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Post German Guilt
Created by John Eipper on 07/04/11 4:18 AM

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German Guilt (Nigel Jones, UK, 07/04/11 4:18 am)

I enter the discussion on Germans and war guilt rather late in the day, but since I have more recent and direct experience of it than Cameron Sawyer or John Heelan, perhaps I can contribute a few observations.

I recently returned from an inaugural study trip I originated and helped organise (details and a Financial Times article on same are at www.historicaltrips.com) titled Face of Evil; the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

The tour taught me many lessons, but the primary one can be summed up in the phrase used by Hans Frank, Hitler's lawyer and Nazi Governor of Poland during the worst of the war's atrocities there, before his execution at Nuremberg: "A thousand years will go by and still the guilt of Germany will not have passed away."

Germany is still in a doublethink situation regarding the Nazi past. On the one hand they feel obliged to officially commemorate, memorialise and otherwise mark the events of 1933-45. On the other, they are over-sensitive as to how this is done giving the distinct impression that they wish the whole thing would just go away and they could be left to get on with the job of making money undisturbed.

Let me give a few examples. When setting up the tour we made a booking for lunch and a tour of the so-called "Eagle's Nest" at Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps. (For the uninitiated this is the spectacular "Folly" built on Martin Bormann's orders at the summit of the Kehlstein moutain as the Nazi Party's 50th birthday gift to Hitler. Although the Fuhrer only visited it on a handful of occasions [he didn't like heights], the structure is one of the few sites to have survived intact both Allied bombing and subsequent demolition by an embarrassed Bavarian Government. It is now a popular and crowded restaurant.)

After a garbled article about our tour appeared in the popular German news magazine Focus and the local Bundestag Deputy made some disobliging comments about "Hitler tourism" on Bavarian Radio, the lunch booking was mysteriously cancelled. We protested energetically and eventually got a "certificate of respectability" from the German Institute of Contemporary History, attesting that we were genuine historians rather than neo-Nazis! The lunch booking was then just as mysteriously re-instated, and we were also given the chance of meeting the Mayor of Berchtesgaden in the course of our tour.

The meeting, which took place in the council chamber of the Berchtesgaden Rathaus, was a stiff and formal affair, (no drinks were offered--not even water). during which the Mayor revealed that he had been initially ordered by the Bavarian State Government to ban us from the area and had only been obeying orders in so doing. (That phrase has a strangely familiar ring.) He denied that the thriving tourist industry around the Eagle's Nest--complete with T-shirts and baseball caps--had anything to do with Hitler, claiming that people were drawn to the area solely because of its spectacular views and bracing mountain air.

This was directly contradicted by the owner of our hotel, who says hotels in the area are in crisis because of the Authorities' reluctance to fully engage with their past. For instance, the Bavarian Government recently built and owns a 5-star Intercontinental Hotel on the sites of Goering and Borman's villas, and within a stone's throw of the remains of Hitler's own home, the Berghof. This hotel resolutely refuses to admit anyone with an interest in this history, and a result is permanently half-empty and represents a loss for the Bavarian State who owns it. The price of embarrassment is high.

When we reached the actual site of the Berghof itself (now marked, like his bunker in Berlin, by a single information board), we found votive candles left burning by the previous visitors that morning who clearly had a less critical view of the Fuhrer than us.

Although our tour--from Munich/Dachau to Berlin via Berchtesgaden, Nuremberg, and Bayreuth--is marked by a series of "Documentation centres"--excellent museums which record the Nazi era in clear and contemporary terms--the Germans are very wary about the motives of those visiting them! Another example of this doublethink: they have taken up a whole block in central Berlin with the extensive and moving Holocaust Memorial, but a stone's throw away the site for Hitler's wartime bunker is now a parking lot marked with a single information board.

One thing is certain: the Germans--even those with no memory of it--cannot forget those traumatic years. Nor should they.

