December 6, 2016
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The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has endorsed the idea of banning the burka, wherever it is legally possible. This, in response from her drop in popularity for allowing about one million asylum seekers into Germany, has made the election season against the anti-immigration party even harder in the coming year. The ban would make it illegal to wear burkas or a full-face veil in public buildings, even though very few women cover their faces in Germany. It is also very probable that the German constitution would prevent the ban from passing. This ban could also be in response to the growing popularity of the anti-immigration party in Germany that has capitalized on the anger produced by the influx of immigrants and refugees. This public stance, especially since this is the first time the Chancellor has made the sentiment known, could be a way to garner back some of the support from her party and the German people- a re-election strategy, or is Germany now following in the footsteps of France?
April 8, 2015
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During the German occupation of Greece, more than 20,000 people were killed, around 250,000 died from starvation, and many Greek villages were destroyed. Greece is now demanding monetary reparations from Germany of up to €278.7 bn for crimes committed during the Nazi regime.
Some Germans agree that Greece is owed the money; citing the longer memory of victims and their descendants, while others simply call demands for the reparations “stupid”. A German couple, frustrated over their governments lack of response, hand delivered €875 to a town hall in what they had calculated was due from each German for war reparations.
Germany recently bailed out Greece due to their tough economic situation, and as a result views the demand for more money as unnecessary. While some agree that Greece deserves these reparations, how much of this is truly about justice? It seems that Greece is piggybacking on the institution of justice to obtain money. Are monetary reparations the best solution when it risks tainting justice by abusing its license to obtain reparations? How can a line be drawn for when “justice” is used correctly or incorrectly? Is there a solution that could better help the German people? I am curious as to what other people think about the “correctness” of Greece’s claim, and if the somewhat righteous facade should be overlooked if it holds a claim to true “justice”.
February 13, 2015
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Germany is remembering the events and victims of the firebombing in Dresden that took place February 13, 1945. 70 years ago today, during WWII, British and American Allied forces bombed the German city, leaving 25,000 dead and 12 square miles in ruins. Despite the high numbers of civilian casualties, no one from any of the Allied powers was ever accused of any crimes following the bombing and the war. Is this a classic example of victors justice? Surely the death of tens of thousands of civilians is a war crime. While German officers faced the consequences of their actions in the Nuremberg trial, no action was ever taken against the victorious Allies for any atrocities they may have perpetrated during wartime.
January 15, 2014
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Coincidentally, I read a play that dealt with some of our course themes in one of my other classes this week. The play by Peter Weiß, titled Die Ermittlung (The Investigation), recounts the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials of 1963-1965. The play describes several occurrences within the Auschwitz walls during the World War II by utilizing the actual transcripts of the trials and the authentic statements and accounts given by witnesses and the defendants.
The play wrestles with the gray-zone between perpetrator and victim during the atrocities, but it also lead me to think about the country of Germany after the war ended. How does a country cope with the atrocities that occurred by its hand? One of the defendants even went so far as to say that all should be forgotten and the country just needed to move on. What struck me the most was the fact that although the “Big Fish” who were widely responsible for giving the orders for the killings were prosecuted, the following generation of young Germans were the ones unhappy with the outcome and felt that justice was not served, not necessarily the victims themselves. In fact, the Germany Student Movement of 1968 was widely due to the fact that Nazi officers were still in high office in Germany, leading a very comfortable life. The importance of justice is not only for the victims and perpetrators of the crimes, but also for the following generations.
November 23, 2012
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After negotiations between the German government and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany, Germany has decided to increase reparation payments to Holocaust survivors and will also open up reparation eligibility to a greater number of people. The Conference has been working for decades “to achieve recognition of Holocaust survivors who have remained in the countries of the former Soviet Union.” The eligibility of reparations will be opened up to individuals who were persecuted by Nazis in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, because many of them still have not received it. About 80,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union who still live in Eastern Europe and have never gotten any compensation from Germany will receive reparations. $200 million will be evenly distributed against tens of thousands of elderly survivors. Additionally, there will be increased allocations for home care for Holocaust survivors. While this is a great breakthrough for survivors who have been waiting years for compensation, this article brings up an issue I have with reparations that was addressed by Joanna. She stated, “Collective reparations don’t address the individual pain felt by the affected persons,” and they “don’t seem to distinguish among the very different abuses perpetrated against individuals.” These are my sentiments exactly. Though the increase in reparations to the Holocaust is undoubtedly an appreciable move, it seems almost too easy to just equalize the compensation to survivors.
February 6, 2012
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On Feb 3rd it was found by the UN’s International Court of Justices that Germany was legally immune from claims of slave labor by foreign courts. Due to the fact that Germany has paid reparations since th fifties. It found that the Italian Supreme court violated Germany’s sovereignty. The Italians courts argued that it was legal to make such statements against Germany because the war crimes show international precedence over state sovereignty. This court makes the final judgement and cannot be overturned.
April 16, 2011
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Demjanjuk victim calls for forgiveness
I came across this article and thought it was touching. A 90 year-old Holocaust survivor, Jules Schelvis, asked the court in Munich to release John Demjanjuk, the alleged Nazi camp guard, after convicting him. Schelvis says that although the court should find Demjanjuk guilty, they should not punish him; Schelvis is grateful that the trial is happening so that the story can be told. It is important to Schelvis that his story be told, along with all the other victims that were deported to the death camp of Sobibor. This trial is a type of memorialization for Schelvis, and serves as reconciliation, for both men. Demjanjuk, who has already been in prison for 9 years, can now reconcile and admit to his wrong-doings, whereas Schelvis can have the memorialization via the trial for the atrocities committed against him, his wife, and all the other victims. When we were talking about truth commissions in class, I just couldn’t understand how sometimes only the truth would suffice, especially after all the people they loved and cared for either disappeared or were brutally murdered, but after reading this article, I realized that the truth does set people free, and its important for both the body and soul to have reconciliation, whether it be within oneself or with perpetrators.