The US is deporting a Tennessee man who was an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

The US is deporting a Tennessee man who was an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp

The former concentration camp near Neuengamme in northern Germany is seen during the May 3, 2018, commemoration of the 73rd anniversary of its liberation.

(CNN)A US immigration judge has ordered a Tennessee resident, who served as an armed guard at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II, be deported to Germany.

Judge Rebecca L. Holt determined after a two-day trial that Friedrich Karl Berger’s “willing service as an armed guard of prisoners at a concentration camp where persecution took place constituted assistance in Nazi-sponsored persecution,” the Justice Department said in a statement Thursday.
Holt found Berger eligible for removable under the 1978 Holtzman Amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Berger, who is a German citizen, worked at a Neuengamme sub-camp near Meppen, Germany, in 1945, where prisoners included “Jews, Poles, Russians, Danes, Dutch, Latvians, French, Italians and political opponents” of the Nazis.
Prisoners were held in “atrocious conditions and were exploited for outdoor forced labor, working to the point of exhaustion and death,” Holt and the court found.
The judge also found, and Berger admitted, that he “guarded prisoners to prevent them from escaping during their dawn-to-dusk workday, and on their way to the work sites and also on their way back to the subcamp in the evening,” according to the Justice Department.
In the opinion finding, Holt also cited Berger’s role in a March 1945 evacuation to the Neuengamme main camp. After the Nazis abandoned Meppen, Berger “helped guard the prisoners” in “a nearly two-week trip under inhumane conditions, which claimed the lives of some 70 prisoners.”
Berger also “never requested a transfer from concentration camp guard service” and continues to receive a German pension that includes “his wartime service,” the Justice Department said in its statement.
“The United States will not serve as a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals,” David C. Shaw, who oversees war crime cases of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who oversees the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center, said in a statement. “We will continue to pursue these types of cases so that justice may be served.”
Berger, now 94, told the Washington Post that he was ordered to work in the camp for a short time and did not carry a weapon.
“After 75 years, this is ridiculous,” he told the newspaper in a recent phone interview. “I cannot understand how this can happen in a country like this. You’re forcing me out of my home.”
Berger’s attorney Hugh Ward did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment.
However, Ward told local news station WBIR, that he is “reviewing the judge’s ruling and considering appealing.”

Vandals in Berlin dig up grave of Reinhard Heydrich, who helped plan Holocaust

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Vandals in Berlin dig up grave of Reinhard Heydrich, who helped plan Holocaust

German police say it appears nothing was removed from burial site of Nazi Gestapo head, who hosted Wannsee Conference and was regarded as cruel even within the Third Reich

The grave of Reinhard Heydrich, powerful head of Hitler's Reich Security Office during World War II, in Berlin on December 16, 2019.  (Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

The grave of Reinhard Heydrich, powerful head of Hitler’s Reich Security Office during World War II, in Berlin on December 16, 2019. (Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

BERLIN — The grave of a top Nazi who helped plan the Holocaust and was assassinated by British-trained agents during World War II has been dug up in Berlin, German police said on Monday.

The grave of Reinhard Heydrich was “dug up in the night between Wednesday and Thursday” and an investigation has been opened on charges of disturbing a burial site, a police spokeswoman told AFP.

German media said it appeared nothing was removed.

Heydrich was the powerful head of Hitler’s Reich Security Office, which included the Gestapo.

Less well known than other Nazi leaders, he was nevertheless highly influential and was marked out for his cruelty even within the Third Reich elite.

The grave of Reinhard Heydrich, powerful head of Hitler’s Reich Security Office during the World War II, is pictured in Berlin on December 16, 2019. (Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

Adolf Hitler admiringly used to refer to him as “the man with the iron heart,” according to the biography “Heydrich: The Face of Evil” by Mario Dederichs.

Heydrich hosted the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942, when leading Nazis discussed the extermination of the Jews in German-occupied Europe.

During the Nazi occupation of what is now the Czech capital, he became known as “the Butcher of Prague.”

His car was attacked with an anti-tank mine in the city on May 27, 1942, by Czechoslovak agents trained by Britain’s secret Special Operations Executive.

Gestapo head Heinrich Muller, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, head of German criminal police Arthur Nebe and chief of state police and Gestapo in Vienna, Franz Joseph Huber, meet in Munich, Germany, in November 1939. (photo credit: German Federal Archives/Wikimedia Commons)

Heydrich died of his injuries a few days later.

His body was brought back to Berlin and buried in the city’s Invalidenfriedhof, a military cemetery.

Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich in an unknown location sometime in 1942. (AP Photo)

During the Cold War, the cemetery became a no-man’s land along the Berlin Wall and his tomb — along with the ones of other top Nazis — was dismantled.

But Heydrich’s remains were never disinterred and the location of the grave was an open secret.

In 2000, a group of anti-fascists said they had opened up the grave of Nazi stormtrooper Horst Wessel in Berlin, taken his skull and thrown it into the Spree River, according to the Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Police at the time said no remains were stolen.

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Germany: Merkel at Auschwitz

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

‘I BOW MY HEAD BEFORE THE VICTIMS OF THE SHOAH’

Merkel at Auschwitz: Remembering Nazi crimes inseparable from German identity

Making her first visit to Nazi death camp as chancellor, German leader speaks of ‘deep shame’ and vows fight against anti-Semitism and all hatred is priority for her government

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, from left, visit the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on Friday, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Merkel attend an event in occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Auschwitz Foundation. (Photo/Markus Schreiber via AP)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, from left, visit the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on Friday, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Merkel attend an event in occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Auschwitz Foundation. (Photo/Markus Schreiber via AP)

OSWIECIM, Poland (AFP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday said acknowledging Nazi crimes was part of Germany’s national identity in a message aimed at far-right calls for a shift away from a culture of remembrance.

Merkel crossed the gates of the former Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland on Friday for the first time in her 14 years as chancellor, promising to battle a new wave of anti-Semitism.

Merkel is only the third German chancellor ever to visit the Nazi camp where a million Jews were killed between 1940 and 1945 and which has come to symbolize the Holocaust as a whole.

