How many people are there out there who are avoiding Germany because of it's past? I read on this website of someone whose friend had travelled world wide but who had refused to visit Germany because of Hitler! Someone should tell him he died 60 odd years ago. We have lived in Germany for 5 years now and my own brother in law will not visit us because he does not like Germans despite never having met one socially. Are people really this small minded?
The well-traveled couple I know who refuse to visit Germany are long retired WWII-era folks, so I certainly understand their position...brothers went off to war...it makes sense to me. I'm a kid in comparison and don't share the same feelings, but I'm sensitive to theirs. It's much more personal for them...this isn't hard to understand.
I agree that people should vacation wherever they wish, regardless of reason.
We have visited Germany repeatedly because of its past. Because of the rich history, though some parts horrific, there is so much to learn from and about.
I've never come in to contact with anyone that said they wouldn't visit there because of Hitler.
Maybe the painful thing is is exactly that it is just history now, that we & they have all so successfully left the bad things of the past behind us. "If so relatively few years later things could be so completely different, why couldn't everything have gone from then to now without that one death that ruined my world?"
Not my experience but I could understand thoughts like that. Actually being there could make it unreasonably difficult not to let your thoughts go in unproductive, unhappy directions.
I don't think there are very many people silly enough to be consciously angry at modern-day Germans for their ancestors' proclivity for invasive land wars. But I do think Germany is a far less popular destination than it deserves because of the mostly subconscious and negative associations we all make between the country and hate-spewing Hitler newsreels, Hogan's Heroes, and the like. When we think of France, it's all flowers and wine, Holland, cheese and funny shoes. Germany? The images are of Nazis (and maybe liter of beer.)
Of course there are people who are small-minded enough to avoid Germany because of Hitler and his cronies. I've never understood why one generation should be blamed for the actions of an earlier one. Still, it is what it is. By the way, I've also known people who refuse to visit France because they decamped from the military portion of NATO in the 1960s, knowing full well that before France was endangered, the Soviet horde had to go through the Germans, Dutch, Belgian, Danish, British and American forces that served as a buffer for them - kind of a free ride. It may not be rational, but that certainly affected the actions of a lot of folks.
My step-father did not want to come to Germany because many of his buddies in the Army didn't make it home due to the Germans.
There are many, many people who have family members who were deported and killed for whatever reason, Jewish, Roma, Jehovah Witness, Homosexual, Wrong Political Party, they were Socialist or Communist or Polish or Ukrainien, the list goes on and on. If they are not comfortable with coming to Germany, I can certainly understand why.
That said, many family members of these same people and especially Israeli's, come over to research their family history. Being able to see where Grandma lived, helps them somehow.
I am a Scot and,after years of suppression, the English wiped us out at the battle of Culloden. Those that survived were sent to Nova Scotia and other far flung places. The wearing of tartan and the traditional dress was outlawed and clan system was broken up. But I still visit England. Every country in the world has a history of pillaging others. I do not avoid America for what it did to the native Americans. Or is it only recent history that offends us?
If I had a choice of where to live in Europe, it would be Switzerland, Germany and Austria. I really enjoyed my my 12 day visit to Germany.
However, I do understand why many would not want to visit because of what happened to their loved ones under Hitler.
We cannot hold the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren accountable for what their ancestors did; however, they should be accountable for ensuring it never happens again.
Until 2007, I didn't have any interest in Germany and assumed I would never go because of the Holocaust. I probably lost some family on my mom's side and dad's side during World War II and one of my hopes is to do some genealogical research and find out what happened, because we don't know for sure.
But in 2006 I made a good friend who was from Germany and in 2007 I went there to visit him and learned from the inside what Germany is like now. I have been there 3 times and I like it. As the above poster said, the children and grandchildren of the World War II generation are not responsible. But all of us are equally responsible for preventing genocide in the world.
I think there is a large, a really large chunk of difference between massacres that happened 100-200-300 years ago and ones that happened just 65 years ago. Some of the people who were responsible are still alive and walking around, free as a bird. Thus, some people resist coming here.
This is not the same as holding the kids or grandkids responsible.
Shoni...how many of your family members alive today can remember the Battle of Culloden and the events surrounding it?
