History and guilt

by 5000 5,000 words
  • Read later or Kindle
    • KindleKindle

History and guilt

The work-weathered hands of Henry Brooks, a former slave from Greene County, Georgia, May 1941. Photo by Corbis

Can America face up to the terrible reality of slavery in the way that Germany has faced up to the Holocaust?

Susan Neiman is a moral philosopher and essayist. Her latest book is Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists (2008). She lives in Berlin and is the director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam.

5000 5,000 words
  • Read later
    • KindleKindle

On 22 December 2012, the distinguished African-American film director Spike Lee tweeted: ‘American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western. It Was A Holocaust.’ He ignited a small storm in the US media, saying that he would not see Quentin Tarantino’s new film Django Unchained because it was an insult to his ancestors. Less than a month later, at the Berlin premiere of the movie, Tarantino himself declared that American slavery was a Holocaust. The German media chided him for his ‘provocative’ and ‘exaggerated’ remarks, but concluded that it was the sort of thing audiences in Germany — where he is extremely popular — have come to expect from Tarantino.

If someone had predicted a year ago that I would find myself writing about a Tarantino film, I would have bet a large sum against it. I didn’t even want to see one. Because it was the subject of intense discussion over issues I care about, I had dragged myself to see his previous film, Inglourious Basterds (2009), and found it bearable, but I had no interest in his other work. Tarantino seemed to suggest that you can revel in every form of violence and exploitation so long as they are depicted with skill and plenty of irony; you can take gun-dealing — arguably the lowest form of human occupation — and make it seem hip and sexy. Aren’t moral objections to this sort of thing simply uncool?

But my view of Tarantino changed profoundly as I watched Django Unchained the night it opened at my local cinema in Berlin. For the film is spiked with complex references that made clear how profoundly Tarantino had been influenced by German attempts to come to terms with the shame of its criminal past. Since those attempts are not well-known to a wider American or British public, it is important to sketch them — not only to understand Tarantino’s latest work, which is barely intelligible without that background, but to address the broader questions of what other nations can learn from Germany’s struggles to address its own historical guilt.

Germans have been wrestling with the question of history and guilt for more than 60 years now. Their example makes clear just how many moral questions a serious contemplation of guilt must raise for America. These include what constitutes guilt, what constitutes responsibility, and how these are connected. A common slogan of second-generation Germans has been: ‘Collective guilt, no! Collective responsibility, yes!’ But the question of what responsibility entails has been politically fraught. Does taking responsibility for a violent history demand an eternal commitment to pacifism? Or to supporting the government of Israel whatever it does, as some argue? Or rather to supporting the Palestinian people whatever they do, as others have claimed?

Working through Germany’s criminal past involved confronting one’s own parents and teachers and calling their authority rotten

Contemporary Germans understand collective responsibility as meaning a commitment to avoiding in the future the sins their fathers and grandfathers committed in the past — but this raises fresh moral tangles. Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels and a few others offer clear cases of guilt and responsibility: they planned and carried out crimes with malice and forethought. What about those who didn’t plan them, but merely carried them out without much thought of any kind? Were those who signed orders on desktops more guilty (because further up in the hierarchy) than the guards who herded naked Jews to their deaths? Or is a human being who is capable of doing that to another human being more depraved than a bureaucrat such as Eichmann, who claimed that watching a mass execution made him sick? And what about the voters who put the Nazis in power, hoping it would stop the inflation, streetfighting, and general chaos that threatened to engulf the Weimar Republic?

Of course, there are those who say they worked with the Nazis in order to prevent worse things that might have happened had less scrupulous people done their jobs. There were many of these, ranging from the Jewish councils who helped prepare the lists for deportation to the State secretary of the Foreign Office, Ernst von Weizsäcker, who was instrumental in a host of crimes, but successfully argued at his trial that anyone else would have done worse.

These are just a few of the moral questions that cannot be avoided when you begin to examine real, historical cases of evil. Hannah Arendt tried to tackle them, with the result that her book Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) was surely the most vilified work of 20th century moral philosophy. Her careful attempt to understand forms of responsibility and to disentangle responsibility from intention was misunderstood by nearly everyone, and created furore and fury even among those who had been her close friends. Perhaps it’s not surprising that so many moral philosophers since have preferred to stick to trolley problems.

The German language has a word for coming to terms with past atrocities. Vergangenheitsbewältigung came into use in the 1960s to mean ‘we have to do something about our Nazi past’. Germany has spent much of the past 50 years in the excruciating process of dealing with the country’s national crimes. What does it mean to come to terms with the fact that your father, even if not a passionate Nazi, did nothing whatever to stop them, watched silently as his Jewish doctor or neighbour was deported, and shed blood in the name of their army? With very few exceptions, this was the fate of most Germans born between 1930-1960, and it isn’t a fate to be envied.

Working through Germany’s criminal past was not an abstract exercise; it involved confronting one’s own parents and teachers and calling their authority rotten. The 1960s in Germany were more turbulent than the 1960s in Paris or Prague — not to mention Berkeley — because they were focused not on crimes committed by someone in far-off Vietnam but considerably closer to home, by the people from whom one had learnt life’s earliest lessons.

The process of Vergangenheitsverarbeitung functioned quite differently in the Eastern and Western zones. Nazi propaganda had been far more interested in stirring fear of the ‘Bolshevist Jewish menace’ than of any other enemies, so when the Red Army advanced towards victory in Berlin in 1945, millions of Germans moved west to escape them. Those who had been committed Nazis, or simply knew something of the 20 million Soviet citizens that the German troops had killed, were understandably afraid of becoming targets of revenge. All of this meant that, when the guns stopped firing on 8 May 1945, more Nazi sympathisers lived in the West than in the East.

The country was divided into occupied zones, each ruled by a particular Allied military, while the Allies considered what to do with 74 million people who had committed, condoned, or ignored some of the worst crimes in human history. The Soviet and western Allies managed to co-operate long enough to carry out the Nuremberg Trials, which convicted a few of the most prominent war criminals. Both also instituted plans for re-education, which came to be known as ‘denazification’. Generally, the Soviets looked to German high culture as a source of inspiration, promoting theatre productions of the 18th-century philosemitic play Nathan der Weise (‘Nathan the Wise’) by the Enlightenment dramatist Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, while Americans leant towards lectures about freedom and democracy.

The generation that had fought the war refused to talk about the past

While neither effort was particularly effective, the process of denazification was promoted in the East thanks to the fact that hundreds of German communists were ready to return from exile to form the country’s leadership. The new German Democratic Republic of East Germany, created from the Soviet-governed zone in 1949, considered itself anti-Nazi. It expressed this by symbolically renaming streets, reshaping the city’s architecture along with its lesson plans, and commissioning a new national anthem, Auferstanden aus Ruinen (‘Risen from the Ruins’).