Members of the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party have said there should be less apology for Germany’s Nazi past and other periods of its history should be celebrated instead.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel walks in front of the main railway entrance to Birkenau as she visits the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on December 6, 2019. (John MacDougall/AFP)

“Nothing can bring back the people who were murdered here. Nothing can reverse the unprecedented crimes committed here. These crimes are and will remain part of German history and this history must be told over and over again,” she said.

“Remembering the crimes… is a responsibility which never ends. It belongs inseparably to our country,” Merkel said.

“To be aware of this responsibility is part of our national identity, our self-understanding as an enlightened and free society, a democracy with rule of law,” she said.

Merkel said Auschwitz “demands that we keep the memory alive”.

She expressed Germany’s enduring “deep shame in the face of the barbaric crimes committed by Germans here” in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where a million Jews lost their lives between 1940 and 1945.

“There are no words to express our sorrow,” she said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel commemorates in front of the death wall during a wreath laying ceremony in the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Germany, Friday, Dec. 6, 2019. Merkel attend an event in occasion of the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Auschwitz Foundation. (Photo/Markus Schreiber via AP)

Addressing Holocaust survivors present, she added: “I bow my head before the victims of the Shoah.”

The chancellor also addressed a rise of anti-Semitic and other hate crimes in Germany in recent years, saying they had reached an “alarming level”.

“To combat anti-Semitism, the history of extermination camps has to be shared, it has to be told,” she said.

Her trip, which comes ahead of the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation by Soviet troops on January 27, is being seen as an important political message.

On the eve of her visit, 65-year-old Merkel said that “the fight against anti-Semitism and against all forms of hate” was a priority for her government.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel lays down a wreath at the death wall in the former Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Germany, December 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

She also hailed a new 60 million euro ($66 million) donation for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation that was approved by Germany’s federal states on Thursday.

Merkel began her visit by walking under the Nazi slogan “Arbeit macht frei” (Work will set you free) that still hangs over the gates of the camp.

She also held a minute’s silence by the Death Wall where thousands of prisoners were shot dead and visit the site of a gas chamber and a crematorium.

The visit “is a particularly important signal of attention and solidarity at a time when Auschwitz survivors are victims of anti-Semitic insults and hate-filled emails,” said Christoph Heubner, deputy chairman of the Auschwitz International Committee.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, right, visit the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland on December 6, 2019 (Markus Schreiber via AP)

Merkel was accompanied during the visit by a survivor of the camp, 87-year-old Bogdan Stanislaw Bartnikowski, as well as Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and Ronald Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, also took part in the visit.

In total, 1.1 million people were killed at Auschwitz-Birkenau, including Jews, non-Jewish Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma and anti-Nazi fighters.

Many were killed the same day they arrived at the camp.

“There is no other place of memory that demonstrates with such precision what happened during the Shoah,” Schuster told AFP ahead of the visit.

‘Break with civilization’

Merkel follows in the footsteps of previous German chancellors Helmut Schmidt, who came in 1977, and Helmut Kohl, who visited in 1989 and 1995.

She has already visited several of the former camps in Germany over many years and has been to Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center five times.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel lays a wreath during a ceremony at the Hall of Remembrance at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem on October 4, 2018 (Oren Ben Hakoon/POOL)

In 2008, she became the first German leader to address the Israeli parliament. In that speech, she spoke of the “shame” that Germans still feel.

Merkel has called the Holocaust a “break with civilization” and has voiced concern about the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany.

People place flowers in front of a synagogue in Halle, Germany, Oct. 10, 2019 (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

Her visit comes two months after an attack aimed at a synagogue in the eastern city of Halle in which two people were killed — part of a growing trend.

Police figures show that anti-Semitic offences rose by almost 10 percent in Germany last year from the previous year to 1,646 — the highest level in a decade.

Germany’s far-right AfD party, some of whose members have been accused of using anti-Semitic rhetoric, has called for a rethink of the way Germany remembers its Nazi past.

Senior AfD lawmaker Bjoern Hoecke has called for a “180-degree shift” in the culture of atonement.

The timing of the visit is also significant because of questions over Merkel’s political future as tensions persist within the governing coalition.

German media reported that she wanted to make the trip ahead of any potential political crisis.

Merkel intends to step down at the end of her mandate in 2021 but there is a chance that the date could be brought forward if her junior coalition partners, the Social Democrats, pull out of the government.

AP contributed to this report

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Israel: The Nazi Secret Lurking Inside Tel Aviv

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

The Nazi secret lurking inside some of Tel Aviv’s most beautiful buildings

Discoveries made in Leibling House, a recently renovated cultural center, reveal the German foundations of much of Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus-inflected 1930s construction

  • German-made Villeroy & Boch tiles uncovered at Beit Leibling, part of the transfer agreement payments made before World War II (Courtesy Yael Schmidt)
    German-made Villeroy & Boch tiles uncovered at Beit Leibling, part of the transfer agreement payments made before World War II (Courtesy Yael Schmidt)
  • From washers to door handles, German-made construction materials were imported to pre-state Palestine as part of transfer agreement payments (Courtesy Yael Schmidt)
    From washers to door handles, German-made construction materials were imported to pre-state Palestine as part of transfer agreement payments (Courtesy Yael Schmidt)
  • German door handles imported to pre-state Palestine as part of transfer agreement payments (Courtesy Liebling Haus/Yael Schmidt)
    German door handles imported to pre-state Palestine as part of transfer agreement payments (Courtesy Liebling Haus/Yael Schmidt)
  • German bathroom fittings imported to pre-state Palestine (Courtesy Liebling Haus/Yael Schmidt)
    German bathroom fittings imported to pre-state Palestine (Courtesy Liebling Haus/Yael Schmidt)

A single sand-colored tile almost fell on Sharon Golan-Yaron in the lobby of 29 Idelson Street a few years ago, while she and a team were busy converting the modernist Tel Aviv apartment building into a cultural center.

“It landed in the palm of my hand,” Golan-Yaron recalls in the book accompanying “Transferumbau: Liebling,” an inaugural exhibition celebrating the Bauhaus building’s recent reopening as the Liebling Haus. “I felt as though it was communicating with me, whispering ‘take me,’ to finally reveal an old, dark secret locked between tile, wall, and builder.”

The terrazzo tile, made in Germany by renowned ceramic manufacturer Villeroy & Boch, had a story to tell and sparked a project uncovering the history of its building and others like it that cropped up in Tel Aviv during the 1930s. What the team of artists who collaborated on Transferumbau ultimately unearthed was an uncomfortable record: during one of its formative decades, Tel Aviv was built upon some considerable Nazi foundations.

