Alan Posener: Don't let Auschwitz be forgotten

Roundup: Talking About History

[Alan Posener is a correspondent and commentator for Die Welt and Welt am Sonntag in Berlin and one of Germany's most influential bloggers. His latest book, Benedict's Crusade, is a critique of Benedict XVI.]

On 27 January, Germany will commemorate the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by Soviet troops. Though most Germans now face up to their past guilt and their present responsibilities, the road has not been easy. It wasn't until 40 years after the second world war that a (West) German president found the courage to say that 8 May, the day Hitler's army surrendered, was "a day of liberation for Germans, too".

More recently, the German pope, Benedict XVI, used a visit to Auschwitz to suggest that Germans had been the victims of "a band of criminals", who had gained power "by lies and terror" and used the German people "as an instrument", thus denying that the Nazis were perfectly open about their antisemitism, that they came to power legally and that hundreds of thousands of Germans participated voluntarily in the "Final Solution".

Even today, there is a residual feeling among many Germans, and by no means only on the extreme right, that enough is enough, that too much self-examination and breast-beating somehow damages the German psyche, that it is time for a new self-confidence, that the nation needs to see the Nazi crimes in perspective. The horrors of Stalinism, after all, and the murderous antisemitism of Islamists such as Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would seem to indicate that Germany's place in history is by no means singular.

This kind of revisionism is only to be expected. Debates on the issue sweep the country regularly. This year, however, something new has happened. Jewish authors have joined the fray on the side of the revisionists. In the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, the Berlin-based New Yorker Benjamin Weinthal writes that "Shoah remembrance has come to resemble a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder" in Germany. And in Berlin's "Tagesspiegel", Henryk M Broder mounted a vicious attack on "wailing Jews (Jammerjuden), who use every talk show to tell people how many relatives they lost in the Holocaust and how afraid they are of the NPD" (the German Nazi party). Broder's attack is all the more shocking for Jews in Germany, as he himself has made a career out of attacking what he perceives as Germany's "eternal" antisemitism, a career that includes, of course, hundreds of talk show appearances.

How did this come about?..

comments powered by Disqus