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65 years after WW2 – should Germans still feel guilty?

May 7, 2010

Today marks the 65th anniversary of the end of World War Two. No big deal, you might say. And on the GERMANY/surface there is certainly nothing all that extraordinary about May 7, 2010. There has been none of the celebrating that marked the 40th or 50th or even 60th anniversaries.

But what is interesting about this 65th anniversary of the end of the fighting in Europe is that it means every German (and Austrian) born before the war’s end has now reached retirement age. In other words, the entire war-era generation – even those who were infants on V-E Day – is now in retirement. It means all those running Germany now – in government or management, or running factories or driving busses – had, as documented by their birth certificates, nothing whatsoever to do with World War Two.

Their parents, grandparents or great grandparents who might have voted for Adolf Hitler in the last free elections in 1933 could still be held accountable, even indirectly,  for the war, the Holocaust and Nazi crimes.

But can Germans born after the war still be blamed for it? Should those born decades or even a half century later still be made to feel the burden of guilt? I think not – and that is why I have, subconsciously, looked forward to dates like May 7, 2010 for nearly 30 years.

As a young American exchange student new to West Germany in 1982, I was struck — and disheartened — to see so much lingering hostility towards even young Germans around Europe – 37 years after the war ended. A German train I was riding on early that year was met by Swiss youth giving everyone the Hitler salute as it pulled into Zurich station. It was only the first of countless encounters of guilt I saw being hurled at Germans.

Having lived in Germany and Austria for most of the last 28 years, I’ve watched a very gradual shift in the “guilt vs. responsibility” debate that has weighed on these two countries that have done much to atone for the unfathomable crimes of their parents and grandparents.

Many of their neighbours might still harbour animosity with origins rooted in the war. But Germany has clearly become more and more a normal country in recent decades and less and less burdened by the guilt over its horrific past.

FRANCE DDAYThere have been a few notable turning points on that long road. I remember standing close enough to former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder at a ceremony in Normandy in 2004 marking the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landing to see him quietly wiping tears from his eyes. Schroeder, who was born in 1944 and whose father was killed fighting for a lost cause near the end of the war, was the first German leader to be invited to the regular gatherings of the leaders of the World War Two allies on the French coast where one of the major battles of the war was fought — something his predecessors had long hoped for in vain as a symbol of reconciliation. It had taken 60 years to invite the German leader and even that modest act nevertheless still managed to stir some resentment in Allied countries at the time.

Another pivotal moment in Germany’s transition from a guilt-burdened to a normal nation was the World Cup it hosted in 2006. Before that, national pride was a concept viewed with some suspicion and patriotism was considered a dirty word by many Germans who had been raised in the post-war era so packed with shame — “The Burden of Guilt, A Short German History 1914-45″ was a book many post-war generations read in school.

But then a young German Juergen Klinsmann, who had spent the previous decade living in the United States, returned home to coach the international soccer team – and started pushing away some of those taboos – such as singing with gusto the German national anthem before matches. It was quite a sight.

The unabashed, unburdened patriotism from Klinsmann, who was born in 1964, was contagious and many Germans who had long been petrified about any overt signs of nationalism began learning the words to and singing their anthem too. It was especially younger Germans who surprised and challenged their parents with an unfettered, unencumbered patriotism – and before long it seemed like every car in Germany was sporting a miniature German flag on its roof.

My son, a German citizen born in 2002, was only four at the time of the World Cup. Before going away to a match at the start of the tournament I asked if I should bring him home a t-shirt. “Yeah,” he said. “But one with the German flag on it.”

Comments

I agree it is time to let the past go insofar as active guilt is concerned. The Germans should not beat themselves up over something nearly a century in the past.

Nevertheless, I remain wary of Germany as a nation. I lived in Hamburg from 1968 to 1972 and had occasion to meet many of the citizens of the country hosting us. I encountered a significant level of hostility which was directed at me as an American. The older Germans especially were often rude and said mean things. That, coupled with the inescapable fact that Germany was responsible for both of the most horrible wars our world has ever witnessed made me wonder if their personal sense of nationality was skewed in a violent direction. After all, WWII was the direct outcome of German hostility over the Versailles Treaty which ended WWI. It seemed to me that the national psyche was oriented towards conflict as a means of resolving their problems. They blamed other countries for their problems — and this was not just the German leaders who felt this way. Hitler was enthusiastically followed into the most scandalous mode of being one can imagine.

I would not want young Germans to feel guilt. But I think they should meditate on what it means to be German in the world today.

