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Rather than defeat for Germany or liberation from Nazi suppression, how about the defeat of Nazi facism?

And shouldn`t be missed to point out that East Germany came under Stalin`s rule. Nazi defeat yes, but another dictator.

There comes a time when the past must be settled and allowed to rest. We are now 60 years on from the global disaster that was WWII. Most of those on this earth were not alive at the time. Germany and Japan have paid enough. It's time to let it go. The sins of the grandfathers should not be paid by today's generation, however, the lesson that extremism (whether left or right) leads to ruin should remain with us.

Difficult subject. Liberation sounds progressive: The Germans accept that this was a good day for Germany, not just a defeat.
But on the other hand, liberation suggests that "we" were "against Hitler", "we were liberated". That may be the perception today, but it is historically, for the overwhelming majority, untrue. The contrary is true: The overwhelming majority was not against Hitler. All historical studies make clear that the Nazi regime was strongly based in popular consent. Sure, not everybody agreed with every decision. But with the overall direction, yes. So most people have lived that day as a day of defeat, of breakdown. End of a history.
Maybe that later some of them they changed their perception and saw that day also as a moment of liberation. Richard von Weizsäcker said this in his famous speach: liberation and defeat.
It's difficult to find the right concept for that day. There is not one perspective that fits to everybody: the prisoner in a camp, the SS-Mann, the Hitlerjunge and so on. There are many situations. It's impossible to press them all in one concept.
For some it was a liberation, without a doubt. For others it was a defeat. For some it was both. Maybe one could say that it was a defeat that permitted a liberation.

It was a crushing defeat and to call it a liberation of Germany is nothing but revisionism of history. The vast majority of Germans at this time felt defeated, not liberated. Not only NSDAP members, everybody, with the exception of concentration camp inmates, felt defeated. Liberated countries do not have to sign a capitulation. In America , England and Russia this was the day of victory over the Germans, not just over the Nazis . You don't declare victory over liberated people.
This was also how this day was viewed in Germany for a long time after the war and how it was teached in schools, it has only changed in recent years. I think it is because the eyewitnesses of this time are dying out, at least those old enough to have an opinion in 1945. It is somehow more comfortable to call it a liberation, so you don't have to rememer that most Germans wanted to win the war and backed the German government until the end.
If this unacceptable rewriting of history continues in 20 years Germans might celebrate a victory instead of a liberation.

John Rosenthal about the way the UN wants us to remember the day:

Although it's fair enough to celebrate the end of hostilities in Europe, I have to view the French celebration of V-E day with utter comtempt.

Like they had anything to do with the victory over the Germans. The French should be ashamed more than anything.

Of course, like they say, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em". And so the Vichy government was more than willing to ship Jews eastward to the camps.

"the Vichy government was more than willing to ship Jews eastward to the camps"
In fact the Vichy started rounding up the Jews before they were asked to do so by the Germans.

"Like they had anything to do with the victory over the Germans. The French should be ashamed more than anything."

Indeed in France the relationship with fascism was much similar to in Germany. It was supported or simply tolerated by the vast majority of the population, and opposed only by a very few brave souls. Also, many in the Free French army did fight with vigor against the Germans, particularly in North Africa.

I don't believe in collective guilt, and I don't think most American's do either. We believe in individual freedom and responsibility, not collective guilt and collective responsibility. Germany's biggest problem is that socialism is not a "value", nor is it a viable social structure.

It amazes me that post WWII, instead of adopting freedom from tyranny as a value, the lesson the Germans learned was pacifism while retaining the collective principles of communism.

Most people in the US are totally "over WW2." They however are not totally over the genocide that occured during it.

I have never heard a WW2 vet say they hate Germans. (I have read it very rarely.) I have heard and read them say they hated the "Japs" many times. Our relationship with Japan seems to be better than that with Germany. This is a total disconnect.

The answer is simple:

Who has Germany liberated lately?

The Americans can be justly proud. However imperfectly executed their goal is the liberation of people living under the yoke of tyrrany.

Where is Germany? Making favorable oil deals with the tyrants of Iran?

It is not enough to cease doing evil. You must focus on doing good. This will cost German lives and German gold. It will also mean for a time opening up Germany to the old criticisms.

Does Germany have the courage?

