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  #1  
Old 07-25-2012, 11:26 PM
ClintO ClintO is offline
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What do present day Germans think about the Holocaust?

America has gone through slavery, removing native americans from their homelands, and our fair share of atrocities but the people I consort with feel no direct responsibility. Not in the manner that they had any decision in the matter.

But, I was wondering with the Holocaust so recent (I knew elder people who fought in WW2), What do the German people feel when the subject is brought up?

Subjective I know, but maybe some individuals you've known or personal stories about visiting.
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  #2  
Old 07-26-2012, 12:49 AM
antonio107 antonio107 is offline
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When I did a minor in German in university, we had a guest speaker come talk to the Department of European and Soviet studies about this topic. He was a journalist who studied the treatment of the holocaust in school textbooks and curricula.

Long story short? The Western Germans seem to feel great guilt from the acts, and accept their part in the holocaust. The Austrians and the former DDR, however, haven't been so quick to accept blame, and have attempt to "other" the Nazi regime who committed genocide.

I'd give more specifics, but it's been a long time since that talk happened. YMMV...
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Old 07-26-2012, 01:13 AM
Qin Shi Huangdi Qin Shi Huangdi is offline
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Originally Posted by antonio107 View Post

Long story short? The Western Germans seem to feel great guilt from the acts, and accept their part in the holocaust. The Austrians and the former DDR, however, haven't been so quick to accept blame, and have attempt to "other" the Nazi regime who committed genocide.
A lot of the neo-Nazis seem to be concentrated in the former DDR (like the terrorists in Thuringia last winter) and Austria has very strong parties with Nazi connections.
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  #4  
Old 07-26-2012, 01:37 AM
Jragon Jragon is offline
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From what I've heard from Germans I've interacted with over the years, they seem to have a lot of guilt codified in their very legal system. Everything from disallowing Nazi symbols to be shown in media, even historical fiction (though obviously it's okay to use educationally). It's hard to get a copy of, say, Mein Kampf unless you can prove you're a historian too.

In addition, I've heard a few Germans say things like (and this is a direct quote from one of them) they're "pussifying an entire nation because of terrible guilt they have about the holocaust." This was in reference to a topic about Germany's rather strict laws about violence in video games, and how easy it is to get slapped with a rating that basically makes it legally impossible to sell the game in anything short of a specialist catalog (i.e. they can't advertise it at all and stores can't stock it in the open).

Granted this is just the perception of a few Germans I've known, but it seems to them that the legal system is assuming that they're constantly on the precipice of another holocaust, and do everything in their power to scrub anything and everything they think could possibly trigger it happening again (even if it's hilarious like "having a swastika on a tank in a video game about WWII").

Last edited by Jragon; 07-26-2012 at 01:38 AM..
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  #5  
Old 07-26-2012, 02:00 AM
antonio107 antonio107 is offline
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Originally Posted by Qin Shi Huangdi View Post
A lot of the neo-Nazis seem to be concentrated in the former DDR (like the terrorists in Thuringia last winter) and Austria has very strong parties with Nazi connections.
The East German nazism can probably be attributed to their soaring high unemployment rates and rock bottom economy. I can't imagine the sort of rhetoric we'd have in North America with 12.5% unemployment, or whatever it's at in The DDR states these days...
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  #6  
Old 07-26-2012, 03:00 AM
ClintO ClintO is offline
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It seems like if one’s grandpa was in the war fighting for the Nazi’s(not that they had a choice), it would be a taboo subject about anytime, which would lead the whole family feeling guilty for something that happened before their time. Maybe a generation or a couple more times removed, they’ll perceive it like the south in America does with slavery, “it was my ancestors instead of it was my dad or grandpa.”

IMHO-
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  #7  
Old 07-26-2012, 09:54 AM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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scrub anything and everything they think could possibly trigger it happening again (even if it's hilarious like "having a swastika on a tank in a video game about WWII").
Hence I suppose the video game where you have to use cheat codes to see a swastika festooned train and a picture of Hitler.
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Old 07-26-2012, 10:16 AM
heathen earthling heathen earthling is offline
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America has gone through slavery, removing native americans from their homelands, and our fair share of atrocities but the people I consort with feel no direct responsibility. Not in the manner that they had any decision in the matter.

