German victimhood, revisiting the war

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German victimhood, revisiting the war

A very good read, much more on the site...

Are the former Allied nations willing to acknowledge German suffering and loss during World War II? Are they willing to question the morality of the means by which they won the war, even the firebombing that laid waste to 131 German cities and towns, and killed more than half a million people (most of them women, children and the elderly)?

Or was the extremity of Nazi aggression so great, the urgency to defeat Hitler so compelling, that the Allies have effectively been shielded from the kind of moral scrutiny that has been focused on the use of atomic weapons against Japan?

However one might answer those questions today, for much of the postwar period the occupying nations on both sides of the Berlin wall felt little reason to justify their actions. Germans grumbled mightily among themselves, but any public airing of their grievances was subject to severe constraints and cold war manipulation. And when the German children born during or shortly after the war came of age in the heady years of the late 1960s, they demanded that Germany view the war through the lens of non-German victims, not that of its own losses. German victimhood became politically incorrect.

But the dead return; unacknowledged suffering claims its due. That seems to be the lesson of the German war memories that have washed over the new Berlin Republic in the past few years.

Diaries, memoirs, historical novels, academic studies, documentaries and even feature-length films have piled up at a formidable clip, testifying to a long pent-up need for expression. Interestingly, most of these reflections do not come from conservatives or spokesmen of the far right but from former New Leftists who reshaped the politics of German memory in the late 1960s and early '70s and adamantly opposed the attempts of Ernst Nolte and other historians in the mid-'80s to compare Hitler's crimes to Stalin's purges and other instances of mass slaughter.

The same people who insisted on the "singularity" of Nazi atrocities and rejected the very notion of historical comparison (for fear of relativizing the Holocaust and diminishing German responsibility) now speak of the "unparalleled" destruction of German cities and openly question the morality of the Anglo-American Bomber Command.
By netchicken: posted on 22-10-2005

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