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Let´s get over it Posted by on May 17, 2010 in History, People

Whenever there´s a discussion about Germany, German language or culture, it often ends up on one topic: World War 2. And, to be honest, I ask myself why World War 2 is still such a big deal today? And I want to explain why…

I was born in 1976. My parents were born in the 1950´s. Meanwhile I have children on my own. So as you can see, quite a few generations already grew up since the war ended (1945). But still, World War 2 seems to be one of the most obvious associations with Germany.

I don´t want to trivialize anything that happened during this horrible period of dictatorship. And to be honest, if I wasn´t German, maybe I would have the same opinions, prejudices and negative attitudes as many people in the world do. What I want say is that I think it´s totally understandable.

But actually I am German. So I´m always  confronted by reminders of WWII:

  • Documentaries about the war are running constantly on TV. As well as discussions about it.
  • Whenever you meet people from different countries, you often end up talking about it because of Germany´s past.
  • The war still has a big impact on politics these days. Even though it´s often subliminal.
  • People normally have to be careful what to say about people from other countries (I mean the same things that they would say to Germans) or  showing national pride with a German flag. Others might think they have some national socialist attitudes.
  • Somehow, German people (even the younger generations) have the feeling of being guilty what happened and feel inhibited to display pride for their country.

And I think, “Why does this matter after such a long time has passed?” If you compare this situation with the USA for example, where a lot of houses are decorated with stars and stripes and almost everybody is proud of his country etc., being afraid to show national pride sounds quite absurd.

In the summer of 2006 the world championship of soccer took place in Germany. This was the first time in my whole life that I had the feeling that everybody in Germany stood  together as one country and the colors black, red and gold (the colors of the German flag) were seen everywhere. Though they were just soccer games, you could feel that the attitude of people was beginning to change. And I thought to myself: What a big step in only four weeks! I guess the good weather also was a reason for everybody to be in a good mood…so everything was just perfect and absolutely peaceful.

But as the championship was over, this good feeling disappeared as well.

Let me repeat that I don´t want to trivialize things. I also know that Germany as well as the rest of the world has to reprocess the war again and again to understand and to realize what happened and first of all, that it would never happen again!

But fact is: So many years went by since 1945, contemporary witnesses are less numerous,  and the world has changed since then, as has Germany. We are a multicultural, open minded and understanding nation. So let´s get over it! (Which doesn´t mean to forget it or not mourn the tragedies that occurred.)

I guess it could be hard to imagine what I want to express with this article. It´s not about the war itself or historical facts about it. Neither about the question of being guilty or innocent. It´s just about the image of Germany in the world and the feelings of German people associated with this complex topic.

It would be nice to read some comments of you, telling your feelings, attitudes and examples of confrontations with the war topic. So maybe altogether that would explain the situation much better than just my words. I am open to discussion, as long as it is polite and respectful to others.

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About the Author:jan

My name is Jan and I live in the south west of Germany. My profession is being a project manager at a company that creates digital media (first of all internet related things). This is my job since over a decade so I´m quite familiar with the web and its tools. Whereat today almost every school kid does. But that´s one of the main reasons why nowadays there are quasi no more limits in the internet and so it can be used for all imaginable types of things. For example learning languages! And that´s where we are at the moment. I first got in touch with Transparent Language when my family and I used to live in France a couple of years ago. I just had a break from work and by coincidence I produced some cultural videos in French. A few months later the whole blogging thing came up and I was lucky to be a part of it. So now my (second) job is to feed you with information, exercises, vocabulary, grammar and stories about Germany and German language. For being a passionate videographer I´m trying to do this more and more by videos. If you have any wishes or needs of topics that should be treated here, please don´t hesitate to contact me via a comment field. I´m open to your suggestions (as long as they are not too individual) and will try to satisfy your needs.


