Sunday, November 8, 2015

German Guilt

Social scientists and historians tend to write volumes over German guilt left from WW II.  It doesn't matter if it's a US writer, a French political historian, a Brit journalist, or a Danish researcher doing Jewish history business.  In some ways, guilt has to if written by Einstein as some mathematical formula where A and B mixed in some lab can only result in plain old fashioned guilt.

Well.  Stigma, disgrace or guilt (take your pick) from WW II came to be something of a marginal life experience for the average German.

If you go and listen to the general description that average Germans have of the war period, from mid-summer 1944 on....things were going negative and after the Normandy invasion, it was simply a matter of time before the war would end.  By spring of 1945....most all Germans were living in a shattered atmosphere, with no real positive view of the future.

When peace did didn't mean much because your living conditions, your dismal life existence, your food......all were limited and marginal.

Most all Germans  will note that from early 1945 through most of was lousy world of survival.  The Americans were disbanding their war machine and keeping an occupation force within the border of Germany....but it would be months of effort to get some positive trend going where the average German felt recovery was possible.

Guilt?  In this period, with the exception of the Nuremberg Trials....ending by fall of 1946, people had bigger worries on their mind.  Day to day survival eventually went to a higher step where you saw fresh fruit on a weekly basis and entertainment options either through your local town or radio actually gave you some relief.

From the late 1940s to the early 1960s, there's this employment boom underway.  Houses and apartments are being are plentiful.....industry operations are so demanding that Germany can't find enough people so they import Turks and southern Europeans to do the job.

German politicians and journalists routinely play the guilt card and talk about the errors or regrets involved.....mostly to non-Germans.

The average German simply saw themselves as being used by politicians, and later by the war-machine itself.  The years on marginal existence gave a blunt edge to these regular people.  There's a bit of remorse over Jewish neighbors that they once knew or worked with.....knowing someone made this decision to remove them from the village and from the face of the Earth.  It's generally a nameless person behind the Nazi mask.  Assigning blame to that individual might be worthwhile but to say that their culture or society deserved the guilt trip, well....they suffered as well.  Fathers, sons, and friends never returned from the war....and if they did......they weren't the same people as they were before.

Germany undergoes a revolutionary period in the 1960s and 1970s.....with radical politics and Red Army Faction being a focal point for most of the nation.  If there was any significant's lessen during this period as the younger generation questions the leadership and direction of Germany.

In the 1980s.....Ronald Reagan arrives on the scene to thrust some more dynamics into this whole WW II period recovery and guilt. With a speech or two....he's basically suggested to close the door on WW II, move on, and focus on the Cold War.

By 1990....the Cold War has ended....the Berlin Wall has collapsed upon itself....a united Germany now exists.  There are at least two generations of Germans now existing, who have no real connection to WW II or the causes of the war.

Social researchers will chat for hours about guilt within the society and affecting the framework of life in Germany.  Humbly, I'd say other than a couple of hundred extremist-intellectuals and historians with some 'after-the-party-hangover'.....there's just not anything existing as WW II German guilt.  You have some twenty-year olds today, who don't even have a memory of DDR or the Wall existing.....I'd refer to them as the Kardashian-generation.  You have some German kids prepping for university and will admit that they only know Germany by the 'Mutti-generation' (referring to Merkel and her past twelve years as Chancellor).

So, when you hear the phrase or the topic brought up.....ask yourself who is the person discussing this.  In ninety-nine percent of the'll be some political figure or intellectual journalist.  It won't be the pub owner, the BMW mechanic, the zoo director, or the bus driver.  They've all moved on.

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