The Nazis first began shaping Tel Aviv’s built environment in 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler started his role as chancellor. At the time, they cordoned off the Bauhaus art school in Berlin and gave its administration an ultimatum: it could either change its avant-garde approach, or close. Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, then acting as Bauhaus director, chose the latter. His decision launched the school’s community into a worldwide diaspora, where they spread their alma mater’s love of streamlined minimalism.

Unloading a container at Tel Aviv Port in 1939 (Rudi Weissenstein, https://www.thephotohouse.co.il/)

Over 20 Bauhaus students emigrated from Germany to British Mandatory Palestine, including four architects: Arieh Sharon, Munio Gitai-Weinraub, Shlomo Bernstein and Shmuel Mestiechkin. These Bauhaus alumni planned only a small number of Tel Aviv buildings, but helped mold the design language of the city, which was then experiencing a population and construction boom.

“Modernist architecture became emblematic of a new modern Jewish society, which, uniquely adopted the Bauhaus concept,” notes Claudia Perren, director of the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, in the Transferumbau book.

Of the roughly 4,000 buildings that have earned Tel Aviv its UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site status for an extraordinarily high concentration of modernist architecture, around a quarter were constructed in the 1930s. Compounding Hitler’s influence on this developing Hebrew city was the fact that – as shown at the Liebling Haus – many of these landmark Bauhaus-inspired buildings were built with supplies manufactured in Nazi Germany.

The tale of how German materials like tiles, door handles, window hinges, metal beams, glass panes, drainage pipes, faucets, building blocks, lamps, sockets, and heating systems ended up in Jewish-owned buildings in Palestine is another Tel Aviv chapter that began in 1933, the same year as the Bauhaus’s forced closure.

At the time, German Jews wanted to leave the country but could not liquidate their assets due to foreign currency regulations. The Nazi party, which was eager to both expel Jews and strengthen the German economy, signed a transfer agreement with Zionist organizations to facilitate the departure of Jews from Germany, cash (sort of) in hand.

German bathroom fittings imported to pre-state Palestine (Courtesy Liebling Haus/Yael Schmidt)

The agreement lasted six years and helped German Jews extract a certain amount of their wealth. They could sell their property and deposit funds into specially designated bank accounts, which entitled them to receive British-issued visas to Palestine (that deviated from the normal British quota for Jewish immigrants). Meanwhile, the deposited funds were used to buy German-made construction materials imported to and sold in Palestine. Proceeds from the sale of these goods (minus certain fees and commissions) were then returned to the original Jewish depositors.

“People are shocked about this agreement,” explains Micha Gross, co-founder of Bauhaus Center Tel Aviv, who singles out German materials brought over via the transfer agreement on his center’s walking tours. “I think most of the people today are in favor of it. During the 1930s, the situation was different.”

German door handles imported to pre-state Palestine as part of transfer agreement payments (Courtesy Liebling Haus/Yael Schmidt)

The agreement was controversial for many reasons, one of which was the fact that American Jews were simultaneously promoting a German boycott. While Jews in the United States refused to buy anything from Nazi Germany, the Jewish Agency signed off on purchasing German goods in bulk in an effort to save Jewish lives.

Over 50,000 German Jews came to Palestine through the agreement, boosting the population of the burgeoning Jewish community in Palestine and importing around 150 million Reichsmark.

An interior of Beit Leibling in Tel Aviv (Courtesy Yael Schmidt)

“It’s a complicated story, and that’s why it’s not often told. This is the historical story, these are the archival materials,” says Hila Cohen-Schneiderman, curator of Transferumbau, who has spent three years studying the transfer agreement alongside the artists in the exhibition – Ilit Azoulay, Nir Shauloff, Jonathan Touitou and Lou Moria.

“The goal of the project wasn’t to shake a finger and say, how could you sign an agreement with the Nazis?” Cohen-Schneiderman adds. “The goal was to say, look, this is what happened here, this is how it worked, this was the web of interests that needed to be addressed, and let’s talk about it.”

As the years progressed, the agreement became more elaborate and the rights of German Jewish expatriates deteriorated. Dr. Eitan Burstein, historian emeritus of Bank Leumi (formerly the Anglo-Palestine Bank, which handled the transfer of funds), said that immigrants sometimes received only around 25 percent of the original sum they deposited in Germany.

By 1935, even the Jewish Agency was questioning whether the agreement was beneficial. Eliezer Kaplan, then Jewish Agency treasurer, said, “We must ask ourselves again whether and to what extent we would like to go in this direction.”

The agreement was in effect until the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. Regardless of the Nazis’ intentions for the Jews of Europe, they had already inadvertently helped construct a Jewish metropolis in Tel Aviv.

“I don’t think the Nazis bothered to ask themselves if they were building a future country or not,” says Cohen-Schneiderman. “But it’s very ironic and a twist of fate that ideologies that the Nazis tried to extinguish in Germany found a very powerful and interesting manifestation here, to the point of turning Tel Aviv into a World Heritage site for its International Style architecture.”

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Germany: City Of Dresden Declares “Nazi Emergency”

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CBS NEWS)

 

German city declares “Nazi emergency”

A city in eastern Germany has declared a “Nazi emergency” to tackle the rise of the far-right. Dresden is the capital of Saxony, which is considered a stronghold of the far-right movement.

“‘Nazinotstand’ means – similar to the climate emergency – that we have a serious problem. The open democratic society is threatened,” local councilor Max Aschenbach, who tabled the motion, told BBC News.

Dresden’s city council approved a resolution Wednesday night to 39 votes to 29 to pass the motion that declared “anti-democratic, anti-pluralist, misanthropic and right-wing-extremist attitudes and actions, including violence in Dresden, are occurring with increasing frequency.”

The motion was opposed by Germany’s governing Christian Democrats (CDU), who said it was “primarily an intended provocation.”

“‘State of emergency’ means the collapse or a serious threat to public order,” Jan Donhauser, chairman of the CDU City Council Group, told BBC News. “That is not given rudimentary

. Furthermore, the focus on ‘right-wing extremism’ does not do justice to what we need. We are the guardians of the liberal-democratic basic order and no violence, no matter from which extremist side it comes, is compatible with it.”

