On being German

10 Jun

This will not be easy and is most likely a rather unpleasant topic or difficult and controversial. Nevertheless I feel it’s worth writing. I suppose every country has similar problems but being German can be very tricky sometimes. In some ways we are still the murderers from the 3rd Reich even though that happened over 60 years ago. Please don’t misunderstand me! This time of our history is nothing to be proud of, it is a horrible piece of shit that happened. Such cruelty and despair this little man named Hitler brought upon Europe and the world. There are no words for it! I’m deeply sorry for the men and women who were killed, brutally murdered but there are only so many times a girl can be reminded of these events  all these years later.

I was never more ashamed to be german than while I had to watch Schindler’s List in school. It was in 10th grade and I remember coming home that first day and wanting to pack my things, leave this horrible country and never speak the language again. I wanted to never ever acknowledge again that the blood of this nation runs through my veins. Later, naturally, I learnt that this is not the country anymore that it was then. We came a long way since then I think.

Nevertheless this nation, at least to me, never seems allowed to breath freely, whenever a comment slips a persons mouth that could be interpreted the wrong way, like today yesterday, the soccer player who referred to military helmets and caused a huge controversy, it is taken the wrong way. Even though most of the 82 million people living here were born after the war.

We had nothing to do with the horrors of then. Yet, we still live under it’s ugly dark shadow. Politically we are not allowed to have opinions that differ from those of the Israelis. Again, please don’t get me wrong. I like Isreal, it is a beautiful country, I’ve been there twice and even had a pen friend for a number of years but whatever the Isreali government decides to do, the Germans have to stick with them or else they dig out the Holocaust and Fashist card and we are the bad one’s again even if our motives are good this time.

I feel that we are not allowed to criticize, or our government at least is not allowed so. I’m not en expert on these subjects (this is just my very limited opinion) but whenever I watch or hear the news (I don’t do it too often cause of various reasons) I get frustrated. Of course I don’t know enough about the conflicts in the Middle East but I’m also not sure if anybody really understands anymore. They keep fighting because they’ve always been fighting. And Germany is the Israelian ally, always, along with the US. No matter how stupid the thing is in my opinion.

In school we learnt about the horrors of the WW2 and it’s ramifications. Not only did we discuss them in history class, no, we also did so in german lit, english, french and religion. For me, this was too much after a while, this repetitive stuff. I didn’t want to hear it anymore. I couldn’t take it anymore because whenever I hear/read/watch about it, I feel for these people, even writing this I feel the tears coming to my eyes. We can never right this! Never ever!

But Germany isn’t the only nation to have been so terribly wrong in history. I read Tim Weiner’s book about the CIA, read about the Vietcong and many other similar events in history. Maybe their terrors haven’t been as massive as ours but they definitely exist. Hell, Hitler wasn’t even german, he came from Austria. What about Mussolini, the axis Rome-Berlin? We were not alone in this, we just did a more thorough job. Sorry for this choice of words.

Will we ever be able to treat each other as equals, Germans and Israelis? Because I don’t feel like we do now. Or is this just my narrow german view? How does the rest of the world see us?

Teaching about this in schools is of the utmost importance but maybe not in the hyper-way I had to endure the drill for years. Maybe I just got too much teaching sprinkled on me during my school years, making me so aware of this and it’s totally possible I am wrong. To me, being german means to always be hyper-cautitious about what you do or say, to be ashamed of what my countrymen did. I’m just sick of being responsible for something I didn’t do, for something I know my granny and her parents believed was wrong at the time.

My great-grandparents :-)

My granny’s father wouldn’t allow her to go to the Nazi-stuff all her friends had to go to because he thought it was wrong what Hitler did but he had a family to support so he never protested openly. Neither did the catholic church might I add! My great-grandpa was no Schindler (though he looks a little like him) but I know he tried to help others. When the prisoners of war who had to work with him were not allowed to go into the bunker during air strikes he let them into his cellar because it was rather massive and better then anything else available to them.

So, will we still be the bad guys in another 60 years? Or will the following generations grow up without feeling guilty for something they did not do? Is it even possible to not feel guilty and still be aware of everything that happened? Will it ever be ok to be proud of being german? Because right now, it’s still a very difficult feeling for a lot of us.


