Israeli historian praises German democracy

Historians in the News

In comments published in Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Sunday, renowned historian Tom Segev said Germany had drawn the right lessons from its past and had reason to celebrate on its 60th anniversary.

Segev wrote that democracy is a key component of the collective identity of Germans today.

“The most important reason for the success of democracy is that the majority of Germans – though not always voluntarily – took responsibility for the crimes of the Nazi regime, the war and in particular the Holocaust,” Segev wrote in the left-leaning liberal newspaper. “Most Germans have drawn the right lessons from their past, among them the defence of civil rights and the limits on the army.”

The historian said studies showed that youth in Germany today have a deeper democratic awareness than their counterparts in Israel.

At the same time, Segev said there was a difficult-to-explain fear in German society.

“It’s diffuse, not always justified but it’s deeply rooted,” he said, adding that in part it possibly reflected a “feeling that (Germany) hasn’t really earned prosperity, power – including reunification – and that it could be taken away from them again.”

The Israeli historian said the “fear reminds the majority that democracy needs constant care.”

His comments come a day after Germany marked the 60th anniversary of its constitution with a huge “citizens’ festival” in Berlin and celebrations in Bonn and other cities.

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