Travel Tuesday: How Germany Guarantees the Memory of the Holocaust, Giving America A Roadmap for Addressing Slavery

German prosecutors charged a 100-year-old man with 3,518 counts of being an accessory to murder on allegations he served during World War II as a Nazi SS guard at a concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin, authorities said Tuesday. This case is a vital reminder to the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia, said Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

David Rising, Associated Press.

In his recent article for the Associated Press, reporter David Rising wrote about the coming trial of a former guard at the Sachsenhausen death camp outside Berlin. The accompanying photograph reminded me of our somber day at that camp, the Berlin Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the Berlin Wall during our Baltic cruise in 2017. Here is some of what I wrote about that day in words that mean even more today. Germany’s acknowledgement of the Holocaust through restoration of that awful past gives America an example for acknowledging slavery in order to move ahead.

Acknowledging the Holocaust

“After decades of denial, a reunified Germany slowly but firmly turned to look at the horror of the Nazi regime. The effort is meant to ‘guarantee memory.’ Twenty-five years have gone into the restoration of Sachsenhausen’s original buildings, design and artifacts. 

“The Berlin Holocaust Memorial is an unavoidable block-wide grid of unmarked slabs of grey stone laid out like coffins, soaring over death-shadowed canyons in the center and emerging into the ongoing life of daylight.

Acknowledging Slavery

“We too have a shameful past: slavery. Emancipation did not lead to freedom, and we’ve allowed slavery to morph into accepted behavior in this country. Jim Crow. Lynching. Segregation. Discrimination. Incarceration. Death at the hands of the police. Indeed, Nazis and Klansmen march in support of racism under the cover of the First Amendment, and statues of the Confederate military are defended as ‘heritage’ to be protected. It’s a heritage built by slaves and defeated in the Civil War. True freedom and liberty are yet out of reach to persons of color.

“What if, instead of ignoring objections or tearing Confederate statues down, we found a way to lay out the full story, to force ourselves to look at our own dark past? Let’s talk about why we had a Civil War, and what has happened since. Until we can force our country to stare down its horrific past, we will never be free of it.”

Whites Own “The Conversation”

In an article entitled In a nation founded on whiteness, how to really discuss it AP reporter Deepti Hajela explores the challenge.

This mess has been from the founding of this country. This mess has been in our soil. It’s in our soul. It’s everywhere, and we’ve never really completely decided that we will look at it.

The Rev. Susan Chorley, First Parish of Norwell

Are white people willing to confront and have a conversation about the extent to which white racial prejudice and white racism, and the desire to maintain white power in the United States, is part of our political process?

Asheley Jardina, Duke University

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