Friday, June 29, 2012

Thoughts from Berlin

Jewish Museum

Berlin´s Jewish Museum does a great job of documenting historical anti-Semitism. The exhibits helped me understand that when Hitler came to power, he wasnt introducing new ideas ínto his society. He was simply re-invigorating them and concentrating them.

Does Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust need to add this historical context?

Upon Arrival

My first thoughts on German ground went towards the classic German Stigma. German Stigma, defined: the persistent questioning, from a Holocaust perspective, of every interaction or thought of Germans, Germany or aspects of both. E.G.: looking at a very old man and thinking, ´What did he do during the war?´ Or, as I walked down a boulevard, ´Did Hitler ride through this street?´

Where does that get me? Is it commemorating the victims? Is it asking mature questions in pursuit of historical insight? Or is it seeking to continue to explore victimization?  Is to NOT fall prey to the German Stigma to ignore history? Is it time to move beyond the German Stigma?

One answer that came to me in baggage claim: at some level it suggests that Germans and Germany were different. But were they, really? The French could not give up their Jews fast enough. The Dutch caved, tulips under jack boots. Was the historic anti-Semitism in Germany any shorter or less dangerous than that in Ukraine (think of the pogroms).

There is something dangerous and comforting -- yes, comforting -- in clinging to the German Stigma. It is dangerous because it masks the evils at the heart of the Holocaust that knew no border, no culture, no language. And it is comforting, because it gives us a place to hide: the idea that some people are different. Are they?

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