Bernhard Schlink is the author of The Reader (Der Vorleser). This is related to my last German paper (equivalent to a ‘thesis’ that I never had to write) on German ‘guilt’ that seems to still go on, 67 years after the war. I’m aware that there are some [younger] Germans (citizens and those with the heritage) who’ve never felt any ‘guilt’ over the dark past (WWII, Holocaust) nor have they been called ‘Nazis’ as a joke. Despite the fact that my German relations were not involved with the Nazis (to the best of my knowledge), I’ve somehow carried this guilt in me, since I was 9 (or around the time I learned about WWII), for a number of reasons: 1) I’m very proud of Germany and anything to do with it; 2) my grandparent grew up in Nazi Germany; 3) I love history and war films constantly remind me of the past; 4) because of my close connection with the elderly, I feel remorse for anyone non-German who grew up during WWII.
Because of this ‘guilt’, I’ve always felt that I owe it to everyone to make sure that such a horrendous crime would never happen again and will do everything I can to help the victims of racism. In some ways, I’m trying to give Germany a new slate. One cannot erase the past, but one can start anew.
- Nazi legacy: The troubled descendants (bbc.co.uk)
- German Pride Still Taboo? (uloop.com)
- Holocaust Memorial Day in Germany and the World (germany.info)
- Merkel: Holocaust guilt is ‘everlasting’ (thelocal.de)
“Naturally, we have an everlasting responsibility for the crimes of national-socialism, for the victims of World War II, and above all, for the Holocaust…
“We must clearly say, generation after generation, and say it again: with courage, civil courage, each individual can help ensure that racism and anti-Semitism have no chance…
“We’re facing our history, we’re not hiding anything, we’re not repressing anything. We must confront this to make sure we are a good and trustworthy partner in the future, as we already are today, thankfully.” – Chancellor Angela Merkel