A few years ago, my father and I were talking about taking a trip to Europe. We definitely wanted to go to London. My dad suggested visiting other countries while we were there. I thought that was a great idea and mentioned Ireland and Scotland. He then said France and Germany. I crunched up my face and said “Who would want to visit Germany?” I had no desire to visit the land of Hitler and the holocaust. That sounds mean, but I couldn’t think of any other thing in Germany besides Oktoberfest, and I’m not a big beer fan.
However, with films like Schindler’s List and Valkyrie, more and more information about the German resistance during World War II has been coming to the surface. I have seen several documentaries on the History channel lately on this exact subject. I know it’s been a long time since I was in school, but I don’t remember a huge amount of information about German’s fighting against Hitler. Not that I blamed them since it generally meant certain death. He ruled by fear, not necessarily because everyone agreed with him.
Recently, I read an article about German college students who were angry because they also felt like Germany would never crawl out from under Hitler’s shadow. That made me think, maybe they’re right. Is it fair for me to judge modern day Germany based on Hitler’s madness? It reminded me of when I was in college and working with Japanese exchange students. They never failed to ask me what I thought about the WWII bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. None of us were even born then, so why would they want to know what I thought about it? Ding. Light bulb moment. I realized I was doing the same thing by judging Germany for something that happened before many of its current residents were born.
All of this came back to me the other day when I was at Starbucks. I was standing in line behind two women. One woman ordered and went to sit down. The other lady started to order, and I could tell she had a German accent. The man behind the counter asked her where she was from. The conversation went like this:
“I’m from Germany.”
“I have always wanted to visit Germany.” Starbucks guy said.
“You should. It is very beautiful.” She said with a big smile.
“Yeah, and I could see all the holocaust sites.”
“What?” she said, smile fading.
“You know; the holocaust.”
“Yeah, but you should come for Oktoberfest. There is a lot of food and beer.” She replied smiling again.
“And Auschwitz.” Dumbass Starbucks guy said. When she just stared at him, he continued to dig his socially inept hole by saying, “Auschwitz, the concentration camp. Did I pronounce it right?”
She mumbled “Yes” before paying and going to sit with her friend.
I approached the counter and he gave me a big smile, but I wasn’t having it. “Dude, you need to go apologize. I’m not even German, and I was offended. Auschwitz and the holocaust? Is that the best you could come up with?” He looked surprised. I don’t know if he apologized or not. He was a lot younger than I am, so the problem is still very real.
In truth Germany has one of the strongest economies in the Euro. If you ask my husband, the car fanatic, it is the home of Audi, Volkswagon, Opal, the Autobahn and Nürburg-Ring race course. It is also the home of great beer and food, beautiful sites, museums and art, and amazing architecture. There is so much more to Germany besides war.
On a more personal note, I have something to be thankful for from Germany. My husband looks like his father with dark hair and brown eyes, but his mother is of German descent. So my honey is part German and our kids have beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair. So yeah, I need to move on. Go Germany!