Comments:

  1. monica:

    I appreciate Germany and German people. Although I am not a German, from what I see and feel from the Germen, I think you are great nation. You should be proud of yourselves. You sincere words are great. In my history education, Germany is a good example of teaching the younger generation to see what really happened. This is not easy for the Germen to know the bad past which is inevitable make them feel guilty. But to us, it makes us feel only respect to you instead of remembering the hate. While on the other side, I think people in other countries should also try to understand the hard feeling existing in the young Germen. When I saw my Germen friends express their guilty feeling about the past, I also don’t feel good.

  2. Maria:

    Oh, even though I am not German, I truly sympathise with you on this issue. I just don’t get it – everytime somebody says ‘Germany’, somebody else has to say ‘Hitler’… Yet people say ‘Pizza’ after hearing ‘Italy’, not ‘Mussolini’.

    Some people seem to forget that some countries greeted Germany in the WW2 with flowers and Germany’s loss and USSR’s victory was a great tragedy for them. History is always double sided. And yet how many Russians do you know, who are ashamed of their history, despite of their country having been responsible for a lot more deaths than Germany? I wish they held Nurnberg’s trial for the other side as well, so as to be fair with everyone.

    Also, it is sad how nowadays the so called ‘political correctness’ is exceeding all limits. In some countries a person could probably be arrested for wearing anything with a swastika sign. Yet in other countries this sign has been used for ages! From Baltic Paganism to Singapore’s temples, you’ll find them all over the world. True, in some cases they face other direction, etc, but that does not matter for those who only see Swastikas as nazi signs.

  3. Elise:

    As an American born in the mid-1960s, I grew up on WWII documentaries and even today, they are prolific on television. But I don’t see any connection of the Germany of today with the Germany of that time. And I certainly don’t connect the colors of the German flag with Nazi Germany — the swastika is what Americans associate with Hitler’s Germany. I guess the problem is, if Germans get more nationalistic, are they going to look like the Third Reich all over again? I don’t think so, but maybe Germans do? Just a thought.

    Your country is a great one, right now, and doing many good things in the world. That is nothing to be ashamed of.

  4. Jenni:

    I am currently studying WWII in school right now. It has always been one of my favourite topics, as has the history of Germany. It annoys me how much people don’t appreciate it, as I think Germany has one of the greatest histories in the world. Not every country is perfect, or ever will be.

    After an economic crisis and depression in the country, Hitler made a great decision to try and change it, however the most unfortunate thing is that the power drove him completely crazy, and because so many people were drawn in, it was difficult to stop.

    I will always be fascinated by Germany. I love the language, the people, the food, the culture, and most of all, the history. If I was German, I would be anything BUT ashamed. I would fly the flag continuously and always display my pride.

    Germany is a wonderful nation, and I think more people should start to see that, and stop being so ignorant about it.

  5. Jonny:

    Being English, this need for people to constantly talk about WWII annoys me. The past is the past, and now Germany is a true example of how a nation should work.
    I love Germany, and have visited Berlin and Hamburg on numerous occasions, whenever I am in Berlin, I see das Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas, I walk through it, collect my thoughts and visit the museum. I visit Haus am Wannsee too, but only for my education, not Germany’s.
    I often see the face of German “apoligising” for the war, I apprecfiate the sentiments and realise that some people geniunely feel the need, but also I know these people are not responsible. For example, us Brits do not keep apologising for inventing the Slave Trade…

    Great blog, by the way : )

  6. Esteban:

    I hope that Germans continue to feel proud of themselves and of their culture. You’re are so right: many countries have had dark periods in their history about which they are not proud, but these periods should not define a nation as evil in perpetituity. I have been to Germany many times and feel personally enriched by my experiences with Germans and their sophisticated culture. There is more to German history than WWII, yet in the U.S., almost all of the books one sees in the History section of the major bookstore shelves are about WWII or Hitler. Yes, let’s ALL get over it!

  7. Annett:

    Love your post!!!
    I have seen the same trend and I am German.
    My parents and grand parents had to experience this time and their stories are horrific.
    But you are right, it seems like history stopped for some folks at that time and nothing notable happened since then.
    On the other hand I still feel that even Germany still has that guilt complex and I can’t figure out why. It’s been 65 years since that war ended – a live time!

