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As an increasingly polarized America fights over the legacy of racism, Susan Neiman, author of the contemporary philosophical classic Evil in Modern Thought, asks what we can learn from the Germans about confronting the evils of the past In the wake of white nationalist attacks, the ongoing debate over reparations, and the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments and t As an increasingly polarized America fights over the legacy of racism, Susan Neiman, author of the contemporary philosophical classic Evil in Modern Thought, asks what we can learn from the Germans about confronting the evils of the past In the wake of white nationalist attacks, the ongoing debate over reparations, and the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments and the contested memories they evoke, Susan Neiman’s Learning from the Germans delivers an urgently needed perspective on how a country can come to terms with its historical wrongdoings. Neiman is a white woman who came of age in the civil rights–era South and a Jewish woman who has spent much of her adult life in Berlin. Working from this unique perspective, she combines philosophical reflection, personal stories, and interviews with both Americans and Germans who are grappling with the evils of their own national histories. Through discussions with Germans, including Jan Philipp Reemtsma, who created the breakthrough Crimes of the Wehrmacht exhibit, and Friedrich Schorlemmer, the East German dissident preacher, Neiman tells the story of the long and difficult path Germans faced in their effort to atone for the crimes of the Holocaust. In the United States, she interviews James Meredith about his battle for equality in Mississippi and Bryan Stevenson about his monument to the victims of lynching, as well as lesser-known social justice activists in the South, to provide a compelling picture of the work contemporary Americans are doing to confront our violent history. In clear and gripping prose, Neiman urges us to consider the nuanced forms that evil can assume, so that we can recognize and avoid them in the future.


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As an increasingly polarized America fights over the legacy of racism, Susan Neiman, author of the contemporary philosophical classic Evil in Modern Thought, asks what we can learn from the Germans about confronting the evils of the past In the wake of white nationalist attacks, the ongoing debate over reparations, and the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments and t As an increasingly polarized America fights over the legacy of racism, Susan Neiman, author of the contemporary philosophical classic Evil in Modern Thought, asks what we can learn from the Germans about confronting the evils of the past In the wake of white nationalist attacks, the ongoing debate over reparations, and the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments and the contested memories they evoke, Susan Neiman’s Learning from the Germans delivers an urgently needed perspective on how a country can come to terms with its historical wrongdoings. Neiman is a white woman who came of age in the civil rights–era South and a Jewish woman who has spent much of her adult life in Berlin. Working from this unique perspective, she combines philosophical reflection, personal stories, and interviews with both Americans and Germans who are grappling with the evils of their own national histories. Through discussions with Germans, including Jan Philipp Reemtsma, who created the breakthrough Crimes of the Wehrmacht exhibit, and Friedrich Schorlemmer, the East German dissident preacher, Neiman tells the story of the long and difficult path Germans faced in their effort to atone for the crimes of the Holocaust. In the United States, she interviews James Meredith about his battle for equality in Mississippi and Bryan Stevenson about his monument to the victims of lynching, as well as lesser-known social justice activists in the South, to provide a compelling picture of the work contemporary Americans are doing to confront our violent history. In clear and gripping prose, Neiman urges us to consider the nuanced forms that evil can assume, so that we can recognize and avoid them in the future.