How many of your family members alive today have number tattoos on their arms given to them in the Nazi camps? Or can speak of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and even children who were put to death in those same camps?
Have you ever visited any of the camps?
There are still plenty of people alive today who lost loves ones under the Nazis or live every day with those tattoos. To put them down for not wanting to visit Germany and relive that experience is being small minded and insensitive.
This is an interesting and thought provoking Thread! I've never encountered anyone (especially those that follow Rick's travel methods) that won't visit Germany because of the past. I never realized (until now) that this was a problem for some people.
I really enjoy visiting Germany whenever possible, and spent some time in the Black Forest region earlier this year. Munich is one of my favourite spots in Europe! I had a wonderful time again this year and will try to get back again next year if possible (I haven't seen Berlin yet). As on past visits, the food was great and the hospitality of the people was outstanding (especially in Bacharach)!
During travels I like to explore the history and character of the countries I visit, and that includes the history of the war. I also visit WW-2 sites in France and other countries during my travels. One of my stops this year was Remagen and the remains of the Ludendorff Bridge. I also visited Burg Eltz, which provided a view of a different part of German history.
Your brother-in-law (and others) need to be "educated" that there's more to the history of Germany than the WW-2 era, and it goes back a lot farther than that! I suppose there are people in all countries who may be ignorant, xenophobic or whatever. I've lost count of the number of Threads on the HelpLine from people that are reluctant to travel in France because they believe the French will be "rude" to them.
"This is not the same as holding the kids or grandkids responsible."
According to statistics garnered mostly from worldmaster.com, only 4.5% of Germans alive in 2005 (5 years ago) were 15 years or older in 1940.
Is it all the people of a country like Germany who caused such difficulty and who should, perhaps, cause somebody to want to not visit?
Or a minority? Germany lost many more of its people than the US and UK combined.
My mother's best friend in her school south of London was her pen pal from Frankfurt-a-M. For two years they went to school together until the German government required her to return to her family in Frankfurt. As far as we can find out she and her family were killed when the city was bombed.
My mother was never able to definitely find out.
Was she responsible for this? How can an entire country with such deep roots be shunned for the actions of a madman and his followers?
I guess I come at things in a different way - I like to expose the Boogey Monster in the light of day. If I've been wounded (physically or emotionally), slighted, frightened, whatever - I want to diminish the offense......replace the bad memory with a better one. If my father had been killed in WWII by a German, I'd want to travel to Germany and replace my painful feelings with better ones of Real Humans, and not those 'Monsters' I've imagined all of my life. Would this trip be hard? Perhaps, but necessary - For Me. Maybe not For You.
But those who just don't want to go to Germany, France, etc., to be contrary? Come on, people......
I have family members who are Holocaust survivors; some have returned to Germany, some never want to hear that word ever again. My late father served in the US Army in WWII, and liberated one of the concentration camps in France. Despite the fact that he had close relatives in Germany and spoke fluent German, after he was discharged he never had any desire to step foot in not only Germany but Europe ever again. If some people don't want to visit a country/region where mass-genocide occurred 60 years ago because it will make them physically ill, that's not being small minded, it's completely legitimate human response.
War has an incredible impact on people. I know several people who served in the front lines during the Vietnam War. What some of them did, saw, heard, and experienced so traumatized them, they have never left the US soil, and can't bring themselves to not only go back to Vietnam...but never travel outside the US. Of course there are many vets who have traveled back to Vietnam as part of a healing process, but that's not for everyone.
Of course it goes both ways. Back in 2006 when Germany hosted the World Cup, and I was heading to USA matches dressed in Red, White, and Blue, I did hear some crap from a small minority of locals about US foreign policy/Iraq War. Was it fair of them to condemn me even though I voted against the Bush, and protested against the war?
If we applied this criteria to travel, half the world would be off our travel list. There was a very strong anti-Japanese sentiment in Australia after WW2 among that generation would lived through this time, which is understandable, I suppose. I can fully appreciate how people who were exposed directly to the horrors of that time would feel about returning. We really enjoyed our recent time in Germany. I would go back there in a heart beat. To their credit, they haven't swept the horrific events of WW2 under the carpet. The Holocaust memorial alone, is testament to this fact. According to our Berlin walking guide, all German high school students have to visit a concentration camp as part of their curriculum. Not sure if this is a fact.
