An Anthology of Citations Across Three Generations of Germans

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About this Translation

Some time ago I wrote to Fritz Voll, telling him about my German publication, “Wir sind, was wir erinnern. Zwei Generationen nach Auschwitz” which had just appeared in its second expanded edition. His immediate response came in the form of a question, “Do you want me to translate the book into English?” I had not expected such an offer but was quite excited about the idea.

So we started corresponding by email and it became clear why Fritz had made the offer. He is a German of the first generation after the Holocaust, while I am of the second generation. He has for many years worked in the field of Christian-Jewish relations and dialogue in Canada and had, when he was younger, together with survivors of the Jewish Shoah, spoken to many high school social studies classes about the events of the Nazi period. He always represented his own generation as having been given “the grace of being born late.”

Fritz made me aware from the outset that English is not his mother tongue. I, in turn, assured him that even if his English would be less than perfect the translated work would be all the more a witness of two Germans of the two generations after the Holocaust, who do their part in keeping the memory alive.

From among his Canadian supporters in this endeavour, Fritz Voll wishes to thank Irene Beinarovics for collaborating with him in subjecting the translation to scrutiny and discussion so as to render the meaning and intent of the ideas in this work as clear as possible to the English-language reader.

I would like to thank Fritz Voll very much for his work of translating all the texts. Some German citations may have appeared in English translations somewhere before and others may have their origin in the English language but could be found only in their German translation. All copyrights of the originals and their translations are naturally with their writers or publishers.

We are very thankful for their deep insight into the process by which certain attitudes and beliefs in generations of our German ancestors eventually permitted the Nazi ideology to rise and to establish its dictatorial, militaristic regime and slowly draw too many Germans into its unimaginable barbarity.

The publication of this little book in the English language is an offer to the numerous Jewish communities and their members in the English speaking world, to whom we as Germans will always owe an answer, from generation to generation. In the present time, however, we owe an answer to the survivors among them and their children and grandchildren. We would like their Second and Third Generations to know that we share their burden of memory that for us is one of shame.

It may also be assumed that there exists a general interest in knowing to what extent the two generations of Germans after the Nazi period today reflect the Nazi genocide of the Jews, in as much as the Holocaust – the absolute horror as such – is still indelibly connected to “the Germans.” ("Death is a master from Germany," Paul Celan).

Will other nations be able to see something for themselves in our German history, especially that barbarity did not attack Germany overnight but developed gradually in a country that had once been a highly civilized nation? Germany demonstrated how a democracy can destroy itself.

Will the German past ever be a warning to other constitutional democracies to be vigilant against any diminishing of the rights of its citizens and especially of the rights of its minorities? May this brief outline of a period in German history remind its readers to promote dialogue, respect for others, sensitivity and personal courage to stand against any totalitarian tendencies. An ideological delusion that is allowed to empower itself will end in violence as "every man, who thinks he's God, will in the end kill human beings." (Elie Wiesel).