Excerpt - Chapter 44

Making Sense of History


There is nothing that upsets me as much as to hear that young German people abroad have been taunted as Nazis. I was sitting in my adult education Spanish class some weeks ago and some young students, barely twenty, were talking about their exchange experiences as pupils in England where they were taunted by complete strangers for supposedly being Nazis, or given the Nazi salute, which is banned in Germany, when they went past. One gentle blond woman was telling her classmate about getting the Nazi salute as an exchange student in the UK.

    „I don’t know why they did it, but it really hurt and I hated it.”

    My 15-year old, South African-born daughter was in charge of a group of eight and nine-year-old German kids at a summer holiday camp in Zeeland in the Netherlands, in 2004. She was walking back with them from the nearby town to their camp, when they were suddenly followed by a boy of no more than twelve on his bicycle, who kept shouting “Nazis, Nazis” and “Hitler Kinder” to them, while trying to ride his bicycle into the group.

    There was the same forlorn and bewildered look on my daughter’s face as I saw on the blond student, as my daughter explained how she tried to protect her charges against an aggressive Dutch boy. I’m sure if one had questioned him, he would not have known what a Nazi was, except that it was a German. So his prejudices must come from his parents and they would also have been born after the end of the Second World War, so they too could not claim any direct experiences of the war.

    So why are young Germans who travel and learn languages, time and time again confronted with a past that ended sixty years ago?

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