"To their credit, they haven't swept the horrific events of WW2 under the carpet. The Holocaust memorial alone, is testament to this fact."
Not everyone would agree with that statement. The fact that it took sixty years to build said monument demonstrates that they are still struggling with their past. Also according a tour guide I met in Germany, it wasn't until recently that WWII was even taught in the schools.
When I was growing up it never occurred to me that I would spend six months studying and traveling in Germany. If any had asked, I would have said that I would go to England where my grandmother was from. I wasn't even thinking Scotland at that time as my grandfather died a year after I was born. I remember country reports (did anyone else have these or was it a 6th grade Illinois thing?) and I wanted to do the USSR and could not understand why anyone would want Germany. So, I'm not surprised that this reaction exists. I ended up studying in Germany because it was the program that allowed the most European travel. And then i learned more about Germany. Germany is a fascinating place. Since my time in Germany I've ready more history and other materials and I have learned so much. I hope others will open their minds to Germany. It's a fascinating beautiful country. Pam
"This is not the same as holding the kids or grandkids responsible."
I wish it were that simple. I'm a German citizen myself, born in the 1960s with parents who would have been in Kindergarten at the end of WWII - if there had been a school house left in town that wasn't bombed. And I've met French retirees, former POWs, who met me with open arms and gifts. And I was called a "Nazi" by some American for no special reason.
It's a very complex issue that doesn't have easy answers. Anybody interested in this question I'd recommend Bernhard Schlink's book "Guilt About the Past"
"Also according a tour guide I met in Germany, it wasn't until recently that WWII was even taught in the schools"
I have no idea where this myth is coming from. I finished school in the early 1980s and I can assure you that I've had my share of history lessons on the topic. And it gets woven into language/rts. And into social studies.
However, the curriculum in East Germany was a bit different though than my western lesson plans. The communists felt that their ideology had no responsibility - that was left to the fascists on the westside of the Wall ...
I understand; my teens LOVE Japan. My husband took them there but still thinks their WW II behavior was worse than Germany's.
Would that be like refusing to visit the south due to slavery, or Columbia/ Jamaica because of drugs?
Holocaust issues and war issues are totally different. Wars have gone on throughout our history, as has genocide, but the Holocaust took it to a whole different level. One cannot compare, say, the consequences of the Battle of Culloden, and whatever discrimination followed, with the horrors that were inflicted on the Jews, Roma and others by the Nazis.
I am Japanese-American and I have Japanese relatives who were devastated by the Hiroshima bomb, and still have health problems. Yet they have no issues with Americans because that was war. My husband is Jewish and lost relatives in the Holocaust. That was not war, it was genocide. We both feel that his loss is more horrific and I completely understand why he would not want to visit Germany.
Yet we did visit, and were both moved by the degree to which Germany has built memorials and reminders of what they did. Yes, they admit what "they" (the previous generation) did, and are in the forefront of promoting the idea that it shall never happen again. Berlin in particular is full of these monuments. And the rebuilt synagogue.
"Forgive, but NEVER forget." That is the lesson. Go and see it.
For DECADES many, many people blamed Dallas for killing 'Their President' and refused to have anything to do with the city.
And worse, some residents actually accepted the blame...like some sort of scarlet letter.
Well, maybe that has more to do with the widespread anti-JFK sentiment of that particular city at the time. I seem to recall learning about how the John Birchers were very active in spreading propaganda around town right before his visit. And, the Dallas Morning News ran very bad/very controversial Birch ads the day of JFK's visit, didn't they? Perhaps the rest of the country had some legitimate reason to feel this way about Dallas? And, maybe some residents had legitimate reasons for feeling some guilt?
But, we're getting way off the topic of European travel now.
Isn't what Rumsfeld, Cheyney and Bush Jr. did pretty close to what those guys in Germany in the 30s did?
"Isn't what Rumsfeld, Cheyney and Bush Jr. did pretty close to what those guys in Germany in the 30s did?"
Those guys enabled a transition from brutal dictatorship to fledgling democratic rule. I guess that's what you think happened in Poland?? The Germans weren't exactly holding Abu-Graib-style panty parties in Auschwitz. Or have you been reading Ahmedinejad's History of WW II?