Posted by ACC | Report as abusive
 

I was living in Leuven, Belgium in 1982 with friends and trips over Germany very often; My experiences with Germans are totally different than Kirschbaum, since they don’t forget what the allies did to them after the war, and don’t accept imported moral roles to be enforced in their society.
In a way I corroborated this with information provided by Internet, and books like “After The Reich” by Gile Macdonough where you learn about impressive issues that happened in Germany, and the Media never published about them.
We’ll see what happens in the near future, but one thing is certains Germans are very proud to be Deutscher, and resent the inmigration enforced in their country, except with people from the Baltic countries, Spain for example.

Posted by Koldovika | Report as abusive
 

I completely agree with ACC, I’ve visited Germany several times, and lived there as an exchange student with a family in the early 1990s. My encounters with Germans were frequently confrontational, and at times down right hostile when learning my nation of origin (I am American, and a liberal Democrat). I was a quiet easy going student, and didn’t start any of these interactions, so it always seemed out of place and inappropriate. I’ve always assumed this represented my interpretation of a simple cultural difference, but I wonder if it is something deeper, even in younger Germans.

Posted by TheBeagle | Report as abusive
 

Sort of depends on what side of the fence you are on. We only need look back into the 1960′s to Vietnam. We (Americans) killed approximately three million Vietnamese, not over a turf war but over dominoes. In doing so, we conscripted thousands of young men to go to the other side of the planet, use chemicals and weapons of mass destruction also in a misguided attempt to bring “freedom” to the world. I don’t see many Americans wringing their hands with guilt over a far more recent conflict. Like the old saying goes, “If you live in a glass house, don’t throw stones.” Most of us need not look far to find a glass house.

Posted by HorridToad | Report as abusive
 

G W Bush is the best thing to happen for German guilt. The US is responsible for the death of at least 650,000 civilians in the last 7 years. It is the US that are Nazis of the 21Th Century.

Posted by Sleepless | Report as abusive
 

Any German who was involved in perpetrating WW2 is gone, just as well as any victim of German WW2 atrocities. That very much means the nation has nothing to apologize for. However, modern NON-APOLOGETIC neo-fascist movements exist all over Europe, fomented further by social injustices and a deepening economic recession. Hungary’s most recent election comes to mind. These factions should be the priority, particularly as we enter a socio-economic climate similar to what brought WW2.

Posted by frznghost | Report as abusive
 

I agree that young germans should not feel responsible for the actions of past generations. At the same time, they do carry the burden of them to some degree, simply by virute of the ‘bad luck’ of being born into that country. Most large governments are capable of doing terrible things. WWII was somewhat unique though. After all, over a six year period, 14 MILLION people were killed (do the math – comes to about 75,000 per day) in non-combat related genocide that most of the population was complicit in. Not a pretty picture.

Posted by RonnieP | Report as abusive
 

War was nothing new in Europe in 1914, and Germans got blamed solely for the start of that war. They were only following their treaty with Austria-Hungry. Out of the 440 clauses in the treaty of 414 were devoted to punish Germany. And dont forget the land german has lost. The German Empire in 1914 was very large. and many Germans were forced out of their ethnic homes. The country we never really fully reblit untill the 1990′s they have suffered more than any other Weasten nation could ever know. And as for WW2. The German people didnt go to war by choice. and there were plenty of atempts to stop it. but how do you fight a Goverment with dictatoral powers. of course 12 or so million people died in genocide. But who are we to judge. the american genocide of native americans is still laughed about in many places across the US. and that was going on only 30 or 40 years before world war 1. Genocide has happend since man formed nations, and it will continue to happen in places around the world. In war people die. No one nation should ever be to blame for it. And Personly I would Love to see the day when A German Empire could stand along side the United States and England.

Posted by SchnellStell | Report as abusive
 

Well Germans still should feel responsible,beacuse of them industry and economy of mine country was completely destroyed and then we became soviet union slaves. That’s all german fault, I live in reality where I can still feel WW2 impact.. so why would they feel not responsible? It is not hard to guess that I am from Poland.. many slavic nations feel the same..second thing is the fact that nazi-nationalism is one of the diseases of 21st century and it is german product invented in 20 century so shame on you germans.