Pegida Gathering Coincides With Merkel Visit
Supporters of the anti-Muslim Pegida movement march in their 187th weekly, Monday night gathering not far from the venue where German Chancellor Angela Merkel was speaking on July 15, 2019 in Dresden, Germany. SEAN GALLUP-GETTY IMAGES / GETTY IMAGES

Aschenbach, who is a member of the left-leaning satirical political party Die Partei, said the city was not obliged to take any action following the adoption of his resolution, but that “theoretically, existing measures should be given a higher priority and future decisions should follow this.”

The anti-Islam and xenophobic movement PEGIDA, which stands for German for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, began in Dresden in 2014, according to Deutsche Walle. The group regularly holds rallies in the city.

According to Deutsche Walle, Saxony is a stronghold for the far-right party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which came in second in state elections in September.

World War II and the Ingredients of Slaughter

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

World War II and the Ingredients of Slaughter

The spirit of certitude that dominated the politics of the 1930’s is not so distant from us today.

Joseph Goebbels Credit Universal History Archive/Getty Images

Bret Stephens

By 

Opinion Columnist

World War II began 80 years ago this Sunday after Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a “nonaggression” pact that was, in fact, a mutual aggression pact. Adolf Hitler invaded Poland on Sept. 1, 1939. Russia’s invasion of Poland, no less murderous, followed two weeks later.

On Nov. 3 of that year, Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister, gave Hitler a report of his trip to Poland. “Above all, my description of the Jewish problem gets [Hitler’s] full approval,” he wrote in his diary. “The Jew is a waste product. It is a clinical issue more than a social one.”

For several years many commentators, including me, have written about the parallels between the prewar era and the present.

There’s the rise of dictatorial regimes intent on avenging past geopolitical humiliations and redrawing borders: Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia then; China, Iran and Russia now.

There’s the unwillingness of status quo powers to coordinate their actions, confront dictatorships, stamp out regional wars and rise to global challenges. The League of Nations then; the G7 now.

There’s the upsurge of nativist rancor, protectionist barriers and every-nation-for-itself policies, along with deep doubts about the viability of liberal democracy and the international order. Father Coughlin and the America Firsters then; Donald Trump and the America Firsters now.

All that, plus three crucial factors: new forms of mass communication, the rhetoric of dehumanization and the politics of absolute good versus absolute evil.

The (relatively) new technology of the 1930’s was the radio. “It is the miracle of radio that it welds 60,000,000 Germans into a single crowd, to be played upon by a single voice,” The Times reported in 1936. This was by design. Among Goebbels’s first efforts after the Nazis came to power was to produce and distribute a cheap radio — the Volksempfänger, or people’s receiver — that could bring the Führer’s voice and message into every home.

The radio made possible an unmediated, seemingly personal relationship between leader and subject. It cut out the information brokers — reporters, editors, spokesmen, pundits and so on — on whom previous generations of leaders had been forced to rely. It turned a nation into an audience and politics into a theater where emotion mattered much more than sense. In “The Nightmare Years,” the CBS correspondent William Shirer recalled being struck by the complete disconnect between the insanity of Hitler’s language and the spellbinding quality of his delivery.

Image
Credit Getty Images

Radio then, like Twitter today, was the technology of the id; a channel that could concentrate political fury at a time when there was plenty to go around.

It was also a time when ideology dictated that fury be directed at entire classes of people. The decade began with Soviet propaganda cheering Stalin’s announcement of “the liquidation of kulaks as a class” — a reference to millions of Ukrainian peasants who would die of forced starvation in the Holodomor.

The political mind-set that turned human beings into categories, classes and races also turned them into rodents, insects and garbage. “Anti-Semitism is exactly the same as delousing,” Heinrich Himmler would claim in 1943. “Getting rid of lice is not a matter of ideology. It is a matter of cleanliness.” Watching Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto burn that year, a Polish anti-Semite was overheard saying: “The bedbugs are on fire. The Germans are doing a great job.”

Today, the rhetoric of infestation is back. In the U.S., Trump uses it to describe Latin American migrants. In Europe, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, warned in 2015 that migrants carried “all sorts of parasites and protozoa,” which, “while not dangerous in the organisms of these people, could be dangerous here.”

More of this talk will surely follow, and not just from the right. The American left has become especially promiscuous when it comes to speaking pejoratively about entire categories of disfavored people.

None of this would be possible without the third factor: the conviction that an opponent embodies an irredeemable evil, and that his destruction is therefore an act of indubitable good. That spirit of certitude that dominated the politics of the 1930’s is not so distant from us today. The unpopular political figures of our day are the people who seem to convey less than 100 percent true belief: the moderate conservative, the skeptical liberal, the centrist wobbler.

This 80th anniversary of World War II is an opportunity to reconsider how the world reached that dark defile, in which some 70 million people died. An opportunity, too, to remember the words of the American judge Learned Hand, on how free and civilized people can come back from the brink.

“The spirit of liberty,” he said, “is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: [email protected].

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Bret L. Stephens has been an Opinion columnist with The Times since April 2017. He won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary at The Wall Street Journal in 2013 and was previously editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post. Facebook

A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 23 of the New York edition with the headline: WWII and the Ingredients Of Slaughter. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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White supremacists crash Arkansas Holocaust memorial event

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

White supremacists crash Arkansas Holocaust memorial event

Protesters in Russellville carry anti-Semitic signs, including one calling Shoah a hoax, in demonstration ostensibly aimed against ADL

White Supremacists protesting a Holocaust memorial in Russellville, Arkansas, May 5, 2019.  (screen capture: YouTube)

White Supremacists protesting a Holocaust memorial in Russellville, Arkansas, May 5, 2019. (screen capture: YouTube)

A Holocaust Remembrance Day event in Russellville, Arkansas, Sunday was interrupted by protesters bearing anti-Semitic signs, including one that read “The Holocaust didn’t happen, but it should have.”

Bearing crosses, a large portrait of Jesus and Christian and Nazi flags, the protester’s anti-Semitic signs also included one reading “YHWH has the oven preheated.”

Joyce Griffis, who organized the event, told KSFM that the demonstrators “were talking to us like we were pieces of nothing.”

