For decades, a sense of shame dominated German society over what my parents’ and grandparents’ generation had done. We felt shame over the deaths of 6 million Jews in Auschwitz concentration camp and other places, murdered by a quasi-industrial Nazi killing machine that had never existed before – and that we still find difficult to grasp today. This sense of shame was at the heart of speeches by politicians and intellectuals at countless services to commemorate the horrors of the Holocaust. As a university student, my fellow classmates and I felt this sense of shame. And, later, as a journalist, this feeling was shared by my colleagues. We were all ashamed by Germany’s past.
This year, however, I feel different. That is because this might be the last time that individuals who witnessed these horrors will participate in the commemorative events. But I feel different in particular because Jews are once again in danger in my country. Because last year, a man attacked a synagogue with an automatic rifle in Halle on the holiest day in Judaism. Because anti-Semitic jokes are becoming the norm again, and “Jew” has once again become a slur. And as the world commemorates the victims of the Holocaust, reports show that there is an increasing number of neo-Nazis in Germany’s armed forces. All this makes me feel angry, rather than ashamed.
I am angry that this is happening in my country and that it is not being stopped. Soon, the last remaining Holocaust witnesses will have passed away. And its perpetrators are a further generation removed from the one shaping German society today. It is now time for the German government to act. DW