How can you reduce resentment?

National Socialism and World War II

Jochen Fischer

To person

M.A., born 1974; Research Associate at the Institute for Political Science, Philipps University Marburg, Wilhelm-Röpke-Straße 6G, 35032 Marburg.
Email: [email protected]

Hans Karl Rupp

To person

Dr. phil., born 1940; Professor at the Institute for Political Science, Philipps University Marburg, Wilhelm-Röpke-Straße 6G, 35032 Marburg.
Email: [email protected]

The Germans' desire for unity and its implementation did not pose a new threat in the sense of a repetition of history. Anti-Semitism is a taboo sanctioned if it is breached.

The former Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp is now a publicly accessible memorial, which around 600,000 people visit each year. (& copy AP)


"No reunification because of Auschwitz!" was a widespread opinion among West German intellectuals in the months before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The writer and later Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass, as a guest speaker at the SPD party congress in December 1989, was of the opinion that it must be avoided that a great power emerges again in the center of Europe.

A "unitary state, whose alternating enforcers have written in the history book the suffering, rubble, defeat, millions of refugees, millions of deaths and the burden of crimes that cannot be mastered for just 45 years, does not require a new edition" [1].

Grass formulated it even more sharply at a conference of the Evangelical Academy in Tutzing in February 1990: "The genocide summed up under the term Auschwitz and which cannot be relativized by anything, weighs on this unitary state. (...) It was the prerequisite for Auschwitz created at an early stage." [2] Oskar Lafontaine, who was appointed candidate for chancellor of the SPD in February 1990, made a similar statement:

The nation-state in general, and the German in particular, are historically outdated, and even downright dangerous, if Germany were to be reunified before and independently of the political unification of Europe. [3] Lafontaine reinterpreted the sign "Auschwitz" as a felix culpa in the sense of the church father Ambrosius, writes the historian Heinrich August Winkler. [4]

In contrast, after the "intoxication of unity", a whole group of nationally lively publicists and social scientists from Arnulf Baring to Rainer Zitelmann emerged with euphoric confessions and hopes. In a contribution to the anthology "The Self-Confident Nation", the founder and former publisher of the sixty-eight magazine "concrete", Klaus Rainer Röhl, said in a contribution to the anthology "The Self-Confident Nation" that one could finally step out of the decades of "re-education": "Half a century After the Morgenthau Plan and the start of the great re-education, Germans are beginning to perceive themselves again all over the country. "[5]

A different kind of "liberated" leaving behind of the Allied "re-education" was already evident in the winter of 1990/91 in a wave of violence and obscenity that was unheard of since 1945 and directed against Jewish synagogues, community centers and cemeteries. Immediately after unification on October 3, 1990, arson attacks and cemetery desecrations spread across unified Germany; Likewise, attacks on asylum seekers' homes covered almost all parts of the republic between the first and second anniversary of German unification. The historian Manfred Görtemaker speaks of a total of 1639 acts of violence in 1992 alone. [6] Large demonstrations and high-profile actions and chains of lights in the large German cities between November and December 1992, in which hundreds of thousands took part, ended the chain of riots. The public prosecutor's offices, the interior authorities and the police now intervened earlier and more extensively.

In addition, the economic situation temporarily improved. The increased level of consumption in East Germany, due to the significant increase in the basic wage agreement "from about 35 to 80 percent in the years 1990 to 1993" [7], as well as the consequences of the "unification boom" in West Germany, mitigated the transformation process and initially prevented a renewed encroachment right-wing extremist activities. Nevertheless, since then, not only in the East German state elections, a flare-up of open or neo-Nazi voter votes has been visible again and again.