(Perhaps we've given the Germans too much credit??)
Andreas, your response is the reason so many people won't go to Germany. They believe most Germans have the same feeling you do: Hitler really wasn't that bad.
While the war itself gets some people upset, it's what your father, your grandfather and your people did during that time period.
Have you ever been to one of the death camps to see what your relatives did? Or does the mass murder of 11 million people mean nothing to you? Just a normal day in the Fatherland?
When did Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld round up millions of people, pack them into trains, ship them off to camps where most were immediately marched into showers and gassed to death? When did those three work people to death in deplorable conditions without proper food, water or protection from the elements?
When did Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld say they wanted to rid the world of groups of people simply because of their religious or political beliefs or their nationality?
Andreas, I was no fan of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. I disagreed with many of their actions. But to compare them to Hitler goes way beyond any rational reasoning and borders on the stupid.
Others have commented about how few Germans from WWII are still living. It seems that Germany needed a couple of generations to come to some sort of acceptance of this themselves. And they did sweep a lot of it under the rug for a while, whether out of fear or shame. I can't remember the name of it, but I saw a German film about 10 years ago based on research an American woman did on a small concentration camp in southern Germany. She went to the nearest town to ask locals about the camp, only a couple of miles from where they lived, they completely denied any such camp existed. Things like the Holocaust memorial are more recent.
My mother-in-law is from Germany and was born right after WWII. Although she had no part in the war herself, she had uncles who did, and does feel some shame from this. Other Germans of her generation that we meet don't even talk about Hitler and the holocaust. It seems to be the younger generations that have more separation from the events who can discuss it.
I've never considered Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, etc. etc. a reason to blacklist a particular country or a particular people. I don't believe Hitler could only happen in Germany.
I've always considered these destructive dictators repeated historical warnings to every society that this can happen whenever people allow it. I get nervous when any political leader becomes really popular.
I have a step-sister who lives in Ivory Coast. For years Cote d'Ivoire was a bastion of peace and prosperity. It had a successful democracy until a president decided he didn't need to run for reelection - throwing the country into a civil war.
What started out as a rather whiny question has turned into a wonderful political discussion.
As someone who was completely against the war in Iraq, in retrospect I see the protests against it, both in the US and abroad, as encouraging. I don't equate Bush with Hitler, but we cannot allow anyone to run roughshod over other people without standing up against it.
I will agree that Abu Ghrab was not Auschwitz, but neither was it a "panty party."
Not to stir the pot further, but someone mentioned slavery and the South. I'll simply point out that many have boycotted and won't travel to states that proudly display the Confederate flag, either as part of their state flag, on buildings, or at other events. You may recall that GA and SC finally decided to change their state flags, but MS still waves the stars and bars on their flag. For crying out loud, fans still wave it at Ole Miss football games and at NASCAR races. For African-Americans (and really it should be for all Americans), this flag is no different than the Nazi flag. It represents slavery, segregation, and hate (Neo-Nazis and KKK). Can you imagine flying the Nazi flag at a soccer game in Germany, or waving it from a flag pole in Poland? No, because it's restricted or illegal for good reason. And, many believe that's what should be done with the Confederate flag here. So, yes, people do boycott the South, and their boycotts have produced results. The SEC basketball tournament won't be in MS anytime soon. You may agree or disagree, but these are the facts.
As for the comparison of Bush, Cheney, et al to Hitler, that's the most absurd thing I've heard in quite awhile. Even if you disagree with their policies (and most Americans do according to various polls/surveys), it's ridiculous to suggest such a thing.
Brad wrote: "I don't believe Hitler could only happen in Germany."
Hitler wannabe's exist in all countries, including the USA. The question to ask is why a fairly conservative country like Germany would bring such a mad man to power. Could we also elect an evil, genius like Hitler?
Hitler did not receive the majority of votes in the 1933 (?) election but still a substantial number. He did so due to 30%+ unemployment and triple digit inflation. People were without jobs and life savings were wiped out.
In part this economic disaster was caused by the peace terms after WWI, when Germany's economy was intentionally destroyed by the allied victors. These same actions undermined Germany's new Weimar democracy.