Yes, it is true. 60 years after WWII the absence of patriotism cannot be blamed on Gemany's crimes and defeat any more. One has to look for causes in the present time, or better, their absence. Is there any reason to be proud of other than our wealth? And what, if we have forgotten how to stay wealthy? When did we at least sacrifice something for a cause other than building windmills? Not in the last 20 years! All this bickering on the moral high ground does nothing to instil pride because only the fiercest zealots didn't feel the hollowness of selling impotencea as morality.

Americans do not believe in collective guilt. We believe in individual freedom. our ideology is virtually the opposite of the Communist/Socialist world and that is why there is so much tension in the world today.

Woah. Was anyone else shocked out of their seat by this:

"Pacifism as the lesson Germany draws from its history will continue to ring hollow to a world that suspects the real motivation behind it has more to do with the desire to avoid the suffering inflicted upon Germany rather than the suffering it inflicted upon others."

I guess I agree, but I also feel pretty strongly that blank hits precisly the right note when he says,

"I don't believe in collective guilt, and I don't think most American's do either. We believe in individual freedom and responsibility, not collective guilt and collective responsibility."

I guess this leads me to say that their guilt is hollow in part becuase it's collective and hence madatory. I think a rise in German patrotism would be the perfect cure for most of this. There is so much to be proud of about being german and I think they should be. Part of this virulent anti-americanism is stiffled patriotism. When they say "america's suck because of x" what they can't bring themselves to say is "Germany is goods because of x" -Why? because their guilt is collective.

I don't feel bad for manifest destiny or slavery or the brutal (and brief) occupation of the philipenes, but I do feel utter shame for Abu Ghrab, and gitmo. I had a hand in the latter, not the formers.

What the young germans need is to stop pretending guilt, how can they possibly feel guilty? They shouldn't and they shouldn't feel like they have to. Alas, collectivism is as ill suited to attonement as it is to economics.

Frank, you may feel shame for AG and Gitmo - I certainly don't

The crimes we know about have been punished - and the crimes we don't know about are part of every prison system in the world

Gitmo is still a paradise compared to ANY Arab prison - we should never forget that

A good piece on Germany in the National Review


MAY. 8, 2005: VE DAY + 1

I have a post today in the new "Huffington Post" about the strange celebration of VE Day in Red Square. As NRO readers well know, the German armed forces surrendered on May 7, 1945. VE Day is accordingly celebrated in most countries on May 8. But the Soviet Union, refusing to join its allies, demanded a separate instrument of surrender and declared its own day of celebration on May 9. It is that distinctive Soviet VE Day that President Bush is flying to Moscow to commemorate.

There's something more that I'd like to say about this day, however. The thought was inspired by a superb article on German literature in that wonderful magazine, The New Criterion.

Sixty years after the end of World War II, the world remains understandably alert to any manifestation of neo-Nazism in Germany, however negligible and marginal. Likewise understandably, the world is quick to sense and disapprove of (what is more common) German insensitivity or indifference or forgetfulness of the crimes of the past.

But it is also true that in Germany, insensitivity, indifference, and forgetfulness are not the norm. Quite the opposite: The German memory is acute, and (perhaps paradoxically) becoming more acute all the time.

So can we say - as Daniel Johnson says in the The New Criterion - that the world also has something to lose from a Germany that becomes too abashed, too ashamed, too unable to speak up for its own liberal democratic identity? Can we say that there is something abnormal and even dangerous in the extreme self-abnegation of German nationhood that continues even now, all these years later?

A friend told me this story. A major German wood products company decided it needed a corporate motto. After much research and focus-grouping, it decided on the slogan: "Wood with pride," "Holtz mit Shtoltz." The slogan was unveiled - and the response was gasping horror. It was apparently just a very short step from that to goose-stepping down the Champs Elysees ....

But people want to be proud of something. If you tell a large and mighty nation that it can never be proud of itself, the natural egotism of human beings will seek some other outlet, less wholesome than normal patriotism. Many in Germany support the unification of Europe much less as a rational response to real needs, and much more because they yearn to feel for "Europe" the loyalty and pride they cannot allow themselves to feel for their own country and their own culture. The terrible irony is that this united Europe is emerging as a much greater threat to the Atlantic Alliance and to European democracy than the Federal Republic of Germany would ever be.

Nor is it fanciful, I think, to see much of the rising tide of German anti-Americanism - expressed most notoriously in the German enthusiasm for the crackpot works of Michael Moore - as an indirect, perverted expression of nationalism. The psychology seems to be that if Germans cannot allow themselves to feel pride in Germany, they can at least demand that Americans feel ashamed of the United States.

