Heinrich August Winkler: Says Germans have drawn lessons from Hitler

Historians in the News

Germans have drawn clear lessons relevant to today from the events of 75 years ago that brought Adolf Hitler to power, a prominent German historian said Thursday. "What is decisive is that Germans after 1945 have learnt that rejecting Western democracy leads to catastrophe for them," Heinrich August Winkler told an audience of foreign correspondents in Berlin.
Recalling the events of the so-called "Third Reich" and the moral responsibility carried by Germany as a result helped to buttress democracy today, said the professor, who retired from Berlin's Humboldt University last year.

"One is confronted with the costs of an anti-democratic attitude," he said, adding that Germans in the modern federal republic had developed a kind of "constitutional patriotism" by contrast with the nationalist kind.

Nevertheless, Winkler came out against moves to ban the German National Democratic Party (NPD), the far-right party seen by its opponents as a successor to Hitler's Nazis.

Characterizing the NPD as severely fragmented, he called for the party to be countered by political means. A ban should be a last resort, said the historian, whose publications include the highly regarded The Long Road to the West.

Sketching the events of 1932 and early 1933, Winkler said that in the fraught political conditions of the day, "Hitler could present himself as the advocate of the disenfranchised," profiting from the collapse of the democratic system of the Weimar Republic.
"The fear of civil war became Hitler's most powerful ally," he said....

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