JE comments: Fascinating. The Berchtesgaden mayor's reaction is most instructive--denying the tourism draw of his town's most notorious part-time resident. Americans wouldn't be able to pass up the entrepreneurial opportunity, and probably would have turned the Eagle's Nest into a theme park. Colombians, even more entrepreneurial than North Americans, did this with Pablo Escobar's old estate, Hacienda Nápoles.

Best of success to Nigel Jones with Historical Trips.  I am certain there will be some interest among WAISers in joining Nigel on a future tour.  Here's the URL once again:


(And now, I should apply for a "Certificate of Respectibility" for WAIS!)

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  • German Guilt (Cameron Sawyer, Russia 07/04/11 7:09 AM)
    I would certainly interpret the facts of Nigel Jones's visit to Berchtesgaden in a more charitable way, based on what he has presented. (See Nigel's post of 4 July.)

    The feeling among Germans that they feel obliged to "officially commemorate, memorialise and otherwise mark the events of 1933-45" does not seem to me in any way to contradict a simultaneous desire that the world could move on and forget about the dreadful Nazi period. I don't know why that is "doublethink"; that's certainly the way I would feel if I were a German. I think it's the way any normal person would feel about an event in his history which is, on the one hand, momentous, and therefore important, and hard to forget, and at the same time painful, uncomfortable, embarrassing.

    Nor would I call it "doublethink" to create a very large and prominent museum to the Holocaust and, at the same time, downplay the site of Hitler's death. The Holocaust should never be forgotten, but details of Hitler's life--one would prefer to forget, if one were German. I find it entirely understandable and even appropriate.

    As to the officials of Berchtesgaden attempting to prevent neo-Nazis from gathering at the Berghof and other Hitler-related sites in Berchtesgaden--again, I think one can understand the extent to which neo-Nazis, particularly foreign neo-Nazis, are embarrassing to Germans. If I were the Mayor of Berchtesgaden, I would do all in my power to prevent neo-Nazis from making a shrine out of my town. I would go quite far to prevent that, actually.

    It all reminds me of the Ku Klux Klan in my native Southeastern US. That chapter of our history is, frankly, shameful. If I were the governor of Mississippi, I would make sure that the victims were remembered--because we must remember them. To do otherwise would be indecent. On the other hand, I would do my damnedest to prevent any public demonstrations of nostalgia for the period, or for the birthplaces, places of death, or other places associated with prominent Klansmen. I would find some way to prevent applications for parade permits in hoods and robes from being approved. Neo-Klansmen and White Power wackos bring shame to Mississippi, considering the shameful KKK period of Mississippi's history, so I would be their implacable enemies. I find it entirely understandable that decent Germans would feel the same way about neo-Nazis.

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    • German Guilt (Nigel Jones, UK 07/05/11 4:20 AM)
      Responding to Cameron Sawyer (4 July), perhaps I didn't explain myself sufficiently clearly in my previous post.

      What we on our tour experienced--and this was not just my personal impression but the unanimous feeling in the Feedback from all 20 of our participants--was German denial, despite the official acts of atonement and memorial.

      This produced a curious feeling of disconnection--the sites were there, but they wished they weren't. This is why I used Orwell's term "Doublethink," which the great man defined in 1984 as the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in one's head at the same time.

      On the one hand there is official Germany's need to be seen apologising for Hitler and the Holocaust, putting up memorials and not criticising Israel, etc. On the other, there is the wish to airbrush the past--to the extent of physically obliterating what they can of it (the Berghof, the Bunker, etc.) and turning Hitler's teahouse into a Golf Course! (How Kitsch is that?) Both the Concentration camp sites that we visited--Dachau and Sachsenhausen--survived determined attempts by the authorities postwar to erase them from the map.

      Cameron's comparison of the Third Reich with the KKK is, if he will forgive me for saying so, absurd. However horrific their actions, the KKK did not control the USA for twelve disastrous years, plunge the world into the most calamitous of all wars, and exterminate the majority of Europe's Jewry. Such comparisons have the doubtless unintended effect of minimising the enormity of this regime's crimes.