But, I was wondering with the Holocaust so recent (I knew elder people who fought in WW2), What do the German people feel when the subject is brought up?
I am not an American or a German, but I see the difference in that America's historical atrocities tended to be profitable for white Americans (and arguably still are, in the case of stolen Native lands), but to my knowledge the German people never experienced even a single short-term benefit from having a Holocaust in their country. So why does Germany feel guiltier?
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Old 07-26-2012, 10:22 AM
MichaelEmouse MichaelEmouse is offline
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Originally Posted by heathen earthling View Post
I am not an American or a German, but I see the difference in that America's historical atrocities tended to be profitable for white Americans (and arguably still are, in the case of stolen Native lands), but to my knowledge the German people never experienced even a single short-term benefit from having a Holocaust in their country. So why does Germany feel guiltier?
You can't sign into a quiet English hotel without someone mentioning the war.
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  #10  
Old 07-26-2012, 06:59 PM
CatherineZeta CatherineZeta is offline
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You can't sign into a quiet English hotel without someone mentioning the war.
We hosted German exchange students every year at my high school and I had a friend who found it hilarious to run around saying, "Don't mention the war!!"

(She didn't do this in front of the Germans thankfully).
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  #11  
Old 07-26-2012, 07:08 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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WWII is a fading memory..in 10 years, most people who remembered the war will be gone. It will be interesting to see what happens when everyone who had a personal memory of the war is gone.
I suspect that historians will still write about it, but it will be like WWI is today-history of the distant past.
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  #12  
Old 07-26-2012, 07:20 PM
snowthx snowthx is offline
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When I was young and traveling through Europe, I visited Bavaria. When I mentioned to my German friends my plans to visit Dachau concentration camp near Munich, they kind-of snickered at me. They asked why I wanted to see that. It was like they were tired of being punished over again for something that happened long before they were born. One of them said they "would like to forget it ever happened".

"THAT is why I thought it was important for me to see it", is what I told him, so that none of us would ever forget.

IMHO the Germans should not be punished for what occured in the past, but I do think a gentle reminder about it is in order once in a while, certainly given current social trends, so that it never happens again.
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  #13  
Old 07-26-2012, 09:04 PM
Ike Witt Ike Witt is offline
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Originally Posted by snowthx View Post
IMHO the Germans should not be punished for what occured in the past, but I do think a gentle reminder about it is in order once in a while, certainly given current social trends, so that it never happens again.
Yet sadly, genocides continue to happen. From the former Yugoslavia to Darfur the tribal nature of humanity still appears to rear its ugly head.
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  #14  
Old 07-26-2012, 09:31 PM
Loach Loach is offline
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Originally Posted by heathen earthling View Post
I am not an American or a German, but I see the difference in that America's historical atrocities tended to be profitable for white Americans (and arguably still are, in the case of stolen Native lands), but to my knowledge the German people never experienced even a single short-term benefit from having a Holocaust in their country. So why does Germany feel guiltier?
Due to the immigration boom in the early 20th century a large percentage of Americans don't even have a family connection to that part of the country's history. On all sides my family wasn't in this country until the late 1800s on my father's side and the late aughts on my mother's side.
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  #15  
Old 07-26-2012, 09:41 PM
Qin Shi Huangdi Qin Shi Huangdi is offline
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Originally Posted by ClintO View Post
It seems like if one’s grandpa was in the war fighting for the Nazi’s(not that they had a choice), it would be a taboo subject about anytime, which would lead the whole family feeling guilty for something that happened before their time. Maybe a generation or a couple more times removed, they’ll perceive it like the south in America does with slavery, “it was my ancestors instead of it was my dad or grandpa.”

