World War II is a difficult subject for Germany, for the Germans must come to terms with what has happened in their past. This shows through their museums and sites, for the Germans have a general theme that I have noticed from the visits to different museums in Berlin. Berlin being our final stop, it was interesting to see how the German memory and interpretation of World War II compared to that of Poland, France, Britain, and the United States.
The German museums struck me as odd, and when I was in the Zeughaus, the German Historical Museum, I couldn’t quite pin down what it was that made it this way. After some reflecting and thinking, I’ve arrived to the conclusion that the German museums try to portray the Nazis as an entirely different people. The representation of the Nazis and Nazi Germany as an entirely different people and Germany, I assume the German people are able to move beyond their past by identifying themselves as an entirely different sort of Germany. At the Museum of Terror, the museum focused in on key figures in the Third Reich leadership and the same is true for the Wannsee house. The Zeughaus in particular focused most of its space on the 1918-1939 period and the rise of Hitler, and the 1939-1945 section was smaller in comparison to that of the other countries we’ve been to. I believe this has to do with the fact that the Germans are trying to differentiate between Germany and Nazi Germany, for they wish to separate themselves from their past.
This interpretation conforms to my running theme on these blogs as to how different nations remember the war and how museums manipulate history to suit the agenda of those in power. In the case of Germany, they don’t want to forget the past, but they do want to reconcile the fact that they are not Nazis and do not share the Nazi ideology.
This month has been full of new experiences. Being able to travel throughout Europe alone was a new experience, and the learning that accompanied the traveling made it even greater. Reflecting back on the process of getting in this trip and funding it, I am honored that I made the cut and was able to have this study tour be a part of my life. Being in Europe and seeing the sites that World War II was fought has given me a new perspective on the utter destruction that mankind is capable of, and it will give me much insight on how to interpret current and future events.
It’s been an honor serving under Dr. Steigerwald, and alongside my comrades I can say this trip was both efficient and aesthetically pleasing.
Thanks for sticking in there and reading all my ramblings,