At some point in our academic careers, everyone has the chance to study the Holocaust and WWII in their history classes. I as well had that opportunity but in addition I have been studying the german language for the last few years and have had the chance to study German history a bit more in depth during that time. One thing we don’t really talk about is how the German’s view everything now. Rather, we just criticize them.
This is something I was really able to see first hand while exploring Berlin. To say the least, the Germans obviously had an eventful 20th century. As I walked around Berlin I saw memories and pieces of history that spoke to me. The first stop was the Holocaust memorial. This is an absolutely breathtaking spot. You’re essentially left to your own interpretation as the man who created it never really talked much about what his thought process was. This wonderful memorial has a museum below it that lists off names and stories of those who were killed in the concentration camps. Of course they don’t have everyone’s however, it’s said that they have about 75% of them. In order to see every single name pass by on the screen you would have to be down there for 7 years. This just speaks to the amount of devistation this event caused.
If you walk across the street and down the block a bit, you will find the sight of Hitler’s bunker, where he killed himself. Today, this is a parking lot for an apartment complex. In my mind, this speaks to what the Germans want to comemorate and what they don’t.
From here we continue on to sights of the Berlin wall. Lots of the Berlin wall remains standing today as well as a remodel of checkpoint Charlie. This is obviously a historic monument but it helps remind us that we shouldn’t take freedom for granted. This is something the Germans undoubtedly think about as they pass by the sights on a day to day basis.
Another interesting spot we visited was the sight of the book burnings at Babelplatz. This was an incredibly powerful monument as it was empty bookshelves in an enclosed room. It’s said these empty bookshelves would be able to fit all of the books that were burned. Again, another incredible memorial for a rather rough past.
So what is it the Germans think of all of this today? Well in my visit it seemed as though they were rather remorseful to say the least. The other thing that speaks volumes is that twice during a students educational experience they have to go to a concentration camp to experience it and to remind them of the horrifying past. With all this said we still are so judgmental of the Germans for their past in my opinion. For example, if we see a football stadium full of English fans with flags we call them patriotic. If we see a football stadium full of German fans with flags we call them nationalists. This is an unfair judgement. We are so quick to judge but at the end of the day it’s clear the Germans are remorseful and that they are doing everything they can to learn from their past.
The curious part of this is that Germany isn’t the only case of genocide but yet no one talks as much about their past or commemorates it as much as the Germans do.
We pass judgement to the Germans for what they have done and for the horrifying events of their past, but if we look at the way they are handling their future, they are doing everything they can to prevent something like this from ever happening again. As we pass judgment, it’s important to remember that they have been successful while the rest of the world hasn’t necessarily been.