      For me the most appalling discovery of the entire trip was a huge bust of Wagner right in front of his Opera House in Bayreuth. The sculptor was Hitler's own pet artist, Arno Breker--he's the Dude who accompanied the Fuhrer on his whirlwind culture vulture tour of Paris's artistic highlights in June 1940. What was shocking about the Wagner bust was not the typically Kitsch sub-Rodinesque style of Breker, but the date that the Bayreuth authorities commissioned the piece from the leading Nazi artist: 1986.

      In Germany the past is not as dead, nor as tame, as Cameron may wish to think. Who was it who said that those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it?

      JE comments: It was George Santayana.  Our dear colleague Siegfried Ramler met Santayana in Rome in 1946:


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      • German Feelings of Guilt (Rodolfo Neirotti, USA 07/06/11 4:18 AM)
        Responding to the several WAIS postings on "German Guilt," and with all due respect for those affected by the crimes of the Nazi era, I would like to ask: How many times does a country, and the majority of its current citizens, who did not participate in the massive ethnic/religious cleansing, have to apologize? There a difference between denial/double-thinking and remembering the past but moving forward. In addition, those that suffered persecution, torture and substantial killings, should also remember and avoid using a similar approach with others, like what is happening in the Middle East.
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      • Arno Breker (Alain de Benoist, France 07/08/11 5:25 AM)
        In his posting of 5 July, Nigel Jones made an allusion to the bust of Richard Wagner sculpted by Arno Breker, which is to be seen "in front of the Opera House in Bayreuth." "An appalling discovery," Nigel said. "What was shocking about the Wagner bust, he added, was not the typically Kitsch sub-Rodinesque [sic] style of Breker, but the date that the Bayreuth authorities commissioned the piece from the leading Nazi artist: 1986."

        Like all the people familiar with the Festspielhaus, I made the same "appalling discovery" when I attended the Richard Wagner festival in Bayreuth. Far from being of a "typically Kitsch sub-Rodinesque" style, this work is actually internationally recognized as one of the best Wagner busts ever made. It is even still better than the previous Wagner bust sculpted by Breker in 1939, which was installed in 1951 at the Festspielhaus.

        Moreover, Breker's style is not really to be compared with Rodin's, but much more with the style of the French sculptors whom he was befriended and who had the greatest influence on his own style, namely Aristide Maillol, Charles Malfray, Jules Pascin, Charles Despiau and Paul Belmondo (the father of the movie actor Jean-Paul Belmondo). But of course, he could also be compared to the Russian sculptor Vera Mukhine.

        Nigel says he was "shocked" to discover that the "Bayreuth authorities" commissioned Breker for that bust in 1986. He will probably be also shocked by another "appalling discovery": the list of all the international and public celebrities who asked Breker to sculpt their own bust after 1945.

        The list could begin with Nigel's good friend Ernst Jünger. It continues with the ex-German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, the ex-German chancellor Ludwig Ehrard, the famous painters Salvador Dalí and Ernst Fuchs, the sport champions Walter Kusch, Peter Nocke and Ulrike Meyfarth, the former Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat, the former president of Senegal Leopold Sedar Senghor, former king Hassan II of Morocco, the former president of Ivory Coast Félix Houphouët-Boigny, the French actor Jean Marais, the French writers Paul Morand, Roger Peyrefitte and Jean Cocteau, the poet Ezra Pound, the art collectors Peter Ludwig and Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, etc. (Breker made more than 300 busts at that time.) I don't think that all these people commissioned Arno Breker for political or ideological reasons.

        In the 1950s, Breker was already commissioned for a lot of architectural work, participating in the reconstruction of Munich, Hagen, Essen, Dusseldorf and Cologne. In 1970 he was commissioned by the Maroccan king Hassan II to help with the building of the Grand Square of the United Nations in Casablanca, but the project, which included a monumental statue of sultan Mohammed V, was abandoned due to the assassination attempt on Hassan II in Skhirat. In 1975 the Social-Democrat mayor of Bayreuth Hans Walter Wild commissioned Breker to do a monumental bust of Franz Liszt (and also a bust of Cosima Wagner in 1978). In the 1980s, Breker was commissioned by the city of Norderstedt for a monumental statue of Heinrich Heine, etc.

