Reckoning With the Past: How Germany, France, and England regard World War II

When visiting the museums of Berlin such as the Topography of Terror, German Resistance, and the Wannsee House, I noticed that Germany took a quite different approach to how they portray the war compared to England or France. All the museums I visited in Germany talked very little about the fighting of the war but focused on Nazi atrocities and the few people who tried to resist. The Topography of Terror Museum was dedicated to the crimes that the Gestapo committed and the condonement of these atrocities by most of the population. Less than 1% of the German population resisted the Nazis, which is surprising both for how open Germany is about admitting this and for how small the figure is considering how cruel the regime was. They do not try to hide their history but rather own up to it to ensure that nothing as awful as the Nazi regime can rise again. 

In the Wannsee House, it is also acknowledged how many of the masterminds behind The Final Solution were never held accountable for their crimes, in yet another example of Germany facing their past. This is much different from the museums of London, which focused more on the battles of the war and the hardships that the British people faced. The French also chose to focus on the fighting in France and their liberation but did not acknowledge their complicity in exporting thousands of Jews to concentration camps. It seems that the Allied nations decided to tell the story of the war in the way they experienced it, with the British focusing more on the battles and the bombings, while the French focused more on occupation and resistance. The Germans, being the aggressors, instead focused more on the atrocities that were committed under the Nazi regime as a way of reckoning with their past.  

I have lots of respect for how Germany has handled their troubled past, as it should be every country’s duty to tell their history as it was, regardless of how awful it may be, to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated.  

Looking down the Holocaust Memorial in Central Berlin


A moving quote in the German Resistance Museum