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Comments

yeah it is a bit concerning.. I was browsing through the displays of one of the major book sellers.. It had a children's history book on display. I started leafing through it..
The section on the second world war just made my mouth drop wide open..
everything was fine in Germany and then all of a sudden bombs started dropping on Germany.
NOTHING.. I mean NOTHING about what CAUSED those bombs to be dropped.
it was scary. NOTHING about nazis or hitler - NOTHING...
I should have bought it, but I was so taken aback...
scary stuff....

@amiexpat,

would you mind telling us title and authors of this book, so that we can share your horrible experience?

@teutone.. as I said I should have bought it.. but I know what I saw..
OK maybe I expressed it a little strongly.. but I found it 'concerning'.

@Amiexpat
I was raised in "D" and went through the German School system from 1948 until 1961.
The 2nd world war was like a total void, nothing about that conflict was discussed and there seemed to be a total time lapse concerning the issue.
I am not surprised.

Guess this is just another part of the on going TV ad campagin directed toward Germans to make them feel good about themselves.

I kind of like it. It is much like selling diet pills and soap.

I care not where German history ends, just when.

...To my amazement, there was not one mention in either the photographs or the accompanying narrative of the United States

And were the French mentioned? The British? The Russians? The german unification was achieved by the people of Leipzig. It had its roots in the politics of Glasnost and Perestrojka, in the founding of the Polish union Solidarnosc. The politicians of 4+2 countries did only what had to be done, they were merely supernumeraries. The unification itself was a people's revolution.

I guess Reagans stand against the soviet union must have been a staged American Media event? Mr Gorbachev, "Tear down this wall" must have been an electronic substitution.
Had America not brought down the Soviet Union by making them go bankrupt, they would have done that themselves? Oh, none of that, it was Germany's peaceful rhetoric that made them see their evil ways and kow down to the Arian Uebermenschen? Of course it had to happen that way because everything Amerka does is evil and they rebuild Germany only for their own gain. there was no compassion involved, since those AMI barbarians without proper Europeon aristocratic culture are incapable of human thoughts.
Sarcasm off

Just be careful of your new friends the Russians and chinese. Don't piss the Russians off since they will turn off the oil and gas spigot a lot faster than it took to get it to you. The chinese will buy one prototype from you , copy it, produce it and sell it back to you.

Right now with Germany teetering on economic and demographic suicide it must suck to be German and not to have a place to go to look for grener grass?

No, it actually was the other way around. As soon as Reagan bravely requested "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall", the Russians got so scared that they tried to get out of this without loosing their face. That's how they came up with the "peaceful revolution" which they staged in Leipzig and elsewhere. Those millions of people on East Germany's streets really were soviet agents playing revolution. And all that thanks to brave Mr Reagan! The only thing I'm wondering about is why the US waited more than fourty years with their great plan to bring down those evil communists.

Btw. Bringing down empires by "making them go bankrupt" - great idea! Now we finally know what George W. "I-give-you-wars-and-tax-cuts" Bush really is up to.

@Pauli Shore,

I'll bet you a can of Trabi two-stroke oil that the "peaceful revolution" copied Solidarity, which defied the Politiburo after taken inspiration from Ronald Regan and Pope John Paul II.

Also, George HW Bush worked out a deal with the Soviets, (This was before the Putsch in front of the Russian White House that brought Yeltsin into power), to allow Helmut Kohl to call for German reunification. If it wasn't for the present President's father's support and key role playing, you would still have a DDR today.

Also, I don't recall millions of people on East German streets. The DDR only had a population of 16 million. Half of them worked for the Stasi!

@ martin shore


Typical of the Germans attempt to rewrite history by advancing the Goebbels Gene. Throw a lot of shit against the wall, something will stick.
Now it seems to have been all Germany's doing to promote "Peace on earth?"
I will never understand why america insisted on rebuiling you backstabbing ingrates. It would have been better and cheaper to turn you over to Russian control.