IMHO-
Well unlike the Southrons, the Germans haven't engaged in obssessive whitewashing, nostalgia, apologism, and revisionism of their past. This was worse in the South in the '20s and '30s which is about how far we are removed from World War II.
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  #16  
Old 07-26-2012, 09:46 PM
Peremensoe Peremensoe is offline
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Due to the immigration boom in the early 20th century a large percentage of Americans don't even have a family connection to that part of the country's history. On all sides my family wasn't in this country until the late 1800s on my father's side and the late aughts on my mother's side.
I don't think it matters that much whether your personal genetic ancestry was represented in the area at the time; if you live here, you have assumed some inheritance of everything that came before.
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Old 07-26-2012, 10:22 PM
Enuma Elish Enuma Elish is offline
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It seems like if one’s grandpa was in the war fighting for the Nazi’s(not that they had a choice), it would be a taboo subject about anytime, which would lead the whole family feeling guilty for something that happened before their time. Maybe a generation or a couple more times removed, they’ll perceive it like the south in America does with slavery, “it was my ancestors instead of it was my dad or grandpa.”

IMHO-
I am 49 years old. I am American. My maternal grandparents were German. I was 21 years old before my Grandma told me, in hushed tones, that her brother had fought for the German army in WW2. He fought against the Soviets, was captured with his entire regiment, and was castrated by the Soviets while a prisoner, as were his fellow German soldiers. He survived the war and lived out his life in Germany. I never met him.

My Grandma also told me about either another brother or a first cousin (I was young and impatient and didn't listen well..., but my Mom says it was a first cousin of Grandma's) who fought for the Germans and after the war got to Ellis Island.
He got as far as the group medical. The doctor told all the men to take their undershirts off and when he saw the tattoo of a swastika on his upper arm, told my great-uncle/cousin to turn right back around and go back to Germany.

I asked my Grandma (I was paying attention now!) if he had been in the SS and she abruptly ended the conversation - as was her way when she didn't want to talk about something.

The really odd thing is that I always knew from a very young age that if I really wanted to piss my Mom or Grandparents off, all I had to do was joke about being Jewish. I knew, when I was young, that my Dad's ancestor's were German (I know now they were of Danish ancestry, but a part of Denmark that was taken over by Germany). I knew my maternal grandpa's ancestry was German serfs/farmers back to 1643. But noone ever spoke about my Grandma's Mom and my Grandma wouldn't talk about her Mother.

I recently drove my Mom, now 83, out to the farm where she grew up in southwest Minnesota, during the trip I asked her about her maternal Grandma.
She said all she knew about her was her name Amelia Chall (pronounced with that distinctive throat-clearing Kh sound indicative of Yiddish or low-German), that she was from West Prussia, and that her family seems to have disappeared in the early 1940s....

Last edited by Enuma Elish; 07-26-2012 at 10:23 PM..
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  #18  
Old 07-26-2012, 11:03 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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The doctor told all the men to take their undershirts off and when he saw the tattoo of a swastika on his upper arm, told my great-uncle/cousin to turn right back around and go back to Germany.
The Waffen SS had their blood type tattooed on their shoulder. Perhaps that is what the physician saw.
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Old 07-26-2012, 11:04 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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Originally Posted by snowthx View Post
One of them said they "would like to forget it ever happened".

"THAT is why I thought it was important for me to see it", is what I told him, so that none of us would ever forget.
Outstanding.
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Old 07-26-2012, 11:07 PM
Qin Shi Huangdi Qin Shi Huangdi is offline
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The Waffen SS had their blood type tattooed on their shoulder. Perhaps that is what the physician saw.
That's pretty useful and clever actually.
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  #21  
Old 07-26-2012, 11:16 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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That's pretty useful and clever actually.
The blood type test is quite easy now, but yes, then it was. On the shoulder, in case the arm was blown off.
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  #22  
Old 07-26-2012, 11:33 PM
Enuma Elish Enuma Elish is offline
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The Waffen SS had their blood type tattooed on their shoulder. Perhaps that is what the physician saw.
Please tell me you are kidding. I'm already having thoughts (and I admit that the possibility is probably quite remote and I'm just being paranoid and meshugge - and , yes I used the term 'meshugge' for effect, but I grew up hearing words like that, but was told they were low-German and was yelled at when I asked if they were Yiddish) that my Grandma's cousins may have been involved in certain things pertaining to Jewish people in Germany in the 1940's and my Great Grandma's family may have possibly, remotely possibly, been Jewish . . . .
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Old 07-26-2012, 11:46 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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Please tell me you are kidding. I'm already having thoughts (and I admit that the possibility is probably quite remote and I'm just being paranoid and meshugge - and , yes I used the term 'meshugge' for effect, but I grew up hearing words like that, but was told they were low-German and was yelled at when I asked if they were Yiddish) that my Grandma's cousins may have been involved in certain things pertaining to Jewish people in Germany in the 1940's and my Great Grandma's family may have possibly, remotely possibly, been Jewish . . . .
You lost me on that.
Yiddish is said to be a German dialect, and my small experience with Germans and Belgians is that they are really easy to piss off about dialect.

