Addressing war and tyranny, ideologically motivated crimes and political injustice in the 20th century, not to mention commemorating the victims of persecution, play an important role in the culture of remembrance in the Federal Republic of Germany. Preserving eye-witness reports by persons who actually experienced the events is the key element in a culture of remembrance destined to make certain that coming generations are conscious of the crimes committed by the Nazis. The numerous memorials to the various groups of victims all over Germany are also part of this vibrant culture of remembrance. In central Berlin, for example, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a memorial to the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
Memorials to war, resistance and dictatorship
In November 2018 Germany commemorates the end of the First World War a century ago; 2019 is the 100th anniversary of the inaugural meeting of the Weimar Republic’s National Assembly, the first German democracy. In the major anniversary years 2014 and 2015 too, marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War and the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the overwhelming sentiment in the memorial services was one of gratitude. Gratitude for the Allies’ anti-Hitler coalition for liberating Germany in 1945, and for the opportunity to re-build the country and for its reunification in 1990. There was also gratitude to those who, as surviving victims of the Holocaust, bore witness to the crimes – and reached out their hand to a democratic Germany after the Second World War.
Memories of the communist dictatorship during the Soviet Occupation Zone (1945–1949) and the days of East Germany (1949–1990) are also being kept alive for those generations that never experienced the division of Germany and the East German system. The Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic, the institution where files are still being examined, sorted, and made accessible to those affected and academics, plays a major role in this. A permanent exhibition in the former headquarters of the State Security Service (Stasi) of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in Berlin’s Hohenschönhausen district provides an insight into the means and methods the Stasi used to spy on, control, and intimidate the population.
In the “Bendlerblock” in the Mitte district of Berlin the German Resistance Memorial Centre is devoted to the resistance to the Nazi dictatorship. It is located on the historical site of the failed coup attempted by the group headed by Count Stauffenberg on 20 July 1944. The Memorial Centre impressively documents how, between 1933 and 1945, individuals and groups took action against the dictatorship of the Third Reich and made use of what freedom of action they had.