Posted by kashoob2123 | Report as abusive
 

schnellstell I have to agree Germans have chosen Hitler more than 90% society approved him as a leader and future crimes

Posted by kashoob2123 | Report as abusive
 

Scnellstell although I agree with Germany standing along USA and England, this can only happen if they assume what they did. You can’t say a nation can’t be blame for starting a war that caused 14 millions innocent deaths. It’s like saying a crime organisation can’t be blamed for enhancing drug business. What I believe is that young germans, if they still support their nation, should take the hard slap the past left them and use it to shape the futur german nation/culture which belong to them.
They are no different from any other countries. Each has to assume our past mistakes… But their mistakes might just be a bit bigger.

Posted by JudeChason | Report as abusive
 

I’ve a view that today Germany’s young people should no longer feel the guilt and pain about the mistakes their ancestors made. I guess they’ve paid for the mistakes of their forefathers for more than 50 years by being outcast [mentally and emotionally] and embarrassed with questions like their opinion about WWII and (of course their apologies) whenever they go anywhere in the world. But they must remember that hatred against any race or religion can only bring misery to all. The German Govt and people have been officially apologising for the mistakes of WWII for over 60 years. Ironically, the US Govt and the people (collectively) never even once apologise for neither the inhumane slaughter of innocent japanese citizens of Nagasaki and Hiroshima,nor for the Veitnam debacle nor for the human rights violation and inhumane treatment of the detainees in guantanamo bay and other secret detention camps(god only knws how many such detention camps are there in the world) nor for the invasion of Iraq in the name of WMD (which they could never prove) and the list only goes on….The most absurd thing is all these are done in the name of democracy and human rights which is the most insulting act against “Democracy” and “Human rights” itself. The US govt must first understand that “Human” does not implies to american citizens only, before advocating either “Democracy” and “Human rights”.

Posted by TheSaint007 | Report as abusive
 

SchnellStell’s comment is shocking and wrong, wrong, wrong. German aggression was DIRECTLY responsible for WWI and WWII. Read Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August”, the single best history of WWI, to learn this. Also, the German people participated enthusiastically in WWII, at least until it turned sour for them. Regarding the Holocaust, SchnellStell says, “In war people die.” Where to even start with such an idiotic remark? Germany’s actions against civilian populations are unsurpassed in their monstrous cruelty and cynicism. Germany IS to blame for the Holocaust, and must NEVER be allowed to become an empire. That’s a cause I’d gladly take up arms for.

Posted by dylanesque | Report as abusive
 

dylanesque, i totally agree with you history should never be forgotten- we must remember to prevent

Posted by waterfall123 | Report as abusive
 

I must politely disagree with ACC. Germans have had all too much meditation (forced, and otherwise) on the things that happened generations before they were born. Everyone argues that “they” were responsible for WWI & WWII. I lived in Germany many years. I did not EVER meet an aggressive or war-loving German in that time. Nor since. The Germans I met all love good food, music, opera, love-making, conversation with friends, their children, swimming in lakes, hiking in sunshine, driving down lovely sections of the Autobahn … I have met a considerable many rude Germans, but that’s another discussion for another day.

WWI & WWII were started by power-hungry men, not a nation. They used fear to manipulate the rest. Many native, liederhosen-wearing Germans were arrested and/or sent to concentration camp for opposing what Hitler’s government was doing. You never hear of this, do you.

What did Hitler do that the American government is not also guilty of? Really, you don’t think so?? Of hypnotizing a nation while systematically exterminating a race of people for the economic good of a few? Should I, born in 1968, carry the guilt of that stated American policy from so many generations ago?

Live and let live, and please, let’s move on.

Posted by NSnow | Report as abusive
 

You people are insane. All of Europe should be thanking America to this DAY. The US defeated Germany where it counted. The US ended the wars with nagasaki and hiroshima. Make no mistake, Japan wouldve invaded china and every other island in the Pacific. GET OVER IT!! Name off all of the wars America wars involved in since if you want. Americans do far more good than bad. Germany killed over 6 million jews. You can tout Iraq and Vietnam stats all day long and still not add up to 6 million. Comparing Guantanamo Bay to concentration camps is the most ignorant thing ever. You undermine the Jewish families who lost loved ones in WWII. This article was about the HOLOCAUST, not about your jealousy and hate of America and its government. GROW UP!

Posted by infoslinger | Report as abusive
 

Comparing American Government to Nazi Germany is garbage. All of EU can thank an American because it is likely someone in their family saved them from German oppression. Grow up. This was about Germany. You pathetic short sighted people.

Posted by infoslinger | Report as abusive
 

NSnow,

Don’t revise history in defense of a point. The German people were ecstatically, tremendously devoted to Hitler. His anti-Jewish policy received overwhelming national support. Germans went to war enthusiastically, not out of fear. Willing Germans, with notably rare exceptions, murdered for him.

