The German nation has put significant effort into official acts of remembrance, apology and restitution for the evils of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust. But what is it like to be born into that legacy? How does a family talk about the Holocaust to its children when it happened down the street and in the neighboring town and their grandparents were there as it happened?
Here is a link to an article that discusses some of these issues.
PBS: How do young Germans deal with the legacy of the Holocaust and the Third Reich
Although the official German effort to “address the wrong” of the Holocaust is commendable, there is reason to be concerned about how younger generations are handling this legacy.
When I asked the students why they were unable to express sorrow for the victims of the Shoah, they responded with a loud and defiant "We didn't do it!" It appears that the expression of sorrow for Jewish victims is seen as an admission of guilt and that by acknowledging the extent of the atrocities committed and the extent of the suffering, their grandparents will be further implicated and will have to be looked at as criminals, or worse, as monsters.
In many ways, the response of the German young people is not very different from attitudes I have found among Christians, generally, about the legacy of Christian anti-semitism. There seems to be a reluctance to confront this history and to acknowledge it.
I am greatly concerned about the lack of empathy so many young Germans have toward the victims of the Shoah and that it is so difficult, if not impossible for them to express sorrow. In some way, the denial of empathy and sorrow constitutes another way of eliminating Jews and their very existence.
Young people can not be expected to learn how to handle these problems on their own. An attitude of confession and repentance can only be taught by example.
Finally, I would like to state that I clearly see young Germans as victims, albeit as victims of their own society which doesn't help them to properly acknowledge the suffering inflicted on the victims of the Holocaust and to mourn the fate of the victims killed by their great- or grandparents. Instead they are burdened with the impossible task of defending the perpetrators most of whom, it must be said, have mostly been buried.
What can this article teach us about the response of the rest of the world to this history? The rest of the world, all of us, were accomplices in silence. Every church bears a history of anti-Judaism. How can we do better at acknowledging and repenting of our part in this history?