Germany, Israel, Susan Susan Newman discussed on Amanpour
You so much of Israel's identity is of course tied to the Holocaust perpetuated by Nazi Germany an even as the fall right there once again rears its head as does antisemitism. It is remarkable to take stock of how far Germany has come in atoning for sins ends. It's a lesson that my next guest says could and should be learned right here. In America this year marks four centuries since sixteen thousand nine hundred when the first Africans came as slaves to these shores and despite a civil war this country has never had a serious truth and reconciliation effort Susan Susan Newman is a moral philosopher and author of learning from the Germans race and the memory of evil and she's joining me now from Berlin Susan Neiman German. Welcome to the program and you know it's really interesting to have you on the program today particularly in view of the conversation we've just had about the stakes in Israel you actually spent a long in in Tel Aviv just before we go to the heart of your book. Tell me what sort of connection what connective tissues is there in terms of your thesis on reparations and restitution and what's happening in Israel right now. Oh Lord that's such a large question. I I mean a very short version would be that aw I think Israel the politics would be much better if the Holocaust weren't used in the center of so many political arguments mints on the other hand. I do use the Israeli case when I talk about the paying of reparations for the Holocaust as a model for what other countries to to do so. Let's talk about that model because you detail it extraordinarily in in your new book. What is it that you think the United States AIDS specifically not in big picture but in small step by step picture that leads to a conclusion can learn from Germany in the Post Post Nazi age. I mean I guess the world things that Germany after the defeat suddenly became reconciled and suddenly you know no outlawed all of this you know awful awful politics that that led to Nazism that's exactly right and I think the three basic things we can learn from the Germans and the first one perhaps most important is how very hard ages to confront your nations crimes. There will always be pushed back. There were always be people who come up with arguments like well. Other people were just does bad Let's look to the future and not dig up these old bones and as you rightly said the Nazi period it has come to serve for much of the rest of the world as such a symbol of absolute evil. It's kind of a black hole because we tend to look the Nazi period from the very end. We don't look at the beginning you know there were six and a half years in which the Nazis were in power before they even started the war much less started with genocide but because it serves us now we only focus on this end point we tend to assume the minute the war was over. They got on their knees and begged pardon and tried to atone and the really shocking looking thing is that they didn't when I first came to Berlin in one thousand nine hundred eighty two. I had friends who would tell me with a great deal of shame that their parents were Nazis. They wouldn't say my parents were Nazis and they thought they were the world's worst victims but that is very much what the view was in West Germany. Each east Germany was somewhat different and I think there's a little bit of hope in there for those people lund you're absolutely right the way the four hundredth anniversary of slavery is being commemorated in the states is very much an example of a fairly broad sweep of Americans trying to come to terms with slavery and the Neo Slavery aretha followed it not simply as an unfortunate little blip on our history but quite a central part of it and of course there's been gigantic pushback. Newt Gingrich criticized the New York Times for this sixteen nineteen project and plenty of less prominent people find it appalling. I think once we you realize that even the Nazis or the former Nazis founded appalling that other the Germans would attempt to face the guilt attempt to atone for it pay reparations. I think once we realize there's going to be that pushback back. We're much better able to deal with it Susan. let's just talk about the things you will. Let's it's in a second but I just want to break it up with a few questions in that you know you said. Oh I think I think you either recall what your friends in Germany and he said I mean basically there are no to the question where the monuments to Nazism there are no monuments to Nazism. There was no such thing whatever was there it was razed to the ground and in fact there are monuments to the victims which we see in many many places in Germany and you've pointed out the contrast trust to the United States. There are still these monuments and memorials for instance to the confederacy. Give us talk us through that point absolutely and let me just clarify when I say there are no it's correct to say no monuments to the Nazis some Nazis what's his sites have been turned into what the Germans Call Dank Ma which is not quite monument I mean can you translate as monument but it's a place where people will need to think so there are such exhibits at something. Nazi sites but with one one very strange exception which I only found out about quite late last year and it's very abstract. It's just it's in a in a quite distant place. as very abstract is just to the war dead there would be inconceivable to you know the plantations that we have with women in. Hoop skirts I tried to imagine Agean you know somehow there being something comparable with women in dirndls and long pigtails and it really is unimaginable. Even Vinh are of far right party which is unfortunate wouldn't propose that what we have instead is a variety of monuments from concentration some training camps with museums that have been very carefully and thoughtfully prepared to various kinds of statues remembering the victims uh-huh remembering the few resistance heroes that there were and particularly interesting monument which is all over Germany there. It's called the stumbling stones and they're these little brass plaques about four inches square which an artist Damn Nick has is placed in front of houses in which Jews lived and from which they were deported and murdered and each stone has the name of a single single-person and the date of their deportation and death. If it's known Bryan Stevenson the creator of the wonderful lynching memorial in Montgomery Gumri told me that he was deeply influenced by those stumbling stones in particular and the way in which they change change the iconography of well of the city and indeed of the country and he hopes that his lynching memorial will not just stay stay in Montgomery but that different counties where people were murdered will common take pieces of the memorial so so instead of a south that is simply full of you know every two miles you see another plaque to some confederate battle or another that we will also side by side. Remember what else happened. I I should just say to interject this for a second I I. I spent half a year when I was researching this book in Mississippi in the deep south. This is not to say that I believe American. Racism is confined to the deep mm south it's simply by any means whatsoever. It's simply that because the south is conscious of its history of often very full Paul sway it serves as a magnifying glass by which you can look at American history more closely. Susan I want to play this sound bite from an interview I did with then with the Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu and he was talking after he had taken down four confederate hedrick statues in that particular era at that time we can talk right but let's just play this sound bite and what he the reasons he did this. Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother a father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter. Why Robert Liberty League sat on top of our city can you can.