If you make an economy bad enough, people will do desperate, stupid things, like the street warfare between political gangs (Nazi's, Social Democrats & Communist). After the undecisive election, where all parties had substantial minorities, Hindenburg made a gamble and chose the biggest thug (Hitler) to form a government and bring order. The tragedy followed.
What the Nazi's did was unforgivable but if you opened concentration camps in America, you could find guards to run it. Our internment camps for Japanese were not like the concentration camps; but, I wonder how many Americans knew that for certain.
The enabling force for Nazism was a failed economy. It could happen most anywhere.
For those who still don't get it....let's at least compare likes. Tell me when one nation, in less than a decade, marched 11 million innocent people, into camps to put them do death en masse?
I have never denied my country's mistakes: slavery, the treatment of native Americans, the treatment of Japanese Americans during World War II. In fact, recently, I've been wondering if Muslim-Americans are being seen now the same way Japanese-Americans were seen during WW II. We have to learn from our history, not deny it or sweep it under the rug.
Nor can we say that all of a people are bad. You can't blame anyone not alive during dark times for those times. All we can say is lets not forget it happened and make sure future generations learn from those mistakes.
We've been to war with England, Germany, Japan, Spain, Mexico, Vietnam, North Korea, China, and more. Wars come and go. It's a part of human nature and will sadly continue. And except for North Korea, we have good relations with the rest. But anyone who may have fought in such a war and came back with physical and or mental scars, should be excused if they don't want to visit those countries.
If you want to talk like for like then lets do so. Darfur today. Serbia/Croatia in the 1990's. The U.S. and Native Americans in the mid-1800's. They can be labeled genocide.
And Paul, let's look at definitions:
Apartheid: any system or practice that SEPARATES people according to race, caste, etc.
Genocide: the policy of DELIBERATELY KILLING a nationality or ethnic group
Do you see a difference? Neither one is good...but....not exactly the same.
One of the reasons the "allies" gave money to rebuild Germany and Japan after WWII was because of the lessons learned after WWI. You can't just leave a defeated nation on its own and expect it to prosper.
"The question to ask is why a fairly conservative country like Germany would bring such a mad man to power." Ever hear of "Red Berlin"? Weimar Germany was a remarkably politically diverse country, with far left communists, anarchists, to far right fascists and royalist, and everything else under the sun in between. Hitler had some genuine popularity, but don't forget... he also had the best organized army of street thugs, the SA.
But here's what this American has to say- I've always loved visiting Germany and now I love living here!
If anyone is interested in learning the real reasons of the how and why hitler came to power in Germany, then add a visit to the Deutsches Museum of History in Berlin to your vacation plans. From now until 6 Feb. you can see the exhibition - hitler and the Deutschen. I went to this last week and I thought it was very well done.
Actually, I'm exactly on topic - some people's love of drama and a lazy embrace of ignorance/herd mentality. I've seen and read many interviews of people who've stated they hated Dallas, would never visit the city, etc., and the reason given was never as intellectual as discussing the John Birch Society. It was the (herd mentality/) drama. Always the same line - "'They' (Dallas) killed our president!". Really? Don't think so...And there's a whole lot of people who like to play the guilty party (aka 'victim' of a sort) - 'Oh, woe is us - we're all responsible for this terrible thing that's happened'. What high drama! No we're not! I didn't kill JFK, I didn't kill American Indians, I didn't buy African slaves. All terrible things, but I don't have any guilt... 'They' didn't kill Daddy, 'they' didn't fly a plane into the Pentagon, 'they' (England or France) didn't _____ us (France or England)......
Just how lazy and ignorant (and 'ignernt') is it to say 'I don't like Germans (etc.) even though I've never actually met one'?!? It's an airheaded (aka 'ignernt') way of following the (ignernt) herd that THINKS it's taking a stand against something or someone ('those blasted Germans', 'Freedom Fries! That'll show 'em!') but their argument, if they even offer one, is as solid as a puff of smoke. "But...but...but... 'they' did 'it'..." Yeah, deep thinkin' goin' on there...