Here is a wikipedia link about SS blood type tattoos.

Do you think you have relatives who were SS?
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Old 07-27-2012, 12:03 AM
Enuma Elish Enuma Elish is offline
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You lost me on that.
Yiddish is said to be a German dialect, and my small experience with Germans and Belgians is that they are really easy to piss off about dialect.

Here is a wikipedia link about SS blood type tattoos.

Do you think you have relatives who were SS?
I think I may have had relatives who were SS. I also think I may have had other relatives who were Jewish.

I don't care if I had Jewish relatives. I'm OK with that. I would be quite upset if I found out I had relatives who were in the SS.
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  #25  
Old 07-27-2012, 12:55 AM
D-bear D-bear is offline
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When I was young and traveling through Europe, I visited Bavaria. When I mentioned to my German friends my plans to visit Dachau concentration camp near Munich, they kind-of snickered at me. They asked why I wanted to see that. It was like they were tired of being punished over again for something that happened long before they were born. One of them said they "would like to forget it ever happened".

"THAT is why I thought it was important for me to see it", is what I told him, so that none of us would ever forget.

IMHO the Germans should not be punished for what occured in the past, but I do think a gentle reminder about it is in order once in a while, certainly given current social trends, so that it never happens again.
I don't think it's about being German, Bosnian, Serbian, Shi'a, or Sunni. It's about being Human. We are all Human and the capacity to hate one another is infinite.

We need to see examples of atrocities to help us prevent future atrocities. We can not forget the mistakes of the past or they will become the genocides of the future.

So many Americans feel disgust at what the Germans did to the Jews, but fail to feel ashamed that we gave the Native Americans blankets laced with smallpox.

Man needs to stop killing man. End of story.
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  #26  
Old 07-27-2012, 05:57 AM
Pitchmeister Pitchmeister is offline
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Speaking as a German, the memory of WWII and the Holocaust is always present and schools go to great lengths to teach about it. Any sort of comparison to that time is strictly taboo, and politician's careers end when they say stuff like: "The recent economic climate reminds me of the end of the Weimar Republic."

Unfortunately, many younger people now (I'm talking teenagers) seem to be woefully uninformed about both the Nazi era and the GDR, which is probably due to the fact that there are very few people alive any more who were personally affected (by the Nazis, that is). Some people do feel jaded about the topic, but the experience that snowthx had is not typical, IMHO. I have never heard anyone say "I wish I could forget this ever happened."

BTW, I disagree with the notion that immigrants take on all of the history of their new home - I would think it weird if a Turkish person (to say nothing of Polish immigrants) somehow expressed some sort of personal responsibility for the Horrors of that time. It is part of our cultural heritage, but I believe the connection is more direct when your ancestors were directly responsible. So I could definitely understand a Swedish immigrant to the US in the early 1900s not feeling connected to the atrocities done to the Indians in the 17th and 18th century.
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Old 07-27-2012, 06:07 AM
[Undecided] Adrian [Undecided] Adrian is offline
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Originally Posted by snowthx View Post
When I was young and traveling through Europe, I visited Bavaria. When I mentioned to my German friends my plans to visit Dachau concentration camp near Munich, they kind-of snickered at me. They asked why I wanted to see that. It was like they were tired of being punished over again for something that happened long before they were born. One of them said they "would like to forget it ever happened".