12 Responses to “On being German”

  1. Novia Olam June 19, 2012 at 11:56 #

    I’ve just started learning German as part of my course and someone who heard about it asked me “You know that’s the language of the Nazi’s?”And i was a little disgusted ny that because first of all, we’re in Kenya! And second of all, it’s 2012, not 1945!! People need to let go. learn about it, empathise, learn from it and move the hell on!

    • Wilhelmina Upton June 19, 2012 at 12:47 #

      I’m sorry to hear that they still called it the language of the Nazi’s when it is so much more. It’s the language of Goethe, Schiller and so many more writers. Also it is 2012!
      But my condolences on learning german because it is so complicated I think! I was raised with it and still have no clue what I’m doing :D Ok, I don’t have a clue in english either :D
      I hope the language is not to hard on you with all the crappy rules, it’s a mess!

      • Novia Olam June 20, 2012 at 19:32 #

        Yup, there’s so much more to it than just Nazis!
        LOL! Yeah, it koinda is, but I want to learn it so I’ll give it everything I have. :) English…that one is special. :-D

        • Wilhelmina Upton June 20, 2012 at 19:34 #

          Haha good luck with it then. You’ll probably succeed at it but when your heart is in it, that’s most important :-)

  2. Addie June 19, 2012 at 08:12 #

    I have never watched Schindler’s List – and to think I’m a self-confessed Nazi/holocaust-themed movies.

    This is a very touching piece, Ms. Upton. I hate that people become so judgmental and go stereotyping whenever they can. I, of course, couldn’t fathom the idea of what happened during that dark period but all’s been done. I can only be thankful for better days. I hope the guilt feeling go away.

    • Addie June 19, 2012 at 08:13 #

      *a self-confessed lover of

    • Wilhelmina Upton June 19, 2012 at 08:44 #

      You should watch it, it’s one of the only films on that subject I watched (well, I had to in school but I guess it still counts) and it is very good.

      Thankfully most people are not as judgmental but sometimes when I watch the news I get so annoyed! And then you can read the results of my annoyance on here :D

  3. daterofboys June 11, 2012 at 17:00 #

    I know that Canada doesn’t look down upon Germany…or at least my circle of friends. We don’t like what happened there, but the world is different now.
    However, I do believe in teaching WWII history – otherwise it could repeat itself. Didn’t Greece give 7% of the vote to a neo group, recently? Makes no sense, knowing what people know, and having the access to information that we do, these days…

    • Wilhelmina Upton June 11, 2012 at 17:05 #

      Yet there are a lot of right-wing extremist groups in a lot of European governments. Every time one of them gets into a government it scares me a little bit. They should never get that kind of power ever!

      Glad to know Canadians don’t look down upon us. So they won’t hate me per se in August :D

  4. graveyardsandgrasslands June 11, 2012 at 12:44 #

    It is fascinating to hear your thoughts on the aftermath of the events of the last century. I think that every country had a dark time in its history and it is very difficult for people not to feel ashamed or even guilty for some of the things which happened in the past. The fact is that a country is just a collection of people who have a certain ethos.

    I know a few German people from university and I found them all to be very pleasant. I often feel that Britain has more in common with people from Germany than those from other areas around Europe.

    There are parts of British history which when I hear about I cringe. I think “How could a country which I am a part of and which has raised me ever have had those thoughts or beliefs.”

    It is always important to remember the mistakes of the past, that is how we learn and grow. What is even more important is that we understand that any country if governed in the wrong way can become corrupt and that we should learn not only from our own history but from the history of other countries too. German people should be able to be proud of the values that they currently hold and proud that they are able to guide other countries away from corruption in the future.

    There is nothing wrong with feeling proud to be German. I am a young English girl and I know that most people in this country see Germany as a modern, experimental, intelligent group of people. I’m sure there are some German idiots but there’re a lot of English ones too!

    • Wilhelmina Upton June 11, 2012 at 12:49 #

      This is a great comment! Thanks for taking the time to read my post and commenting.
      I don’t feel guilty all the time, just sometimes and the result is this post. And yes, there are idiots in all nations. We should just never let ourselves forget how fast corruption can happen even if it didn’t start out as such.

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