Without a leadership that was committed to confronting the nation’s crimes, the population of the Federal Republic of West Germany was even less willing to take up the mantle. With its cities still in ruins, its citizens — still reeling from the loss of sons and husbands on the front — were inclined to think of themselves as the war’s biggest victims. Not enough that the devastation of the war was evident on every street corner; on top of that, the occupying armies insisted that it was the Germans’ own fault! A few young intellectuals and artists agreed with the Allied perspective, and produced important works such as the film The Murderers Are Among Us (1946) and books by authors from the literary association Gruppe 47, whose members included the later Nobel laureates Heinrich Böll and Günter Grass. But neither the majority of German citizens nor their American overseers desired critical engagement with the Nazi period, nor sought to address the fact that the schools, courtrooms and police stations of the Western zone were still largely staffed by former Nazis. For the Cold War began before the Second World War ended, and the US president Harry S Truman’s administration was far more interested in undermining the Soviet Union than in rooting out former Nazis.

The 1950s and early ’60s offered little change. With all energies focused on rebuilding the economy, and most traditional authoritarian structures left intact, the generation that had fought the war refused to talk about the past. Accounts differ about when the silence began to break. Was it the series of radio programmes on anti-Semitism produced by the philosopher Margherita von Brentano? Or Rolf Hochhuth’s 1963 play Der Stellvertreter (‘The Deputy’) about the Pope’s complicity in the Holocaust? Or was it the Eichmann trial of 1961 together with the Auschwitz trial of 1963, which drew public attention and left major writing in their wakes? What’s undisputed is that, by 1968, young Germans including the future foreign minister Joschka Fischer were throwing rocks at police whom they considered to be not only the agents of present evils, but standing in a direct line with those responsible for evils past.

By 1968, few of those most directly responsible for Nazi crimes were running the show. But anyone who was staffing positions in the army, the police force, the intelligence service and the foreign ministry, among others, had been, at the very least, trained by former Nazi officials. It’s still sometimes thought that the Nazis appealed to illiterate mobs, a view unfortunately suggested by Bernhard Schlink’s dreadful book Der Vorleser (1995) and the subsequent movie The Reader (2008). In fact, the highest proportion of Nazi party members came from the educated classes. Without the sort of denazification that neither the Federal Republic nor its occupier were willing to undertake during the Cold War, there was no one initially available to staff leading institutions but old Nazis.

An old joke illustrates the problem. A former émigré arrives at Frankfurt airport and asks the first stranger he meets if he had been a Nazi. ‘Not me,’ says the stranger. The émigré asks the next man. ‘Heaven forbid!’ he replies. ‘I was always inwardly opposed to them.’ Finally, the émigré meets a man who admits to having been a Nazi. ‘Thank heavens!’ says the émigré. ‘An honest man. Would you mind watching my bags while I go to the toilet?’ For the next generation it was clear that Germany's institutions needed to be overhauled from top to bottom.

The American television miniseries Holocaust (1978), though schlocky and little-noticed in the US, caused waves in Germany by exploring the ordinary human lives that lay behind the cold number of 6 million. The 50th anniversary of Hitler’s takeover was marked in 1983 in Berlin by a year’s worth of exhibits on topics as various as ‘Women in the Third Reich’, ‘Gays and Fascism’ and ‘The Architecture of Destroyed Synagogues’. Neighbourhoods vied with each other to explore their own local history. In Berlin, a play entitled It Wasn’t Me, Hitler Did It opened in 1977 and ran for 35 years.

When in 1986, the right-leaning historian Ernst Nolte suggested that Hitler had learnt most of his lessons from Stalin, he was accused by the philosopher Jürgen Habermas of trying to excuse German crimes. The ensuing ‘Historians’ Debate’ raged for three years — not in academic journals but in newspaper, television and radio discussions.

The prominence of the Holocaust in American culture serves a crucial function: we know what evil is, and we know the Germans did it

The mid-1990s brought a fresh shock when a Hamburg research institute decided to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war’s end with an exhibit proving that not only the SS but many ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers participated in the perpetration of war crimes. To the rest of the world this was hardly news, but the exhibit prompted unexpected protest, and was even firebombed by those who claimed it dishonoured the memory of their fallen comrades or fathers; eventually a special session of parliament was convened to discuss it.

Nor has the need to rake through the Nazi period shown many signs of diminishing as the years go by. Just this spring, German viewers were offered an excellent television miniseries Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter (‘Our Mothers, Our Fathers’), depicting the ways in which four well-intentioned young people became slowly implicated in Nazi crimes.

In 1999 the German parliament voted, after years of public debate, to build the official Holocaust memorial in the most prominent piece of empty space in Berlin. I prefer a more unsettling monument to the past — the thousands of Stolperstein or ‘Stumbling Stones’ that the German artist Gunter Demnig has hammered into sidewalks in front of buildings where Jews lived before the war, listing their names, and birth and deportation dates. As some opponents predicted, the uses to which the Holocaust Monument has been put are anything but appropriate. But given that the centre of Berlin has been rebuilt with bombast, a bombastic Holocaust memorial, sticking out like a stylised sore thumb amid the triumphalist architecture of the Brandenburg Gate and its surrounding embassies and institutions seems just about right.

By comparison: can you imagine a monument to the genocide of Native Americans or the Middle Passage at the heart of the Washington Mall? Suppose you could walk down the street and step on a reminder that this building was constructed with slave labour, or that the site was the home of a Native American tribe before it was ethnically cleansed? What we have, instead, are national museums of Native American and African American culture, the latter scheduled to open in 2015. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian boasts exhibits showing superbly crafted Pueblo dolls, the influence of the horse in Native American culture, and Native American athletes who made it to the Olympics. The website of the Smithsonian’s anticipated National Museum of African American History and Culture does show a shackle that was presumably used on a slave ship, but it is far more interested in collecting hats worn by Pullman porters or pews from the African Methodist Episcopal church. A fashion collection is in the making, as well as a collection of artefacts belonging to the African American abolitionist Harriet Tubman; 39 objects, including her lace shawl and her prayer book, are already available.