Just continue with your dangerous ostrich game, your ass will make an inviting target down the road.
It is poetic though that the immorality that exists in Germany will bring about conversion to the srictest religion on Earth? Get raedy to embrace the new motto
" Pray to Allah five times a day or die infidel ".

By the way, you idiot, it has been 60 years, not 40. Go learn something.

I am ashamed to have been born and raised a German and see your type bring this beautiful country to it's knees.

@ George M
We were both on the same wavelength about his first name.
You got it right and I had a Brainfart.

The 2nd world war was like a total void, nothing about that conflict was discussed and there seemed to be a total time lapse concerning the issue.

I'm absolutely stunned. This amazes me. I thought it must have taken a couple decades before they could get around to that, but you're telling us it was that way practically from the word 'go'.

Are there any older German-educated folks who had a similar experience?

The Berlin Wall fell as a result of decades of Soviet military over-extension and economic decline, which both resulted in large part from the extreme burden of the military budget on the Soviet economy, and thus ultimately from the Soviet-U.S. rivalry. Reagan himself may have accelerated the process of Soviet disengagement from Eastern Europe by raising the costs of that rivalry. Even if you don't give Reagan himself credit, though, it's hard to see how there could have been an East German collapse without decades of U.S. pressure. And by the way, the mass demonstrations only took place after Gorbachev made it clear that he would no longer use Soviet forces to defend the Eastern European regimes. The demonstrations may have been the catalyst for the DDR's breakdown, but they were not the underlying cause.

If you really want to cry in despair or perhaps cry while laughing at the irony -- read the magnificent speech Reagan gave at the Brandenburg Gate - June 12, 1987.

http://www.reaganfoundation.org/reagan/speeches/wall.asp

Outstanding.

@doug

"I thought it must have taken a couple decades before they could get around to that, but you're telling us it was that way practically from the word 'go'."

First, let´s not forget that apart from americanbychoice, all the experts state that Germany has done a very good job dealing with its history. So maybe you shouldn´t trust him too much- the Goebbels Gene, ya know...

It is bullshit to say that Germans had been working to forget about the Nazis for the past decades. It´s just the other way around, of course: For the people who had still been involved, this was a difficult thing to talk about. Actually, this reluctance to deal with history played a big role in the 68er movement.
The more distant these events get, the easier it is to talk about them. Today, WWII and Nazis are THE big theme in Germany. Frankly, with the 60 years anniversary, there even was a bit of an overkill this year. I for one have had quite enough of cheap Guido Knoop documentaries for a while...

When you're going to see Norman Foster's biggest cheesecup of Europe, don't expect a history that thinks out of the box. Expect the under-the-cheesecup narratives that the isolationist post-war generations needed to reinvent the country virtually from scratch. This is why the Reichstagskuppel in the middle has a kind of giant umbicilial cord hanging down into the plenar hall, to remind of all the navel-gazing that had been necessary at the time. It was believed that as long as the outside world was doing well, as it did on the eve of the Berlin blockade when it created the state of Israel, Germany could focus on its recovery from the cultural lobotomy that followed the near-suicide of the Nazis.

Nevertheless, there's a memorial plate a few hundred meters nearby on Strasse des 17. Juni where Reagan gave his well-remembered speech in front of the Brandenburger Tor. Looking back at the 1980s it is rather difficult to guess how much impact a speech held 4800 km away from Kabul might actually have had on Kremlin calculus. But the speech certainly has provided inspiration for the significant rise in the number of Ausreiseanträge (emigration applications) which in the last two years before the wall came down put a permanent reservoir of applicants into a state of innere Kündigung (mental layoff) towards the Honecker regime.

@americanbychoice: "I was raised in "D" and went through the German School system from 1948 until 1961. The 2nd world war was like a total void, nothing about that conflict was discussed and there seemed to be a total time lapse concerning the issue."