Among those at the event were Sir Beryl Wolfson, 96, who shared his story of witnessing the liberation of Holocaust concentration camps while wearing a World War II Veteran cap and Star of David belt buckle.

The demonstrators were affiliated with Shieldwall, a local white supremacist group, and ostensibly were protesting the Anti-Defamation League, Shieldwall spokesman Billy Roper told KSFM.

The son and grandson of Klansmen, Roper is “a nonsectarian hater” affiliated with many white nationalist groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In April, the ADL criticized Arkansas Tech University for naming a scholarship in honor of Dr. Michael Link, whom the ADL wrote “repeatedly espoused Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism to his students and in his writing.”

Arkansas Tech said it has found no evidence of these claims.

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Vienna school finds our what became of the 50 Jewish Pupils it expelled in 1938

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

Vienna school finds out what became of the 50 Jewish pupils it expelled in 1938

Amid widespread ignorance about the Holocaust in Austria, a public high school launches a project to determine the fate of the students it booted under Nazi policies

JTA — On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, a public high school in the Austrian capital corrected its own historical record.

Along with a memorial to World War II soldiers, the Gymnasium Kundmanngasse now also has a plaque with the names of the 50 Jewish students expelled from the Vienna school exactly 81 years ago. And the life stories of these pupils – some tragically cut short – are contained in a book written by teenagers now attending the school.

The dedication of the new memorial on April 25 came just as a new survey reveals a disheartening lack of knowledge about the Holocaust among adults in Austria.

But the Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Study also found a profound commitment to Holocaust education among Austrians, particularly among younger adults.

What the survey found

The study was commissioned by the New York-based Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany and released May 2, Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah.

Among the survey findings:

  • 58 percent of Austrians do not know that 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust;
  • 36% of respondents said they believed people still talk too much about the Holocaust;
  • 28% said they believed that many Austrians acted heroically to save Jews, when in fact only 109 are recognized as rescuers by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and archive.
  • On the positive side, 82% of respondents – and 87% of younger ones — said they believe that Holocaust education is important.

Data was collected from a randomly selected, demographically representative sample of 1,000 Austrian adults. It was analyzed by Schoen Consulting in New York.

A plaque, reading ‘In Memory,’ at the Gymnasium Kundmanngasse commemorates 50 Jewish students expelled from the Vienna school exactly 81 years ago. (Gymnasium Kundmanngasse)

“On one hand, there are some troubling, problematic results,” Greg Schneider, the executive vice president of the Claims Conference, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “On the other hand, there is a recognition of the importance of learning about the Holocaust, which is very hopeful. It gives us a road map to ensure that the Shoah is taught in schools and given the proper context and support.”

The first duty of Holocaust education is “to honor the memory of those who were killed,” he said.

Oskar Deutsch, president of the Jewish Communities in Austria and Vienna, said in a statement, “The lack of knowledge among many Austrians revealed through this study sets a mission for not only teachers and politicians but all society. A sincere handling of antisemitic incidents today and misrepresentations of the Shoah is crucial.”

Compared to Germany, Austria was notoriously late in confronting its role in the persecution and genocide of its Jewish population. What might be called willful ignorance changed dramatically in the mid-1980s, when the Nazi past of then-chancellor candidate Kurt Waldheim was put on the table. He was elected despite the questions raised about his role.

In 2000, Austria’s Ministry of Education, Science and Research established a Holocaust education program – errinern.at, or “remembrance.at” – that oversees educational projects on the national and state level with help from other foundations. Its programs reach thousands of teachers and students each year.

Today there is a “broad societal consensus that Austria has a responsibility and a share in this history,” said Martina Maschke, chair of errinern.at, in an interview before the Claims Conference survey’s release. Since the Holocaust is a paradigm for genocides, “there will never be enough Holocaust education.”

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler enters the city limits of Vienna, Austria, on March 14, 1938. (AP Photo)

That’s especially clear today, Maschke said, with the rise of the right wing and an increase in anti-Semitism from migrants “socialized in Muslim countries.”

“Of course, the administration is always one step behind the political factum, and this is something that makes me rather sad,” she said. “But I think that this goes for every society.”

In fact, Schneider said, the results of the survey in Austria are similar to those in recent surveys that the Claims Conference commissioned in the United States (April 2018) and Canada (January 2019). He said they share an “appalling lack of knowledge, and a tremendous commitment to the importance of Holocaust education.”

Changing the record

It was just such a commitment that inspired Katharina Fersterer, a history and English teacher at the Gymnasium Kundmanngasse.

Fersterer, 29, had long been interested in Holocaust history. Austria’s Ministry of Education sent her to a summer program at Yad Vashem two years ago, and she returned determined to add to her school’s historical record in time for its 150th anniversary this year.

“My principal said, ‘Yes, let’s do this,’” Fersterer recalled.

Her students found the names of 50 Jewish students forced to leave the school in April 1938, shortly after Germany annexed Austria.

“But we didn’t stop at that. We wanted to know what happened to them,” Fersterer said.

Viennese Jews behind bars at the Mauthausen concentration camp. (Courtesy Claims Conference)

It turned out that most of the former Jewish students had been able to escape Nazi-occupied Austria via the Kinderstransport, a rescue operation that brought Jewish children from Germany, Austria and then-Czechoslovakia to England in 1938-39.

“But some were also killed in concentration camps,” she said.

The students started looking for descendants of the survivors. Ultimately the project, including art and video, involved teachers and students in other departments.

That’s when Elia Ben-Ari of Arlington, Virginia, received her first Facebook message from Samuel, a 17-year-old senior in Fersterer’s class who asked that his last name not be used.

His message came “out of the blue,” Ben-Ari said in a recent interview, “from somebody who said he was a student doing a project about my father. My first reaction was, ‘Who is this person? How do I know this is legitimate?’”

Samuel had chosen to write about two students – Ernst Ratzer, who did not survive the Holocaust, and Martin Buchbinder, who was sent to safety in England in 1939 and later changed his name to Moshe Ben Ari. After living in Israel, he eventually settled on suburban New York’s Long Island with his family. He died in 2011.

Luckily, Moshe Ben Ari had written an autobiography – “My Pre-American History” – that gave Samuel enough information to go on. But it was just the beginning of his research.

“It was really a surprise to actually find a relative, and when it turned out that she was actually his daughter, I was obviously very excited and happy,” Samuel said.