"THAT is why I thought it was important for me to see it", is what I told him, so that none of us would ever forget.

IMHO the Germans should not be punished for what occured in the past, but I do think a gentle reminder about it is in order once in a while, certainly given current social trends, so that it never happens again.
The desire to forget is not that common in Germany. There are memorials not just at the concentration camps, but all over. There is an ongoing effort to install little plaques in front of each house from which someone was deported, for example.
I don't know when you were here, but we're more open about the past now than ever before, IMHO.

And the current social trend is not at all towards right-wing extremism. There are some parties with Neo-Nazi sympathies, but they are extremely marginalised, and even the protest votes from general political dissatisfaction and the Euro crisis goes elsewhere, like the Pirate Party.

Modern Germany is one of the countries you have to worry about the least, in fact. Pacifism is widespread, and the US had to urge us to even get our military help in Bosnia and Afghanistan. Our relationship to our neighbours is good, the one with France for decades now, and with Poland it rapidly improved after they recognized their concerns after our reunification were unfounded. And the European financial crisis is not going to change that. There is some xenophobia, but IMHO it's nothing against some reactions in the US about Mexicans and Muslims.

I'm all for the "never again" mentality, but it should mainly be directed to places like Bosnia, Ruanda, and nowadays Darfur and Syria, not a peaceful and stable democracy. Not blindly following your own government into pointless wars like in Vietnam and Iraq and stopping extralegal renditions and Guantanamo might be a good place to start, as well.
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Old 07-27-2012, 06:26 AM
amanset amanset is offline
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Originally Posted by snowthx View Post
When I was young and traveling through Europe, I visited Bavaria. When I mentioned to my German friends my plans to visit Dachau concentration camp near Munich, they kind-of snickered at me. They asked why I wanted to see that. It was like they were tired of being punished over again for something that happened long before they were born. One of them said they "would like to forget it ever happened".
Reminds me of a scene in the German film The Wave. A schoolteacher starts a lesson about the Nazis and the reaction from the pupils is along the lines of "not again, we get this all the time, we were born several decades after it".
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  #29  
Old 07-27-2012, 07:08 AM
Muffin Muffin is offline
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I don't think it matters that much whether your personal genetic ancestry was represented in the area at the time; if you live here, you have assumed some inheritance of everything that came before.
Why should a 21st century black Jamacian immigrant to the USA inherit any of the responsibility for harm caused by white Americans in the USA in the 19th century?
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Old 07-27-2012, 07:38 AM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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Why should a 21st century black Jamacian immigrant to the USA inherit any of the responsibility for harm caused by white Americans in the USA in the 19th century?
Because discrimination is still present.
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  #31  
Old 07-27-2012, 07:52 AM
MichaelEmouse MichaelEmouse is offline
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What does it imply to assume some inheritance of everything that came before? What does it imply to inherit responsibility for harm caused by other people?

Last edited by MichaelEmouse; 07-27-2012 at 07:52 AM..
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Old 07-27-2012, 08:32 AM
snowthx snowthx is offline
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I'm all for the "never again" mentality, but it should mainly be directed to places like Bosnia, Ruanda, and nowadays Darfur and Syria, not a peaceful and stable democracy. Not blindly following your own government into pointless wars like in Vietnam and Iraq and stopping extralegal renditions and Guantanamo might be a good place to start, as well.
The US? You forgot to mention the detainment of our own citizens of a specific descent and confiscation of their proprty. I tend to think, at least in the current political climate, that acknowledging past misdeeds would be seen as "apologizing", and we will have none of that here - we never make mistakes in the US.

Yes, I agree. I should not have limited my comment to just Germany. My experience may have been atypical, but it did happen (early 90s). A lot of countries have blood on their hands and need the reminder. But, the big question, how does humanity prevent genocide? It continues to happen even in the recent decade.

