Viewing entries tagged

Looking for answers in the past...

Interesting article in the Sept 12, 2016 New Yorker about German second generation "Kriegskinder." Burkhard Bilger writes about a form of group therapy for Germans who want to explore their past and their families.

From the article:

 “This country had fourteen million refugees,” she said. “The fact that we were able to absorb them has been called one of the great accomplishments of postwar Germany. There were all sorts of problems—prejudice, ostracism—but there was no civil war.”

Her listeners shifted in their seats. Most were middle-aged Germans like her, unaccustomed to self-pity and allergic to national pride. Theirs was a country responsible for history’s bloodiest war and most efficient mass murder: sixty million killed, including two-thirds of all European Jews. They were here to wrestle with that guilt, not to make excuses for it. Yet Baring believed that there’d been more than enough suffering to go around, and not nearly enough compassion. Of those fourteen million German refugees, some were colonists in Nazi-occupied territories. But the great majority were civilians fleeing bombed-out cities, or ethnic Germans who’d settled abroad long before the war. They and their children had the same psychological issues as the refugees flooding into Germany from Syria today: depression, alienation, no sense of place. “I’ve led whole sessions filled with nothing but people like you,” Baring said.

"As the generations turned and the war loosened its grip, people began to realize how little they knew about their parents’ and grandparents’ lives, and how much that silence had shaped their lives."


Migrants, Nationalism, and Fear

"Anyone who says these things in public “is immediately labeled a Nazi,” he said. Often, my efforts to talk to local residents were met with reticence. Graf von Rechberg, the priest, told me Germany’s “brown history” — a reference to the Nazi era — made many people reluctant to voice their true feelings."

Germans and Jews

I wanted to share an article in the Jewish Standard about a new film, “Germans & Jews,” (trailer above!) by Janina Quint and Tal Recant. It focuses on the stories of people who went back to Germany after the war. I completely relate to the misgivings they talk about. For me, it is still difficult to think of a modern Germany separate from the one my father escaped. On the other hand, I also see parallels to the historical situations of people in my project, like Heinrich Heine. For Heine, his love of German culture trumped the anti-Semitism that brought constant rejection from the institutions he hoped to join. I think there might be a similar situation with Jews who return to Germany. It is still their country, and the country of their ancestors, despite all the horrific things that were done to them and their families.

(The article's title picture of Fritz Stern, from the movie, is taken in the same chair that he sat in, when I visited with him!)

"As far as cinema goes, my understanding of Germans and Jews changed after seeing “Nowhere in Africa,” the 2001 Academy-Award-winning German film about an upper-middle-class family’s time in exile in Africa during the Holocaust. The film concludes at the war’s end, with the family returning to Germany. How could a Jew possibly go back to Germany after losing parents and siblings in the Shoah? The next shock came when I learned that a Jewish classmate, who had received a graduate Jewish studies degree, married a non-Jewish German. Her parents were German Jews. What was she thinking? What drew her and her husband together? Then, in screening the film “The Flat,” I learned that an Israeli couple who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s returned each year after the war for a visit to Germany. They came back so they could vacation with good friends, one of whom had held a high position in the SS hierarchy. Arnon Goldfinger tells that story about his grandparents in his 2011 film, a documentary where he examines that strange relationship.''

Read more: Germans and Jews | The Jewish Standard 

The movie's official site:

Edgar Feuchtwanger: “I Was Hitler’s Neighbor”

I highly recommend this article in the New York Times about Edgar Feuchtwanger's new book, I was Hitler's Neighbor. 

The Times writes:

"Today, at 91, he could well be the last German Jew alive who grew up within arm’s reach of Hitler and observed him day to day, if only in fleeting glimpses. 

It was not until the mid-1930s, Edgar Feuchtwanger recalled, that Hitler assumed his full dimensions. It was still possible to walk on the sidewalk in front of Hitler’s building. Hitler had not yet taken to wearing a military uniform at all times in public or traveling in motorcades.

After he became chancellor in 1933, things changed. Mr. Feuchtwanger’s mother now complained that she could not get milk because the deliveryman was steering extra bottles to Hitler. SS guards moved into the apartment below his and took up positions on the sidewalk outside. Pedestrians were made to cross to the other side of the street."

The irony of the pictures in his notebook, doodles of Nazi symbols, strikes me. From the present, we look back at this time period with a "Black and White" view, when, in fact, it was so gray and gradual.  It took a while for people to understand the full threat that Hitler posed.

You can see this gradual change also in the Nuremberg Laws. The restrictions were not suddenly imposed, it was just one thing after another being taken away until there was nothing left to take.


Rosenstrasse, a film about an Aryan wife fighting for her Jewish husband.