On being German and why I’m not proud of it #history


Preliminary remark : I read a lot about blogging and how to attract people to read and follow your blog. One of the main points always is:

You should have a theme and stay with this theme. (Looks like this is a bit against my nature, never mind.) The purpose is that this way you should not loose readers.

At the moment I have two subscribers to my blog (Thank you very much, both of you !)

So If I jump from topic to topic I don’t risk loosing may readers. If you haven’t many you can’t lose many. (I hope my two stay !)

It might be necessary to start with a second remark before hitting the topic. Here we go.

I am nearly fifty years old. From a political point of view at least a bit left of the middle  and more important for today’s topic. I am German.

At the beginning of this week, while I was preparing breakfast for Milady (6:30 in the morning). I was listening to the news on the radio and heard the Prime minister of Israel ‘claim’. It wasn’t Hitler alone who was responsible for the Holocaust. That it was the idea of the Mufti of Jerusalem. I forgot this rubbish during a busy day.

In the evening I was too tired to read or doing something productive. So, I decided to relax I could look at some videos on Youtube. Without really thinking about it I searched for ‘Schindler’s list’. Having found it as a whole film, quite a surprise to be honest. I clicked on it and in the recommendations I found another film that I always wanted to see but never did.

‘The pianist’. Great something for a silent evening at home while Milady is attending her sewing class. Started the film and was kind of hooked.

I couldn’t finish the film. Milady came home earlier than usual and there were still some things to discuss. So I had to postpone the last 45 minutes of the film to the next morning.

As I woke up the next morning there was something running through my head. Not clear what it was. After breakfast and Milady’s departure to work I finished the film. It was quite impressive with a very good performance by Adrien Brody.

I had a little coffee break. And during this break I found out what was the puzzling thing in my head.

When I grew up there was a TV series about the same topic. A quick search at Youtube and I found the 1978 miniseries ‘Holocaust’.

Again I clicked on it. And yes, this was the series that started my interest in history in general and of this period in German history in particular.

Although there are points of critic to this series it has marked me.

Profoundly, I’m afraid.

25 years after the series was broadcast there are still a lot of things that I don’t get about my home country.

Let’s say I do get why and how the Nazis raised to power. I am able to explain myself that the Nazis had the idea of exterminating the Jews (and the sinti and others).

What I still don’t get is how they found so many willing to do the ‘dirty work.

How so many well-educated Germans committed atrocities that made (and still make) no sense at all to me ?

The leaders of the notorious ‘Einsatzgruppen’ were all very well-educated men (finished university studies,  a singer at an opera, etc.). Sure, there were sadistic criminals amongst those who committed these atrocities. But the majority of them were normal Germans. Well-educated, loving fathers and husband, just regular Germans. And these men committed atrocities that are not even easy to understand. Neither easy to explain.

Why ?

Twenty-five years after I’ve seen the series for the first time I cannot in the slightest way understand why and how they were able to do such things.

At the beginning of 2015 I watched ‘Im Labyrinth des Schweigens’. A German film about the people who made the inquiries to start the first ‘Auschwitzprozess in Frankfurt.

There were some explanations about why it took so long? Why it was (and still is) so complicated to bring the (now the last surviving) offenders to justice. A short time after the war it was politically impossible  to prosecute.

The new enemy, new threat was the Soviet Union. And Germany was necessary as an ally against the evil from the east. Germans wanted to be and have calm. They had lost the war (that they have started). Were much too busy coming back to wealth and power to take care of their ‘unfortunate’ history. A famous German saying at that time (and still today) is/was: “Man muss auch ‘mal einen Schlussstrich darunter ziehen. “ “Which translates loosely to: You should draw a line under it and go on.

There was no so-called ‘Aufarbeitung’. Those who survived either were back in their old positions. Or just wanted to forget what had happened, what they had done. They had to deal with those who fled from the east. Those who came back from PoW camps (the last from Russia in 1952). Nothing of that helped the Germans to deal with their past properly.

“Yes, there were bad things that happened during the war. Always the bombings, it wasn’t easy to rebuild after ’45.”

No one wanted to know what had happened, why it happened and who was responsible for it ? The standard answer was: “The Nazis did a lot of bad things. It was all done by the Nazis. We knew nothing about it.” Between 33 and ’45 Germans were either involved or looked away. And nothing changed in the ‘50s.

In 2014 Germany won the soccer world cup and I was frequently asked: “You must be proud, aren’t you ?” Why should I be proud ? I haven’t played and German I am by pure coincidence. So why should I be proud of it ?

And this is still the question. Proud of what ?

I can only be proud of something I’ve achieved myself. Proud of living in a country where they don’t speak my mother tongue. Proud that my non-wife still accepts me after fifteen years.

But proud of being German ?

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