There’s an age-old philosophical debate that poses the question: Does the son bear any responsibility for the sins of his father? Many believe that future generations should not be responsible for the actions of the forbearers, but the reality is that history does not exist in a vacuum. The past is a continuum, having lasting effects that will continue to impact the lives of future generations. One particular example of this is Germany’s role in World War II and the Holocaust. Last summer I visited Germany as a Jew and saw for myself how grandchildren are living in the shadow of their grandparents' deeds, and how World War II will forever have an impact on German politics and culture.
Germany paid for its actions in World War II immediately following its surrender. The separation into East and West Germany and the Marshall Plan was in direct response to the events of the war and the Nazi domination that originated there. Not only did Communism and Capitalism separate the country, but families were also divided Even though the Berlin Wall fell nearly thirty years ago, the discordance it created caused everlasting effects on the German economy, political scene, and social structure. In East Germany today, unemployment rates are higher than those in the West, and average income is lower as well. Additionally, East Germans tend to be more suspicious of foreigners, and Right-Wing Extremist parties still exist in the East. The schism in German culture and politics resulting from its division may no longer appear on a map, but the altered society that emerged in its wake continues to react to the historical reality that persists.
Secondly, the atrocities of the Holocaust cast an eternal shadow over the city of Berlin. On every street corner, in every park, and at almost every bus stop memorials stand to serve as reminders to the German people of the transgressions that were committed by their forefathers. Although at times it may seem over amplified, these monuments remind current citizens and visitors that Germany will never again succumb to hatred and intolerance. The efforts of the government over the years to educate and memorialize have successfully transformed Germany into a welcoming and liberal country. In the mid-twentieth century, Germany saw its darkest days, but 70 years later, Germany is one of the most accepting nations towards immigrants, serving as an example to the rest of the world. The responsibility that modern Germans have taken for their father’s sins have brought positive change and initiative to the international community.
Germany’s transgressions during World War II and the Holocaust have had both negative and positive repercussions on its politics, culture, and social status. These consequences are seen today through the subtle yet enduring divide between the former East and West Germany, Berlin’s countless memorials, and Germany’s political stance regarding refugees and immigrants. History, by definition, will always shape the world’s current situation, but these effects need not invariably imperil the future.