Berlin: Dealing with a Nazi Past

It was incredibly interesting to see the way that Germany wrestles with its past regarding World War II. Despite being the main perpetrators of the atrocities of World War II, I was left with a feeling of appreciation for how Germany has dealt with the war. This was evident all throughout Berlin. We were lucky enough to get a tour of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament building. During this tour, our group saw how even the architecture of their parliament and governmental buildings reflects their attempt to deal with WWII and Nazism. Mainly, these features represent their distaste for strong federal power and leadership and their efforts to engage citizens in democracy. I was struck with the openness and accessibility of the Bundestag, which was done as an effort to create more participation in government by German citizens. The architecture of the city, which was almost completely rebuilt after World War II, also has deep metaphorical meaning relating to the war. The Holocaust memorial, a sprawling concrete structure, is placed basically in the center of the city, just down the street from the famous Brandenburg Gate and the United States embassy. Russian memorials can also be found in very central locations in Berlin as well, such as the Russian war memorial in the Tiergarten. This memorial still contains two large Russian tanks overlooking Berlin’s most famous park. Almost 75 years after the conflict ended, Germany still has enemy tanks within its capital city of Berlin.

These structures and memorials are a part of daily life and serve as a reminder to the German people of the consequences of Nazism. The willingness of the German people to take ownership of their faults and work to never forget WWII was incredibly impressive. This was in stark contrast to the way that both Poland and France refuse to adequately deal with their history of collaboration with Nazism and the holocaust. I feel that Germany is a model nation for confronting its troubling past and attempting to prevent injustice from occurring in the future.

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