30 review for Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil

  1. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    As long as there is a substantial amount of people who think that Robert E. Lee should literally remain on a pedestal, who proudly call those who fought to maintain the system of slavery "rebels" defending "state rights", and who say that the Native American genocide was "manifest destiny", it's not all that surprising that President Donald "good people on all sides" Trump can blatantly ignore reality and lie all day long: If your version of history is a lie, how can you work towards a better fu As long as there is a substantial amount of people who think that Robert E. Lee should literally remain on a pedestal, who proudly call those who fought to maintain the system of slavery "rebels" defending "state rights", and who say that the Native American genocide was "manifest destiny", it's not all that surprising that President Donald "good people on all sides" Trump can blatantly ignore reality and lie all day long: If your version of history is a lie, how can you work towards a better future? In this mixture of memoir, interview protocols and historic investigation, American moral philosopher Susan Neiman discusses how Germany has been dealing with historical guilt, and what the US can learn from that for its own Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung (working off the past). Neiman herself is Jewish, she has lived, studied and taught in the US and in Germany (and also spent some time in Israel) and she is currently the Director of the Einstein Forum in Potsdam/Brandenburg. Reading the title of the book, I (and with me some of my German Goodreads friends) was worried that Neiman might fail to discuss the many struggles that were fought within Germany before the country was willing to face its role as the nation that aimed to build a fascist Reich and that is responsible for the holocaust, and by that to deal with the guilt and the shame that comes with this part of our history. Fortunately, Neiman does elaborate on the fact that way too many Nazis managed to build careers in postwar Germany, and that large parts of society were trying to forget, ignore, and re-write what happened. But she also shows why and how Germany managed to face its crimes, what it did and still does to remember the past, and how attitudes within the population have changed (although there is still a lot of room for improvement). Neiman compares Berlin to Mississippi in order to find out what differentiates the way (white) people deal with their histories, and what lessons the Germans have learnt could help the US to face its own racist history. It is very important to mention that her interest is "less in comparative crime than in comparative redemption" - again and again, Neiman underlines that comparing the holocaust, a singularly evil event, to other crimes is morally unacceptable in Germany: The holocaust is not "like" anything, the holocaust is the holocaust. (As an aside: I have a huge problem with Luiselli's Lost Children Archive because she parallels the Native American genocide with the migrant crisis; I was taken aback when I realized that in other post-genocidal nations, this is deemed unproblematic - and people from other countries aparently had a hard time understanding my indignation and suspected that I could be upset about "cultural appropriation", which was not at all my point - a classic case of different cultural perpectives in the context of historic guilt). Neiman's aim is to find ways to deal with guilt that derives from racist crimes, because the defense or re-writing of such a history usually cements racism for the future - if everything was great, why change it? In Germany, there are no statues of Nazis, showing Nazi flags and symbols is illegal and hate speech as well as denying the holocaust are criminal offenses. Within society, it is a widely held belief that WW II and the holocaust are sources of national shame and you will hardly find people who defend their ancestors when they played a disgraceful role in WW II (and many Germans have ancestors who did and are still alive). If we can do it, why shouldn't the American South be able to face slavery, the civil war, segregation, and racial terror in order to become a better place? It is possible, and Neiman investigates how. What bothered me a lot though was that Neiman is apologetic when it comes to the GDR and biased when it comes to the German party system. The problem with racism in East Germany did not start with the refugee crises; this problem has been obvious since the wall came down (see burning refugee asylums, the National Socialist Underground, the support for far-right-parties, you name it). It is very hard to maintain that the GDR was better at its Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, as Neiman does, because racist attitudes are more widespread in the East. Neiman's is a minority opinion, as she herself admits (point in case: Umkämpfte Zone: Mein Bruder, der Osten und der Hass). Even some of her East German interview partners contradict her in the book. The background for this claim is Neiman's generally rather positive portrayal of the GDR. She argues that it is silly to compare the Nazi dictatorship to the GDR, and I full-heartedly agree - but the GDR was not just a second German state, it was - and I can't believe that I even have to point that out - a dictatorship. Neiman advocates that the unified Germany should have adopted the GDR anthem for the whole state. Yes: We should all sing the anthem of a dictatorship that was, as we all know, so fun and appealing that people had to be kept from fleeing by shooting them at the Berlin Wall. Why not spit into the faces of the GDR's victims by venerating its symbols? Also, I was surprised to learn that the Stasi was "the best intelligence service in the world" and