        I have also followed the WAIS discussion about "Zentropa" question and the so-called "German guilt complex."

        The vast majority of the Germans living today in Germany were not yet born in 1945. My opinion is that people who were not even born in 1945 have nothing to "repent" or to feel "guilty" about. They are not guilty of the crimes of National-Socialism because they did not take part in these crimes which happened before their own birth. As I do not believe in collective political guilt nor in hereditary political guilt (an idea probably inspired by the Christian thema of original sin), I think that trying to make them feel guilty while they have no reason for, is just dishonest. Children do not have to pay for the faults of their parents or forefathers. The past has to pass.

        This has nothing to do with forgetting, but much to do with history. We have to remember the past as past, not to transform it into some sort of a perpetual inhibitions-loaded present. We have both to remember and to move forward.

        "I have reinvented the past to see the beauty of the future," said Aragon.

        JE comments: Who can forget the photo of Hitler in front of the Eiffel Tower, flanked by Speer and Breker?


        Was there any other Nazi-sponsored artist who rebounded after the war as successfully as Breker did?  Contrast his later career with that of another long-lived Third Reich celebrity, Leni Riefensthal, who was never really re-admitted into the artistic community.


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        • Arno Breker (Nigel Jones, UK 07/08/11 10:25 AM)
          Art, of course, is a matter of personal taste, and, unlike Alain de Benoist (8 July), I find Arno Breker's work sub-Rodinesque kitsch.

          Politics however is not a matter of taste but of fact, and Breker was an unrepentant Nazi party member and therefore, ipso facto, a disgusting human being. The fact that so many prominent people commissioned busts from Breker is a matter of their own vanity and in no way validates his unacceptable politics.

          Breker's bust of Ernst Junger had a prominent place in his house--along with many other portraits of him. EJ, for all his gifts, was not without the human flaw of personal vanity--he was incredibly vain. He was still a great artist. Breker was not: he was a third-rate lickspittle of a revolting regime.

          JE comments: Virulent dislike of specific artists has a long tradition on WAIS. We all recall Prof. Hilton's diatribes against Lorca and Picasso. Breker to me exudes a rather generic sense of "heroic hyper-realism" (I just made that up) that is identical to the socialist realist stuff you'll find in Budapest's Szoborpark:


          It's monumental and executed with precision, but to my sensitivities it's not great art.

          I would love to have been a German-speaking fly on the wall when the octogenarian Junger sat for the octogenarian Breker in the early 1980s. Nigel: do you know what became of the EJ bust?


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          • Arno Breker (Alain de Benoist, France 07/09/11 4:47 AM)
            The "socialist realist" statues of the Budapest Szoborpark cited by John Eipper (8 July) look much more like works by Josef Thorak than like works by Breker.

            It's of course useless to discuss art judgments, especially when they are more influenced by political opinions than by aesthetics. To decide about the value of an artist's work according his (real or supposed) political opinions is exactly what the Nazis did. I just wonder if Nigel Jones (8 July) would say that S. M. Eisenstein, because he was a Soviet communist party member, was a "disgusting human being" whose films are nothing but "kitsch."

            Here is a full biography of Arno Breker (in English):


            JE comments:  This conversation is moving in the same direction as our discussion a few months back on Heidegger.  As with philosophers, is it possible to evaluate an artist separately from her or his politics?  In my field of Latin American literature, for example, some 95% of the canonical writers from 1900 onwards are associated with the left.  If it weren't for Mario Vargas Llosa (Nobel 2010), I might have said 100%.  (Jorge Luis Borges was famously apolitical.)  Some years ago a few WAISers dismissed Pablo Neruda's poetry because of his communist leanings.  It took the wise intervention of our late colleague Carlos López, who knew Neruda personally but didn't share PN's politics, to point out that an artist should be judged independently of ideology.

