UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — The memory of the Holocaust was one of the foundations of post-World War II Germany. But is this culture in danger after more than 70 years, especially given the increasing reconsideration of national repentance for Nazi crimes?
The director of the Sachsenhausen prison in northern Berlin still mentions a tour organized by the far-right German Alternative Party a year ago: visitors began to ask specific questions about the Allied bombing at the end of World War II, suggesting that the repercussions on civilians were comparable to Nazi crimes between 1933 and 1945.
“My colleague was terrified. He told me that these comments by people who seemed to be trained in this letter led to a reconsideration of the gas chambers and the mass assassinations that took place in these places,” he told AFP.
The tour guide stopped and the group was expelled. The site’s manager demanded apologies from Alice Wiedel, one of Germany’s alternative officials, who called for the visit.
Almost a year has passed since the incident, but apologies have not yet arrived.
A 69-year-old participant was indicted by the judiciary in Brandenburg, where the detainee is located, for inciting racial hatred.
Drikol argues that places that store memory should evolve in line with time changes. Soon, he says, Holocaust survivors will leave and new generations will lack their living testimony.
“This means that interactive media should be used during exhibitions, electronic boards in conference rooms, updated websites, as well as audio guides for visitors, which can be multimedia guides,” he explains.
But he warns that electronic tools and devices that bring users closer to reality may, on the other hand, weaken efforts to teach the lessons of the past.
“We need a work worthy of reviving memory, not just emotions. Tears are not enough for education.”
The suggestion of some politicians to impose a forced visit to an old “detainee” does not convince the director of the Sachsenhausen Memory Museum.
About 200,000 people were taken to Sachsenhausen prison between 1936 and 1945, at least 40,000 of whom were killed. Every year, about 700,000 visitors from around the world come to the museum, and the vast majority show “respect” for the place, according to Drikol.
However, a number of first-tier officials in Germany’s alternative party are reconsidering the feelings of repentance and these policies.
The co-chairman of the party, Alexander Guland, sparked a scandal last year when he ironically downplayed the importance of the Nazi era in “Germanic history dating back thousands of years.”
Another party official, Bjorn Hockey, described the Holocaust Memorial Museum in central Berlin as a “museum of shame.” But these positions do not prevent the party’s growth, but quite the opposite: it is expected to reap significant gains in the east of the country, its stronghold, during the upcoming local elections in September and October.
For their part, Buchenwald detainees prevented BADIL officials from taking part in the commemorations held each year “as long as they did not take a distance from the revisionist attitudes” denying the Holocaust.
– Breaking taboo-
The director of the Sachsenhausen prison also expresses concern that the BADIL party “breaks taboos”. “We cannot forget that words create a truth … This is what we learned during the Nazi period.”
But the head of the “alternative” list in Bradenburg, Andreas Kalpitz, who has always denounced what he calls the “crowds of young Muslims”, says Drikol’s concern is “unjustified.”
He adds to reporters that his party has no project to “close museums or marginalize the memory of Nazi crimes.” “I think this hysteria about (the alternative) will disappear, especially after the local elections,” he said.
The 19-year-old Dutch woman, Lula Rudet, during a tour of the Sachsenhausen prison cell rooms that used to narrow Jewish prisoners, said politicians should “visit a site like this” because they would see “any ramifications their words could have.”
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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