“What did Hitler do that the American government is not also guilty of?” This is a shocking remark. When did the U.S. set up death camps? When did they build machines for the sole purpose of murdering millions of people?

Of course young Germans shouldn’t feel personally responsible for their country’s crimes. But they SHOULD draw useful lessons from their past—something that will never happen as long as people explain away the Holocaust as one more unfortunate wartime incident (as SchnellStell does above). And when you mitigate the events of WWII by comparing Germany’s actions to America’s, you reveal a profound ignorance of every conceivable aspect of the subject. Nothing is accomplished by blurring the historical lens and forgiving and forgetting unconditionally. None of the victims of 1940s Germany would support you in such a course.

Posted by dylanesque | Report as abusive
 

Infloslinger, an attitude like that is the reason America has such a bad reputation abroad. You should be ashamed.

Posted by payattention040 | Report as abusive
 

I am a 25 years old German. The question that is seriously being asked here is: Should I feel guilty about what was done by Germans under nazi rule? It is really an odd question, because obviously, I am not guilty of anything that happened before even my parents were born. So, should I feel guilty, even though I am objectively not guilty? That idea really just doesn’t make sense at all, and I’m glad that both the author and most posters seem to agree with this obvious fact.

Responsibility on the other hand is worth talking about. I strongly believe that we as Germans have a moral responsibility to learn from what happened during the nazi era and apply those lessons to the present and the future. These lessons are already deeply rooted in German society and politics, and in this way we distance ourselves from what the worst of our ancestors did. German national identity today is, to a large extent, based on opposition to the ideas of the nazis. We keep memory alive by keeping many former concentration camps as memorials. During my time at school, I visited two of them. In my home town, and in countless other towns, there are memorials where synagogues were burnt down in 1938. The climax of this memorial culture is the very large “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” which was built right in the center of our capital Berlin in 2005 on a vote from the German parliament.

Apart from remembering for the sake of the future, as long as there still are people who were victimized by the nazis and their German followers, Germany as a country has a moral responsibility to do what we can to make amends to these individuals. I believe we have done this, and are continuing to do this with some digity. One thing is financial compensation to victims, which has been paid and is still paid. Another good example is a friend of mine who has spent a year working in a jewish retirement home in the US during his gap year. He was with the organisation “Aktion Sühnezeichen” which translates into “Action Reconciliation” which also sends young Germans to Israel and to European countries that were occupied during WWII. Volunteers who go on these programs generally meet holocaust survivors with respect and sympathy, not with feelings of guilt. They are usually very welcome.

So much on guilt and responsibility, but how about shame?
Perhaps, one could argue, the Germans should feel ashamed rather than guilty. Here I see 3 possibilities for us Germans:

1. We can identify with our country and its history. This includes being both proud of the great accomplishments and ashamed of the horrible crimes of the past.

2. We choose not to identify with our country and its history. For any normal patriotic person outside Germany, this must seem very odd but for Germans it is quite normal. Many of us see our history as a list of facts rather than something to personally connect with. So many Germans are neither proud or ashamed of anything that happened before they were born.

3. We can do it the normal way. We can learn from any other nation, particularly the Americans. This means being proud and enthusiastic of our country’s past achievements, while not identifying too much with the negative aspects of the past or even feeling ashamed of them. It sounds illogical and even impossible, but the United States are a great example for how this is possible, and it is a particularly valuable example because both Germany and the U.S. have in their history crimes beyond imagination. This is really not meant as an offence to any American, and without any irony, I would say that this is just the normal way countries deal with their past, including the horrible parts. Infoslinger’s posts are a good example for this normality.

I should add that I could have named Japan, Russia, China, the UK or many other countries as examples instead of the U.S., and that I have met several Americans who were quite self-critical of their country. I did not mean to point a finger at the US.

My personal point of view is somewhere between number 1 and 2. What I find interesting about my own country is that our national identity, is still re-developing. We will see which way it goes.

If you do not find this last sentence scary, you probably have some knowledge of contemporary Germany that goes beyond WWII nazi movies and holocaust documentaries :)

Posted by BornInnocent | Report as abusive
 

I think BornInnocent’s perspective is completely healthy and sane. My approach to being an American is also between possibility #1 and #2. That is, I believe in the good things about America, but I’m also aware that countries can go in the wrong direction and that America has done so many times in its past. I’m close to #2 in the sense that I keep in mind that my life is not a historical phenomenon—i.e., the most important things have to do with how I treat the people around me, how I develop myself, etc, not my membership in a particular nationality.