If my mother grew up listening to her father's stories of what the Japanese soldiers did to him in a POW camp, she just might not want to go on a holiday to Japan. She (because she's smart) would recognize the illogic of that, knowing that the Japanese people are perfectly nice (as most of us are) and that they don't condone torturing tourists on the street, but humans are frail beings - and emotional imprints strong. Nobody would fault her for her feelings. But if she started spouting about how she'll NEVER go to Wyoming while Cheney lives there, just because the herd likes to say it,...now THAT would be an ignernt thing to say.
My response to people who don't want to visit a country for whatever reason?
A big thank you! Just think how much longer the lines would be to some of our favorite sites. ;)
Personally, I love Germany and I find that the post WWII generations have done an admirable job of rejecting their former militaristic ways and acknowledging the shame of the holocaust. I visited Dachau and found it to be a moving tribute to the poor souls who suffered so terribly under the Nazis. However, I have a good friend who is Jewish and he won't visit Germany and even roots against their soccer team. I know he lost family members during the Holocaust. There is no easy answer for this and i wouldn't dream of telling my friend he is wrong and should leave the past behind. I didn't lose family members in the holocaust, so i don't have his perspective. I am able to appreciate the beauty of German culture and have always had a great time interacting with the German people. I wouldn't call these people small-minded i would say they are probably reminded through their memories and history of what recent family members had to endure
"Isn't what Rumsfeld, Cheyney and Bush Jr. did pretty close to what those guys in Germany in the 30s did?"
Seriously? They be boobs, but comparing them to Nazis?
I visit England despite the fact that they were responsible for the Irish Genocide.
The Pope was a Nazi Youth and I go to mass.
Frank.... yes I have visited many concentration camps in Germany and would advise anyone visiting the country to do likewise. The German's have handled them with great sensitivity ( I am sure for instance that if such a thing existed in Britian you would be charged an entry fee) With every visit I have encountered parties of German schoolchildren coming face to face with the horrors of their past.
However, if you look at the situation from the perspective of someone living in Germany in the 1930's, as was my father, those that voted for Hitler did so because he offered jobs and security for those who had nothing in a time of great hardship (and don't forget they didn't have the benefit of hindsight). Hitler gave them in the early years, jobs, social security, family allowance was introduced to help those on low income with children and social housing. My father voted for Hitler in the 1930's but he never joined the Nazi party. He was 100% against what the party became, but by then it was too late. He became a member of an underground group in Schwabing in Munich which had ties with Von Staufen who was later implicated in the assassination attempt on Hitler's life. He survived the war but was always tormented by what he had helped to give birth to. There were many brave Germans who were tortured and put to death by the Nazis (friends of my father's included)for the stance they took against Hitler. My father moved to Britain after the war and despite the dangers he had faced in being a member of the Munich underground he seldom admitted it to anyone being too ashamed of being a German. An evil and power greedy minority led by a madman led to one of the worst atrocities in history but by no means the collective German population.
My grandfather was a naturalised German originating from Italy, another fascist state. He was neither fascist nor Nazi but a gentle and considerate man who protected and hid an English pilot during the latter months of WW2 who had crash landed in fields outside the village where he lived. The whole village knew of the pilots existence but he was fed and kept hidden until he could be safely liberated. That the pilots existence could be kept a secret from the authorities in Nazi Germany says a lot about the human spirit and its desire to help another whose life was in danger irrespective of nationality
As an American of German descent who is married to a Jewish man, I've wondered what it was about the German people that they could have allowed such atrocities to occur, even if they didn't take part in them. Of course, economic and nationalistic humiliation following WW1 took a role. I think that at the beginning ordinary Germans could have stopped the thugs who took over, but they were apathetic (and maybe too polite).
My husband didn't want to visit France for a long time because they collaborated with the Vichy government so enthusiastically (but has since come to love France). Oddly enough, the Dutch authorities also were shameful (Eichmann said, "It was a pleasure to do business with them!"). The Danes were heroic - they ensured that 99% of Danish Jews escaped to freedom. And there are wonderful individual stories of heroism like Oskar Schindler.
I think we might do well today to remember how dangerous demagogues can come to power. The level of anti-intellectualism and hostility in political "discussions" scares me.
I visited the Dutch Resistance Museum http://www.verzetsmuseum.org/museum/en/museum this summer. It was very interesting. They not only showed the the things that the resistance did, but also why others did not resist. I would highly recommend it.