It's unfortunately true that Germany is burdened now with the most irresponsible and provocative chancellor since Willy Brandt. Gerhard Schroeder has exploited ill feelings in Germany for crude personal advantage: with almost 5 million Germans out of work, there's a lot of anger buzzing around the country, and redirecting those emotions against the United States and George Bush is one way and probably the only way for Schroeder to hold onto office.

Irritating as Schroeder is, though, today would be a good day to remember how important a force for good in the world democratic Germany has been this past half century. And even under Schroeder, Germany is today the second-biggest contributor of troops to the stabilization force in Afghanistan. Germay is also quietly training high-level Iraqi counter-terrorist officers at bases in the United Arab Emirates and in Germany itself.

For half a century, the Western world has found freedom, security and prosperity in an alliance between the United States and a Europe of sovereign states. Today that Europe is dissolving itself into a new kind of union - and as a result, the American-European partnership is daily becoming weaker, more difficult, more embittered. It's not too late for Americans to recall to mind their national stake in European national independence, including German independence - and to recall too that national independence is sustained by national pride, including German national pride.

Rapid Response

A friend writes in response to the post above:

"I've long believed it's a problem that post-war Germans can't distinguish between patriotism and nationalism. It all gets tarred with the 'Fly the flag and the next thing you know, you're rolling Panzers into Poland...' brush. Let me give you a characteristic example from my stays in Germany. You'd occasionally see a bumper sticker that says, 'Ich bin stolz, Deutsche zu sein.' Literally, 'I'm proud to be a German.' (Cf. Atatürk's celebrated dictum, 'Ne mutlu diyene Türküm.')

"Any time I'd ever see one of these in the company of a German roughly my age, they'd shake their head, cluck their tongue, etc. When I'd ask why, they'd say, 'Rechtsextremist.' Or 'Faschist'. That kind of reaction from an anodyne sentiment. Now, for all I know, only far-rightists have those bumperstickers, and so their reaction is perfectly in tune culturally, but if so, how ridiculously easy is it for the rightists to be provocative. Insane.

"A lot of people have linked this reverse-nationalism to enthusiasm for the EU not just in the positive way, looking for something to be proud of, but a in a more damaging way, that is, 'Once we're Europeans, we're no longer Germans. It all goes away.'

"Myself, I had a great attachment to the Bonner Republik. Since the Wall came down, Germany's neuroses have gotten more and more prominent, not least fed by the Ossis, whose socialization under the DDR made for less-than-ideal citizens."

In Berlin the day was marked by the "Tag fuer Demokratie" in front of the Brandenburger Tor, an event organized ostensibly to celebrate democracy and to oppose 'racism' and 'intolerance'. But I think in reality its more immediate purpose was to hinder or prevent a planned march by the NPD. Which it did. Still it was a bit ironic to see signs demanding that all 'right-extremist' parties be banned being carried by so many of those there to celebrate democracy.

But then it often seems to me that free speech and the right to peaceful assembly are not closely tied to the idea of democracy in the minds of many Germans.

Also, I'm somewhat nervous because I'm not quite sure how 'racism' and 'intolerance' will be defined (they are debating a law about this in the Bundestag). For example, if based on what I see every day around me I decide that I don't think it is a good idea for more African and muslim immigrants to come to Germany (after all, I think there are enough arme, ungelernte Arbeitslose here already), and I say so, does this make me 'intolerant' and/or a 'racist'? It might.

Anyway, to me the whole thing was a turnoff; a tasteful and somber remembrance of those who died and suffered would have been better.

A strange dichotomy…what do you celebrate?

I think you should celebrate the ability to be German again, without the taint of the Nazis.

My dad was an ordinary tanker private who fought across Europe from two weeks after D-Day until the end of the war.

He hated the entire idea of Nazis and Germany, dragging him away from home and family…until he got there. He told me that wasn’t long before he loved the German countryside and the German people. My parents vacationed there many times during their lives. Dad had several very good German friends who had fought for Germany during the war and immigrated to the US afterwards. He corresponded for 50 years with German citizens he met during the fighting and occupation.

My son was a trooper in the 3rd/5th Cav. stationed at a base in central Germany for two years. Some of his best times were visiting with the grandfather of a girl he was dating. The guy was an old German vet and they hit it off famously…trading war stories my son had learned from his grandfather for the war stories of the old German grandfather. The easy brotherhood of soldiers, whatever their age.

