Reflection to Reconciliation

       Germany’s collective memory of World War II is a complex and evolving narrative that reflects the country’s efforts to come to terms with its dark past. Since the end of WWII, Germany has undergone a process of reflection, remorse, and reconciliation. The country has acknowledged its responsibility for the atrocities committed during the war and made significant efforts to address its historical legacy. The museums that we visited make this clear.

       Compared to the museums in all of the other countries we went to, Germany’s recognition of the war and the Holocaust  is direct and pedagogically focused. The Topography of Terror museum has paragraphs accompanying each and every picture. The captions contain detailed information, and boards hang everywhere with more background and extensive analyses. The pictures of smiling Nazi soldiers, in particular, spoke to me. One wall of pictures shows Nazi’s enjoying their rest time, and the caption read “Taking a break from mass murder.” The next wall displays gruesome pictures of the victims of those Nazis. I was consistently surprised by how openly German museums discuss war crimes committed in the name of Germany. Through these discussions, Germany seeks a deeper understanding of the complex factors that contributed to the rise of Nazi ideology and the war itself.

       As we walked through Berlin, we frequently stumbled on memorials and museums dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust and WWII. The Holocaust Memorial occupies a full block in the middle of the city, and many other buildings commemorate other historical events throughout the city including the preserved front of Anhalter Bahnhof, once Germany’s largest train station, near our hotel. Germany does all it can to educate future generations about its history and preserve the memory of victims. Through education, memorials, and ongoing discussions, Germany confronts its past, striving to ensure that the memory of the war serves as a reminder of the consequences of nationalism, intolerance, and hatred.