            Still, allow me to craft a truism:  we're naturally going to look more favorably on the work of artists whose politics we agree with.

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  • German Guilt: Berchtesgaden (Gene F Franklin, USA 07/04/11 4:28 PM)
    A brief comment of Nigel Jones's post about Berchtesgaden (4 July). We visited there in 1964, while I was on sabbatical in the UK. At that time, the underground bunker was open, and we went down the long stairs looking at the port hole at the bottom where a machine gun nest was stationed to protect the bunker should any hostile force try to enter. We saw stripped-down rooms said to be for Hitler and for Eva. I understand that the bunker has since been closed, as it was becoming a shrine. Above, we also saw the fish nursery where it was said that trout were raised for the Fuhrer's table.

    A personal note. We went up on the elevator, but after the visit I wandered away from my wife and on impulse decided to walk down. When Gertrude came down she was furious because I had taken both elevator tickets and she had to plea with the operator to be able to ride down. The trip back to Munich was very quiet.

    JE comments:  Gene Franklin's visit to Berchtesgaden inspires me to propose a new WAIS mini-topic:  "Interesting tourism you can't do any more."  Ideology, changing social values, economics and/or fear of litigation can bring an end to even the most captivating tourist site.  I am thinking of the "Castillo" pyramid at Chichen Itzá, in Yucatán, which you can no longer climb, voyeuristic Indian burial sites I visited in my youth, circus freak shows of all types, or the AutoWorld theme park in Flint, Michigan.  When it opened in 1984 the governor proclaimed Autoworld would inspire "the rebirth of the great city of Flint."  It closed one year later.

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    • Berchtesgaden (Nigel Jones, UK 07/05/11 7:33 AM)
      Gene Franklin (4 July) is misinformed about the Berchtesgaden bunkers--they are still open. One set (including a machine gun nest) is beneath the "Obersalzberg Documentation Centre"--the excellent museum on the area's Nazi links; the others are beneath the Hotel zum Turken which stood--and still stands--literally a stone's throw away from the site of Hitler's home, the Berghof.

      JE comments: My thanks to Nigel for this important correction. I'd still love to have WAISer responses on the topic I proposed yesterday:

      "Interesting tourism you can't do any more"

      The last I heard, the Guanajuato (Mexico) mummies are now glassed off and impossible to touch.  They've even been "monetized," and presently are touring major museums abroad.  (They were in Detroit last year.) 

      It wasn't like that in the 1980s, when I first went to Guanajuato.

      I bet Asia has a lot of tourist places that aren't what they used to be.

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  • German Guilt (Mike Calnan, USA 07/05/11 4:03 AM)
    Nigel Jones's observations (4 July) remind me of the trip that I took to Dachau in the early 1970s with my wife. I was in the US Army 3rd Armored Division, living in Hanau. We decided to visit Dachau while en route to visit friends in Munich, and were surprised to find that there were no signs or directions to the concentration camp coming from the autobahn. We eventually found the museum by asking for directions and driving around. Our visit was memorable and moving. The thing I remember to this day was a black and white photograph of a room filled with the shoes of the victims.

    In response to Cameron Sawyer (also 4 July), I'm reminded of when I went back to Germany in 1976 with the 101st Airborne Division on REFORGER. My Engineer company was with the 101st's 3rd Brigade at Giebelstadt, an airfield that the Germans had built during WWII. (Rumor had it there were flooded subterranean passages with German aircraft.) My lieutenants and senior sergeants occasionally went to a local gasthaus for dinner. To our dismay, we discovered that Sunday evenings were "Nazi night," with local residents bringing in their memorabilia and scrapbooks to reminisce about better times.

    As a resident of the great state of Mississippi, I must observe that the current Governor is doing a juggling act between his "constituency" (to quote the immortal Homer Stokes, the gubernatorial candidate in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou") and the national spotlight. Much of Governor Barbour's base "constituency" still longs for the good old days when everybody knew their place. Yes, there is a disturbing similarity with Germany.