Don’t get me wrong: it is deeply important to learn about, and validate, cultures that have been persecuted and oppressed. Without such learning, we are in danger of viewing members of such cultures as permanent victims — objects instead of subjects of history. The Jewish Museum Berlin is explicit about not reducing German Jewish history to the Holocaust. One section of the museum is devoted to it, but the rest of the permanent collection features things such as a portrait of the philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, filmed interviews with Hannah Arendt, a Jewish Christmas tree, and a giant moveable head of garlic. (Don’t ask.) The exhibit is awful, but presumably useful for those visitors whose only association with the word ‘Jew’ is a mass of gaunt prisoners in striped uniforms. In the same way, some Americans, no doubt, still need to see more than savage Hollywood Indians or caricatured Stepin Fetchit black people in order to get a more accurate picture of the cultures many of our ancestors tried to destroy. But more importantly, America’s museums of Native American and African American history embody a quintessentially American quality: we have always been inclined to look to the future instead of the past, and our museums follow suit. It’s impossible to compare what’s on display in our national showcase with what you can find in Germany without feeling that America’s national history retains its whitewash — and that a sane and sound future requires a more direct confrontation with our past.

We do have one place on the National Mall that focuses on unremitting negativity: the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I am not the first person to ask why an event that took place in Europe should assume such a prominent place in our national symbolism — particularly when our government did little to save Jews before and during the Holocaust, yet ensured that former Nazi scientists could be smuggled into the US afterwards. The idea that it is evil to round up people and send them to gas chambers is about as close to a universal moral consensus as we get. And having a symbol of absolute evil unconsciously gives us a sort of gold standard against which most other evil actions measure only as common coin. Nazis function conveniently as place-holders of a paradigm of evil, useful to discredit opponents as varied as Saddam Hussein, Karl Rove, and Barack Obama. (It is truly terrifying to see how many pictures of Obama with a tiny moustache exist on the web.)

The prominence of the Holocaust in American culture serves a crucial function: we know what evil is, and we know the Germans did it. There is, of course, a large and growing body of work done by historians, cultural critics, and others that examines more specifically American forms of evil. Few of them, however, receive the same widespread public attention or sales figures as the latest book, film or memoir about yet another aspect of the Holocaust, which lets us have our cake and eat it, too. We can spend our time pondering serious matters, give appropriate expression to our horror, and lean back in the confidence that it all happened over there, in another country.

We no longer believe in bad seed or bad blood. Still, the idea that we are tainted by the sins of our fathers has a long and profound history. According to traditional Christianity, nothing we can do is enough to expiate them: we are all doomed to die for the fall of Adam and Eve, and salvation can come only after death. According to the Old Testament, we must serve some time for the sins of our fathers, unto the third and fourth generation. These traditions run deep even for those who might have rejected them, for they have a reasonable core. We all of us benefit from inheritances we did not choose and cannot change. Growing up involves deciding which part of the inheritance you want to claim as your own, and how much you have to pay for the rest of it. This is as true for nations as it is for individuals.

A Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung must force emotional confrontation with the crimes it concerns, not just a rational assessment of them. This confrontation was notably missing in the first decades of the Federal Republic of West Germany, which used reparations payments to the State of Israel as a substitute for facing up to what it meant to have caused the murder of millions. The country thus assumed forms of legal responsibility without really assuming moral responsibility until the slow, fitful turmoil of the 1960s. Mutatis mutandis, something similar has happened in America. Affirmative action measures are a way of taking collective responsibility for slavery and the blackface minstrel Jim Crow, but few white Americans have been forced to face just how awful slavery was. (And few of us know just how long it continued, in one form or another. I discovered by accident, when reading a biography of Albert Einstein, that he supported a group of clergymen who visited Truman’s White House in 1946 to push Truman to make lynching a federal offence. Truman refused.)

Some degree of traumatisation must take place. Facts are insufficient, and numbers often make them worse

This is why the violent scenes in Django Unchained were absolutely necessary. As both Tarantino and his black stars have said, real slavery was a thousand times worse than what they showed in the film. Tarantino edited out parts of the two most brutal scenes, in which men are torn apart by fellow slaves or packs of dogs, because early audiences found them too traumatic. Still, what he left in was brutal enough; as he said in an interview with the African American historian Henry Louis Gates Jr for The Root magazine: ‘People in general have so put slavery at an arm’s distance that just the information is enough for them — it’s just intellectual. They want to keep it intellectual. These are the facts, and that’s it. And I don’t even stare at the facts that much.’ To borrow a distinction from the philosopher Stanley Cavell: if we are to acknowledge, and not merely know, the extent of our nation’s crimes, some degree of traumatisation must take place. Facts are insufficient, and numbers often make them worse. As Gates notes, many of his students have become inured to the horror of slavery. Scenes such as Tarantino’s, which stay in our imaginations longer than any argument or historical description, offer a taste of immediacy with which we must linger before we go on.

To appreciate Tarantino’s intent, you have to take Inglourious Basterds seriously, which I initially did not. On first viewing, it’s easy to agree with The New Yorker’s description of the film as a baseball bat ‘applied to the head of anyone who has ever taken the Nazis, the war, or the Resistance seriously … too silly to be enjoyed, even as a joke’. However, one thing Tarantino does know well is the history of film. In one interview, he spoke of being influenced by Hollywood films of the 1940s, ‘when the Nazis weren’t a theoretical, evil boogieman from the past but were actually a threat’.

Film directors of that period — often European refugees such as Fritz Lang or Billy Wilder, as Tarantino pointed out — had no compunction about making war movies that were also exciting, entertaining, and even funny. Tarantino did the same. And if his fantasy that film could rewrite history might seem a tad extravagant (‘narcissistic’ is a cruder word for it), it’s a fantasy to which many Germans thrilled. A friend who has written a series of deep, complex and nuanced books on the subject of his nation’s criminal past told me he cheered like a child when Tarantino’s Nazis burst into flames. For all his erudition, the film had tapped into buried emotions that had moved and motivated him for decades. In a recent interview for Die Zeit, Tarantino said he was always being asked what Germans thought of Inglourious Basterds. ‘If anyone in the world dreams of killing Adolf Hitler,’ he answered, ‘aside from the Jews, it’s the last three generations of Germans.’ American history, German imagination: Tarantino got both of them right.

Tarantino is not the first American director to follow a major film about the Nazis with a film about American slavery. Steven Spielberg did the same when he followed Schindler’s List (1993) with Amistad (1997). Both are means for sending a message that Nazism should not be used to end discussions about evil but to begin them, and that American crimes deserve as hard a look as any other. In Django Unchained, Tarantino took it one step further than Spielberg in Amistad, by making the only decent white person in the film a German. The good guy could have been any old European, but Tarantino underlines his character’s German identity with constant references to it. And he rubs our noses in our own prejudices by using Christoph Waltz, the actor he cast to play the most memorable SS officer in film history, to be the only white person in Django who is viscerally revolted by American slavery.

