COLOGNE On the occasion of the anniversary of the Nazis’ November Pogroms, german-foreign-policy.com (gfp.com) spoke with the chairs of two prominent citizens’ initiatives about German commemorative culture and Germany’s responsibility for Nazi crimes. They are Hans-Rüdiger Minow spokesperson for the Board of Directors of the “Train of Commemoration” and Christoph Schwarz, spokesperson for the Board of Directors of “Stolen Children – Forgotten Victims.”
german-foreign-policy.com: ‘The 70th Anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp will be commemorated in January. Its survivors will look toward Germany. Would this be a reason for you to take stock?
Hans-Rüdiger Minow (“Train of Commemoration”): Should the survivors actually look toward Germany on January 27, 2015, they will do it with much bitterness and anger. Even in the seventieth year since these mass crimes, the Federal Republic of Germany is still refusing to live up to its inherited responsibilities.
Minow: Today they are German citizens. Even in relationship to its own citizens, Berlin does not acknowledge that the Federal Republic of Germany is heir to all the deeds and crimes committed by its predecessor government. On the other hand, Berlin does claim all the rights of this predecessor government, if it means a repudiation of this heritage.
gfp.com: How so?
Minow: Just this year, Berlin has argued at the International Court of Justice, in The Hague, that its predecessor government’s Nazi mass crimes in Italy had been committed in the exercise of the German Reich’s state sovereignty. Therefore, the victims have no right to address their claims to the heirs of the culprits. One should keep this in mind, when listening to the ceremonial eulogies in the German Bundestag. The Nazi regime’s terrorist massacres in Europe are seen as acts of sovereignty, that Berlin, today, makes reference to, to avoid its financial responsibilities, as its heir. Whoever uses this argumentation is providing the new Nazis one source of reference after the other.
Schwarz: Those rights that the victims of the Nazis are allegedly not entitled to, are easily granted to the Nazi culprits themselves. Every month, the survivors of German soldiers – including war criminals and SS murderers – who participated in the illegal wars of aggression and annihilation waged by the Nazi leaders, are receiving high pensions. This comparison should suffice as a demonstration of how the Federal Republic of Germany is facing up to its heritage as a state.
gfp.com: How does that correspond to the repeatedly praised German commemorative culture, so highly venerated also abroad?
Minow: It does not correspond at all. The German government profits from the reputations of numerous citizen’s initiatives and associations, with whose arduous efforts it is giving the impression abroad that Germany is facing up to its responsibilities – albeit only to the moral ones, because they do not cost anything. The objective is to lull everyone into forgetting the omnipresent material debts throughout Europe with inconsequential commemorative ceremonies and invocation of a nebulous “responsibility.”
Schwarz: In my encounters with foreign survivors of the children stolen by the Nazis from their families, my experience has been that there is a correlation between the social situation in Europe and Germany’s refusal to pay its debts. Many of these elderly survivors subsist in poverty. This is no coincidence. And it is not merely a personal fate. The survivors’ poverty is the poverty of today’s Europe, where the destruction carried out by the Germans has never really been overcome…