What I think ISN’T good is when people try to minimize the events of WWII with comments like SchnellStell’s: “In war people die”. The Holocaust was not an inevitable consequence of the war—just as American expansion into the West did not HAVE to result in the destruction of the Native American people. We must not be sloppy, or use generalizations, when we think about violence. Certain kinds of violence are impermissible under any circumstances, period. Genocidal, racial-based violence obviously falls into that category.

Posted by dylanesque | Report as abusive
 

This was a terrible thing. Its too bad I wasn’t there with the knowledge I have and the ability to make people fight back. Its too bad that its too late.

I would like to know if anyone can tell me if the German Government or their people were ever required to or volunteered to: Compensate the victims families or individuals related to the murders of those killed during the Hitler regime. Namely those who were murdered,raped, and robbed in the Countries in Europe that Hitler’s regime took over and for those murdered, raped and robbed in the death camps. Was any compensation made to these people?

I want to know because since I live in the United States of America, we did the same thing to the Native Americans, (Indians), and we compensate them for my predecessors inadequacies and greed.

So if anyone can tell me what I am asking, (compensation for the murdered victims), please let me know.

Posted by Fonz007 | Report as abusive
 

Yes, there has been, and there still is compensation to the victims of the nazi regime. The German government is still paying compensation to individual holocaust victims and to former forced laborers. There have been considerable payments to the state of Israel which were crucial for its development, and to this day, Germany delivers military equipment to Israel and shares a part of the production cost. With the European countries that were invaded, there have been settlement agreements with some compensation. In addition to that, Germany has payed large amounts of money to other European countries as EU funds.

I don’t know how much compensation has been and is still being payed all together since I didn’t do any extensive research on this, I just wrote what I happened to know.

Of course, there is no amount of compensation that can ever make up for what has happened. And of course, there are still victims of WWII and the holocaust that have not received any compensation.

Considering the enormity of the crimes any monetary compensation can only be seen as symbolic. However what we can do is to allow the remaining survivors a decent standard of living with our compensation, and I think we are trying.

Posted by BornInnocent | Report as abusive
 

This is definitely an interesting question. I myself am a U.S. Air Force veteran, as was my dad during Vietnam, and my grandfather(Army Air Corps) during WWII. My grandfather lived well into my 20′s(I’m 32 now), and while he didn’t talk in detail about the war, I definitely knew his feelings towards both Germany and Japan. He had a reason though. While he survived the war, two of his brothers and multiple friends died fighting Nazi Germany. This hatred he had wasn’t passed on to me, clearly I wasn’t part of that war and have only seen the best from the few Germans I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. There is another side to this though. I had the honor of visiting Normandy during the 60th anniversary of D-Day. I have to admit that it did stir a little anger deep in my belly to see the German flag flying alongside the American flag(of course credit goes to Britain, Canada, etc… as well) at a place that so many allies gave their lives to liberate. I fully belive I felt that way because of the fact I grew up listening to my grandfather talking about D-day, and crying when he talked about his brother losing his life in France. Point is, I’m intelligent enough to know that modern day Germany and Japan aren’t evil genocidal war mongers. In my opinion there will be underlying resentment until the day comes that every veteran and every victim of the war has passed on and can’t pass their feelings and experiences on to the younger generations.

Take America for example. Like many of you above have stated, we don’t have a spotless past…no country does. Take for example our Civil War. I was born and raised in New Orleans, the deepest part of the south. My family owned slaves and fought for the Confederacy. Do I feel bad about this? Not one bit. Enough time has passed to where ALL the wounds have healed, and there is not one person walking this earth who has a recolection of the Civil War. Every Western power, whether it be directly or indirectly, has blood on it’s hands. To believe otherwise is just naive. Of course I can’t deny that Germany takes the cake when it comes to the scale and cold brutality of war(side note: In my opinion, Japan was far more brutal in war, but they aren’t a Western power so that’s not what we’re talking about).

Overall my point is that the youth of Germany should have a good understanding of what happened and be mindful of the fact that many German victims are still alive today. But as far as feeling guilty for it? I would have to wonder why someone would feel guilty for something that happened 30-40 years before they were even born. The wounds will, and are healing. It’s just going to take another generation or so to fully put WWII behind us.

Posted by flyingtiger435 | Report as abusive
 

One word…forgiveness. Every person and every nation without exception makes mistakes, sometimes horrible mistakes. It is what we learn from those mistakes that defines who we truly are.

