Letter: The Holocaust: neither blame young Germans nor allow them to forget it

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The Independent Online
Sir: Over the past 12 months I have made a number of visits to Germany, and happened to be there during the week that a Turkish mother and her two young children lost their lives as a result of a neo-fascist fire-bombing in Moln, near Lubeck, in northern Germany. It was heartening to see hundreds of schoolchildren streaming through Lubeck in protest at this vile murder the following day. Thomas Mann, born in Lubeck, would have approved.

As a Jew of partly mixed German-Jewish and German ancestry, I cannot think of anything more important than to retain the consciousness of what happened to European Jewry between 1933 and 1945. The younger German generation is striving to do exactly that, and it should not be faulted. It is sad to see Michael Graham engage in just such an exercise (letter, 7 March).

Mr Graham agonises about the pain a German is made to feel about 'something' that happened more than 50 years ago. I, for one, do not blame the present generation of Germans, including Germans of my own generation (I am in my fifties) for the terrible events which occurred on European soil 50 years ago. But if the entire German people, past and present, is not collectively guilty of what happened at Auschwitz and elsewhere - and that is an absurd charge to make - it is certainly true that German history, particularly, and European civilisation, generally, must bear this awful stain until the end of time.

Europeans cannot lay claim to the glories of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Dante and Shakespeare but shake off the memory of the charnel house in which 70 per cent of European Jewish life and culture was extinguished. This was a culture that gave us Rashi, Maimonides, Mahler and Kafka, among many others, and a vibrant human community.

As for the events in Hebron, which I utterly, unequivocally and vehemently condemn and which are a total repudiation of Jewish values, Mr Graham must surely be aware that the Jewish presence in Hebron is not only a consequence of the millennial Jewish link with the place where the Patriarchs are buried, but also because of that 'something' which took place in Europe some 50 years ago, and which Oskar Schindler, in his own way, faced up to.

Yours sincerely,

JOHN NORMAN

London, W3

7 March

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