A local momentum

On April 25, the school held a ceremony and dedication of a plaque remembering the 50 former Jewish students.

“We now have a kind of book with all their life stories,” Fersterer said.

That book sits alongside Moshe Ben Ari’s autobiography for anyone to read, in the room with the plaque, she said.

Moshe Ben Ari was one of the children expelled from the Vienna school. A current student at the school has been researching his life story. (Courtesy of Elia Ben-Ari)

“There is no question that there are teachers who manage to succeed, who are doing a lot,” said Richelle Bud Caplan, director of the European Department at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies and a member of the Claims Conference survey task force.

“It doesn’t have to do with funding. It has to do with support from the school administration to create a local momentum, a learning community,” she said. “We very much want people to focus on individual stories, so youngsters can connect,” and understand that “the majority of those who lived during this complex and difficult period did not survive.”

“Our school has a memorial remembering the fallen soldiers of World War II, but it didn’t have one memorial for the Jewish students,” said Samuel, who walks the same halls and climbs the same stairs that they did.

“I can imagine it was terrible,” he said. On the students’ last day, “mobs formed at the entrance of our school, where a few hardcore teachers and students were spitting and shouting names. So it was not a very kind goodbye, as you can imagine.”

As for Ben-Ari, she regrets that she could not attend the dedication ceremony. But “I think my father would have been gratified to know that somebody read his history and cared about it.”

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COMMENTS

Was A Group of High Schoolers Photographed Performing a Nazi Salute?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY ODF SNOPES FACT CHECKER)

 

Was a Group of High Schoolers Photographed Performing a Nazi Salute?

Claim

Several male students at Baraboo High School were photographed performing the Nazi “Sieg Heil” salute.

Rating

Origin

Both police and school officials in Wisconsin launched an investigation into a photograph of local high school students flashing a Nazi salute after a journalist posted the picture online.

On 11 November 2018 Reporter Jules Suzdaltsev posted the picture of a group of boys, reportedly comprising Baraboo High School’s entire male graduating class of 2019, with several of them visibly flashing the extended-arm “Sieg Heil” gesture. His tweet was shared more than 14,000 times within 24 hours:

Jules Suzdaltsev

@jules_su

If anybody from Baraboo High School in Wisconsin can clue me in on why it appears the entire male class of 2018 is throwing up a Sig Heil during their prom photos – that would be great.

h/t @CarlySidey

31.7K people are talking about this

“I was contacted by a former student who shared with me a post she made about the photo, which was posted by a student run page with the caption, ‘We even got the black kid to throw it up #BarabooProud,’” Suzdaltsev told us via email a day after posting the photograph. “I was not familiar with the school, but the photo was shocking and I assumed it would be shocking to others as well.”

Suzdaltsev followed up by posting screenshots of messages he received from other Baraboo students accusing the boys seen in the photograph of posting racist and misogynist harassment:

Jules Suzdaltsev

@jules_su

Someone who would like to remain anonymous just sent me this message and picture of herself that was posted by a classmate.

Seriously, what is going on with this school? @BarabooSD

View image on Twitter

Jules Suzdaltsev

@jules_su

I am being flooded with messages from students of this school about some of the guys in the group photo.

It sounds like there is a lot of racist bullying and the school tends to do nothing about it. pic.twitter.com/yvPZWI196A

3,711 people are talking about this

Other students accused the school of ignoring requests for help, and one said to Suzdaltsev that when they informed an official that one of the boys in the photograph yelled “white power” in the hallway, they were told to “look up videos of Black Lives Matter protesters being violent to police and that [they] should grow a tougher skin.”

Another student said that the gesture was suggested to the boys by the photographer. A student seen in the picture told the same thing to television news outlets:

Jordan Blue, now a senior at Baraboo High School, said that in May of this year, he and his male classmates had been posing for pictures in front of a local courthouse before their junior prom when the photographer told them to “raise your hand.”

Peter Gust, the photographer who took the picture, has defended himself, saying he told the students to wave goodbye to their parents, not to make the Nazi gesture.

“I didn’t tell them to salute anything,” Gust said in a statement to CNN. “There was nothing that diminished the quality of anyone’s life. There was nothing that diminished anyone’s stature in society, nothing that was intended to point a finger at anyone in their class that may have some kind of difference. There was none of that.”

Germany: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Historic European Nation

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA FACTBOOK)

 

Germany

Introduction As Europe’s largest economy and second most populous nation, Germany is a key member of the continent’s economic, political, and defense organizations. European power struggles immersed Germany in two devastating World Wars in the first half of the 20th century and left the country occupied by the victorious Allied powers of the US, UK, France, and the Soviet Union in 1945. With the advent of the Cold War, two German states were formed in 1949: the western Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the eastern German Democratic Republic (GDR). The democratic FRG embedded itself in key Western economic and security organizations, the EC, which became the EU, and NATO, while the Communist GDR was on the front line of the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. The decline of the USSR and the end of the Cold War allowed for German unification in 1990. Since then, Germany has expended considerable funds to bring Eastern productivity and wages up to Western standards. In January 1999, Germany and 10 other EU countries introduced a common European exchange currency, the euro.
History The ethnogenesis of the Germanic tribes is assumed to have occurred during the Nordic Bronze Age, or at the latest, during the Pre-Roman Iron Age. From southern Scandinavia and northern Germany, the tribes began expanding south, east and west in the 1st century BC, coming into contact with the Celtic tribes of Gaul as well as Iranian, Baltic, and Slavic tribes in Eastern Europe. Little is known about early Germanic history, except through their recorded interactions with the Roman Empire, etymological research and archaeological finds.[5]

Under Augustus, the Roman General Publius Quinctilius Varus began to invade Germania (a term used by the Romans running roughly from the Rhine to the Ural Mountains) , and it was in this period that the Germanic tribes became familiar with Roman tactics of warfare while maintaining their tribal identity. In AD 9, three Roman legions led by Varus were defeated by the Cheruscan leader Arminius in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Modern Germany, as far as the Rhine and the Danube, thus remained outside the Roman Empire. By AD 100, the time of Tacitus’ Germania, Germanic tribes settled along the Rhine and the Danube (the Limes Germanicus) , occupying most of the area of modern Germany. The 3rd century saw the emergence of a number of large West Germanic tribes: Alamanni, Franks, Chatti, Saxons, Frisians, Sicambri, and Thuringii. Around 260, the Germanic peoples broke through the Limes and the Danube frontier into Roman-controlled lands.[6]

Holy Roman Empire (962-1806)

The medieval empire stemmed from a division of the Carolingian Empire in 843, which was founded by Charlemagne on 25 December 800, and existed in varying forms until 1806, its territory stretching from the Eider River in the north to the Mediterranean coast in the south. Often referred to as the Holy Roman Empire (or the Old Empire) , it was officially called the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (“Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Germanicæ”) starting in 1448, to adjust the title to its then reduced territory.