Posted by ROB133 | Report as abusive
 

I tried to post something a few days ago and now I’m not quite sure if I forgot to send it since the post didn’t appear.

The topic here is whether the Germans should still feel guilty, I have already commented on that in detail.
However, please let me deviate from this topic a little bit since the last post made me feel the need to explain something.

“I have to admit that it did stir a little anger deep in my belly to see the German flag flying alongside the American flag(of course credit goes to Britain, Canada, etc… as well) at a place that so many allies gave their lives to liberate”

I wouldn’t say that I don’t understand this. Until last year, I thought I would never have this kind of feeling. However, living in London, I actually got a bit angry when I heard that there was going to be a memorial to the honor of the British WWII bomber pilots. In WWII the British air force launched a bombing campaign against German cities. Apart from military targets, they deliberately caused firestorms which consumed residential areas and historic town centers with hardly any military benefit or purpose.

Now, of course Germany started the war, and Germany commited far greater crimes during that time. I was and I am fully aware of that. I have also always been aware that the nazi German government was ultimately responsible for all the destruction. I also know that the German air force had done the same thing with other cities.

However, the fact that Britain would build this kind of memorial in 2010 gave me the feeling that there was no respect whatsoever for the suffering of the civilian victims of these bombings, precicely because they were German. That made me angry.

Then, however, I realized something. Giving the old veterans and their families a place to remember is not the same thing as glorifying the stragegy that was used. And even though parts of the strategy that was used was immoral, even criminal, the pilots deserve credit for their bravery to risk their lives for an overall just cause. One should also note that these veterans have been denied a memorial until now because the morality of the bombings was very controversial in Britain.

As my grandma (who had survived the bombings living in Berlin) told me that of course the British should honour their soldiers, I was not capable of feeling angry anymore.

Why am I telling all this? This experience showed me that anger can, disappear the more one understands. Now please let me explain the meaning of the German flag at the D-Day celebrations.

Without going into historical details, I would like to point out that the German black-red-gold flag has always stood for German democracy. It was a symbol used by the democratic movement in the 19th century, and it was only used as a national flag when Germany was democratic (Weimar republic and after WWII).
By inviting former chancellor Schröder and putting up the German flag, the former enemies showed that they have accepted Germany as a friendly, democratic country with which they share their basic values. By coming, Schröder acknowledged that the allies are, from today’s perspective, seen as liberators and deserve gratitude.

In short, the German flag at the D-Day celebration is a symbol for the freedom that the western allies made possible for the German people. Seen from that perspective, the flag may be a source of pride rather than a source of anger to a grandson of one of the liberators. I’m not saying that’s the only way of looking at it, it is just an idea.

Posted by BornInnocent | Report as abusive
 

I’m an American, and I’m from the South. Sometimes, I still resent Northerners for having defeated the South during the great civil war. I know now that slavery was wrong, but I still have a sense of shame, and resentment toward northerners, damn Yankees! Deep down, I know the south will rise again…

C’mon. the war is over.

Posted by dray1975 | Report as abusive
 

Thanks for all your great points. I would like to point out a number of factors which I think need to be recognised and dealt with. In 1945, at the Yalta conference between the allies, 2 very important decisions would be made, which would end up causing the biggest mass evictions of any people through history and the implementation of the Morgenthau plan in the US and British occupied zones.

As to the first, it was agreed that Poland’s border would be pushed further west and therefore all the territory of east and west prussia would be handed over to the polish as compensation. 12 to 14 million innocent women and children where forcibly removed from these area and sent to Germany, which was now west of the order. During this forced migration over 2 million people died. It is not taught in history books and maps in do not show the actual borders Pre and post world war 2. This was a crime for which the Germans have never been allowed to bring up. Tragic

The second one, the Morgenthau plan, was partly implemented during the occupation of germanymand caused untold suffering to the native German population. This was a deliberate policy of Eisenhower. The plan make for interesting reading. It is also a well documented fact the the German POW’s were redesignated Disarmed Enemy forces so that Eisenhower could get around the rules of the gene a convention. No red cross access was granted to any of the prisoner of war camps, which lead to the death of a great number of captured German soldiers.

This is why the Americans are not always treated well in some parts of Germany. We have made the Germans feel guilty for way too long and it is time they were given a break. I have been fortunate enough to have travelled nearly the whole of Germany (just after the world cup soccer) and it was great to see some pride returning.