    Glad that France doesn’t keep doing the same with Napoleon…

  8. Sana:

    I’m a student of German language in India and I share your sentiments .There is nothing to be ashamed of . You are a great nation with people who are sincere and hard working .

  9. Moshe Mercazi:

    I am a Jewish Israeli man, born in 1976 as well. Most of my family was killed by the Nazis. I exist now, because my great grandmother was a Zionist, and said that the Jewish homeland is in what’s called today Israel. So, in 1933 she emigrated from Poland her homeland, to Israel. When I was 13 years old, out of the blue, I got interested in German culture and language. Maybe because of satellite T.V. that brought German T.V. station to Israel. 3 years ago, I have decided that I want to learn German, and I did, and still learning. Today I have many German friends. I have a German flag on my desk, together with the Israeli flag. I think Germany will forever by connected with WW2, and that’s fine, and need to be. But it doesn’t mean we cannot work together for a better and brighter future. I don’t want German to be a shame of their country. I am a proud Israeli, and I think German should be proud of their country as well. I spoke to my German friends about it, and they tried to explain it to me. How they were “trained” to feel the guilt. I can tell you that as Israeli, I also find myself explaining my “bizarre” connection to German. But it makes sense in Israel. I find myself many times defending my position. In the same time, Germany – Israel connection are very strong. There are many groups on Face Book that connects German and Israelis. 12,000 Israelis lives in Germany and many German are coming to Israel to work study and volunteer in many programs. I think the future is bright in that regards! Moshe Mercazi

  10. Loraine:

    I am cuban.Cuba has had a dictatorship for 51 years now and i can imagine that the same thing that has somehow heppened to the german people could happen to us cubans because the circumstances by which both dictators took power are very similar if you analize them closely. What if the Castro’s decided to declare war on some neighbor country for some crazy reason? What if they would cause damage in the name of cuban people and the “revolution” ? We cubans are very proud of our roots and culture,i cannot imagine how hard it would be if something like this would happen and people would have prejudices against us.It would be almost the same story.I totally understand the point you want to make with this article.

  11. Adi:

    You are not responsible and must not feel guilty for what your ancestors did. However everyone should learn from it.

  12. Michael:

    I’m an American and my Grandmother was German. She died before I was born. I’ve been learning German since I was 14–very slowly, and I’m still learning. I subscribe to “Deutsche Welle” on my cable TV. I was an exchange student for the summer when I was a teenager and I stayed in Singen in B-W for 3 months. So I have a great respect for Germany and all things German.

    Just like America and other places, you should be proud of your country and your flag. There is nothing wrong with that. But none of us must ever forget the horrors of WWII and we must continue to learn about them each generation in hopes that something like that never happens again.

    It’s the same for us with slavery. We can be proud of America, but we cannot ignore and forget the horrors of slavery which happened in our own country over 140 years ago.

  13. rebecca:

    To forget what happened would be a tragedy and open the door for a repeat sometime and someplace else. I hope we all learn from it and remember a tragic time in human history not just German history. We need to be careful of group mindsets and pressure to conform to one way of thought as this could happen in any culture. That’s why when our president tries to stifle dissent it makes my skin boil. Dissent is good, it keeps us in line.

    My husband and I are both of German descent living in the USA. We visited Germany & family last summer and had the most wonderful meeting with a man named Herr Jung in Bacharach. He was a boy during the war. His story was enlightening and gave a perspective I had never heard before. He also recommended a book, Germany Boy by Wolfgang Samuel which was just as enlightening to read.

    Fly your flag with pride. I would think nothing bad of it…however, if you flew the Nazi flag, that would be a different story. We did see a good number of German flags when we were there. I think that is a good thing and they didn’t cause me to think of WW2 at all!

  14. Stephanie Schönfeld:

    You are totally right – it’s time to say it loud! Thank you for your expression. It’s quite important to give the feeling of many people a voice and to stop this depressive illness. In this times we all together need our power to look forward into the future with a positive and hopefully view trying to survive…
    Stephanie

  15. jan:

    Hi guys, thank you very much for your detailed and honest comments! I think altogether we just made the point!

