OrthodoxyToday.org
Commentary on social and moral issues of the day


The Specters Haunting Dresden

Theodore Dalrymple

  • Print this page
  • Email this page
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Bookmark and Share

The foundations of Hitler's bunker were uncovered during the building frenzy in Berlin that followed the reunification of Germany. An anguished debate ensued about what to do with the site, for in Germany both memory and amnesia are dangerous, each with its moral hazards. To mark the bunker's site might turn it into a place of pilgrimage for neo-Nazis, resurgent in the East; not to mark it might be regarded as an attempt to deny the past. In the end, anonymous burial was deemed the better, which is to say the safer, option.

Nowhere in the world (except, perhaps, in Israel or Russia) does history weigh as heavily, as palpably, upon ordinary people as in Germany. Sixty years after the end of the Second World War, the disaster of Nazism is still unmistakably and inescapably inscribed upon almost every town and cityscape, in whichever direction you look. The urban environment of Germany, whose towns and cities were once among the most beautiful in the world, second only to Italy's, is now a wasteland of functional yet discordant modern architecture, soulless and incapable of inspiring anything but a vague existential unease, with a sense of impermanence and unreality that mere prosperity can do nothing to dispel. Well-stocked shops do not supply meaning or purpose. Beauty, at least in its man-made form, has left the land for good; and such remnants of past glories as remain serve only as a constant, nagging reminder of what has been lost, destroyed, utterly and irretrievably smashed up.

Nor are the comforts of victimhood available to the Germans as they survey the devastation of their homeland. Walking with the widow of a banker through the one small square in Frankfurt that has been restored to its medieval splendor, I remarked how beautiful a city Frankfurt must once have been, and how terrible it was that such beauty should have been lost forever.

"We started it," she said. "We got what we deserved."

Read the entire article on the City Journal website (new window will open).

Posted: 04-Feb-05



Copyright 2001-2014 OrthodoxyToday.org. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article is subject to the policy of the individual copyright holder. Follow copyright link for details.
Copyright 2001-2014 OrthodoxyToday.org. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article is subject to the policy of the individual copyright holder. See OrthodoxyToday.org for details.


Article link: