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As a Germanic studies minor, I have been teased by some friends as being a “Nazi” for learning the language.
Until recently, I have always brushed it off as a harmless joke. Now, I see it as something much more serious.
I recently spent three months in Germany’s capital city of Berlin and have seen the affects of World War II right where it happened. I stood under the same balcony that Hitler made many speeches from in a town called Weimar. I walked through a concentration camp and stood in a torture cell. I have seen a church that was bombed in the middle of Berlin that has been kept half-built, black with smoke from the bombs that destroyed it. I have lived on a street where many Jewish people were taken from their homes and never came back.
You do not say the word “Nazi” in Germany. To tease someone for being a Nazi because they are learning a centuries-old language is more than insulting; it is downright shameful to the German people.
While I was in Germany, the only time I saw the German flag displayed anywhere besides a governmental building was during the World Cup. In the month of June, flags hung from balconies on every crowded block. People wore black, red and yellow on their faces, cars and around their necks. They sang songs about Deutschland and expressed a national pride. But Germany was prideful for only for a couple of weeks.
According to my native German teacher, this kind of national pride in Germany is never shown otherwise for fear that it will be perceived as staunch nationalism. They do not want to bring back the image of nationalism as it once was in darker days, no less than 100 years ago. Because even though they know they have moved on, they know that the rest of the world hasn’t. Not completely anyways.
I think that is unfortunate and part of the reason why calling someone a Nazi is so shameful. The people of Germany are still trying to figure out how to move on from the mistakes of the past and show that to the world. These are mistakes, and definitely more monumental than that, mistakes that they didn’t even commit themselves but still carry the blame for.
Although this dark history happened not long ago, their national pride should be able to be shown. Berlin and Germany have come out of their dark pasts with a resilience that should always be celebrated, not only once every four years and under different pretenses.
So, to call someone a Nazi, even in “fun,” is to ignore the fact that the German population is still grappling with their identity as a nation and how to positively express that to the world. It ignores the suffering of the German people post-war, because they lost everything when they had no choice and their struggle for forgiveness and acceptance. To make fun of someone for learning a language is holding back the potential of a truly open-minded and graceful world.
Germany is a beautiful country with a rich and positive history that has yet to be widely recognized. Instead, it is overshadowed by the dark past of a ruthless dictator and his actions. This should not be ignored. Instead, Germany’s history should continue to be taught and joined in a curriculum that notes the nation’s modern developments.
This would be beneficial to all, especially those who are close-minded to the new Germany. A place where the word Nazi does not exist anymore and never will again.
Contact CU Independent entertainment editor Taylor Coughlin at Taylor.firstname.lastname@example.org.>