Learning from the past

The Holocaust Memorial in the heart of Germany’s capital, Berlin
The Holocaust Memorial in the heart of Germany’s capital, Berlin Andreas Pein/laif
Many people are committed to keeping the remembrance of the Third Reich and the East German dictatorship alive.

The Third Reich from 1933 to 1945, the Second World War, the Holocaust, and also Communist rule in the former East Germany all play a very important role in the collective memory of the German people. The primary focus here is remembering the victims of Nazism. And the brave people who were members of the resistance to Adolf Hitler. Preserving the accounts of contemporary witnesses in the form of videos or transcripts is particularly important. This way, an awareness of the crimes of the Second World War can be kept awake in future generations. Even those born 50 years after the end of the Second World War must be able to learn about people’s experiences of the period between 1939 and 1945. There are many sites and monuments commemorating the different groups of victims in Germany. In the heart of Berlin, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe commemorates the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Many people of your age are committed to keeping these memories alive and to shaping a peaceful world. The Action Reconciliation Service for Peace works to ensure critical and sensitive engagement with the consequences of Nazi crimes. Every year several hundred young people complete voluntary assignments in Europe, the USA, and Israel.

They work at memorial sites, support Holocaust survivors, and work towards a more tolerant society. “Peace work” is an important basic focus of youth work. The Franco-German Youth Office and the German-Polish Youth Office promote exchange between young ­people, for example, through interesting programmes and projects.

Remembrance of the Communist dictatorship in East Germany from 1949 to 1990 is also kept alive. In the former East German Security Service HQ in Berlin’s Hohenschönhausen district visitors can learn about the work of the “Stasi” (the former Ministry of State Security), which spied on, monitored, intimidated, and incarcerated citizens.

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