its ex-leader, Wolf, was a swell guy who wrote a "moving and thoughtful memoir of his extraordinary life" - oh yes, the Stasi, it was just awesome how they terrorized people into conforming to the state's objectives. The GDR was about power at the expense of the people. It is absolutely true that the West made grave mistakes when it comes to the reunification, but Neiman makes it almost seem like the GDR was the better German state, which is pure ideology. Do I really have to state the obvious, that this dictatorship, a satellite state of the Soviet Union with no free elections, no separation of power, no freedom of speech, no impartial court system, was not? This kind of argumentation is very upsetting, because I share Neiman's belief that America needs universal healthcare and proper social legislation - more solidarity, less Ayn Rand. Solidarity between classes, ethnicities and religions, the belief in common values are important when it comes to fighting hate. But this will not be achieved by sugarcoating a failed dictatorship that advocated state socialism. Also, dear American readers, watch out for some other distortions: Neiman has a clear social democrat (SPD) bias, interviewing and applauding all kinds of SPD politicians - the extent of her fangirling is sometimes a little embarrassing. It is true that the Social Democrats (SPD) made important contributions to the social system in Germany. It is not true though that when it comes to social laws and anti-fascism, Merkel's party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), where always the bad guys and the SPD always the advocates for change for the better - as usual, reality is a lot more complex (e.g.: The first welfare state in the modern world was created by chancellor Bismarck, a conservative; the guy who invented the social market economy was chancellor Erhard, CDU; and the chancellor who made the biggest cuts into the German welfare state ever was Schröder, SPD; And which European leader stepped up during the refugee crisis, while other countries flaunted their racism?). Plus: If the SPD was guaranteeing solidarity when it comes to the welfare state, why is no one concerned that we might lose it if the SPD looses all relevance, which is currently happening? Easy: Because the welfare state is based on a broad societal consensus, it's not a partisan issue - and it shouldn't be! Neiman pretends that there is neoliberalism and social democracy, period. That's complete nonsense. (On top of that, Neiman strategically omits the massive role of the Green Party when it comes to anti-fascism; in Germany, the Green Party is currently stronger than the SPD.) I found this biased approach very annoying and misleading, especially for American readers who often lack the context to weigh her arguments - the bias undermines the many interesting and important points Neiman makes, which is very unfortunate. Still, I think this book is an excellent conversation-starter, and I would love to discuss it with some Americans.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This book contrasts Germany’s response to the Holocaust with America’s response to slavery and centuries of racial discrimination. Note that “comparative evil” (i.e. which is worse) is not being compared. Rather, “comparative redemption” is investigated by seeing what steps have been taken in both countries to come to terms with the memory of unsavory past events. This book describes the progress made by Germans in coming to terms with the legacy of the Holocaust. The book then proceeds to sugge This book contrasts Germany’s response to the Holocaust with America’s response to slavery and centuries of racial discrimination. Note that “comparative evil” (i.e. which is worse) is not being compared. Rather, “comparative redemption” is investigated by seeing what steps have been taken in both countries to come to terms with the memory of unsavory past events. This book describes the progress made by Germans in coming to terms with the legacy of the Holocaust. The book then proceeds to suggest that steps taken by the Germans can be a lesson and guide to Americans as they deal with the legacy of slavery and the neo-slavery that continued into the 1960s. The author, Susan Neiman, is in a unique position to write this book. A Jewish American, she grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and has lived in Germany for most of her adult and professional life and is director of Berlin’s Einstein Forum. The interviews and research for this book were collected over a three year period including a year in Mississippi and neighboring states. The initial postwar decades generally found the Germans more preoccupied with feelings of victimhood than feelings of guilt. Also, due to the threats of the Cold War, the occupying Western Powers were more concerned about Communism than denazification. The East Germans considered themselves to be liberated from the Nazis, and they believed the remaining Nazis all lived in the West. Consequently, rumblings of questions regarding responsibility for the Holocaust didn’t start being taken seriously until the 1980s when the grandchildren of the war generation started to come of age. Neiman maintains that the German confrontation with history since then is more extensive and honest than anything that has occurred in the United States regarding slavery and discrimination. If the civil rights process of the 1960s are considered to be the actual beginning point, Americans are now fifty years into coming to terms with the legacy of slavery, segregation, and discrimination. If so, the United States is at a point equivalent to Germany in the 1990s. The author’s interviews with American southerners showed eerie similarities with the first generation of postwar Germans. Both had rationalizations of why there weren’t responsible for past wrongs. But at the same time there are signs of