The German presence in Django reveals the influence of German Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung on Tarantino’s films. While filming Inglourious Basterds, he lived in Berlin for half a year, which is long enough to get a sense of how Germans keep their awful past firmly in the present consciousness. His interview with Gates in The Root reveals just how conscious the influence was: ‘I think America is one of the only countries that has not been forced, sometimes by the rest of the world, to look their own past sins completely in the face. And it’s only by looking them in the face that you can possibly work past them.’ Nor does he shy away from the most direct comparisons. If there were a Nuremberg trial, he says in the same interview, then D W Griffith, the director of The Birth of a Nation (1915) — the silent film that inspired the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan — would be judged guilty of war crimes. And The Clansman (1905) — the book by Thomas Dixon on which that film was based — can for Tarantino ‘only stand next to Mein Kampf when it comes to its ugly imagery… it is evil. And I don’t use that word lightly.’

Some critics have questioned the appropriateness of a white director making a film about slavery, but that’s precisely the point of Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung. Tarantino has claimed that his great-grandfather was a Confederate general, which suggests that in making this film he was following in the footsteps of two generations of Germans and confronting ancestral evil.

The German reviews of Django whose headlines asked: ‘Dare we compare American slavery to the Holocaust?’ generally answered ‘No.’ In an inimitable blend of pedantry and cynicism, they explained the differences between slaveholding, which had an economic purpose, and the Holocaust, which had none. They then concluded that Tarantino had used the word provocatively to promote his film. As several commentators pointed out, the deliberately inflammatory use of the word ‘Holocaust’ is music to the ears of right-wing groups and should therefore be avoided at all costs. These reviews might show the wisdom of Tzvetan Todorov’s remark that Germans should talk about the particularity of the Holocaust, the Jews about its universality (applying Kant’s idea that if everybody worried about their own virtue and their neighbour’s happiness instead of the opposite, we would come close to a moral world).

But I am a little surprised that the American discussion of the film has focused more on counting the number of times the word ‘nigger’ is used than on the questions Django Unchained was meant to raise. Were Americans guilty of crimes that were as evil as those of the Nazis — and if so, what should we do about it today?

In a long attack on Django Unchained, the historian Adolph Reed argues that it represents ‘the generic story of individual triumph over adversity… neoliberalism’s version of an ideal of social justice’. While I applaud Reed’s attempt to call our attention to the pervasiveness of neoliberal ideology, I’m appalled by the idea that attending to individual stories is an invalid historical approach. The insistence that every human being has his or her own story is a statement about human freedom that is lost when we assume that ‘real’ history is only a matter of political economy and social relations.

After we’ve confronted the depths to which our history sank, we can — and we must — idealise those who moved it forwards. Tarantino’s heroes are as delightful as they are unbelievable; interestingly enough, his strength lies in depicting villains. Inglourious Basterds features two Nazis who are appealing, and very differently so. This is as it should be, if we are ever to understand how all kinds of ordinary, and even appealing, people commit murder, whether in Majdanek or in Mississippi. But it is equally crucial that we get our heroes right, too. Heroes close the gap between the ought and the is. They show us that it is not only possible to use our freedom to stand against injustice, but that some people have actually done so.

Yet, without some cultural experience of the violence that was a part of building this country, we risk the sort of liberal triumphalist narrative we would deplore if used elsewhere. There is much to be said for the American tendency to accentuate the positive. Rather than looking at the history of Jim Crow, we turn Martin Luther King’s birthday into a national holiday and put his statue on the Mall. Yet we would be disturbed by a German lesson plan that mentioned the Holocaust as a terrible thing, and then went on too quickly to described those heroes — Willy Brandt, Sophie Scholl, Claus von Stauffenberg — who opposed it. With far too few exceptions, America’s history of freedom-fighting — from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall — is doing just that. It works for inaugural speeches, so long as you emphasise, as President Obama did, that we as a nation are on a journey in which there’s still a long way to go. Meanwhile, Tarantino’s approach is an antidote to triumphalism that’s all the more effective for being a roaring good film.

Read more essays on ethics, film & television and history


  • Archies_Boy

    Oppression — including slavery — comes in all varieties, to be seen in all cultures in all ages worldwide throughout history. The one common factor is aggression by one group against another. I don't know whether it's even valid to make a comparison between the histories of the Holocaust in Germany to slavery in the U.S. The only really obvious difference that I can see is, that Germany has taken to heart Santayana's warning that those who forget their history are condemned to relive it, and the United States has not. Shame on us. Apparently when it comes to the calamities and consequences obtaining from human cruelty, Americans are appallingly slow learners.

    • thenewamerican

      Indeed. The comparison is a bit stretched, but the discussion pointers quite valid. Unlike other cultures which were once complicit in their acts in slavery, America didn't stop it at slavery and went on; jumping from one geolocation to another, under the pretext of protecting not just their own people, but even worst, claiming to protect the global population.

      • Anthony

        It should be colonizing some of the solar bodies just to avoid the recurring themes most if not all major power has done.

  • rameshraghuvanshi

    White Americans imposed permanent slave mentality on black Africans from generation to generation they are behaving as white man`s nigger today also, on the contrary Nazi burned Jews only once. .I think most horrible misdeed done by White Americans than Nazi on helpless people

  • thenewamerican

    America today is Huxley's Brave New World in action. I haven't seen a group of people so ignorant of the system and their moral responsibility in the system's ill doings in the rest of the world. Their own comfort and whims alone are worth any effort, most of which the system does it for them.

    • Renzo Bruni


      I was put off by the author's apparent acceptance of America's skill at looking to the future instead of the past. We have the problems we have now because of the problems we had before, and because we ignored their roots and fruits.

      If you don't know who you are, America, how can you get better?

      • Ausfaller

        Did we read the same article? It sure seemed to me like the whole point of it was that America needs to look more at its past and not just focus on the future.

  • StudentofHistory

    You're right - let us also make Belgium impose a permanent domestic sense of guilt for King Leopold in the Congo, Pax Britannica and France for their carving up of the Arab world for energy and trade markets, the Mongols for their near millenium of brutality, the Persians for their conquership, the Romans for their slaves, the Spanish for their brutality in Central America and the Caribbean, the Portugese... the Russians for their underreported extermination of more Jews in Ukraine than Germany, the Japanese for Nanking, the Turks for Armenia, the countries that span the Kurds, France for Charlemagne and why not the Greeks for good measure

    Here's a list to start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_events_named_massacres

    • andacar

      Don't forget about the way the Incas and Mayans enslaved and butchered millions to appease their gods. Their temples literally were covered with blood. Should we talk about the genocide that occurred in ancient Japan and China? The Mongols? The evident way the Cro-Magnons exterminated the Neanderthals? Maybe we should demand that the asteroid belt own up for destroying the dinosaurs. It was all way before Europeans ever showed up.

