Who is Angela Merkel? Because of postwar "coming to terms" with the past, anti-Semitism today has no place in Germany's mainstream public discourse, even if it lurks on the extreme ends of the political spectrum. But I was wrong about the schools: Only Bavaria as did communist East Germany insists that every school kid tour one of the camps.
The number is almost twice as high for Germans with Turkish migration backgrounds, according to a Zeit survey. Moreover, young Germans know even less about the Holocaust: Forty-one percent of German junior high and high school pupils claim not to know that Auschwitz was a German death camp.
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And on the street, Jews in Germany are increasingly vulnerable: In the first half of , for example, anti-Semitic crimes crept up from to , according to German government figures. Jews say they are increasingly wary about living in Germany. The blowback to Chebli's proposal was overwhelmingly frosty, with pointed exceptions, such as the Central Council of Jews in Germany, which has long called for similar measures.
An official of the socialist Left Party , among others, objected that making anything compulsory is a sure way to make it unpopular, especially for young people. The memorials' staff chimed in that they had better results with students who were there of their own volition rather than those unwillingly dragged around by teachers.
Moreover, they complained, they didn't have personnel to handle so many visitors. The right-wing nationalists of AfD predictably rejected it out of hand, convinced as they are that Germany is self-destructively obsessed with the Nazi past. The party, now in the Bundestag, has even called for cutting funds to the memorials -- which it thankfully does not have the votes to make happen.
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In light of the evidence -- and discounting the AfD's dark fantasies -- I stick to what I thought was written in stone, namely that schoolroom curricula, in high schools and immigrants' integration classes, should include on-site experiences to Nazi-era sites that are linked to in-class readings and films. If the memorials need more staff, then Germany can surely find money to pay them. Small groups would make the experience even more intense, and maybe students who didn't initially didn't show interest would be jolted awake.
If a day in the likes of the former Auschwitz, Dachau or Buchenwald camps doesn't do it, then probably nothing will.
Visiting a former camp, as anyone who has done so knows, is extremely powerful stuff. To its credit, since the flag burnings earlier this month, Germany recognized that it still has an anti-Semitism problem, which Muslim newcomers have exacerbated, but by no means caused. One of the first moves of the Bundestag this year was to announce new legislation aimed at countering anti-Semitism.
Germany's rigorous postwar processing of history has contributed to making Germany a liberal, modern country. Kirchner-Feyerabend, as a youngster, ever go to a concentration camp. Visiting both is obligatory now. In the aftermath of World War II, history was shrouded in silence. Her own history teacher, she says, would not have dared to bring the book into the classroom.
Bavaria promptly banned its republication; the ban expired on Jan. A new, annotated version by a Bavarian research institute was released Jan. Even though it is 2, pages long, it has sold out, showing the interest in an edition that dissects the book. The book has stirred criticism, especially from some Jewish groups. They are worried about a rise of religious intolerance, both from old anti-Semites and by newer disaffected Muslim immigrants in Europe.
But in a telling sign, the main teachers union in Berlin called for it to be introduced in classrooms. They frequently goof off. She asks them to quiet down, on more than one occasion.
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The refugee crisis, which Germany has been at the center of, has inspired violence; brought out an angry display of xenophobia with Pegida, the anti-Muslim movement; and boosted the right-wing political party Alternative for Germany. Many outsiders say it is time for Germany to play a bigger role militarily in Europe, to get over its fears of the moral ambiguities of conflict. For starters, a collective national response to such a sensitive topic could never have happened before reunification in Prior to that, the nation was divided over the legacy of the Nazis, with communist eastern Germany perpetuating the fallacy that it was West Germans alone who backed fascism.
Germany hosted the World Cup that year, and suddenly, in the heady drama of the soccer competition, a new German patriotism took root. Still, they say flags are taboo enough that they would only wave them at a game. One other sign that German attitudes about the past are changing is a theater production now traveling the country. The production has been sold out at every stop. Relying on documentary theater, the Berlin-based group traveled around Germany to talk to some 50 people about their history and experiences with taboos surrounding the book.
A shift in attitudes is taking place over the Nazi Party rally grounds, too. For decades, the space was occupied but the history of it ignored. Today, some , Germans and foreigners visit these grounds each year. In fact, a city that always preferred to emphasize its imperial history now understands that its Nazi legacy is just as big of a tourist draw.
Old Nazi architecture, of course, exists everywhere in Germany. Some of it, like Zeppelin Field, is listed on a federal registry and cannot be bulldozed. Most often it has been repurposed. Federal ministries sit in old Nazi buildings; soccer teams play in their stadiums. Developers say 85 percent of the condos and apartments, to be completed in , have been sold. Yet the size and scale of the undertaking has brought it national scrutiny — and at least some criticism.
It is to maintain them in their current, half-ruined state. In short, authorities want to do the absolute minimum so that the ruins can be handed on to the next generation. Schmidt, the historian at the documentation center. This is a critical year.
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Once the exact cost of the renovation is determined, the city will ask the state and federal government for financial backing. Plus, the longer the wait, the more costly the renovation will be. Looking out at Zeppelin Field from a window in the documentation center, Schmidt acknowledges that this is not a straightforward preservation project, like earmarking money for restoring a school or church.
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It is not connected to good history, only bad history. And, without refurbishment, the entire area will be closed off to those who use the space today for everything from car races to cycling. It would take away a piece of land that served as a recreational area well before the Nazis came to power. Yet others believe the only way Nuremberg can move forward is by letting go of the past, not preserving it. Zurich-based architect Willi Egli, who also chairs the advisory council on architecture in Nuremberg, believes the grounds should be allowed to crumble naturally, even if that entails fencing it off.
It should rather bring into the future its enormous, sophisticated vitality.
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Others say that preserving Zeppelin Field is the progressive way forward, part of the continuum of Germany dealing with its dark history. Postwar silence eventually gave way to truth seeking, but the emphasis at first centered on the Nazi leaders of the time.