jul 26 '19 at 9:01
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    Comments are not expected to answer the question, more clearly, if the post answers the question, it should be posted as an answer. The site is also for the learners of the language, just like you. Beside that, I also voted to "leave open" your post. Maybe I should have not. – peterh - Reinstate Monica Jul 26 '19 at 9:09
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    I think your post is okay. It is in the close queue now, because we are not an online dictionary. However, such uncommon words, which can't be found in any dictionary, should be obvously exempt from this rule. This is why I voted for your question to remain here. I had also the option to "skip" the review, or I could have voted for closure, but I think "looks ok" was the correct choice now. – peterh - Reinstate Monica Jul 26 '19 at 9:12
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    @Walter, Du verstehst das Wort „Nebenkampfplatz“ nicht? – Carsten S Jul 26 '19 at 19:00
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    @Walter: Wenn Dir Wörterbücher nicht weitergeholfen haben, dann solltest Du darstellen, was Dir unklar geblieben ist. Du hast wohl erfahren, dass es eine Metapher ist, und alternative Metaphern gefunden. Was erwartest Du jetzt von uns - dass wir eine davon zum Sieger erklären? Die Bemerkung zu weiteren Sprachen neben Dt. und Engl. verstehe ich auch nicht. Auf Kommentare bitte nicht in der Frage antworten, wenn diese Antwort die Frage nicht verdeutlicht. – user unknown Jul 28 '19 at 1:43
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As far as English translations go, the figurative meaning would probably be something like "sideshow" or "side-show". If you're talking about an actual war, you could use terms like "secondary theater of war" (don't get me started on the mindset that calls a war zone a "theater"...) or "secondary area of conflict".


(Original answer) For an irrelevant side show that's distracting from the really revelant topic, you could use "Nebenkriegsschauplatz". That word keeps the fighting, war-like connotations you're seemingly going for.

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Secondary theater (of war)

See the wiktionary entry. It also mentions secondary theme.

Example from the Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Army (2001, p. 98, Gary Bjorge's article on the China-Burma-India theater):

China had always been a secondary theater of operations, and the speed of the U.S. advance across the central Pacific had reduced its importance in U.S. strategic plans.

An alternative is sideshow.

From the Cambridge Dictionary:

an event or subject that is connected to another event or subject but is considered to be much less important

Example sentence:

The media still regards women's sport as a sideshow to the main event.

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    Okay, that refers to the literal meaning. But these (German) words are also used colloquially outside of military contexts, when your suggestion does/may not work. – Walter Jul 26 '19 at 9:39
  • @Walter this is one reason, why some people voted to close as "knowledge of languages other than German is needed" - on the sites "EnglishLanguage&Usage.SE" or "EnglishLanguageLearners.SE" people could tell for sure, which English phrase refers to the literal meaning only and which covers the figurative usage as well. – Arsak Jul 29 '19 at 7:47
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Of the terms you offer, I'm most familiar with Nebenschauplatz. While the online dictionary LEO doesn't have a translation for it, there are a couple of forum entries in which the word is discussed, all of them about the extended [meaning][1]. The term that is suggested there is side line or sideline.

Searching for Nebenschauplatz at linguee.de also yields side scene and side stage, but more importantly, it shows that in most cases, the meaning of Nebenschauplatz is paraphrased instead of directly translated.

This suggests that the abovementioned English terms may not be as commonly used as the German word, and it may also explain why you have not found any decent translation in the dictionaries you used.

[1] https://dict.leo.org/german-english/Nebenschauplatz

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