Under the reign of the Ottonian emperors (919-1024) , the duchies of Lorraine, Saxony, Franconia, Swabia, Thuringia, and Bavaria were consolidated, and the German king was crowned Holy Roman Emperor of these regions in 962. Under the reign of the Salian emperors (1024-1125) , the Holy Roman Empire absorbed northern Italy and Burgundy, although the emperors lost power through the Investiture Controversy. Under the Hohenstaufen emperors (1138-1254) , the German princes increased their influence further south and east into territories inhabited by Slavs. Northern German towns grew prosperous as members of the Hanseatic League.

The edict of the Golden Bull in 1356 provided the basic constitution of the empire that lasted until its dissolution. It codified the election of the emperor by seven prince-electors who ruled some of the most powerful principalities and archbishoprics. Beginning in the 15th century, the emperors were elected nearly exclusively from the Habsburg dynasty of Austria.

The monk Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses questioning the Roman Catholic Church in 1517, thereby sparking the Protestant Reformation. A separate Lutheran church was acknowledged as the newly sanctioned religion in many German states after 1530. Religious conflict led to the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) , which devastated German lands.[7] The population of the German states was reduced by about 30%.[8] The Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended religious warfare among the German states, but the empire was de facto divided into numerous independent principalities. From 1740 onwards, the dualism between the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia dominated German history. In 1806, the Imperium was overrun and dissolved as a result of the Napoleonic Wars.[9]
See also: Medieval demography

Restoration and revolution (1814-1871)

Following the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, the Congress of Vienna convened in 1814 and founded the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) , a loose league of 39 sovereign states. Disagreement with restoration politics partly led to the rise of liberal movements, demanding unity and freedom. These, however, were followed by new measures of repression on the part of the Austrian statesman Metternich. The Zollverein, a tariff union, profoundly furthered economic unity in the German states. During this era many Germans had been stirred by the ideals of the French Revolution, and nationalism became a more significant force, especially among young intellectuals. For the first time, the colours of black, red and gold were chosen to represent the movement, which later became the national colours.[10]

In light of a series of revolutionary movements in Europe, which successfully established a republic in France, intellectuals and commoners started the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. The monarchs initially yielded to the revolutionaries’ liberal demands. King Frederick William IV of Prussia was offered the title of Emperor, but with a loss of power; he rejected the crown and the proposed constitution, leading to a temporary setback for the movement. Conflict between King William I of Prussia and the increasingly liberal parliament erupted over military reforms in 1862, and the king appointed Otto von Bismarck the new Prime Minister of Prussia. Bismarck successfully waged war on Denmark in 1864. Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 enabled him to create the North German Federation (Norddeutscher Bund) and to exclude Austria, formerly the leading German state, from the affairs of the remaining German states.

German Empire (1871-1918)

The state known as Germany was unified as a modern nation-state in 1871, when the German Empire was forged, with the Kingdom of Prussia as its largest constituent. After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the German Empire (Deutsches Kaiserreich) was proclaimed in Versailles on 18 January 1871. The Hohenzollern dynasty of Prussia ruled the new empire, whose capital was Berlin. The empire was a unification of all the scattered parts of Germany except Austria (Kleindeutschland, or “Lesser Germany”). Beginning in 1884, Germany began establishing several colonies outside of Europe.

In the Gründerzeit period following the unification of Germany, Emperor William I’s foreign policy secured Germany’s position as a great nation by forging alliances, isolating France by diplomatic means, and avoiding war. Under William II, however, Germany, like other European powers, took an imperialistic course leading to friction with neighbouring countries. Most alliances in which Germany had been previously involved were not renewed, and new alliances excluded the country. Specifically, France established new relationships by signing the Entente Cordiale with the United Kingdom and securing ties with the Russian Empire. Aside from its contacts with Austria-Hungary, Germany became increasingly isolated.

Germany’s imperialism reached outside of its own country and joined many other powers in Europe to claim their share of Africa. The Berlin Conference divided Africa between the European powers. Germany owned several pieces of land on Africa including German East Africa, South-West Africa, Togo, and Cameroon. The Scramble for Africa caused tension between the great powers that may have contributed to the conditions that led to World War I.

The assassination of Austria’s crown prince on 28 June 1914 triggered World War I. Germany, as part of the unsuccessful Central Powers, suffered defeat against the Allied Powers in one of the bloodiest conflicts of all time. The German Revolution broke out in November 1918, and Emperor William II and all German ruling princes abdicated. An armistice putting an end to the war was signed on 11 November and Germany was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919. Its negotiation, contrary to traditional post-war diplomacy, excluded the defeated Central Powers. The treaty was perceived in Germany as a humiliating continuation of the war by other means and its harshness is often cited as having facilitated the later rise of Nazism in the country.[11]

Weimar Republic (1919-1933)

After the success of the German Revolution in November 1918, a republic was proclaimed. The Weimar Constitution came into effect with its signing by President Friedrich Ebert on 11 August 1919. The German Communist Party was established by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in 1918, and the German Workers Party, later known as the National Socialist German Workers Party or Nazi Party, was founded in January 1919.

Suffering from the Great Depression, the harsh peace conditions dictated by the Treaty of Versailles, and a long succession of more or less unstable governments, the political masses in Germany increasingly lacked identification with their political system of parliamentary democracy. This was exacerbated by a wide-spread right-wing (monarchist, völkisch, and Nazi) Dolchstoßlegende, a political myth which claimed that Germany lost World War I because of the German Revolution, not because of military defeat. On the other hand, radical left-wing communists, such as the Spartacist League, had wanted to abolish what they perceived as “capitalist rule” in favour of a Räterepublik. Paramilitary troops were set up by several parties and there were thousands of politically motivated murders. The paramilitary intimidated voters and seeded violence and anger among the public, which suffered from high unemployment and poverty. After a series of unsuccessful cabinets, President Paul von Hindenburg, seeing little alternative and pushed by right-wing advisors, appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933.