      Am I saying that we should just “get on with it?” Of course not. American slavery was the worst and most hypocritical blot on the country’s history, and there are millions to this day in the Deep South that would like nothing better than to be whuppin’ slaves. But what do you want modern generations to do that they haven’t done? Go look at all the memorials, museums, documentaries, books, on the subject of the horrors of slavery.
      When does it end?

      • drbopperthp


      • tesmith47

        when american society makes a proper amends. If i run you over and disable you on purpose, would you or the courts settle for a "sorry about that!"?

      • Aporia27

        The US has never apologized for slavery or offered reparations. Germany has for the Holocaust, so those things might be a start.

        • andacar

          First of all, you are dead wrong about apologies. The House of Representatives issued a formal apology for slavery on July 29th, 2008. The Senate did the same on June 18th, 2009. Feel free to look them up.

          Second, even if reparations did make it through the government, who would they go to? And after all this time, what would be the point? Doesn’t it make more sense for the US to continue to try to become a better country, learning from that mistake?

          • anna888

            Apology for slavery only in 2008? LOL That is a problem, isn't it? How about apology about apologizing so late?

            And what would be a point of reparations? Having done something morally decent, acknowledging that slavery was an evil our ancestors committed and showing that we want to separate ourselves from that evil and we want to help people who are still affected by that evil.

            But don't forget about the ethnic cleansing of the Native Americans - they also need apology and reparations.

            If you read about psychology of guilt, you can quickly discover that apology and reparations would make this country better. Actually, in this very issue of Aeon there is an article about American soldiers coming home from wars and how their guilt destroys their civilian lives. And the way they find help: admissions of their guilt and reparations. Very interesting how those two articles touch on the same issue.

          • andacar

            Once again we go back to my original point; how far back do you want to go? Suppose I did some digging and found that an ancestor of yours killed an ancestor of mine in the Battle of Hastings. Or that a tribe you are distantly related to invaded and massacred a tribe I'm distantly related to in the stone age. Do you owe me an apology? Nobody with any sense is saying we should just sweep these past crimes under the rug. And they haven't been, as more inclusive textbooks, memorials, Federal money to tribal governments, special status for natives on taxes, unemployment and insurance benefits, and a lot of other things will show you. Somewhere the hurt has to stop or it just never goes away. I know from personal experience.

            You are referring to soldiers who are still alive, and you're right, that is a good thing. But the soldiers who killed the Native Americans are long dead. The grandchildren of the slave owners are long dead. The politicians who should have apologized a long time ago are dead.

            One of the reasons ancient tribal courts were created was to arbitrate clan feuds that otherwise would go on for generation after generation, killing because somebody else got killed a hundred years ago, or a thousand.

      • Brad

        I'm a native and resident of the South and I don't know even one Southerner who "would like nothing better than to be whuppin' slaves." What an ignorant statement! Moreover, many poor whites in the antebellum period had worse lives than slaves who were valuable property and thus better taken care of. The South was a region of limited resources. Who now gives a damn about the poor whites?

        • Amercan111

          The interesting thing that most people don't realize about the Civil War is that it was not about abolishing slavery--it was about the North stealing the wealth from the South. Lincoln himself had some derogatory statements about Blacks. Just saying...

    • tesmith47

      come on white guy, you know you are being disingenuous, you know white western socities are responsible for most of the problems in the world right now and especially for africa and african americans. you people wont even give an apology to africans , but you demanded that hati pay repatriations to france for 100 years, and germany to jews, you gave half of washington d.c. to slave holders as compensation for the loss of their slaves when slavery was outlawed in washington d.c.
      no one wants you to feel guilty , , people want you to do something to compensate for 300 years of abuse

      • Joseph Lammers

        Are you being serious or satirical in your statement "you know white western socities are responsible for most of the problems in the world right now"? If serious, it is a dubious proposition at best. You would also have to admit, if honest, that without Western Civilization we'd be living in a pre-industrial society at best.

    • Aporia27

      This is a silly slippery slope argument. Charlemagne or Genghis Khan's reigns have no discernible influence on the state of Europe today, but slavery still influences race relations in America today. Blacks are still discriminated against, and are centuries behind some American whites in the accumulation of wealth and property. But yes, many of the things you list should be addressed. An apology and reparations would be a good start: Germany did as much for the Holocaust. Only someone who doesn't appreciate the size and brutality of slavery could easily dismiss such moves.

    • Brad

      And don't forget about the continuing extermination of Palestinians by Israeli Jews.

  • Classic Sparkle

    I don't think the author knows anything about slavery. It is obvious Susan has never read a single book about the subject.

    What a load of utterly conventional crap about how evil all white folks are and how we need to shoe gaze for all eternity. I'm not guilty of anything. There is nothing to feel guilty for. Life is war. Grow up please. I expect more from Aeon than kindergarten morality.

    It is the one left wing rag I can stand but not for long if they keep turning out this crap.

    • Ausfaller

      "What a load of utterly conventional crap about how evil all white folks
      are and how we need to shoe gaze for all eternity. I'm not guilty of

      It's interesting how thin-skinned some folks are about any discussion of the past and its consequences. If you don't feel that you're guilty of anything, why does this subject make you so angry? I don't think I'm "guilty" for slavery either, but I recognize that my status in contemporary America, relative to the status of other people, has a lot to do with events that happened in the past, including slavery. To pretend that isn't so is to choose to be ignorant of cause and effect.

    • Steph

      Dick. "Life is war. Grow up". What a piece of ironically juvenile and facile crap.

    • Guest


  • Australian Citizen

    And when is Tarantino coming to Australia to make a film about the intentional genocide of the Aboriginal Nations that most Australians still do not even know happened?

  • Caspar Henderson

    Not to be neglected in the archive of U.S. evils: the Vietnam War. The “Tragedy of Vietnam” was not that the U.S. “lost its way”... but that the war itself was a series of criminal acts https://lareviewofbooks.org/review/a-nation-unhinged-the-grim-realities-of-the-real-american-war

  • Antiehypocrite

    So what has changed? We outsource our well-paid jobs to countries where workers will work for a dollar a day and a bowl of rice. This article details exactly who modern day corporations are doing the EXACT same things that slavers of old did.

    And do we care? Nope - we rejoice because we can buy a broom at Walmart for 5 bucks instead of 20.

    So I would argue the situation is worse - we are complicit.