    JE comments: (Belated) 4th of July greetings to Mike Calnan. His memory of the Dachau visit makes me think of the haunting shoe display still in existence at Majdanek, outside of Lublin (Aldona's hometown in Poland). I first visited the camp in 2002. By the time I returned in 2009 the shoes had decayed a lot more.

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    • German Guilt; Race Relations in US (Vincent Littrell, USA 07/05/11 7:12 AM)
      I would be most interested in Mike Calnan's views towards the state of race relations in the Southern US. In the mid-1990s I lived in Louisiana and at the time, it was my perception that many citizens still viewed and made initial judgments on people very much in terms of skin color.

      Baton Rouge was a case in point. At the time I lived there it was in many ways a self-segregated town. There were movie theaters and shopping malls that people of light skin color generally didn't go to, I being an exception and then I'd get hard looks and stares (I was dating a lady at the time who had dark-colored skin and we would alternate between "light skin" and "dark skin" venues and joke, with an undertone of melancholy to be sure, about the ridiculously ignorant reactions we'd get).

      Issues of "race" were very much simmering under the surface, and I have stories regarding my own experiences with people who angrily would bring up "race" in conversations with me on various subjects (especially in college dorms trying to get some quiet so I could study). At the time, it seemed to me that some people of darker skin felt some levels of "repression" by "the system" while people of lighter skin ignored there was a problem at all.

      A personal experience (that I may have shared in WAIS before and I apologize for the repetition) regarding this was while I was a graduate student at Lousiana State University, I handed out flyers for a public meeting on campus to discuss issues of "race" relations. Dark-skinned people, one after the other grabbed the flyers. I remember no light-skinned people doing it. At the meeting, a couple of hundred dark-skinned people were present, a couple of Asians and only 4 light-skinned people were there, and two or three of those were European students! Myself, an Alaskan, and the Dean of Students were the only light-skinned Americans (that I remember) there.

      I have read that in Mississippi, high schools are having integrated proms now, and that for some rural high schools this is a fairly recent thing. Also, I remember going to Louisiana State University football games. It used to sadden me that when one looked around the usually packed stadium, one section of the stadium would be of dark-skinned people and the rest light. It was quite noticeable.

      Note that I use the term "dark skinned" as opposed to "black" and "light skinned" as opposed to "white." As I am a believer in the fundamental unity of the human race and accept the concept of the human race's "oneness," I don't like the current American vocabulary of "race." Quite frankly I view humanity as being one race with various hues of color. My wife, in what I view as impoverished American vocabularial terms, is considered "black" and I'm considered "white." I make great effort to not get caught up in that limited vocabularial straight jacket (especially since I'm more of a pinkish yellow anyway; I sure as heck am not white). I train my children (so far with success it appears, despite their being exposed to friends and family members who use racially particularist language...i.e. asking "is he/she white or black?" as if skin color has actual meaning when it shouldn't) to not think or speak in terms of "race," and we are lucky to live in a neighborhood where children of all ethnic backgrounds are present. I enjoy going out to my front lawn and watching when my children are running around with children of Korean, European, African, Persian, etc...backgrounds.

      I did study "race" relations in the South while a student at LSU, and I remember graduate humanities class/readings on inner, middle and outer color barriers as it related to "black" and "white" relations in the southern US states. I'm curious as to how relations are viewed now. At the time, scholars referred to outer color barriers being broken down through formal civil rights laws and the like (enforced integration, etc.). Middle color barriers were those barriers that kept dark-skinned people from getting hired despite laws meant to protect them from discrimination and illegal but still extant prejudice.

      There was discussion and debate about the state of middle color barriers in the South at the time. I remember reading that the city of Atlanta was becoming rather cosmopolitan, and that middle color barrier problems that existed in rural locations in places like Louisiana and Mississippi were not found as much in urban cities like Atlanta (this of course is a complex thing). So, at the time I studied this, middle color barriers were seen generally as eroding in the major cities but still remained firm in rural areas.