progress. The recent efforts at remembering past lynchings—e.g. National Memorial for Peace and Justice—and remembering contributions made by African Americans—e.g. National Museum of African American History and Culture—are indications of some American progress. Unsurprisingly, the author had nothing good to say about DJT. The book makes a case for reparations, suggesting that If one believes German reparations were justified, how can one oppose them in America? Any current resident benefiting from a society built on injustice should feel responsible for correcting it, even though they—or their ancestors—weren’t directly responsible for the injustice. This book makes only scattered and occasional references to the genocide of Native Americans (a.k.a. American Indians). Much of what is said about coming to terms with the legacy of slavery could also be applied to them. Also there's the current injustice taking place because of the failure to deal with the issue of immigration which has resulted in the creation of an underclass of approximately eleven million undocumented people who are thus vulnerable to abuse.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    Why Evangelicals are suckers for Qanon... and why it's the ugly return of medieval anti-Semitism  https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/... =============== “People voted for Hitler as they voted for Putin and Trump, because they didn’t want to give up their own privileges." "the influence of the South on American political culture is disproportionate to the size of the region." "The achievements of Obama’s presidency, especially impressive in the face of massive opposition to every move he made, underm Why Evangelicals are suckers for Qanon... and why it's the ugly return of medieval anti-Semitism  https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/... =============== “People voted for Hitler as they voted for Putin and Trump, because they didn’t want to give up their own privileges." "the influence of the South on American political culture is disproportionate to the size of the region." "The achievements of Obama’s presidency, especially impressive in the face of massive opposition to every move he made, undermined the last rationalizations for white supremacy—which is just what provoked the massive backlash that led to the election of the least qualified man ever to approach the White House." "the 2016 election resulted, in large part, from America’s failure to confront its own history." "There is little knowledge in the U.S.of what led to fascism in Germany, and next to none of what happened after it, it’s unsurprising that Nazi is simply a term of abuse that has been applied to everything from Obamacare (by Ben Carson) to Saddam Hussein (by George Bush). Bill O’Reilly even used it to describe Black Lives Matter." "In the 1920s, Nazis looked to the American eugenics movement to support their own bumbling race science. Hitler took American westward expansion, with its destruction of Native peoples, as the template for the eastward expansion he said was needed to provide Germans with Lebensraum—room to live." "Nuremberg Laws. Chillingly, those jurists found American racial policies too harsh to apply in Germany, and replaced the infamous “one drop of blood” model by which American law determined race with more lenient criteria, allowing Germans possessing but one Jewish grandparent to count, shakily, as citizens." "On the other hand, the Germans appreciated the ways in which American legal realism “demonstrated that it was perfectly possible to have racist legislation even if it was technically infeasible to come up with a scientific definition of race.” "in 1951, a delegation of clergymen visiting the White House with a letter of support from the ailing Albert Einstein failed to convince Harry Truman to make lynching a federal crime. This would have left it subject to federal rather than local prosecution at a time when local justice officials were often part of lynch mobs, and certainly disinclined to prosecute them. Politically dependent on the support of white Southern Democrats, Truman said the moment was inopportune." "Frederick Douglass, the former slave turned abolitionist, said it early on: racist violence occurs most often when black people advance." "Nothing I ever learned in Berlin surprised me more than the recognition that most Germans once put their own misery front and center. For decades after the war ended, Germans were obsessed with the suffering they’d endured, not the suffering they’d caused." (Still true of Japan, today) ============ I should add, we also taught Germany the art of propaganda.... https://phys.org/news/2015-07-america... ========= Short background piece on the book... https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cul... =========== More background on how the Nazis learned from American practices.... https://historynewsnetwork.org/articl...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    We do not learn from statues. Despite what some people might think, statues do not come down from their pedestals and give us blow by blow accounts of what happened. This would be somewhat strange as the statues were not present at the times of the events. But who a society erects a statue to is important because it tells you about that society? Just as important is the context in which those statues are displayed. Do later generations, for instance, make a plaque that notes the less than stella We do not learn from statues. Despite what some people might think, statues do not come down from their pedestals and give us blow by blow accounts of what happened. This would be somewhat strange as the statues were not present at the times of the events. But who a society erects a statue to is important because it tells you about that society? Just as important is the context in which those statues are