World Cup semifinals: the case for German pride
Germans are finally able to celebrate their country after more than 60 years of dealing with their past. For the rest of the world, this should be a welcome turning point.
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Consider this: Most countries have skeletons, but Germany is among the few that’s taken its out of the closet. Austria was no victim, and Japan perpetrated the Nanking Massacre; today’s bloodletting in Congo can be traced to the horrors of King Leopold’s Belgium; and the United States codified black slaves as three-fifths of a person, but these crimes hardly get more than a couple of pages in a history textbook. In addressing its dark past, rather than redefining it, Germany has set an example others should follow.Skip to next paragraph
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Of course racism isn’t over anywhere. About the same time last winter that Berlin’s fledgling Jewish community was hosting a warmly received Hanukkah menorah lighting in front of the Brandenburg Gate, the same event in my hometown was marred by the appearance of three masked men with Nazi flags. Neo-Nazi groups leech off bad economic times and legitimate frustrations.
But when they demonstrate, far larger groups mass to counter them. This May, 500 neo-Nazis had to scuttle a march through Berlin when as many as 10,000 Berliners showed up to block their way.
This is new territory for Germany. It wasn’t until 2006, when they hosted the last World Cup, that Germans began to break with rueful tradition and show more outward pride. Now Germans do as others do, with celebrations that are vibrant, public, and unashamed.
For the rest of the world, this should be a welcome turning point. It’s what the war’s victors wanted: a prosperous continent at peace with itself, and a new Germany integrated into the world order, mature enough to distinguish between political power and national spirit. If Germany is to be faulted for normalizing, we have only ourselves to blame.
As for its past, Germany will never forget because it can’t forget. Nagging reminders are everywhere. Like in Berlin’s Europa Center, home to both carnival-like victory rallies and the Memory Church – bombed during the war and left as is, its steeple caved in. With the sun just right following Germany’s quarter-final win, Germans looking toward the World Cup trophy couldn’t escape the church’s – their history’s – long shadow.
Bill Glucroft lives in Berlin. He is an English teacher, and a business English consultant. He blogs at mediabard.org.
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