|My Daughter and I in Dresden|
At any use of the word Jew, even in a street sign, or countless placards or exhibits, I felt I was being served up insufficient versions of history or apologies. The bigger picture of Nazi aggression and oppression - beyond Jewish people - it didn't even make it onto my emotional grid during that visit.
Instead, I memorialized a quote by German Industrialist Walter Rathenau, which was posted in the Jewish Museum. It resonated with me, because I had had similar experiences in my own life. Mr. Rathenau had served in an elite military regiment in 1890 and became an influential person in German social and political life, until he was gunned down by Jew haters in the early 1920s. His quote:
In the youth of every German Jew there is a painful moment he will remember all of his life; the moment when he becomes fully aware that he was born into the world as a second class citizen and that no amount of virtue or public service can lift him out of that condition.”
When my daughter initially announced she was moving to Berlin, I gave a hesitant endorsement. In response, she told me harshly that this was my “baggage.” Had she learned nothing about the world in high school? It boggled my mind that she could describe what happened in Germany as “my baggage?” I thought her ignorance stunning.
My first trip to Germany was memorable because my daughter and I shared some wonderful adventures, including a lovely day bike riding in Potsdam. And I saw she was happy at work and in her life. But I didn’t plan to return.
|Schloss Charlottenburg Weinachtmarkt|
But she remains in Berlin, which she loves, save for the city's mostly gloomy skies. And I find myself here again, now at Christmas time. On this visit – amid Weinachtmarkts and winter cold, I find myself warming up. I take more risks speaking the language, interacting with people and letting Germany in.
This trip, I see things differently despite myself.
As we drive from Berlin to Dresden, my daughter kindly reprimands me: "So many in your generation won’t give Germany a chance. Why can’t you just see that not everyone and everything here is bad? Not everyone here now can feel personally responsible forever for what happened in Nazi Germany!”
|The Elbe Between Alt and Neu Dresden|
I let my thoughts subside and feel myself breathe differently with this new thought. My daughter is right. I have been so stuck in my cement thinking that everything is ugly about Germany. But it is not.
I know from personal experience how challenging it can be to make a dent in how people think or what goes on in the world. How would I answer for a nation's history? Many things in my own country boggle my mind. And yet we all keep moving and time indeed marches on.
|The entry- Schloss Charlottenburg|
By making Germany her home, my daughter has given me a great gift. I see I have to expand my capacity to forgive and move on. Realizing this in a foreign land and speaking a foreign language I love has made this lesson quite special. Who would have thought that I learned German all those years ago for this beneficence now?
My daughter is planning to make Berlin her home for some time to come - despite the often gray skies that plague Berlin. She attributes the state of affairs to a micro-weather system that shrouds Berlin.
I do hope it loosens its grip and sunshine streams in soon. Maybe it's not God's punishment after all.