  • Eva Schweitzer

    What America really needs to do is own up to its legacy of genocide against the Native Americans. That has not happened at all. Up to 20 million people have been driven from their homeland and mostly killed, with the help of the U.S. Army, and the survivors are still the poorest people in the U.S. with a living standard below a Third World country. However, since they live in reservations far away, they are forgotten. A lot of Americans pretend that they sort of dropped dead by themselves. However, it was the extermination policy of Andrew Jackson against the Cherokee and Ulysses S. Grant against the Sioux, when the railroads were built, fully endorsed by the population. The were the Apache wars and the expulsion of the Comanche from Texas. California had laws on the book granting everybody $50 who killed a Native American. However, while slavery is at least known, this is still under wraps.

    • Recover_Indias_wealth

      >still the poorest people in the U.S. with a living standard below a Third World country.

      Most of the Third World countries were occupied, looted, enslaved and terrorised, by the so-called First World countries.
      People in those countries would not have been so poor, if they were not looted by the currently rich countries

      • cslos77

        Utter nonsense: most were poorer before Europeans arrived (mass swaths of India had not even entered the Iron Age by the time the Europeans came). And the older civilizations (like the richer parts India) had amassed their wealth in much the same manner: conquering, plundering and exploiting the poor around them.

        There are no guiltless and yet successful peoples on this planet; the first world cultures that you denigrate, however, are the first that have produced any meaningful answer to the major injustices of the world (like slavery.) There are some place that would still be burning widows on the pyres of their deceased husbands if not for outside influences...

    • Doug Doakes

      "When it comes to control of territory virtually every square inch of inhabited space on the planet is occupied by groups that forcibly dispossessed—sometimes exterminated—the land's previous
      claimants." So what else is new?

  • illywhacker

    Outstanding essay. Thank you.

  • Larry

    What a GARBAGE of an article. This has to be the biggest piece of trash ever published on this otherwise EXCELLENT site.

    Dear Editors, you really dropped the ball with this one. By Publishing Ms Neiman's crap, you've degraded your own brand.

    • Ausfaller

      Do you have any substantive criticism?

    • tesmith47

      i just knew some black guy would say this LOL

  • tom hoffman

    North America was under European( French, English[ not British because Britain didn't exist yet] and Spanish control for three hundred years before there was a USA. In those years, under European domination, the native population was reduced by as much as 95%. Deaths were mainly due to infectious diseases that native peoples had not come in contact with and had no immunity. EUROPEANS did it. If you really want to get into horrific genocide against Western Hemisphere aboriginals, just look at what Spain did From Mexico to Peru.

    It's amazing how many times I've had Europeans lecture me about American slavery, as if it was invented by the USA. Most Americans are even shocked when they know the actual facts about the Atlantic Slave Trade. Less than 4% of the slaves went to what is now the territory of the USA. Spain and Portugal were the biggest slave traders and the most African slaves by far went to Brazil. Islands in the Caribbean had more slaves then the entire English colonies in North America. Cuba had more, Haiti had more. But, because Americans make movies about it and self-flagellate themselves endlessly about it, the rest of the world has welcomed a narrative that simply isn't the truth.

    No, it is Europeans that must own up to their horrible legacy.

    • Doug Doakes

      Yes, and Jews were VERY prominent in the slave-trade in both North and South America.

      • lewlorton

        I think the discussion could be about ice cream and some moron would hang around to find a way to bring the evils of the World-Wide Jewish Conspiracy into it.

        • Doug Doakes

          Typically evasive response.

          • andacar

            Evasive? At least I can see what lewlorton has said previously on this and other subjects. What about you, "guest?"

    • OneSharpMama

      Europeans may have invented racially based slavery, but the Americans perfected it. Slavery went on for another 95 or so years after the American revolution.

      • Joseph Lammers

        Slavery existed in virtually all ancient societies of any note, and continued well into early modern times. The fact that it became "racially based" in the United States was due more to historical accident than any conscious design.

    • Aporia27

      Not one OR the other, but BOTH should atone.

  • fred lapides

    Though most of mhy friends and all of mhy family--me excepted--loves Washington, I think of it as consisting of three things:
    1. memorials to the wars we have fought--will we have enough space at the rate we are going?
    2. Federal buildings that are monstrosities to look at

    3. Museums we open up after we have screwed over this or that group--Blacks, the Holocaust, American Indians etc.

    • Doug Doakes

      Since when did the U.S. "screw over" the Jews to warrant a Holocaust Museum on the Mall? No country in the world has ever been more receptive to the Jews than the U.S.

      • Renzo Bruni

        One need only prove one exception to the rule to disprove the rule: Israel.

  • W. Haas

    I have just finished reading your thoughtful article about the Holocaust
    and the lack of "forgiveness" and understanding of American slavery. My family
    and I managed to leave Nazi Germany the day before Kristallnacht (I have
    attached a school picture- a few weeks after that picture was taken many of
    these classmates chased me down the street because I was Jewish and had to be
    withdrawn from that school. Anti-Semitism in its most virulent form was the seed
    of the Holocaust. But even as future generations have stowed away the guilt of
    their forefathers like old used baggage in an attic, the root cause-
    anti-Semitism- remains strong, if better hidden in a "Christian" Germany. Part
    of the damage done to African slaves was that their customs and traditions were
    erased, multitude being dragged inbto some form of Christianity which might
    render them more "civilized." No matter how many German Jews surrendered their
    religion, convert to Christianity in order to survive- they were never accepted
    as "true believers in Christ." Negroes in the US were stigmatized by their
    racial (and assumed intellectual) inferiority, while much of the hatred of
    German Jews was due to their financial, commercial and literate success: US
    Negroes doomed to be "used", German Jews to be exterminated. I have revisited
    Germany a few times (mostly for business reasons) and have found the antagonism,
    if not quite so blatant, still pervasive

    Werner Haas

    West Hollywood CA US

    • Inane Rambler

      You do know that Jews weren't the only victims of the Nazi death machine, right?

      Why do I only hear about the 6 million Jews and not the 20 million Slavs?

    • WeAreTheWorld

      "(and assumed intellectual) inferiority"

      I won't give you the numbers here - but you have a shock in store for you -- google any government statistics on IQ testing and other indicators and see what you see. You can't change reality by wishing it away.

  • Souris Optique

    Are we supposed to somehow think better of you, because you were just too culturally ignorant and stuck up to watch a Tarantino movie for yourself and instead relied on the insults of others to form your opinion? Perhaps the rest of your article was less insipid and self-serving, but couldn't bring myself to read it.

    • Renzo Bruni

      Ignorance is always an option, dear Mouse.

  • Jim

    Since America was founded on land stolen from the indigenous native peoples, I think you're missing the forest for the trees. The whole thing is a crime, and has been for centuries. Blame the Limey, blame the Dutch, blame whoever. "America" is stolen land, and the crimes committed after that pale in comparison to the genocide of the native peoples.

