How do we prevent another Holocaust?

Holocaust remembrance : Against forgetting, against lies

The insight is shameful. But also honest and necessary. "I wish I could say: We Germans have forever learned from history", Frank-Walter Steinmeier confessed in Yad Vashem. "But I can't say that when hatred and agitation are spreading."

Three quarters of a century after the industrial mass murder of millions of Jews, the greatest crime in human history, committed by Germans, synagogues are being attacked in Germany and Jewish children are spat at, and Jews have to ask whether they can live safely in this country. That's a scandal. The events arouse doubts as to whether this claim can be met at all: to learn from history forever.

Two enemies of memory

One can try, however. And name the dangers that are enemies of remembering: forgetting and repressing. As well as the deliberate falsification of history including its instrumentalization for political goals. Both are happening in Germany and Europe. Germans can do something about one thing: forgetting and the lies of history in their own country.

[Tagesspiegel readers remember Berlin memorial sites in their neighborhoods. Where? In our people newsletters. We report weekly from the twelve Berlin districts - compact, personal, neighborhood and concrete. You can order the newsletter free of charge here: people.tagesspiegel.de]

With the falsification of history by others, things get tricky in view of German guilt. Germans can hardly rise to the role of moral apostles who admonish others how they should remember history and their own involvement. It was wise that the Federal President did not comment on the commemorative dispute between the presidents of Russia and Poland, Vladimir Putin and Andrzej Duda.

Europe is more called than Germany to confront Putin

That doesn't have to mean that Putin's lies in history go unchallenged. But others are more likely to object. The European Parliament has clearly rejected Putin's brazen attempt to blame Poland for World War II and to wash Stalin of complicity. The Third Reich and the Soviet Union were the driving forces. They divided the states between them in the Hitler-Stalin Pact among themselves. On an advertisement page of a German newspaper, Duda wrote something down about the speech he wanted to give in Yad Vashem, but was not allowed to.

Putin's attempt to rewrite history is not just a challenge for historians. He is extremely dangerous because he sows discord - yes, contempt for Poles, Ukrainians, Balts, whom he wants to stamp Hitler's collaborators. It aims at the opposite of the saying “The secret of reconciliation is memory”.

The common commemoration - now in Yad Vashem, next Monday, the Holocaust Remembrance Day, in Auschwitz, in May of the end of the war - is intended to be a reminder. So that it never happens again. And reconciliation becomes possible. For this, the memory must be truthful, i.e. acknowledge the variety of entanglements.

The Red Army liberated Auschwitz, and many Poles saved Jews

The Red Army liberated Auschwitz. She also helped liberate Europe and the Germans from the Nazis. Nobody should refuse recognition for this. At the beginning of the war, however, Stalin was Hitler's accomplice.

There was anti-Semitism in Poland, collaboration in pogroms. But it was Poles like Jan Karski and Witold Pilecki who smuggled information about the genocide out at risk of death. Poles make up the largest group on the list of “Righteous Among the Nations” who saved Jews. Forgetting and the lies of history are enemies of memory. And with it reconciliation.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page