Monday, May 16, 2005

Regarding "Germans recognized as victims of WWII", IHT, May 9, 2005, and "German Victims", Letter to the editor, IHT, May 14-15, 2005: Fortunately most serious historiography is not based ( only ) on simplistic assumptions and impressions, such as those in Sandy Kestenbaum's letter. The guilt of 'ordinary' Germans has been dealt with extensively in several well-researched, fairly recent studies. That many of those studies were written by young German researchers says much about their generations' efforts to come to terms with their country's past and to ensure that "Never again" is not just an empty phrase. Not blaming post-war German generations for the innumerable sins committed by millions of Germans in the years 1933-1945 is not a favor that we accord those generations, but the logical outcome of observing a simple historical and judicial principle: you cannot be guilty of crimes committed before you were born. All this does not mean that it is right to suggest - as President Horst Koehler did in a way - that all German civilians ( Jews, Roma, mentally ill people, Jehovah's Witnesses, political and other resisters, as opposed to 'ordinary' civilians ) who suffered under Nazi-rule and its aftermath can somehow be put on a par. Even though it is virtually impossible - and basically wrong - to 'categorize' the suffering, it should be stated clearly that we are talking about entirely different sorts and levels of suffering, if only because of the fact that so many Germans of the war-generation were actively involved in bringing Hitler to power and keeping him there for more than 12 years. President Koehler was right when he said that "there is no closure": it is still too early for that.

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