  16. Eliezer Moreno:

    I’m Mexican, I don’t feel any kind of ‘patriotism’ within my country, but, I look Germany as a model for Patriotism, why? Simple… the German People always have work hard in order to raise their country, that’s why I think Deutschland is a great Land, it doesn’t matter the past, it matters only to learn, learn and make progress. As anyone around this world can see, Deutschland can learn from his history and push forward to the future.
    Deutschland, Deutschland über alles,
    Über alles in der Welt!

  17. Seregon:

    I myself am German, but use a stage name, since there are a lot of Jewish people in the entertainment industry, and a lot of left over animosity. It’s not fair. I didn’t go anything, and neither did my parents. My grandfathers, both German fought for the Allieds! There’s never a thank you…Now I can take a joke, and hell I even make a few, but I’m tired of having to hide my pride in my heritage simply because it will make people think I am a socialist hater!

  18. Jean:

    The reason it’s important to study the 3rd Reich and other periods of history where mass murders were committed for political or religious reasons is to help us recognize them when the occur in the present time. Think Uganda, Rawanda, Serbia, Darfur…it’s important to recognize genocide when we see it and work to stop it. And to continue a conversation across generations and to be reminded of the words that remind us how easy it is to slip into a culture of hatred and violence.

    As a young German, you have no more responsibility for the Third Reich than I have over my slave holding ancestors…until the time I find myself using the same words and logic they used to justify their actions. Then I realize how we haven’t really travelled as far as one would hope. We must ALL make a committment to the words NEVER AGAIN.

  19. graham:

    I am Australian but my roots are German, My mothers parents were German, my father was German. The only time I heard German language at home was when my mother was angry with me. As a child I didn’t know my father was German, I thought he just talked funny because he had an accent.I have German friends who say they are ashamed to be called German. I recently spent 4 weeks in Germany and saw the same apologetic attitude. I am proud to be Australian and I am proud of my German heretage. The German people have no need to apologize over and over again. They suffered enough. Australia has a leader who was elected by the people. I did not vote for him but I have to live with the decisions he makes. Be proud. Ich liebe Deutchland.

  20. Jessica:

    I’m an American citizen of German descent. I come from a German speaking family. German is my second language which I have yet to be fluent in. I continue to learn. I have had to communicate to my Grandmother in German, she did not speak English, it was not always easy. I have lots of relatives in Germany, I have enjoyed many summer vacations as a child, teen and young adult. I have lots of relatives living in Germany. I love the scenery, the castles, the food. It’s a beautiful place. I also grew up on German cuisine and have enjoyed learning to make Sauerbraten and Schnitzel. Naturally I want to be proud of my German heritage! It saddens me what Hitler and the Nazis did and it also saddens me that when many people think of Germany they automatically think of World War 2, Hitler, Nazis, violence. It’s true that Hitler’s Nazi germany videos are constantly being aired on the History channel, I have not been able to find one single German foreign film that is not about Nazi Germany. True we should never forget it so it won’t be repeated. But what is so important If you have german heritage it is good to open people up to all the positive aspects of German culture and heritage that have nothing to do with World War 2, Hitler and Nazi Germany. Tell people to stop watching so many Nazi films and listen to some Mozart music while cooking up some delicious German cuisine. If you happen to visit Germany in Summer, best time to go, I think there is nothing more romantic and beautiful over there than their castles, Now there’s an exciting German history lesson!!!

  21. Anon:

    That’s terrible! I always thought that it was a big no-no to mention World War II to Germans… I’m really sheltered though. Maybe that’s my pesky sense of right and wrong speaking. 😉

  22. Alexis:

    I am American and I have always been, and always will be proud of my country. But, the fact that some Germans feel ashamed to be patriotic, makes me upset. Yes, WWII was a terrible time, and we should not forget it, we should learn from it, you shouldn’t feel ashamed to be German, you should be proud. I have been interested in the German language and culture for 2-3 years now, ever since I learned that my last name was German (it’s Klug) and as of this year I have thrown myself into learning German. I am proud to have German heritage, I am proud to be American, and you and other Germans should be proud to be called German.