Third Reich (1933-1945)

On 27 February 1933, the Reichstag was set on fire. Some basic democratic rights were quickly abrogated afterwards under an emergency decree. An Enabling Act gave Hitler’s government full legislative power. Only the Social Democratic Party of Germany voted against it; the Communists were not able to present opposition, as their deputies had already been murdered or imprisoned.[12][13] A centralised totalitarian state was established by a series of moves and decrees making Germany a single-party state. Industry was closely regulated with quotas and requirements, to shift the economy towards a war production base. In 1936 German troops entered the demilitarized Rhineland, and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policies proved inadequate. Emboldened, Hitler followed from 1938 onwards a policy of expansionism to establish Greater Germany. To avoid a two-front war, Hitler concluded the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with the Soviet Union, a pact which was later broken by Germany.

In 1939, the growing tensions from nationalism, militarism, and territorial issues led to the Germans launching a blitzkrieg on September 1 against Poland, followed two days later by declarations of war by Britain and France, marking the beginning of World War II. Germany quickly gained direct or indirect control of the majority of Europe.

On 22 June 1941, Hitler broke the pact with the Soviet Union by opening the Eastern Front and invading the Soviet Union. Shortly after Japan attacked the American base at Pearl Harbor, Germany declared war on the United States. Although initially the German army rapidly advanced into the Soviet Union, the Battle of Stalingrad marked a major turning point in the war. Subsequently, the German army commenced retreating on the Eastern Front. D-Day marked a major turning point on the Western front, as Allied forces landed on the beaches of Normandy and made rapid advances into German territory. Germany’s defeat soon followed. On 8 May 1945, the German armed forces surrendered after the Red Army occupied Berlin.

In what later became known as The Holocaust, the Third Reich regime enacted governmental policies directly subjugating many parts of society: Jews, Communists, Roma, homosexuals, freemasons, political dissidents, priests, preachers, religious opponents, and the disabled, amongst others. During the Nazi era, about eleven million people were murdered in the Holocaust, including six million Jews and three million Poles. World War II and the Nazi genocide were responsible for about 35 million dead in Europe.

Division and reunification (1945–1990)

The war resulted in the death of nearly ten million German soldiers and civilians; large territorial losses; the expulsion of about 15 million Germans from its former eastern territories and other countries; and the destruction of multiple major cities. The national territory and Berlin were partitioned by the Allies into four military occupation zones. The sectors controlled by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States were merged on 23 May 1949, to form the Federal Republic of Germany; on 7 October 1949, the Soviet Zone established the German Democratic Republic. They were informally known as “West Germany” and “East Germany” and the two parts of Berlin as “West Berlin” and “East Berlin”. The eastern and western countries opted for East Berlin and Bonn as their respective capitals. However, West Germany declared the status of its capital Bonn as provisional[14], in order to emphasize its stance that the two-state solution was an artificial status quo that was to be overcome one day.

West Germany established as a liberal parliamentary republic with a “social market economy”, was allied with the United States, the UK and France. The country eventually came to enjoy prolonged economic growth beginning in the early 1950s (Wirtschaftswunder). West Germany joined NATO in 1955 and was a founding member of the European Economic Community in 1958. Across the border, East Germany was at first occupied by, and later (May 1955) allied with, the USSR. An authoritarian country with a Soviet-style command economy, but many of its citizens looked to the West for political freedoms and economic prosperity.[15] The Berlin Wall, built in 1961 to stop East Germans from escaping to West Germany, became a symbol of the Cold War. However, tensions between East and West Germany were somewhat reduced in the early 1970s by Chancellor Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, which included the de facto acceptance of Germany’s territorial losses in World War II.

In the face of a growing migration of East Germans to West Germany via Hungary and mass demonstrations during the summer of 1989, East German authorities unexpectedly eased the border restrictions in November, allowing East German citizens to travel to the West. Originally intended as a pressure valve to retain East Germany as a state, the opening of the border actually led to an acceleration of the reform process in East Germany, which finally concluded with the Two Plus Four Treaty a year later on 12 September 1990 and German reunification on 3 October 1990. Under the terms of the treaty, the four occupying powers renounced their rights under the Instrument of Surrender, and Germany regained full sovereignty. Based on the Bonn-Berlin-Act, adopted by the parliament on 10 March 2004, the capital of the unified state was chosen to be Berlin, while Bonn obtained the unique status of a Bundesstadt (federal city) retaining some federal ministries[16]. The move of the government was completed in 1999.

Since reunification, Germany has taken a leading role in the European Union and NATO. Germany sent a peacekeeping force to secure stability in the Balkans and sent a force of German troops to Afghanistan as part of a NATO effort to provide security in that country after the ousting of the Taliban.[17] These deployments were controversial, since after the war, Germany was bound by law to only deploy troops for defence roles. Deployments to foreign territories were understood not to be covered by the defence provision; however, the parliamentary vote on the issue effectively legalised the participation in a peacekeeping context.

Geography Location: Central Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, between the Netherlands and Poland, south of Denmark
Geographic coordinates: 51 00 N, 9 00 E
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 357,021 sq km
land: 349,223 sq km
water: 7,798 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly smaller than Montana
Land boundaries: total: 3,621 km
border countries: Austria 784 km, Belgium 167 km, Czech Republic 646 km, Denmark 68 km, France 451 km, Luxembourg 138 km, Netherlands 577 km, Poland 456 km, Switzerland 334 km
Coastline: 2,389 km
People Population: 82,400,996 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 13.9% (male 5,894,724/female 5,590,373)
15-64 years: 66.3% (male 27,811,357/female 26,790,222)
65 years and over: 19.8% (male 6,771,972/female 9,542,348) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 43 years
male: 41.8 years
female: 44.3 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: -0.033% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 8.2 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 10.71 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 2.18 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.054 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.038 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 0.966 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 4.08 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.51 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.62 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.95 years
male: 75.96 years
female: 82.11 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.4 children born/woman