I went through that school system from 1987 to 2000. It's the opposite today. With NO other theme we spent more time.

"By the way, you idiot, it has been 60 years, not 40. Go learn something."

The GDR existed 41 years, not 60.

@DL: "It showed clips of the Berlin Airlift but not once did it mention who flew the planes."

A big problem? Everyone in Germany knows who flew the planes over 270.000 times. Because we learned that in school, have heard it in dozens of tv documentaries, from our (grand)fathers and -mothers. We know about Lucius D. Clay, about the operations "vittles" and "plane fare". One documentary didn't mention a fact everyone knows and because of that history is being re-written?

@ chrisw

I am not disputing your contention about the school system of today educating their students about WWll. I know they are now. When I went to school it wasn't talked about.
The subject was avoided like the plague.

Regarding the GRD being around for 41 years. I wasn't talking about that at all. I simply disputed his/her claim "The only thing I'm wondering about is why the US waited more than fourty years with their great plan to bring down those evil communists". Communists have been around a lot longer.

@ChrisW "One documentary didn't mention a fact everyone knows and because of that history is being re-written?"

Of course. That's what "rewriting" means.

There was possibly also no mention of the role that Hungary played in reunification, since it was their border guards who initially opened the gates and let people through. Possibly also no mention of the collapse of the Soviet Union, which precipitated the entire episode?

Hopefully I will get a chance to travel to Berlin soon and view the exhibition myself!

Pi.

@americanbychoice

Communists have been around for 60 years, then?

The exhibit in the Reichstag dome tells the history of the building, which has very little to do with Americans. There's still plenty of Russian graffiti visible inside the building, and the building has been redesigned by a British architect, but that's it as far as Allied forces are concerned. The only mention Americans get is that picture of Michael Jackson playing in front of the building, if I remember correctly.

@flux

I never said communism had been around for 60 years. However, you would have to read the entire exchange to understand my implication. I knowthe history of the Reichstag and Berlin, having been there many times, even before the wall fell. Used to go to East Berlin through checkpoint charlie.

@SeanM: "Of course. That's what "rewriting" means."

Oh. Okay ... so "rewriting" doesn't mean telling something untrue instead of the truth? It means telling the right thing only 100 times and not 101 times?

@americanbychoice: A. Shore wrote about the end of the GDR. At least I understand it that way. Maybe my fault, sorry.

First, let´s not forget that apart from americanbychoice, all the experts state that Germany has done a very good job dealing with its history. So maybe you shouldn´t trust him too much- the Goebbels Gene, ya know...

I'm sure that I don't qualify as an expert, but since meeting my first German citizen in the 80's I've never thought that Germany at large dealt well with it. I viewed this post-war guilt thing as unhealthy before I even knew it had a name, or that societies could even be unhealthy. Dealing with it well would, to me, involve a German public with a generally more balanced view of what it was and is. As long as the war is understood with honesty, I don't see a need for guilt anymore (or for the last few decades, for that matter).

However, guilt there is, and the guilt seems to manifest in polar extremes; recognition, where it is essentially understood and greatly over-compensated (we were so wrong, war is wrong, violence is wrong, guns are wrong, dirty looks are wrong, spank me!) and denial, where understanding is either lacking or rejected (Germans were victims of Hitler like everyone else! Of course everyone believed that Poland attacked! No one knew about the Jews! It didn't happen! We never liked Hitler-Jugend! Populism? [[blank look]] Kristal-what? Er, that must have been the Nazis, wherever they came from...).

In my completely non-professional opinion, Germany will be dealing well with it when society in general looks back, sees and understands what happened, and acknowledges that it was wrong but does so without guilt. It's my belief that the over-compensation form drives a need to see the mantle of guilt placed on someone else's shoulders, creating at least in part (for example) the compulsion to portray America in amplified hystrionics. A new breed of populism, which is never healthy in any form. The denial form appears, at least from my comfortable distance, to be gaining prevalence; this "guiltless, honest understanding" that I speak of can never happen if it continues to. I don't see how anyone could avoid repeating errors of the past without understanding them, so I have to say that the only guilt I approve of would be for failing to understand.

