January 29, 2008 | 4:40 pm
Posted by Brad A. Greenberg
Wednesday is the 75th anniversary of the day Hitler and the Nazi Party took power in Germany, and the occasion has prompted a new round of soul-searching.
âWhere in the world has one ever seen a nation that erects memorials to immortalize its own shame?â asked Avi Primor, the former Israeli ambassador to Germany, at an event in Erfurt on Friday commemorating the Holocaust and the liberation of Auschwitz. âOnly the Germans had the bravery and the humility.â
It is not just in edifices and exhibits that the effort to come to terms with this history marches on. The Federal Crime Office last year began investigating itself, trying to shine a light on the Nazi past of its founders after the end of the war. And this month Germanyâs federal prosecutor overturned the guilty verdict of Marinus van der Lubbe, the Communist Dutchman executed on charges of setting the Reichstag fire; that eventâs 75th anniversary is Feb. 27.
The experience of Nazism is alive in contemporary public debates over subjects as varied as German troops in Afghanistan, the nationâs low birthrate and the countryâs dealings with foreigners.
Why Germany seems unendingly obsessed with Nazism is itself a subject of perpetual debate here, ranging from the nationâs philosophical temperament, to simple awe at the unprecedented combination of organization and brutality, to the sense that the crime was so great that it spread like a blot over the entire culture.
Whatever the reasons, as the events become more remote, less personal, this society is forced to confront the question of how it should enshrine its crimes and transgressions over the longer term.
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