displayed. Do later generations, for instance, make a plaque that notes the less than stellar reputations, at least by modern standards. How does one address Jefferson’s demand of rights with his forbidding rights and personhood to those he owned? But it should be addressed simply because the myth is far more dangerous than the truth. The view of the Confederacy by certain people in the United States is a prime example of this. It is not uncommon, regardless of where you are in the US to encounter a person who will say something along the lines of “slavery wasn’t that bad”. At least the people were fed, they will claim. They had a roof over their head. Or even more unbelievable, they could leave any time they wanted. These same people will tell you that the Civil War was fought over states rights, not slavery. The same people who, if we are being kind, were never taught that slavery was the first issue in the Constitutions for the confederate states, that if it were state’s rights then the Confederate government would not have taken slaves to work for the army. If we are not being kind, these same people are racist and or white supremist. And these people are the ones who claim that Confederate statues are doing no harm and represent great Americans. Which is funny because they wanted to leave America so they could own people. The North of course has its own issues. We are not honest about when slavery started or the impact in terms of the economic. And the North adjected responsibly after the Civil War and allowed the South to control the narrative, including the statues to Confederates, which was largely done by the daughters of the Confederacy. Neiman’s book points out how radically different this is even from Germany and how it confronted (and confronts) the actions of the country during the Holocaust and Second World War. The book, she says, was originally conceived to include Ireland, and considering how in depth this book was, I really hope she writes it. Neiman traces the uses of history in both post war Germany states as well as the use of memory after the reunification of the country. Her analysis points out things that you might not be aware of – like the lack of any memorial to the victims of colonization or the lack of a national memorial to say Harriet Tubman. More important, Neiman shows the important of why such a debate and a desire to remove the statues is important. Her tone I engrossing and the book is compelling read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Thomas

    Unlike so many of the books that I’ve read recently about America’s troubled history with race, this one has been sitting in my queue for some time and yet it seems so topical now. What do we do with memory? Do we learn from an objective view of it? Do we construct a narrative of grievance or do we simply confront it? Those are questions faced by individuals and entire nations. When nations do it, it’s called politics which is too slippery a subject for my liking so I’m just going to call this a Unlike so many of the books that I’ve read recently about America’s troubled history with race, this one has been sitting in my queue for some time and yet it seems so topical now. What do we do with memory? Do we learn from an objective view of it? Do we construct a narrative of grievance or do we simply confront it? Those are questions faced by individuals and entire nations. When nations do it, it’s called politics which is too slippery a subject for my liking so I’m just going to call this a work of philosophy. This book, I suppose, is pretty much what the title says. It’s about learning from the Germans, more specifically what the United States can learn from Germany about confronting a dark legacy. The Germans have much to be ashamed of in their militaristic and Nazi past but, as imperfect as it was, I doubt any country has ever done a better job of taking responsibility for and attempting to repair historic evil. There is no perfect comparison between what Germany has done about 12 years of Nazism and what the United States hasn’t done about centuries of slavery, racism, and white supremacy, a tougher legacy to live down. Of course, America’s failures to confront its own dark history is hardly unique in the world, Turkey still pretends the Armenian Genocide never happened. Still, considering the ideals that Americans are so proud of, in which their nation was founded on if they don’t follow Germany’s example and attempt to come to terms with their past, all that promise might yet be wasted. I learned a lot in this one about modern German history since the second world war and the long struggle to deal with the pile of crap left behind by Hitler and his cronies. Very interesting. The story of Emmett Till always makes me sad and angry. As much of an argument for just how thin the veneer of civilization is as the Holocaust ever was. Why exactly do they call that part of Mississippi the Mississippi Delta? When I look it on a map, it sure doesn’t look like a delta. This one has certainly given me a lot of food for thought. My own country, Canada, has a racist colonial past the confronting of which is still very much a work in progress. I guess I can say that a book like this is a success of it makes me think. This one certainly did that. It drags a bit in places but it’s worth it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Karen Adkins