I think the human capacity for doing good is far outpaced by our capacity for cruelty and evil - maybe it is just part of our nature. One can hope we will eventually find an answer.
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  #33  
Old 07-27-2012, 04:00 PM
Qin Shi Huangdi Qin Shi Huangdi is offline
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Because discrimination is still present.
Only on an individual level and thus only individuals have the burden of guilt.
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  #34  
Old 07-27-2012, 04:03 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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Only on an individual level and thus only individuals have the burden of guilt.
True.
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  #35  
Old 07-27-2012, 04:40 PM
Skald the Rhymer Skald the Rhymer is offline
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Well unlike the Southrons, the Germans haven't engaged in obssessive whitewashing, nostalgia, apologism, and revisionism of their past. This was worse in the South in the '20s and '30s which is about how far we are removed from World War II.
"Southrons"? Why on Earth would you use that word?
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  #36  
Old 07-27-2012, 05:03 PM
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The Holocaust Museum (Jewish Holocaust Museum, actually) in Berlin is right by the Brandenburg Gate, perhaps the most central part of the city. The Germans are obsessive about keeping it clean of graffiti. Contrast that to the location of the Bunker and where Hitler's body was burned. That is also close, but has a tiny sign, and only a not well kept up patch of scraggly weeds. The Museum itself is even better done than the one in Washington, and really concentrates on the people, not just a higher level view of the events.

At a more personal level, I was on a mostly European mailing list back during the Bosnian/Serbian War. Though this was not a political list at all, a discussion about it broke out, and a German member was the most vociferous opponent of the Serbian atrocities - for which he too a lot of heat from a Serbian member. I was very impressed - the German member really cared.

There are obviously wackos still, but for the most part the lesson seems to have been learned.
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Old 07-27-2012, 05:37 PM
Qin Shi Huangdi Qin Shi Huangdi is offline
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"Southrons"? Why on Earth would you use that word?
Just personal idiosyncracy.
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  #38  
Old 07-27-2012, 05:47 PM
nogravity nogravity is offline
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You can't sign into a quiet English hotel without someone mentioning the war.
You think.
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  #39  
Old 07-27-2012, 05:47 PM
Skald the Rhymer Skald the Rhymer is offline
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Just personal idiosyncracy.
By which you mean a deliberate choice to impede communication by using idiosyncratic words that draw the reader's attention to themselves while adding absolutely nothing to the meaning of your sentence?

I'm being enormously hypocritical to point this out, of course, but I'm comfortable with that.
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Old 07-27-2012, 05:49 PM
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My grandfather was a nazi of unknown to me rank, I don't really consider myself a German though(I was raised in the US).

Among my mom's side WW2 was just looked at as madness, I think it is easy to forget most nazis and German soldiers were drafted and participation in Hitler Youth for children of the right age was mandatory. I think you get into morally grey areas fast when the alternative to saluting Hitler is prison or execution.

Why anyone would feel personally responsible is beyond me.

Odd side bit, the way my mom and her family talk about WW2 is EXACTLY how WW2 vets would talk about it in the US, it took a long time before I realized how strange it was. Before that it was just meh the war, like in my young mind they morphed into the same boring thing.
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  #41  
Old 07-27-2012, 07:10 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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Originally Posted by Skald the Rhymer View Post
By which you mean a deliberate choice to impede communication by using idiosyncratic words that draw the reader's attention to themselves while adding absolutely nothing to the meaning of your sentence?

I'm being enormously hypocritical to point this out, of course, but I'm comfortable with that.
Put me in, Coach!

I'll say "Damn Yankees" and it will even out.
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  #42  
Old 07-27-2012, 08:06 PM
clairobscur clairobscur is online now
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Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
WWII is a fading memory..in 10 years, most people who remembered the war will be gone. It will be interesting to see what happens when everyone who had a personal memory of the war is gone.
I suspect that historians will still write about it, but it will be like WWI is today-history of the distant past.

I don't think so. A number of children of people who lived through the war will still be sensitive about it. So, add at least one generation.