I didn't mean to imply that I thought anyone in Germany had forgotten about the Nazis - from that first gentleman that I met, I've known that isn't going to happen. Not in my lifetime. What I meant is that how they happened, why they happened, and what was done about it are understood in a distorted fashion, and that's no good.


@FranzisM - Thanks for that perspective.

@Doug

Excellent! You may need to say this more often. The Blogosphere is purring....

Excellent text, Doug.

"I don't see a need for guilt anymore."

Thats only a question of time, I think. Most Germans of my age I know (1980+) doesn't feel something like "Kollektivschuld". My grandfather was 17 at the end of the second world war.

"... the only guilt I approve of would be for failing to understand."

We learned much about _what_ happened. _Why_ it happened and how it could happen, that are the difficult questions. We (some friends and me) had and have many discussions about that, because you can only partly answer these questions with historical facts. I believe the psychological aspects are very important, too. The Stanford Prison Experiment (http://www.prisonexp.org/), the Milgram Experiment or "The Wave", for example, are scary, but maybe part of an answer.

"I don't see how anyone could avoid repeating errors of the past without understanding them."

Yes, you are right. And in the case of the second world war, how could anyone prevent that from happening again even if they understand it? I, as an individual, don't have an answer. The answer of the society as a whole is very easy, too easy: Distrust of patriotism. More egoism.

The german "nanny state", as it was called sometimes in the comments of this blog, is a good example. The federal republic has such an enormous debt because everybody wants something from the state, but nobody wants to pay what that really costs. That's only good for some individuals, but not for the society as a whole. I don't see much reasons to call that system social. It's definitely not social for the next generations. just my two cents.

(Sorry for my bad english. Foreign languages were never my strength.)

@ChrisW -

I can hardly form simple sentences in German, there's nothing wrong with your English. You clearly give two examples of what I meant, positive and negative. I hope you don't mind if I blather about them a little.

Understanding Milgram and it's implications is very positive. I think Germans (and certainly not Germans alone, but it's Germany that we're concerned with) need to understand that the people involved were not some aberration, some evil outside element, or hapless folk under some sort of mass-hypnosis. They were everyday, normal people -- the sort you meet every time you step foot outside -- behaving in a way that can be "normal" under the right circumstances.

If German society in general came to understand that because this is true, there is a responsibility to insert individual judgement between external influences and personal actions, then they understood and learned what I think they needed to, and there is no justifiable cause for guilt today. However, I don't think this is often the case, because Milgram can also be (mis-)understood in another way: "It's not our fault, that's how people are, Hitler used this to victimize us and there's nothing that could have been done" (or the more hackneyed "I was just following orders!"). In this case, the subject has learned nothing, and guilt is warranted. If personal accountability is a value that is not really accepted, this will be difficult to change. Populism is a natural social behavior - but by the individual's initiative it can be rejected in favor of something more reasoned.

Your other example, distrusting patriotism, is the negative one. Believing that such a thing alone could result in what happened is another failure to understand, and it does seem to be a common belief among Germans. In fact, it seems to be widely held as a truism among Europeans in general, although the word usually chosen to express it is not patriotism, but nationalism. In English, these two are practically identical - I have the impression this may not be so in German? That one of them might mean something more like "chauvinism"?

There is nothing wrong with pride in your country, as long as your country is a thing worthy of pride. Germany surely has things worthy of pride both past and present. It should go without saying that this must be balanced against recognizing whatever things might not be worthy of pride, but maybe it does not go without saying. There is nothing wrong with believing in your country's cultural values, provided that they are healthy values. There is nothing wrong in wanting your country to succeed, or in supporting its interests, as long as its interests are not destroying nations and killing millions.