    If you are interested in effective responses to racism, this book should be essential reading. Neiman, who grew up in the segregated US South but now lives in Berlin, thoughtfully compares the ways in which Germany has done more serious reflective, historic, political, and yes reparations work to reckon with its anti-Semitic past than the US has with its history of chattel slavery. As a Jewish woman who experienced anti-Semitic treatment in both the US and Germany, she's able to speak to both st If you are interested in effective responses to racism, this book should be essential reading. Neiman, who grew up in the segregated US South but now lives in Berlin, thoughtfully compares the ways in which Germany has done more serious reflective, historic, political, and yes reparations work to reckon with its anti-Semitic past than the US has with its history of chattel slavery. As a Jewish woman who experienced anti-Semitic treatment in both the US and Germany, she's able to speak to both structural injustice as well as the more daily slights, and the costs of all of them. Of course she also talks about the spectacle of racism (the meaning of monuments and public memory, why the Charlottesville riots and Presidential responses to them are so damaging), but more substantively, she demonstrates the ways in which Germany struggled to its political and economic engagement with its own history--the debates around reparations for Holocaust survivors, the ways in which ideology around WWII echoes Lost Cause mythology (essentially, the idea that it was only a few bad racists and everyone else just was coerced into participating--she effectively demolishes this myth making in both countries). She originally planned to include Ireland in her book, but left it out because it would make the project too big. I hope she writes another book on this topic, because I think Ireland would complicate her thesis about political memory in important ways.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David Hill

    I've read quite a bit about Germany, but almost all of that was about the 12 years 1933-1945. I've read much less about our Civil War. Although my reading of history after those periods may be lacking, I like to think I pay attention to the things that are going on around me. So I've had the sense that Germany has dealt with its past better than America has. Germany didn't follow WWII by continued subjugation of Jews but America certainly continued to repress freed slaves and their descendants. I've read quite a bit about Germany, but almost all of that was about the 12 years 1933-1945. I've read much less about our Civil War. Although my reading of history after those periods may be lacking, I like to think I pay attention to the things that are going on around me. So I've had the sense that Germany has dealt with its past better than America has. Germany didn't follow WWII by continued subjugation of Jews but America certainly continued to repress freed slaves and their descendants. This book gives some insight into why that's the case. History, they say, is written by the victors. That's clearly not always the case. In Germany, immediately after the war, a common attitude of the Germans is that of victimhood. Their cities had been bombed to rubble, their sons, brothers, and fathers had been killed in combat, and their country partitioned. Seeing oneself as the victim in such circumstances is probably very easy. That is, the victimhood outweighs whatever sense of guilt or responsibility one feels for being a member of the society that started the whole thing. But Germans have embraced their history. Although there was some whitewashing of individual Nazis' past, the substance of Naziism has not been denied. In the US, on the other hand, the history of the Civil War has been, to a surprisingly large degree, rewritten by the losers. Too many Americans are under the mistaken impression that the war wasn't primarily about slavery. Some still call it the War of Northern Aggression, denying the simple fact that the South fired the first shots. The South is full of statues and monuments celebrating Johnny Reb and Confederate generals. And some states have holidays commemorating Confederate war criminals. This book is a deep dive into how this came about, and the attitudes and beliefs behind it. I found it well written and well supported by research. As with any good book, it prompts me to take a deeper dive into the subject matter. It has illuminated my lack of understanding German history 1945-1989. I've only really considered Germany as a setting in the Cold War, and I've accepted the stereotypical western view of East Germany. I will aim to fill that gap. I also am severely lacking in understanding of the Civil Rights struggle and will work to fill that gap as well. Contains index, notes, and bibliography. I'd have welcomed a few photographs, but so it goes.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ulrich Baer

    When Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee recently ordered a holiday to celebrate the memory of confederate general Nathan Bedford Forest, a convicted war criminal who helped found the Ku Klux Klan, the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman commented: “the world would be horrified if Germany announced plans to start celebrating Erich von Manstein Day.” Krugman’s point was to emphasize that to celebrate a racist past does not behoove a modern democratic nation. But his analogy of celebrating the founder When Tennessee’s Governor Bill Lee recently ordered a holiday to celebrate the memory of confederate general Nathan Bedford Forest, a convicted war criminal who helped found the Ku Klux Klan, the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman commented: “the world would be horrified if Germany announced plans to start celebrating Erich von Manstein Day.” Krugman’s point was to emphasize that to celebrate a racist past does not behoove a modern democratic nation. But his analogy of celebrating the founder of the Klan in today’s America and a Nazi in today’s Germany is more than another dispute between liberals and conservative Americans. Krugman invokes Germany’s “overcoming” or “coming to terms with” its past of racial violence, atrocity and genocide as a possible guide for American attitudes toward its racialized past. But how did Germany deal with the Nazi past? How did