Also, WWII has more signifiance than WWI. The latter was a large scale tragedy, but didn't have the same kind of implications.
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Old 07-28-2012, 05:14 PM
The Great Cornholio The Great Cornholio is offline
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Originally Posted by Enuma Elish View Post
I would be quite upset if I found out I had relatives who were in the SS.
Why? "The SS" could mean a number of things.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that your relative was necessarily one of those blokes strutting round with a leather overcoat over his shoulders, slapping his gloves against his thighs and casually ordering women and children to be shot, just for the hell of it. I mean, he could have been, but the chances are he wasn't.

Remember that back in the late 30s, the SS were seen as glamorous, dashing and heroic, they had the best training, the most up to date equipment, with very real prospects for promotion through the ranks for the talented - they really were the Elite, the guys to join...if they would have you.

SS tactics and innovation were instrumental in bouncing warfare out of the out-dated WW1 era, where men followed an officer's direction. When that officer went down, that was that. SS troops were trained to take over, take the initiative, to follow through and achieve the objectives. Their elan and courage made them inspirational to Wehrmact troops facing superior enemy units, and their tenacity was one of the reasons the Allies hated and feared SS opposition. Unit cameraderie and loyalty was outstanding, right up to and beyond the end of the war.

If your relative did have the Blood Group tattoo, then he almost certainly was Waffen SS, the fighting man as described above. The other branch of the SS, the Allegemaine SS, was for administration etc. and was more the kind of place to find men who had never seen a shot fired in anger but were quite happy to pose about in their dashing uniform and soak up the glory - until the war started to bite, then they were seen as REMF ( as I believe the phrase is, as used in the US). Many Allegemaine men didn't bother with the tattoos, they had no intention of being under fire, and this meant many could slip through the Allies' net at the end of the war and distance themselves from organising, say, train departures from France to Poland, for example. It could be argued that these men had more to answer for than the trooper at the sharp end, fighting every step back from Russia to the gates of Berlin. The fighting man may be less inclined to deny his service record, despite it doing him no favours post-war.

Finally, in the last months of the war, SS divisions were padded out with transfers from other branches of the armed forces. One minute you might be in a Luftwaffe unit, (with no aircraft), the next in an SS division standing in front of the Red Army. You certainly weren't asked if you fancied it. (Interestingly, these low grade troops were often said to assume the courage and spirit of their new division, despite having simply been given the cuff title, and fought with great bravery. Possibly, however, it was because they knew, as SS troops, they would be given little quarter if they surrendered or were captured )

So, don't dismiss "the SS" out of hand, many brave and honest fighting men were criminalised for little good reason other than the organisation's reputation. It is true that their tenacity sometimes led them to be "over zealous" and reckless, and some Waffen SS units were guilty of appalling war crimes, but to see them ALL as "the bad guys" of the Third Reich is to fail to learn lessons about the structure of a militaristic society in Germany at that time. The cartoon character villain as loved by Hollywood etc was not the typical SS man, any more than your Jewish relative was a grasping treacherous parasitic Fagin character. Judge a man on what he did, not on the post-war stereotype of the organisation he was assigned.

I guess this highlights the importance of speaking to our elderly relatives, to get the story straight from the horses' mouths, and of course, paying attention when they talk! A great wealth of service information is now available, it might well be possible to find out exactly where and when your relative served his country. Admittedly there is always the possibility that you discover something unsavoury, but at least you will know for sure - you will see that men do terrible things to each other in war, not monsters. Their blood is the same as that which runs through yours...
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Old 07-28-2012, 05:52 PM
Nametag Nametag is online now
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Settle down, Beavis.
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  #45  
Old 07-28-2012, 10:28 PM
Lust4Life Lust4Life is offline
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Originally Posted by CatherineZeta View Post
We hosted German exchange students every year at my high school and I had a friend who found it hilarious to run around saying, "Don't mention the war!!"

(She didn't do this in front of the Germans thankfully).
John Cleese said in an interview that when he was in Germany to see about making a German version of Fawlty Towers, a German businessman in the foyer of his hotel shouted over to him "John ! Don't mention the war ! "

So yes, Germans do have a sense of humour .
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Old 07-28-2012, 11:10 PM
RickJay RickJay is offline
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Originally Posted by The Great Cornholio View Post
Remember that back in the late 30s, the SS were seen as glamorous, dashing and heroic, they had the best training, the most up to date equipment, with very real prospects for promotion through the ranks for the talented - they really were the Elite, the guys to join...if they would have you.

