When I wander through Glasgow I see places of remembrance all over the city. Especially soldiers from the World Wars have their monuments on many places – often marked with the symbol of the poppy. There are a lot of War monuments in Germany too, with long lists of names. Maybe I’m wrong but when I see the monuments here I have the feeling that people here have a more positive attitude towards their fallen soldiers, than in Germany. The monuments speak about them as heroes, who served their country bravely. This experience makes me thinking about remembering and remembrance culture today.
On Monday people in the United States but also in Europe and in many other countries will remember the terror attack of 9/11. I assume everyone – at least in the Western countries – who was old enough in 2001 is remembering what he or she did the day when the planes hit in into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. People will remember the victims with religious services, with silence and tears. The terror attack on 9/11 and all terror attacks before and after this date are awful and turned innocent people to victims of violence. It is good to remember them – especially for all the people who lost people they loved. But I’m also afraid of this remembering culture, especially if the actual US president is going ta talk at this day. Will he use the victims to produce more hate and violence? And who is remembering all the (innocent) victims of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which followed 9/11? How can people or states remember without producing more enemies?
About one week ago I participated at the first planning meeting for Holocaust Memorial Day 2018. The official Scottish event for this Day is going to be held in Glasgow this time. The planning was good and I’m sure it will be a good event. Some days later two friends from Germany visited me in Glasgow. I told them about Holocaust Memorial Day and they were very surprised that this day is not only about remembering the Holocaust but also about remembering different other genocides, eg. in Rwanda or Bosnia. Our shared feeling was that it is very difficult to do so, because from our (German) perspective the Holocaust is different. We could not imagine that Jews would accept that the Holocaust is compared or put on the same level as other historical occasions. For me and presumably the most Germans remembering the Holocaust means remembering it as a singularity, it means remembering the German guilt, it means especially remembering the suffering of Jews, even if also Disabled, LGBT, Roma and Communists were killed in the Konzentration Camps. It means that no other occasion in history is comparable with it and it means to do everything to prevent that such things are happening again.
For me it’s interesting that people in Scotland can have a more general look at the Holocaust. I’m completely convinced that the victims of Screbrenica and Rwanda must also be remembered. But it’s difficult for me to compare their dying to Auschwitz and Buchenwald.
The 11th September is a special day of remembrance in my hometown Darmstadt. At night time of this day all church bells in the town are ringing. Not because of the terror attacks in the United States in 2001, but because of the bombing of Darmstadt by the Royal Airforce in 1944. 99% of the city centre were destroyed. According to official numbers about 12.000 people were killed and about 66.000 people became homeless. Remembering this attack is very difficult, because people are aware that without the bombing of Germany cities and towns it would be harder to stop Hitler and the Nazis, but it also might have killed much more people, especially women and children, than might be necessary to win the war. From my point of view a remembrance culture which cries about the victims but is also aware about the responsibility to prevent the world from another World War, another Holocaust or another 9/11 is the only appropriate way of remembering.
Remembering is never unpolitical and we all are responsible for the remembrance culture in our town, country and our world.
What do you think? How do you remember?