no guilt, a lot of responsibility



print version

(Instead of a preface: It is the jewish people and its more than 2500 years old continous historical "performance" - being based not on land as, for example, in China, but on the spiritual and intellectual strength of the Bible -, or to be precise, it is the plan to entirely wipe out that people, which at first gives the Holocaust its unprecedented singularness. Secondly it results from the unimaginable type of murdering, from the perverse mixture of atavistic, dehumanizing as well as most modern bureaucratic and industrial elements in the procedures of the mass-killings, which has been committed in Auschwitz and elsewhere. And only thirdly this quality comes from the german perpetrators, who belong to one of the great cultural nations of modern times, which they have deeply damaged by their terrible acting - a fact, which was not at all changed by the crimes committed by others to germans! Look as well at: Über die Vergleichbarkeit von Massenverbrechen)

My grandmother explicitly described me the bombardment of the city of Dresden, which she and my grandfather survived only with great luck. The fire-storms had been so strong and tugged the people with such a power into the huge infernos of fire in the center of the city that people tried to escape in rows of five or six persons. But again and again some of them were torn off and inexorably were sucked into the blazing "oven". (This could be a "nice" element of a Hollywood-thriller about this horror. - Meanwhile there exists a german tv-produktion on this subject.) During their flight into the parks and into the peripheral areas of Dresden they constantly had to climb over charred humans. The child corpses wore often still their satchels.
I has always been surprised that I nearly had no feelings with her narrations. Somehow I had been more or less indifferent towards these stories. I listened to them from a rational distance. After all I had to protect myself from the feelings of my parents and grandparents.

Actually no near relatives of mine had died in WW II and my generation obviously had not been educated with great national indentification as well. Thus my inner distance is perhaps not astonishing. But more and more it seems to me to be of a special relevance to treat these incomprehensible frights, which the bomb attacks imposed on the ordinary people, with sadness and personal horror. That applies also to the great suffering of the many civilian germans, who after the end of the war became victims of tortures, rapes and pogroms. Even there one is speaking about millions of deads. (G. Heinsohn, "Lexikon der Völkermorde"), but how many trauma-loaded survivors have been there, too?

Today knowledge (information) counts more than everything else. But knowledge, when it is compared with experience, always remains superficial in some important aspects.
We know nearly everything about Auschwitz, Theresienstadt and all the other locations of Nazi-crimes. (f.e. by films like "The Grey Zone") We have a vivid impression of the horror, which many, many germans, who accepted to be involved in the killing-machinery of the nazis, had prepared for other people and men. The accounts about the death-walks out of the concentration camps during the end of the war produce oppressive feelings, which are very hard to get rid of.

However, in order to get a real idea of what more than fifty years ago we, the germans, have done on the long run to the other men and people, to the serbs, to the polish people, to the ukrainians and russians, to the sinti and roma, to the jews - in order to at least get a small concept of the factory-murdering in Treblinka, what it may be within the history of the jews, we need the feelings, we need the embarrassing, depressing moments concerning the suffering of our own ancestors.
I am at first considering this historical-psychological evolution as a task of my generation, the generation, which is born after the war. For within the contemporaries of those events unfortunately cannot overcome all the hatred or at least, we have to admit it, the pointing at the other side. They are busy with the mastering of their own fate and this perhaps is their right. Only we have the necessary distance and could get involved in the fates of the other people as well as of our own. We have the chance to take care that this horrible twentieth century will not only be historized as knowledge, but leads to substantial modifications of our human culture of coexistence and of policy.

It nearly seems to be a commonplace that such modifications could become a condition of surviving for the human species. But still it didn't happen enough as is proved by the continuity of mass murdering in the second half of this century.
At the latest now, with the start of the new millenium this task has grown to a task of all men - all over the world! All we have to learn to open up in spirit and in emotion to the dark sides of our own origin, of our own people, instead of stabilizing one's own ego with the help of the mistakes of the others.

Wolfgang Behr