Friday, November 15, 2002

Germans seem to have some issues, too
Group Captain Lionel Mandrake
VC, AFC, RAF (Retd.)
has posted a letter written by a German friend. She finds it difficult to understand the British Remembrance Day, which was last Sunday. She says such a day could not be possible in Germany. She says the idea of patriotism is unacceptable in Germany. She doesn’t seem to understand that remembrance days commemorate fallen soldiers, not wars, not militarism.

Can you imagine being part of a people that is so ashamed of its history that many do not feel comfortable to mourn their fallen dead? That the idea of having even a defensive army is abhorrent? That taking pride in their country, with its centuries of considerable human accomplishments (music and philosophy for starters), its beauty, etc, is so unthinkable?

I can understand how they should wish to demonize Israel. It must help them immeasurably to shed off some of their guilt. Look, it’s not just us, they seem to be saying, the Israelis are just as bad as we were and even worse.

This is not in any way backed up by the facts, of course. It’s pathetic. The tormentor finds moral justification sixty years after the fact.

And we thought we were a psychotic people.

It seems they have taken their anti-military and anti-war-at-all-costs sentiment to extremes. Understandable, under the circumstances, but it makes one think. How about dealing with what seems to be a tendency for rigid, extreme behavior instead of blindly rejecting any external symbols that can be perceived as militarism?

I shouldn’t be writing about Germans. The subject brings up strong feelings in me I can’t control. I would like to be noble about it, but I can’t. And I think it’s getting worse as I grow older.

Reading over what I have just written, I realize that many in Israel also dislike so-called militaristic symbols such as the flag and the national anthem, and find them offensive. But people I know who have lost loved ones in war find our remembrance day for the fallen very important. Maybe they take comfort in the fact that for one day, at least, the whole country remembers with them. The loneliness of a war widow in Germany must be terrible. Most were not *bad people*, after all, most were killed in bloody wars that their leaders sent them to.

Later on: When I started writing this post I was feeling truly sad about the fate of Germans and the price they must be paying for their past. I gradually became defensive, as I usually do when Germany comes up. The result is much more aggressive than I meant. I do have anger about the war and about the Holocaust. I recently did a lot of reading about Jewish life in Poland in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. This was round about when I started studying a bit of Yiddish (very popular in Israel, right now). How can we begin to grasp that it was a whole world that was just wiped out? It's not something that was transferred somewhere else. It's gone. It's not something you can ever fully grasp. Like I can't grasp Saddam wiping out whole villages of Kurds. I don't feel it's fair to be angry with present day Germans for what some of their parents and grandparents did to my people. But the anger is there and I'm not sure what to do with it. So it inadvertantly pops out when Germans are around or get mentioned. I shouldn't write about Germans. Then again, I'd probably shelve everything I wrote if I left it for a day or two before posting.

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