      Inner color barriers were another matter at the time. Dark-skinned people were not seen as having serious friendships with light-skinned people and there was talk about self-segregation of "races" along social lines that still very much existed. There was discussion in class that it might be a long time before inner color barriers truly eroded on a large scale. I wonder what the state of this is today?

      I'll comment that my wife went to the 4th of July celebrations in Washington DC yesterday, and after her afternoon in the city with our daughter she commented to me about how many "interracial" couples she noted walking around. When she and I would walk around in the South, we received lots of stares. In this area, we don't generally (though sometimes people don't think of us as "together" when we show up at a counter to buy something and get embarrassed when I say about my wife standing there, "uh, she is with me"). I think in the area we live, and I've read in general, that "interracial" dating in the US is on the rise.

      Does Mike Calnan have any thoughts on these issues of "race" relations?

      JE comments: We need to explore the outer, middle and inner color barriers in the northern part of the US as well. The Detroit area, for example, is markedly segregated. My neighborhood is almost exclusively "light skinned." Cross the border at 8 Mile Road (immortalized by Eminem) and everyone is dark skinned.  In Dearborn most are Arabic.  What is alarming are the institutional barriers that work to maintain these divisions. Want to move to one of the gorgeous old homes within the city of Detroit? Your property taxes and car insurance will double or triple.

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    • German Feelings of Guilt (Robert Whealey, USA 07/05/11 2:42 PM)
      About twenty-two of the top Nazis were proven guilty of some war crime at the IMT. Franz von Papen got off with six of seven years for securing the Concordat with the Vatican in 1933, and for subverting the sovereignty of Austria in 1938. Most defendants at Nuremberg got the death sentence. About 161 other war criminals were declared guilty of specific crimes in the subsequent US Army Trials also held in Nuremberg.

      How many other war criminals were caught and put on trial in the French, British, Soviet Zones? West Germany still pursued the lesser fry after 1949. Does anybody have the grand total of convictions of Nazi war criminals?

      Under Anglo-Saxon law, individuals are guilty for specific crimes. The German people may have regretted voting for Hitler in 1933. But the theory of collective guilt is a mystical, religious attitude of barbarians, the like those who lived in the Soviet Union under Stalin. I wish JE would drop the title of "German guilt."

      The shallow thinker Bush 43 somehow learned a false idea of "rule of law," probably from ill-informed lawyers with attitudes picked up from Nazis, Soviets and Israelis. Those states on occasion asserted a false theory of law based on "collective guilt." Hannah Arendt proved that Eichmann was guilty of specific war crimes. He was not guilty of a crime against the "Jewish people."

      JE comments: From the outset of this thread (see Jon Kofas's "Zentropa Syndrome" post from a few days ago), we really meant "German feelings of guilt"--not the guiltiness of the German people. I've duly corrected the ambiguity in the subject line.

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      • German Feelings of Guilt; Nuremberg Trials (Siegfried Ramler, USA 07/06/11 4:00 AM)
        In Robert Whealey's posting pertaining to the IMT trial (5 July), I note an error. Diplomat Franz von Papen was one of three defendants acquitted. The other two were Hjalmar Schacht, President of the Reichsbank and propagandist Hans Fritzsche.

        Following the international trial, twelve subsequent proceedings followed at Nuremberg until 1949.

        In addition, other trials followed in Germany and Poland. There is access to specific data on the Internet, i.e. defendants, verdicts and sentences. With the onset of the Cold War in 1946, priorities in relation to West Germany changed, sentences were sharply reduced, and large numbers of defendants were freed.

        Attribution of German collective guilt is factually misplaced. It does not take into account instances of resistance, nor the large silent population rejecting the Hitler regime to an ever-greater extent as the war was ending. Nor does it acknowledge the majority of Germans who, with the exception of die-hard neo-nazis, welcomed the repudiation of Nazism and fully embraced democracy.

        A book by Daniel Goldhagen of the Harvard faculty entitled Hitler's Willing Executioners--Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust caused a stir a few years ago. Although I do not agree with his conclusions pointing to collective guilt, it does represent a powerful indictment and contribution to Holocaust studies.

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