The German soldier may have been fighting for the wrong cause, but we should never forget that they were brave soldiers who died defending their country. There families grieved just like allied families grieved. They also experienced atrocities of mass civilian bombing which was and always will be a war crime. This said it is in the past and we need to move forward. Enough guilt has been placed on the German people and it is time to set them free. Let’s ensure the real history is shown and all crimes are dealt with.

Posted by Hurtig | Report as abusive
 

The comment above is definitely very interesting (I mean positively interesting). I don’t fully agree with everything though.

Hurtig: “This is why the Americans are not always treated well in some parts of Germany.”

I’ll have to bother my American friends with a rather lengthy answer to this one:

Generally, I’m not aware of any hatred of Americans that comes from what happened during and shortly after WWII. This is mainly because the Morgenthau Plan aka Directive JCS 1067 and the deaths in American POW camps did not cause any suffering beyond what people were used to at the time. For German soldiers at the end of the war, the most likely way to survive was still to surrender themselves to British and American forces (one of my granddads did that, the other one got captured by British forces).

The British and American forces treated both their German POWs and the civilian population much better than the Soviets did, and this contrast really shaped the collective memory of Germans. The German POWs who were with the British/Americans mostly returned home shortly after the end of the war (few starved, most didn’t, and the likelihood of starving was probably smaller than outside of a POW camp). The unlucky ones who were captured by the Soviets were, if they didn’t starve or get shot, deported to the Siberian tundra for forced labour in mines. They gradually returned home as physically and psychologically destroyed people throughout the 1950s, if they returned at all. Many still became productive members of the German society, and I have highest respect for those people.

The treatment of the civilian population by the American soldiers is mostly remembered positively. There are countless stories of American soldiers giving people food or firewood despite directive JCS 1067. An old lady I know told me how she (as a child) and her family hid in the forest as American troops came to occupy their village, and when she got back she got candy from the soldiers. In contrast to such stories, the Soviet troops often randomly shot people and committed mass rapes, a whole generation of German women who did not live far enough west got raped that way. The evil things the Americans did were more abstract, less obvious to see and didn’t involve any direct brutality. And people still had more food than in the Soviet zone. That’s why American atrocities don’t play such a large role in the collective memory of the German people.

Most importantly, the Americans needed/wanted West Germany as a strong partner, so they eventually did treat the Germans as allies. They did give some of their Marshall plan help to West Germany which helped rebuild the country. In addition, they helped to re-establish a democracy. And let’s not forget the Berlin air lift and how Bush senior supported the German effort for reunification.

The mass evictions of Germans from the former eastern territories of Germany is definitely seen as a crime by many Germans, but it is not really associated with the Americans in our collective memory, since the Americans were physically absent. The evicted people would typically have bad memories of the invading Red Army, and of Polish and Czech paramilitary units who took revenge on random Germans for the horrors of German occupation. Then they might have nice memories of friendly American soldiers around their new home in the west, and American swing or jazz music which they had not been allowed to hear during the Nazi rule, and that’s what they would associate with America.

If there have been any hard feelings against Americans recently, that certainly has more to do with the Bush administration than with WWII and the aftermath. Anyway, I don’t think many people here have any hard feelings against Americans at all, so don’t worry about coming here.

“Enough guilt has been placed on the German people and it is time to set them free. Let’s ensure the real history is shown and all crimes are dealt with.”

Please, don’t say ‘the real history’ in this context, that sounds a bit too spooky and revisionist for such a perfectly reconstructed German as myself :) . Don’t worry, I know you just meant all historical facts and not just a biased selection. You said that all crimes should be dealt with, I agree with that, as I agree with most of your post. However, I’d like to stress that the question whether or not Germans should feel guilty about whatever crimes their ancesters committed is completely independent of any crimes committed by people from any other country, and also independent of what happened to the Germans during and after the war. I don’t agree with any attempt to diminsh, relativize or justify one crime with other crimes and call that ‘putting things into perspective’; that goes either way.

Posted by BornInnocent | Report as abusive
 

Thank you for your point, Hurtig, but I don’t quite agree with your point. The allied atrocities against Germans have nothing to do with the question of German guilt. I agree that all crimes should be dealt with, but guilt and suffering cannot be treated like a currency. No German crime lessens the guilt of allied perpetrators, and no allied crime lessens the much larger guilt of German perpetrators.

Posted by BornInnocent | Report as abusive
 

BornInnocent comments are quite reasonable.
There are suffers that only the victims understands. I live in Iran, a middle-eastern country which is simply occupied during the WWII with no respect to it’s independence and neutrality and have been a playground for western powers and USSR during the cold war. US-USSR conflict over taking power in Iran has played a significant role in my life. In fear of USSR taking control of Iran, with US support the first democratic government of my country collapsed and dictatorship returned which finally led to Islamic Revolution by religious guys. And now many others and me are suffering from that. But who can feel this?