SS tactics and innovation were instrumental in bouncing warfare out of the out-dated WW1 era, where men followed an officer's direction. When that officer went down, that was that. SS troops were trained to take over, take the initiative, to follow through and achieve the objectives.
What you're describing was generally true of all German troops; it's the manner in which they were trained and fought.

It's absurd to credit the SS with bringing warfare out of the WWI era. Modern mechanized warfare was invented by other people and was first practised by the regular German armed forces, not the Waffen SS, and indeed before the Waffen SS was even a significant military force. The Waffen SS was not organized into divisional strength until after the invasion of Poland, and was a very small part of the invasions of Belgium, Netherlands and France, though they did manage to start their record of outrageous war crimes.
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Old 07-30-2012, 11:19 AM
The Great Cornholio The Great Cornholio is offline
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Well, without going too OT, let me clarify:

Firstly, I said that the SS were "instrumental" ie. "contributory", not solely responsible for the way warfare developed. They capitalised on things that others were slow to see the benefits of - for example, their use of disruptive pattern camoflage smocks. They weren't the first to wear them, by a long way, but the first to wear such battledress as standard issue on a large scale, rather than for just snipers or spotters. Such ideas at the time were seen as odd, but who today doesn't wear camoflage print kit?

Secondly, I didn't mention mechanised warfare, where does that come into it?

I was talking, primarily, about the way SS troops all went through basic training together, creating a body of men who had a fierce sense of loyalty to their comrades. Officer candidates were then picked from these men, on talent.

The rest of the German army were still adhering to the old-school Prussian Junkers system of appointing officers through their family connections, or class, rather than ability, who were aloof and distant to the men they commanded. SS officers ate, trained and lived with their men, meaning that when under pressure, they could act, react, adapt in a more fluid and less formal manner, vital in fast moving situations. More like a modern army than WW1 era forces, I would say...
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Old 07-30-2012, 03:09 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Wow..so much praise for the Waffen SS!
Under Gen. Sepp Dietrich, SS troops (Battle of the Bulge) committed numerous acts of atrocities-including the murder of US Army POWs. They also had a habit of shooting civilians who tried to help wounded US soldiers. Yep, real heroes, those SS troops..too bad they all were not hung.
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Old 07-30-2012, 03:14 PM
Qin Shi Huangdi Qin Shi Huangdi is offline
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Originally Posted by ralph124c View Post
Wow..so much praise for the Waffen SS!
Under Gen. Sepp Dietrich, SS troops (Battle of the Bulge) committed numerous acts of atrocities-including the murder of US Army POWs. They also had a habit of shooting civilians who tried to help wounded US soldiers. Yep, real heroes, those SS troops..too bad they all were not hung.
I'm sure it would have been perfectly moral, legal, and practical to hang several hundred thousand soldiers (many of whom were conscripts and the majority of whom weren't Germans for that matter). Although you're right about the Malmedy massacre-a Senator named Joseph McCarthy managed to get Peiper and his gang off the hook by arguing they were "tortured" while in captivity. Sound familiar?
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Old 07-30-2012, 04:33 PM
ralph124c ralph124c is offline
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Originally Posted by Qin Shi Huangdi View Post
I'm sure it would have been perfectly moral, legal, and practical to hang several hundred thousand soldiers (many of whom were conscripts and the majority of whom weren't Germans for that matter). Although you're right about the Malmedy massacre-a Senator named Joseph McCarthy managed to get Peiper and his gang off the hook by arguing they were "tortured" while in captivity. Sound familiar?
Who said anything about the (few) Waffen SS soldiers who behaved like civilized soldiers?
Of course, on the Eastern Front, the Russians didn't entertain such niceties-a lot of SS men sliced their tattoos off (in a vain attempt to hide their affiliations).
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