Is it just Americans who are like this? Are we the only culture who fight viciously tooth and nail, then easily forgive and forget? Did we learn this during our own horrendous Civil War?

The Japanese, on the other hand, dad never forgave.

One lesson Germans have failed to learn is that however sure one may be, allow for the chance that you could be wrong. The certainty that present-day Germans show in their beliefs of German moral superiority and American stupidity are every bit as unsettling to me as their grandfathers' beliefs in racial superiority and Jewish back-stabbing. Their moral certainty has already led them to support suicide bombers instead of the shredded children in the pizza parlor, and the criminals who hack off heads over the millions who lined up to vote in the face of death. Don't they ever test their beliefs against their results when carried out? When they result in the deliberate premeditated murder of innocents, isn't that enough of a hint that some of their assumptions need re-evaluation?

Germany's pacifist ways cannot be blamed solely on the German people, there were many factors involved. One need only to look at economic constraits imposed - no aviation industry etc. Pacifism and economic growth seemed the logical choice for both defeated enemies Germany and Japan. And it is a lie to say that Germans are not proud to be German, they tend not to display it openly but this sense of self worth is reflected in all that they do.

Secondly I dont believe Germans need to engage in this false patriotism anyway, their achievements speak volumes and secondly you can count on the rest of the world to always admire them. One need only to look at the automotive industry and how other countries especially their motoring journalists drool over teutonic precision and design especially those from England.

And its only natural patriotic terms carry a lot of Nazi baggage which is why only the right tend to embrace them even 'vaterland'. What about the swastika? Its a symbol which is used in a lot of other countries for 'good' purposes such as an Asian symbol for good health esp in architecture. But I dont see the day where it will ever be embraced in the west.

the truth: germany was liberated twice:

the western part in 1945 (thanx USA)

the eastern part in 1989 (thanx USA; thanx to German conservatives);

for it was haunted by two devastating ideologies: the whole country from 1933 to 1945, the eastern part of it from 1945 to 1989.

So, there is a specific ambiguity concerning 5/8/1945, therefore a clear decision (liberation vs. defeat/oppression) is entirely impossible.

There is no such thing as collective guilt, human beings are not ants. I do believe, what Frank another poster already said, in individual responsibility and freedom. I look at WW2 and see the SS, Nazis, Gestapo, etc. as responsible for the greater atrocities. This is not to give the German army regulars or German people a blank check though. Hitler was popularly elected to office, his policies both domestic and foreign were popularly supported. The German army fought, killed and died for Hitler's cause. And Germany was most certainly an utterly defeated nation, which was an explicit intent of the Allied strategy to insure that Germany did not once again rise to begin WW3, exemplified by the unconditional surrender stance that was non-negotiable for the Allied Powers.

The German people did and do have a civic responsibility, as all free nations do. Perhaps it is the concept of "the collective" which prevented individual Germans at the time from standing up to the Nazi's increasingly deplorable actions. Fascism being a philosophy that deliberately exploits mass politics, the mob mentality.

I personally see nothing wrong with German patriotism, I think your country and its citizens have alot to be proud about and should be proud of. I also don't hold the German people of today responsible for the actions of the German people of yesteryear, just that they insure that the lesson from the past does not repeat itself. That would be a true tragedy however unlikely in the present.

If Germans themselves have trouble or feel uncomfortable being patriotic perhaps Germany as a nation should go through a penance for its own sake. Become the leading nation in efforts to thwart genocide the world over. For instance the ongoing systematic extermination in the Sudan, a German division would go a long way to saving thousands of lives there. And such efforts would help Germany to bury its past and embrace its future. Something certainly to be proud of and appluaded.

Germans do not believe that greatness is achieved through military conquest. The article clearly reveals that the writer thinks that in order to be considered great, a nation must have taken part in military undertakings, and side with the US in every military excursion it deems to be "worthy." This is clearly revealed by the statement "Germans will neither be able to put the war and the holocaust behind them nor understand what patriotism means until they can take pride in something other than health and unemployment benefits." For me, these (among other things, like virtually non-existent university fees in comparison to the US) are a much better cause for pride than having waged the most wars (in the name of peace, of course). If one only looks after the rich in their own country, how true are their intentions when they "look after" other populaces.