    • Inane Rambler

      Start by deporting yourself to Europe.

    • Renzo Bruni

      The forest is hard to see, so dark is it.

      Slavery is not "pale in comparison" to the genocide of the First Nations in North America. Rather let us agree that the roots of the horror were that land was stolen from its historical inhabitants and infrastructure built by slaves.

  • nydwracu

    The planned expulsion of over twelve million Germans from Eastern Europe was actually nothing more than scared Nazis running from the Reds? If you're going to talk historical guilt, don't try to cover up for the largest ethnic cleansing in modern European history.

  • Doug Doakes

    Enough of the guilt trip. We live in the present which includes abominable crimes by the Israelis against the dispossessed Palestinians. The Nazis first opposed the Jewish Communists in Germany. The U.S. had nothing to do with that. Yet, there is the Holocaust Museum on our National Mall which was meant to celebrate American accomplishments. Slavery was an international institution and no more insensitive in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world. And Tarantino is a first-class a$$hole whose mendacity and money-grubbing know no bounds.

  • Roy Niles

    I was going to comment that my great grandfather was a Northern General in the Civil War and specifically stated early on that his purpose was to free the Southern slaves. Except that he was also a Scots immigrant living on land stolen from the American Indians. And I myself live on land stolen from Polynesians, that were inadvertently killed off by our introduction of measles. So I decided not to comment, or at least not do so in any meaningful way.

    • OneSharpMama

      I thank you immensely for your self awarness.

    • WeOldSchool

      Please grow a pair and do some non-biased reading. Indian tribes killed each other over land and enslaved many of their enemies. Would you rather that America didn't exist?

      • Roy Niles

        That's one of the dumbest comments ever made on any subject. A non sequitur unparalleled. Tribes all over the world killed each other and enslaved their enemies. And yes I'd rather have had an America without slaves, and without reservations, but apparently the non-biased reader has no bias against dividing and conquering at all.

  • NancyV-S

    This article raises interesting questions about American Vergangenheitsbewältigung, but for me it has a major flaw. I experienced the beginning of the process that West Germany went through to begin the examination of its Nazi past. But the first people to do this were the sons and daughters of Nazis, Nazi collaborators, etc. It was painful to watch. But in 2013 we white Americans are many generations removed from the Trail of Tears and the years of slavery. It's not as if this is our immediate past. It's not as if we are in direct conflict with an older group that perpetrated these atrocities. As a result, the process by definition is more distant, less emotional, less traumatic, and therefore, more intellectual. Moreover, If we look at the the reconciliation process in South Africa -- with many more parallels to our own racist past -- it has proceeded in a very different way than in Germany. Instead of asking Americans for the same type of Vergangenheitsbewältigung that the Germans have gone through and are going through, we need to find ways that resolve the inequities that continue to plague our society as a result of our past. I believe that some of these include continuing affirmative action and really improving the lives of American Indians.

  • Cristian Marcu

    The Eastern Europe (except Poland and Czech Republic) is still under the Boots of Russia ! The consequences of Communism are devastating, instead of democracy we have autocracy... Nuremberg trial for criminal communists is a must !!!

  • Andre Moreson

    Violence begets violence.

    This article - to some degree - seems to discuss the cathartic process that Germany has gone through as opposed to the lack of self-confrontation and therefore honesty that is so characteristic of USA (current Imperial power), Europe (yesterdays colonial powers) and Australia.

    Perhaps, if these countries started to be honest about their respective past that share genocidal and other colonial atrocities, then the respective governments and populace will see what they are currently doing in Iraq, Afganistan, South America, Guantanamo Bay, etc, etc.

    Be it an individual, a nation state or a Western Civilisation bias, we need to be be able to see our history and dark side clearly in order to inform the (im)morality of our reasons - our justifications - of current transgressions.

    And the transgressions are on-going!

    • WeAreTheOnes

      Yes, the transgressions are on-going -- look at what happens in many African countries today -- the baby raping, the war on women, sex trafficking, tribal wars, the wholesale slaughter of elephants and other wildlife. etc.-- shocking, isn't it?

  • cslos77

    You are completely neglecting the fact that Germany had to be conquered by an outside force to overcome Nazism while the U.S. was able to produce an internal answer to slavery from its own intellectual / moral being. The Germans must constantly remind themselves of the past because they were not responsible for delivering themselves from it. The U.S. conscience will never suffer from the same kind of guilt from slavery due to the fact that it was their own institutions and citizens that overcame it.

    Also, the U.S. was founded as a series of disparate colonies all with their own agendas and visions; they were never united behind slavery the same way Germany was united behind the Nazis, nor do they have the same kind of historical build up to it. As you point out, neither West nor east Germans can make any meaningful claim of innocence whereas a northern U.S. citizen may (at least more believably) claim that "it wasn't them".

    I'm not excusing or attempting to dilute the horrible phenomenon of slavery (particularly the U.S. brand) but offering an explanation as to why the U.S. public conscience is not doomed to the same never-ending and ever present moral guilt as that of the German.

    • it me

      this is the most pretentious, jingoistic shit i've read in a while.

      • cslos77

        Prof use a new big, smart sounding word in class the other day? Thought you'd slip in a comment? (Hint: make sure actually know what big words mean before you use them)

  • Bridges_Soc

    Is this article a joke?! We have paid penance for slavery for the past 150 years and you fools still won't let up!!! Do you know how many Presidents have given formal apologies for our slavery past? You guys wouldn't learn a D***m thing about history if your got a PhD on it!

  • aliena

    The Nazis rose to power during the first years of the thirties, when the economy was actually experiencing deflation.
    Please check your facts.

    Meme-evaporating of the day: the Nazis could rise to power because of high unemployment, not because of high inflation


  • shadow5d

    Has anyone actually studied the world history of slavery? While the United States was one of the last major nations to renounce slavery, they were not the last, nor did they trail the leaders by much, in the greater scheme of things. France abolished slavery in 1794 (?) but Napoleon re-introduced it in 1802, only to have it finally abolished in 1848, 25 years before Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Portugal in 1869, the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) in 1889. When you take slavery in context, the US has little more to apologize for than many other nations. Oh, by the way, the last nation to abolish slavery? Mauritania, in 1982. Iran abolished it in 1928, Saudi Arabia in 1962.

  • WeNewSchool

    Let's also impose a sense of guilt on the Arabs and native Africans for instigating, participating in and profiting by the slave trade. There would have been NO slave trade without African tribes capturing and delivering their fellow Africans to the slave ships.

