Richard von Weizsäcker: Mit der Macht der Moral (German Edition)

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Their hitherto failed attempts to outlaw the NPD on constitutional grounds contrast strangely with their lack of energy, mainly, but not exclusively, in Germany''s eastern states when it comes to enforcing existing laws against skinheads. In many rural areas, foreigners and young, left-wing activists live in permanent fear of violence. In this context the verbal pronouncements of the democrats against rightist extremism become alibis, designed to obscure the absence of a vision for preserving the body politic.

Towards Negative Possession of Identity

Interior Minister Otto Schily is apparently seeing disturbing old graffiti suddenly showing through the whitewash of the newly renovated house of Germany. But does this mark the return of the old demons, as former Jewish community leader Michel Friedman warned: the new offspring of a murderous old generation of racists and anti-Semites? Or are they mere acolytes of comic figures seeking to inflate their own significance, as journalist Henryk M. Broder believes, "ludicrously bloated goblins" deserving of derision? Are neo-Nazi rallies metastasizing from a brown past, or are rabble-rousing revolutionaries of the present using the shock tactics of Hitler''s henchmen for effect?

Bonn wasn''t Weimar and neither is Berlin. Comparing today''s Germany with the days before Hitler seized power is just plain panic mongering. Given this constellation, the images, slogans, fantasies and myths of a supposedly pan-German past could be reactivated. But - as historians and sponsors of local anti-Nazi initiatives agree - the actual experience of exclusion speaks louder than ideology. The need to act, however, is very real.

For the violence is real. And, as in other European countries, there is an undeniable residue of racist resentment, and above all xenophobia, in reunited Germany. Public protestations of disgust and revulsion and the occasional, emblematic "rebellion of the reasonable" will not suffice. There''s no shortage of that. But a promising concept for the future from democratic politicians would certainly be more effective than expert analyses on the legal options available.

As in , and , we need a new blueprint for Germany''s future - one for domestic use rather than global consumption.

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Yet nothing remotely similar is anywhere in sight. Instead, we hear questions everywhere and answers nowhere, at least none with even the hint of offering something new. A society without purpose is ambling along aimlessly. The universal bewilderment over long-term goals is papered over with hysterical debates about matters of little consequence. A mobile society? For many, anything that is new invariably entails loss. Berlin crystallizes the situation. In the old capital of the new republic, everything coexists side by side - social isolation and close quarters, future and past, vigor and torpor, East and West.

Since the contours of the two German postwar states began to blur, a kaleidoscope of media images has swamped all that was tried, trusted and familiar.


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This explains in part why right-wing extremism and reminders of Hitlerism have become so obtrusive - more so than at any time since the end of the Third Reich. Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels had made sure his regime was visible in glorious abundance. This fountain of information is now gushing - in the shape of fiction and documentaries - onto the TV and cinema screens of his grandchildren, none of whom can claim personal knowledge of an era that was one long "crime story.

And then there''s the body cult, an aesthetic in which the transitions are fluid - from Leni Riefenstahl''s luminous photos of Third Reich icons to the throbbing, narcissistic gyrations of the Berlin Love Parade. Whether manifested as baldy pop on stage, fashion gags in the disco or soap on the TV screen, the accessories of SS alpha males have been making a comeback. Trends like these render today surreal more than they glorify yesterday. Scenes from a futuristic present alternate with pictures plucked from the past, all at a frantic pace.

The coincidences and caprices produce an illusion of historical simultaneity. The result is an uncommonly frenzied inertia, an aggressive gridlock, artistically appealing yet politically excruciating. Capturing the spirit, one might say, of the controversial new Berlin republic, albeit a spirit that - today - only exists as such. So fragmented does the present seem, so desultory the public discourse, that the prospective blueprint for Germany still remains blank. Futures, all diverse, all vague, all of them mere variations on permutations of the here and now.

At a conference of historians, German President Johannes Rau had good reason to quote the philosopher Ludwig Marcuse''s simple insight: "As a rule, we only discover what is happening in the present much later - from historians. The figure trying to retreat beneath the shadow of his broadbrimmed hat to conceal his agitation is shivering in the cold. Snow has settled on him.

It is January 27, Now they found themselves haunted by a day sixty years earlier, when the Red Army freed the 7, survivors who had not been murdered or sent on death marches: 7, out of at least 1. Half of them died in the weeks that followed. In , on the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Roman Herzog had been the first German president to receive an invitation. The vocabulary invoked to describe the systematic extermination of six million Jews by Adolf Hitler''s Germany hasn''t changed much in the past 10 years: "collapse of civilization," "crimes against humanity," "genocide," "guilt," and "shame.