Posted by msk1361 | Report as abusive
 

Americans are naivelly arrogent. German are nationalaity arrogent.American never actually won a war strategically. They have their own advantages, though- they are a big,& young country, they can afford to make misakes. They dont mind to make mistakes. In fact, when they realize they make mistakes, they apologize, correct it, & move on. It seems to me Americans make all kinds of mistakes politically, but at th end, other countries stiil need them to rescue. Germans are such a proud people, they are too proud to admit they are inferior. But they are a small country by size. They just have to accept that, no matter how super you are, you cannot beat up verybody.

Posted by peaceChinese | Report as abusive
 

Germany and it’s descendants should ALWAYS feel guilty for the sins of their ancestors. I watched the military channel and interviews with German WW2 soldiers who are still alive and all they bragged about was how many Jews, Polish and Allies they could kill.
Bottom line is, once this Arayian supreme race “thing” is instilled in your genes, you are never going to get rid of it. Germany will try to rise again in power and try to take over Europe. Only this time, an big old plane with letters of Enola Gay will be slapped on the side of it.
Do not tell me these people of Germany told don’t uphold what their relatives and ancestors did. For God’s Sake, even Oscar Schindler, a German himself, knew it was horrific to see human body ashes coming from the crematoriums that were burning Polish, Jewish, and Catholic priests bodies and the rest of Europeans who did not “fit in” with Hitler’s plan. Those people knew and all turned a blind eye. I am glad Eisenhower made the civilians walk through the camps and carry the wooden caskets of the dead from the concentration camps.
If you lived in Germany and didn’t know about the concentration camps, you would have to be blind, deaf and dumb but the ‘supreme’ race was so destined to be superior, they turned their heads to the human atrocities. The Red Armies revenge was nothing to what the German’s did to the Jews, making them starve to death and pull a child or baby from a mother’s arms only to shoot the baby in the head and bounce the infant like a baseball around. And the mothers were sent to the gas chambers. Don’t tell me different. My grandfather was a camp liberator and he has the photos to prove it and my uncle and few cousins survived some of the camps, only because it was close to April 1945.

Germany should be quarantined.

Posted by calliopemom | Report as abusive
 

I agree they should not feel guilty anymore, but they should never forget what happened. if they forgot what would stop it from happening again.

Posted by chrissylee | Report as abusive
 

What a ridiculous question – I’m British and the notion that there are people out there today still harping on about WW2 guilt is beyond me. I doubt very much that anyone on here is old enough to have an understanding of pre-war Germany, yes the war was a bad thing and yes lots of people died – however if we’re clinging on to this ridiculous culture of blame then surely Europe and America should also collectively be made to feel guilt for things like the slave trade, need we count how many lives we took from Africa and enslaved? Murdered? Raped? Mutilated? The point is that yes all of these things were terrible, inexcusable, however its done now – get over it, the only thing we can do is to ensure it doesn’t happen again and this is not achievable by rubbing a nations face in it. Germany is a great nation with a vibrant, intelligent and fantastic people, yes they have their idiots, but so does every country. Just one thought to leave you with, poignant I think – History is written by the victors. Thanks.

Posted by battery8c1d | Report as abusive
 

No german should be felling guilt about ww2 what was done to us is unforgettble no one should be ashamed of Hitler actions he was a patriot that defended his home ask yourselves what was done to the germans during ww2 and who was punished for that crimes

Posted by k.p97 | Report as abusive
 

While I was working my way thru Oregon state, some jobs were in turkey and Japan.
Many old and young men were together for 3-6 months.
In the 50′s many families were too broke to send their kids to college.
We were supported by Sikorski and Sarnoff, both royal Russians that left for the us in 1919.
They had many folks that designed things for tsar Nicolas or were pole/Czech/Silesian/ you name the ethnic group that were glad to be working.
Some had been involved with the kaiser or a emporer, even Romanians.
They had so many war stories, I can’t remember them all, but in the 50′s they never got into fights. The turning point for the heavy nationalism seemed to after 1848 in their stories.
After 1800 the affects of Russia’s Catherine and Napoleon I didn’t seem too bad.
After the Crimean war and how Bismarck controlled Napoleon iii , the industrialization and nationalization became very strong and business banking competition made many countries unmanageable…

Posted by harb123 | Report as abusive
 

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