    Let's face it -- all societies at all times commit atrocities -- but only in the US did white men go to war to end slavery. Slaves were owned by very few people in the US.

    And, as awful as it was -- from 1882 to 1968 -- 3,345 blacks and 1,297 whites were lynched. (Oprah Winfrey recently said that "millions" of blacks were lynched.)

    • Aporia27

      Do you really think that anything you wrote lets America off the hook? Do you have any idea how brutal slavery was? I suggest you educate yourself. Slavery is no small stain on America. Slaves were subject to physical and psychological torture, including brutal beatings, rape, being worked in the heat til they passed out or even died, being separated from family, being forced to feed from troughs like pigs. Don't underestimate the scale of this American shame.

  • Mayan012

    This a very insightful essay and these are issues I have long struggled with. My ancestors arrived in North America in the mid-17th century. As far as I can tell they never owned slaves, but did their share of moving the local Native Americans off their lands. However, the current guilt is neither personal nor familiar, but national. The holocausts against the Native and African Americans are so central to the foundation and development of this nation that they cannot be dismissed; not to mention the fact that neither ethnic group has yet to be fully absorbed as equal members of American society. While the treatment of African Americans may differ in some degree to the holocausts of the Nazi regime, our work with Native Americans is basically the same. While we flatter ourselves by taking the moral high ground in world affairs, we can never be truly effective unless we face our own past Crimes Against Humanity and actively seek to sin no more.


    Holocaust is when you and all of your kind are hunted down and killed down to the last one. Holocaust is when you are the target, you have about one-in-a-hundred chance of getting out of it alive (Polish Jews in Poland, for example). Holocaust is when your enslavement ends only in your death.


    Holocaust is when you and all of your kind are hunted down and killed. Holocaust is when you are the target, you have about one-in-a-hundred chance of getting out of it alive (Polish Jews in Poland, for example). Holocaust is when your enslavement ends only in your death.

  • Angus Brownfield

    Having read a score of comments from those below, I'm struck by the lack of critical reading by the majority. If anyone expected an author to deal with the complexities of comparing the Holocaust and Slavery and the stealing of America from the indigenous peoples in fewer than 5000 words, you need to remember the piece was about the Tarantino movie and not a piece of definitive historiography. Lay off Ms. Neiman.

  • Jim Harrison

    There is a huge difference between slavery and the Holocaust; there aren't monuments to the heroes of Nazism in every German city like the statues of Lee and Jackson one encounters throughout the South. So far as I know, not ever a single state of the old Confederacy has every issued a formal apology to the nation for their treason in an evil cause. The Nazis lost: America's slavers merely suffered a setback. Which is why their descendants exercise huge political power to this day. There can be no statute of limitations on continuing crimes.

  • George T. Karnezis

    I appreciate the depth and range of this piece; though I have not seen Tarantino's films and so can't judge what Nieman has to say about them, I have seen the film version of THE READER which I found largely shallow.

    The question Nieman raises here seems to me an educational one: what are the appropriate ways of conveying the evil that inhabits American history, ways that will stick and make a difference?

    I haven't an answer. But here's a story.

    At a party I fell into conversation with someone who'd just moved to our city, and we got to talking about her children's experience in school. She assured me she'd moved from a largely liberal community in California, but she had to say that she was quite dismayed at the guilt trip that the social studies teachers repeatedly inflicted on her children, Year after year, she said, they were reminded of the darker side of American history, so much so that their pessimism about human beings was growing into a deeper cynicism and sense of shame. Clearly what's needed is something more than such repeated self flagellation which, I suspect, finally arouses nothing but boredom in the young. Clearly these teachers, or the curriculum, needs to find ways for the young to be educated properly into a sense of the monstrous that does not leave them yawning or despairing.

  • onagarf

    I teach in the department which awarded Adolph Reed his doctorate. In political science, not history.

  • Laboy

    While traveling in Germany this month we learned about the "Collective guilt and shame" of the new generation of Germans. This is causing a massive display of apologies in museums and memorials across Germany because of "what this land" did to the World during WWII....They also issued a summary on how Hitler gained control and caused this tragedy....But what is very disturbing is that our USA fellow citizens don't know that the extremist republicans are using the same rhetoric and propaganda Hitler used to brain wash Germany into causing one of the worse tragedies of the last century.....Hitler called un Germans to those who opposed him, he inflamed the masses calling to "take the Country back" , he drove a wedge between Jews and other Germans by calling them takers of the wealth...He despised gays, immigrants and other ethnicity's, he mocked and humiliated his opponents instead of having an intelligent discussion, he labeled them as socialist although they were only intellectuals..He created a propaganda machine to escalate anger and a false patriotism to intentionally lie to achieve his objectives....They systematically escalated the rhetoric to turn regular people into hateful sadistic psychopaths.... It is significantly disturbing the similarity of Hitler's tactics to the tea Party, Fox news, Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Pallin and Glen Beck.....And to make things worse, the Right wing so called patriots are brainwashed by Fox news as dictated by their Australian owner Rupert Murdoch who is using a bunch of idiots as his puppets to drive a wedge in this Country....Wake up USA....go to Germany and read the walls of the museums and memorials....The similarity of the Right wing tactics to the Nazis are deeply disturbing.........Do your home work and start your research....It is too important for this Country....

  • Brad

    Note the following statements by the author:

    "the distinguished African-American film director Spike Lee"; "gun-dealing —
    arguably the lowest form of human occupation"; America’s history
    of freedom-fighting — from Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall"; Harry S Truman’s administration was far more interested in undermining the
    Soviet Union than in rooting out former Nazis. . . .."

    What a biased jerk!

  • Amercan111

    How about we all just acknowledge, learn from past atrocities and STOP REPEATING THEM. The UN is a JOKE. Who has killed more than 60 million people in the 21st century??? WORLD GOVERNMENTS. Sad to say the USA turns a blind eye to torture, murder even today. Wake up, it's all lip service. I won't even go into how Israel violates UN charters repeatedly.

  • http://www.colorszine.com Tirzah Libert

    Do they/we know about Namibia's Holocaust when it was a German colony? http://bit.ly/1EznTEC

  • Helene Lewis

    Goodness - when are people going to look at facts! The biggest slave traders were the Portugese (more than 4million slaves) NEXT BRITAIN (over 3million skaves) - North America received about 300 000 slaves and SOUTH AMERICA millions! And what about the Arabs and Africans who caught and sold their own people into slavery? I'm not an American - I'm an African. YES OWE UP TO SLAVERY, WHEREVER BUT FOR HEAVENS SAKE BE CONSISTENT - WHY DON'T YOU LOOK AT SOUTH AMERICA AND BRITAIN?