Last Saturday, the Chicago Daily Herald ran a series of articles on “Women’s Perspective” on the Holocaust on the front page. One viewpoint was from a “German’s” eyes and the other through a Jew’s. I feel it is important to note that the German writer is a German American whose family emigrated to the United States in the 1880’s and the Jewish writer’s family emigrated from Russia shortly before WWII. The reason for the articles were to promote the opening of the “Spots of Light” exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie which focuses on the stories of 10 women of the Holocaust.
While the Jewish perspective focused more on the exhibit, the German one seemed to be more about the shame and guilt the author feels for being German. The author, Teresa Schmedding, opens her article with the following statement…
I expected the feelings of guilt — and braced for them. While I know my immediate relatives were farming in Missouri before the war and didn’t have a direct hand in the Holocaust, I’m German and have always felt that guilt by association.
She then goes on to question what she would have done if she was in Germany at the time of the Holocaust and raised under Hitler’s youth movement. Then after her review of the exhibit she stated…
I went to the exhibit hoping to shake off some of the shame of being German. Instead, I simply walked away prouder than ever to be a woman.
She went hoping to “shake of the shame of being German”? I realize that German’s to this day still feel some guilt for what happened during WWII, but do we really have to be shameful of our heritage? Every country has at least one shameful event that took place in its history. Am I ashamed to be an American because of the slaughtering of thousands of Native Americans that took place during the exploration of this country? It was a horrible thing that took place, but I am not going around saying that it makes me feel ashamed of my American heritage.
Maybe people still feel ashamed of their German connection because the horrific events don’t seem as far off in history, but is it going to take another 50 or 100 years before we can be proud of the good things German’s have done to contribute to society?
Yes, it is important to recognize the troubling things the Nazi’s did so that we can try to prevent similar actions in the future and to remember the victims, but there have got to be plenty of good things that the German’s have done that we can be proud of. Maybe this is something German-American organization’s can work on in the United States so that we can educate the American’s on the positive side of Germany instead of the negative portrayal taught in schools and on TV.