This is all (again, from my perspective) normal social behavior, and healthy within perfectly reasonable limits. I think that a society which shuns these things shuns its own perpetuation. When patriotism is recognized as the problem, rather than a populist nature by which it is practiced, or the limits within which it is practiced (by which I refer again to the importance of the individual's judgement), I believe this can only be bad for Germany.

"I don't think this is often the case, because Milgram can also be (mis-)understood in another way: "It's not our fault, that's how people are...""

It will be more often the case, I believe, because the generations born after the second world war were not directly involved and don't (or shouldn't) feel the need to defend themselves. Nevertheless the Stanford Prison Experiment asks unpleasant questions: If these things are done by everyday people, by people like my great-grandparents, what would I've done instead of them if I would be born 80 years earlier?

"patriotism, nationalism. In English, these two are practically identical - I have the impression this may not be so in German?"

That's right, they are not identical in German. Patriotismus means only love for your country or bonds to your country, Nationalismus means wanting glory or power for your country, even if that harms other countries, other people. Nationalismus means feeling superior. The first time I read your comment, I thought maybe I've chosen the wrong word. But because patriotism was often abused in the german history, even that has a negative touch today. (Hurra-Patriotismus)

"When patriotism is recognized as the problem..."

That's maybe too hard. It's more like "be really, really careful with it". With "distrust" I didn't want to say patriotism doesn't exist.

Beside this I fully agree with you.

"American-Free German History?"

It is absolutely true. However, one should take this criticism one gigantic step further. A step that is not generally noticed by Americans:

Germany is also "free" of its own German history. All German history books have made short shrift of any part of German history other than the horrors of the twelve year Nazi period. Outside of artists, scientists and Socialists, Germans have seemingly nothing to be proud of and that is saying a lot for any country with a 2,000 year history under various monarchies.

Particularly the history of Prussia, as one of the most advanced countries in 19th century Europe, has been reduced to an absolut minimum and its horrible ethnic cleansing by Soviet Russians and Poles has been practically eliminated from the pages of German history.

If a country shows such little respect for its own heroes or victims of its past, it should not be surprising that it shows so little or no gratitude toward American assistance and protection after WW II.


USA

The lack of recognition by today's Germans for American help after WW II is also a result of a lack of responsibility. During years of the Iron Curtain, Germans were largely free to enjoy life to its fullest without much responsibility in world affairs. In the meantime, America carried the world's burden largely alone and without gratitude.

The American nuclear umbrella protected Germans from the Soviet threat in the East and they required only a nominal military force to play a minor role as participant in an overwhelmingly U.S. driven NATO.

This situation bred political irresponsibility amongst Germans combined with a political unrealistic view of the world. Suddenly they felt free, for the first time in their history, to preach with a wagging finger to other nations about the "sins of war". Sometimes, they did it with an obvious glee since they had been the one nation which had been severaly critiqued exactly for having started the last two World Wars. They engaged in various and sundry peace movements from which the German political Left capitalized enormously.

In other words, our spoiling the Germans by protecting them from the real world has made them into something of a "teenage brat" amongst democratic nations. This new "brat" shows little respect toward its "parent nation" (i.e., the U.S.), is barely able to run its own state affairs, cannot keep its people employed and puts no particular value upon our erstwhile friendship. I think it is time to teach them another but much less devastating lesson.

USA

Berlin airlift from Wikipedia: The aircraft were supplied and flown by the United States, United Kingdom and France, but crews also came from Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand to help. Ultimately 278,228 flights were made and 2,326,406 tons of food and supplies were delivered to Berlin...
This was not just an American effort!
And before we start accusing people of revising history... maybe we should check: IS OUR VERSION TRUE?
Actually, WWII started in 1939...
Moonfarers comments are patronising, parochial and EXTREMELY..! Colonial...
Moral of the story: we will not gain respect by behaving like a complete dick...

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