Responsibility to History

I am currently teaching a so-called “orientation course” to students of German. These courses are designed to teach newcomers to Germany about our political system, our history, and our society. At present we are looking at the 20th century, and I encourage the students to find traces of recent German history.

This is a monument which was erected in 1936 to honour the dead soldiers of our town who died during the first world war. While the normal people who were at the inauguration might have clung to the hope that the world war was a solitary occurrence, at least some of the politicians must have known that plans were already under way for the next one. In the 1950s, many more names remembering the dead soldiers from the second world war were added. Today the monument is controversial because of the artistic depiction of the soldiers in the style of NS regime.

In Speyer on the river Rhine is this hall dedicated to the dead of a specific batallion during World War I, later with an added plaque for the dead of World War II.

In the main cemetery of Mannheim this monument seems to be an appeal to reconciliation, it is situated near the soldier’s section of the cemetery. Personally, I find it cynical that men who were enemies in war, who killed each other, can be reconciled in death by having their graves next to each other.

My last trio for today is from the war grave near Brandau in the Odenwald where soldiers and forced labourers (men, women, and children) are buried as a memorial against war. The crosses are overgrown with moss, showing the passage of time.

Thursday Trios

6 thoughts on “Responsibility to History

  1. I imagine teaching German 20th century history must be quite a challenge,with such a chunk of it no longer in favour. We’re most of us much more comfortable with the ideas promoted in the memorial in Brandau.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some of it is difficult. My students have applied for asylum in Germany. They find it difficult to criticise the country from which they have received or are still expecting help. Also, they know so little about European history. But I also enjoy it because it is so much more accessible. I can show them traces in real life and I can tell them about members of my family to illustrate events.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the history lesson. Having been born in Germany of German parents I too find my heritage difficult to comprehend. Even 30 years after the war there were friends of my parents who had lived in Canada for at least 20 of those years and still questioned the existence of concentration camps and gas chambers. Fortunately my father was not one of them. Interesting trios this week.

    Liked by 1 person

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