The Germans celebrating their own defeat: This is either falsehood or, what's worse, downright creepy. What prolonged and extraordinary repentances and mortifications! I think I prefer our Southerners, who grumbled about the "damn Yankees", remembered their dead, honored their heroes, defiantly flew their Stars and Bars, but when the chips were down, proved their attachment to the American Union by their deeds.

M. Simon @ "It is not enough to cease doing evil."

It would be a start.

Schroeder is making deals with the worst regimes in the world: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China. All of whom oppress their people at home and try to destory democracies abroad.

"Hitler was popularly elected to office, his policies both domestic and foreign were popularly supported. "

Philly Matt..this is actually incorrect.

the NSDP was elected as 33% of the parliament. Hitler was not one of the candidates, nor did he stand for popular election. the NDSP made deals with a few other right wing organizations in the legislature and pushed for Hitler to be appointed chancellor. Later, the legislature passed emergency laws that allowed hitler to become the dictator "for life" basically (until he said otherwise).

I believe the election of the NSDP to legislature has often fueled this misconception about a "popularly elected" Hitler.

As for Patriotism, socialism does not really lend to patriotism. It is the state apparatus that people are serving, not the "country". There in lies the difference.

As for American patriotism vs. German, the reasons to be patriotic in America are not just to the land, but a set of ideas that are already mentioned by another. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Individual freedom that is more important than the state. The state guarantees these freedoms and protects against abuse of individuals, but is not supposed to be the creator of freedom (this comes from a higher source). Old European countries have not figured this out and is why you see them trying to "legislate" tolerance and other social issues.

Keep legislating and people do not know what they are supposed to stand for.

The defeat of Germany in WW II might be called a "liberation" by some Communists and western nut cases. For 15 Million East Germans it was not just a defeat but a Holocaust with Millions of raped children and women and 2.8 cases of genocide committed by hordes of the Red Army.

The still existing denial of homeland and domestic culture to over 12 Million East Prussians, Pommeranians and Silesians and their progeny is something that is still being swept under the rug by German and American media alike. Yet, as everybody knows, 750 years of an old European history and culture can never be forgotten in sixty or even one hundred years!

As an American proverb rightly says, "One hundred years of an existing wrong does not make for one single day of a right".

This open and festering wound in Europe soils the concept of a postwar world that has completely healed and is ready for a just peace and friendship.

Peter P. Haase
Boca Raton, Florida

The answer is so simple: A person or a nation being continuously and unjustly reminded by their own people of crimes committed by some forefathers, cannot develop a healthy self respect or patriotic pride. Furthermore, it develops jealousy and disgust against those others who seem to wallow daily in their own national pride. It is the most simple psychology lesson 101.

Peter P. Haase
Boca Raton, Florida

"the NSDP was elected as 33% of the parliament. Hitler was not one of the candidates, nor did he stand for popular election. the NDSP made deals with a few other right wing organizations in the legislature and pushed for Hitler to be appointed chancellor."

This is how a parliamentary democracy works, as opposed to a presidential system like the US or France. No post-WWII German chancellor stood for popular election, and no post-WWII government was formed by a single party with an absolute majority. Rather, the party with a plurality of the votes teamed up with smaller parties to form a coalition (like the NSDAP and the DNVP, the German Nationalist People's Party, did in 1933).

Later on, Hitler did assume dictatorial powers through the Ermächtigungsgesetz and other acts - all of which were, however, technically legal. The Ermäcjhtigungsgesetz was passed by the German Parliament, with centre-right and even centre-left parties supporting it; only the SPD voted against it. The 1919 constitution of the Weimar republic remained in effect until 1945, even though all its major features like the parliamentary system and the bill of rights were abolished or altered by law.

Note from David: Not to take anything away from your post, but there was actually one post-WWII election in Germany, where one party - the CDU/CSU - won a majority of the votes and the mandates: 1957. I haven't checked this, but I think the CDU/CSU still formed a coalition government, even with a majority of the mandates.

"As for Patriotism, socialism does not really lend to patriotism. It is the state apparatus that people are serving, not the "country". There in lies the difference."

To paraphrase Rudolf Hess at the party convention in Nürnberg: "The party IS Hitler. Hitler, however, IS - Germany!" (prolonged applause)

Or in other words: Ein Volk - Ein Reich - Ein Führer

That's how Nazi propaganda presented it. Serving Hitler was equivalent to serving the Third Reich, and to serve the Third Reich meant to serve Germany. And most people bought it.

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