But exhortations not to forget no longer apply to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the perpetrators alone.

1. Introduction

Auschwitz - as confirmed by the U. Shoa - the Hebrew word for the Nazis'' systematic attempt to eliminate an entire people - will forever tarnish the history of humankind. The march of time and the global media focus have transformed the Holocaust into a universal morality play on the perpetual presence of evil.

It took a long time for "Auschwitz" to become the trademark of the 20th century. Both German postwar states established themselves in with the resolution "Nie wieder" Never again.

Wachbataillon - 11.02.2015 - Staatsakt für Richard von Weizsäcker im Berliner Dom in Berlin

Initially, though, the reeducation of the Germans didn''t progress very far. After the first shock - sparked by the horrific images emerging from the death camps - the struggle for survival and threats of the Cold War provided welcome distractions. The West Germans honored their quick integration into the western camp with testimonials of loyalty, becoming the West''s star democratic pupils; the East Germans disappeared completely into big brother Moscow''s embrace.

The heinousness of the Nazi regime appeared as a disease that had been cured; it was blamed on Hitler and well-positioned rogues in the West, on villainous monopoly capitalism in the East. Even the scholarly scrutiny of the genocide of the Jewish people, preferably characterized as "unimaginable," was tentative and uncertain during those first three decades. It took years for the murder of the European Jews to come into the public spotlight. True, the debate on German self-perceptions in light of the Nazi past became more emotional and better-informed in West Germany in the wake of the trial of Auschwitz guards in Frankfurt and the revolt of the generation against their fathers.

As West German chancellor in , Willy Brandt - a combative antifascist persecuted by the Nazis who had emigrated to Norway - surprised the world when he fell to his knees at the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, symbolically acknowledging German guilt and failings on behalf of the nation. But it took the TV series Holocaust to stir the consciences of a broader public.


  1. Weizsäcker, Richard von 1920-2015.
  2. Information.
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  4. And West Germans'' perceptions entered yet another new phase in the s with the Historikerstreit, a dispute among historians about the uniqueness of the genocide perpetrated on the Jews, a controversy that inflamed public opinion. The fall of the Berlin Wall in laid this debate to rest. But it was not until that a truly new sense of history, a new tone in dealing with the past, began to emerge, when - with Helmut Kohl and his cabinet - the generation with firsthand experience of the war and the end of the Nazis finally departed the political stage.

    The new normalcy didn''t come easily for their successors. For the first time since World War II, German warplanes were engaged in bombing raids on another country. Only Scharping had served in the armed forces - for half a year. Growing up in an era marked by generational rebellion and the repression of the Nazi past, the new elite had broken radically with the traditions of German militarism. These were now the very individuals, in the form of the coalition government of Social Democrats and Greens, who were breaching the taboo that had prevailed since No More War!

    The two German postwar states had become history with the fall of the Wall in On only one more occasion was the nowunited Germany able to cite its pacifism and extricate itself from military action: in the Gulf War of Then, with the escalation of the civil war in Kosovo in , the government felt there was no escape from the NATO operation.

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    Green party politician Joschka Fischer explained his acquiescence with these words: "In today''s world, ''Never Again Auschwitz'' means ''Stamp it out at the roots. The country''s foreign policy was not alone in changing course. Its policy towards the past immediately switched direction as well. In the dimmed, violet light and the church-like, consecratory atmosphere of the gathering, the scene seemed a rite of initiation into an international fraternity against forgetting: Swedish Prime Minister. Auschwitz, that was the message from Stockholm, should not only be a byword for Nazi crimes, but a badge of identity for all Europeans, signaling a duty to keep alive the lessons of the past.

    Designed to remind Germans of Auschwitz forever, this enormous field of 2, gray concrete blocks in the very heart of Berlin is now being opened, 60 years after the fall of Hitler''s Reich. It could become a monument "people will enjoy visiting," the chancellor once remarked somewhat flippantly. But it has become a monument that is difficult to avoid. And that doesn''t obstruct the view of the rest of the world. Dresden was destroyed on February 13, ; Pforzheim ten days later. In the firestorm and hail of bombs, some 35, people perished, suffocated or were burned alive in the cultural capital on the Elbe and another 17, in the industrial center on the Wuerm River.

    Sixty years later, 5, Pforzheim residents formed a human chain, each bearing a candle in commemoration of the inferno. And, along with their children and grandchildren, 50, survivors assembled in Dresden to remember the horror of the air raids.