What a German Taught Me About His Country and the Holocaust & More Latest News Here

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Opinion

In Germany, children learn about the darkest chapter in the country’s history very early on.


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A school desk at the Köllnische Heide school in Neukölln, Berlin / Photograph by Jens Kalaene/picture alliance via Getty Images

When I was in college, a good friend started dating a German. He was from a small town in Bavaria and owned lederhosen and everything. After hearing about him, I really wanted to meet him and discovered, to my surprise, that he didn’t feel the same way. It was terrified to meet me. You see, I would be one of the first Jews he would meet, and his upbringing on what his people had done to my people during the Holocaust was heavy on him. How would I view it? Could our two-sided generational trauma be a wall between us?

Everything swung quickly between me and the German, and I learned that in his native country, school children learned a visceral history of the Holocaust, starting in elementary school and later visiting concentration camps like Auschwitz and Dachau (from where my maternal grandfather was liberated). In the years following the war, Germans realized that to root out a hatred as endemic and ultimately as destructive as that which gave birth to the Third Reich, it was necessary to target the youngest hearts and minds. As traumatic as this past is for innocent future generations, to omit or dilute its truth in history lessons would only allow the tentacles of anti-Semitism to spread.

Today, as a mother of two young children in Philadelphia schools, I participate in the national conversation about critical race theory and, more broadly, how we teach the American history of slavery. , racism and indigenous genocide in our schools. And I thought a lot about “the German”. It was clear that an unwavering education about the events of the Holocaust had left him with feelings of guilt and shame, but those lessons ultimately fertilized a great sense of empathy as well as an openness to discussing the story that has helped us heal decades-old wounds. of the past of our peoples. He always donned his lederhosen and embraced his German heritage, but he also carried the dark layer of his country’s worst history as a heavy responsibility, without resentment.

I wish today’s opponents of teaching our children the history of slavery, racism and genocide in America could meet more Germans. If their resistance really stems from not wanting white kids to feel guilt, shame, and a loss of pride in who they are, I would point out the empathy I felt so many years ago. years, when my encounter made a man tremble in his lederhosen. I have since met others educated in Germany, and they have all expressed how formative their Holocaust history lessons were for understanding the injustices of our time, as well as a sense of pride in the regard to modern Germany. At the end of the day, we know that within the opposition is the very disease we aim to fight, trying every generation to mutate and live on – because that’s what diseases do.

Anti-Semitism has not been entirely extinguished in Germany, just as racism may never exist here. But addressing the past with honesty is as powerful an antidote as we are. Teaching American children the indelible racism that is our country’s heritage and instilling in them national pride is not necessarily a proposition. Individuals have complicated dualities, just like nations. If a German and a Jew can agree on this, why not America?


Einav Keet is a Philadelphia-based writer and mother who has enjoyed writing about health, science, technology, and politics for over 15 years.

Published as “Pride and Prejudice” in the September 2022 issue of philadelphia cream magazine.


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