Debating War and Genocide after the Wende


After German reunification, German leaders considered how to project military strength on the world stage. When various crises called for German troops, the legacy of the past could be instrumentalized to either legitimize or deter German intervention. This snapshot shows how German politicians and cultural leaders grappled—sometimes in contradictory ways—with Germany’s evolution into a “normal” country. Questions arose about the normalcy of using military force, as in Kosovo, or of breaking with the United States, Germany’s longtime transatlantic partner, over the war in Iraq. Contentious issues converged in the debate over the form of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in the center of Berlin: how does Germany’s approach to owning up to the Holocaust give it more room to maneuver politically; how does a self-satisfied stance allow German cultural institutions to push a uniquely German form of Vergangenheitsbewältigung onto others; and how does the focus on German accomplishments distract from—or even prevent—discussions of German crimes and perpetrators?


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