post-Germany move from the legacy of fascism to today’s democratic political culture? And how can America learn from a country that had committed the crime of the Holocaust which has served as a universal moral yardstick for nearly half a century? Susan Newman, a philosopher chiefly of the Enlightenment and a leading thinker on evil in the modern age, probes this question in her new book, Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil. Neiman does not suggest that America’s racialized past, from the brutal enslavement of millions of people to Jim Crow laws, police violence and today’s racism are the same as Germany’s persecution of genocide of Jews and other ethnic minorities. There is no equivalence between the Holocaust and other racial crimes. But Germany’s post-war efforts to come to terms with its past can provide important lessons for America’s current struggle over confederate monuments, politically correct speech, the use of words such as “concentration camps,” and proper ways of remembering the racist past. Indeed, some of the strategies used by Germany could allow America to move past its current impasse and create a better and shared narrative of its troubled past. Neiman, who directs the Einstein Forum in Berlin and has lived and taught in the US and Germany, offers a detailed account out both East and West Germany’s efforts to deal with the Nazi past in the postwar decades. It’s useful to consider the two countries (which were united after the wall fell in 1989) separately, since each offers different lessons in how to deal with racist violence in the past. She explains public debates but also recounts her conversations with Germans and Americans. These field notes are as important as the philosophical reflections, since the book is as much about official policies as it is about transforming a nation’s mindset and behavior. Perhaps surprisingly for some American readers, East Germany was both more thorough and more thoughtful than West Germany in confronting and rooting out the legacy of the Nazi past. This process involved removing tainted officials but also educating young people about the rise and impact of fascism. West Germany was slower in removing former Nazi from positions of authority and of changing the legal and political culture so that perpetrators could be brought to justice even decades after the war. Several key moments, including well-publicized trials in the 1960s and public debates in the 1970s and 1980s all contributed ultimately to a shared narrative that Germany bears responsibility for its past crimes, and that present-day decisions must be taken and evaluated in light of this recognition. The story had not always been thus, and Neiman chronicles the shift from various other options to the current moment. There had been other narratives competing for dominance: all East Germans were communists who resisted fascism; the Americans tried and sentenced all of the Nazis at Nuremberg; the Holocaust was an isolated crime in which no ordinary German soldiers participated. It took decades of public discussion, political proclamation, legislation and cultural shifts to replace these self-serving tales with a more truthful account. More truthful here means more inclusive of the experiences of former victims and survivors, and more honest about the extent of average Germans’ support for Hitler’s regime. Today, of course, the rising populist parties challenge Germany’s dominant narrative of taking responsibility for past crimes. Like conservatives in Trump’s America, they want to be done with discussing past grievances and move past the memorialization of racial injustice for the sake of unity. They complain about a cult of victimhood and insufficient celebrations of German valor during World War II, not very different from those who want to celebrate the Confederate army in the US today. Neiman shows how the battle over narratives is not a sideshow of politics but a central aspect of social and political life that informs policies and other decisions. The populists want to replace one narrative with another. They want to commemorate confederate generals but not victims of hate crimes. But this is not a book about the past. Neiman shows how America’s reluctance to confront its racial problems, from slavery to legalized segregation, racial terror, police brutality and calls for non-Whites to go “back home,” hamstrings the nation’s present. She lauds Bryan Stevenson’s campaign to memorialize the thousands of lynchings committed in the 20th century as a form of domestic terror. Stevenson’s project, Neiman shows, takes important cues from Germany’s ways of dealing with the past. What is needed for America to truly move forward, the book ultimately concludes, is a shared narrative that acknowledges past pain and injustice as a central part of its history and not as a marginal error that can be easily corrected. The obstacles to jointly developing such a narrative, for Black and White Americans, are not so very different from those found in Germany after the war. Denial, shame, pride, trauma, and group identities all keep people from openly acknowledging their roles in a system that discriminated against people because of race and ethnicity. Neiman parses discussions of the “lost cause” and how it hampers a reconciled present. She discusses the case of Emmett Till, a Black child murdered by racists who were never brought to justice in Mississippi, and the current controversies over proper and authorized representations of him. These and other controversies usually do not resolve but only surface existing tensions, and Neiman is apt in tracing the difference between some people’s duty to tell a story, and other people’s right to do so. Monuments, she explains, are “not about history; they are values made visible.” How we commemorate the history of racism and slavery in the United States, Learning from Germans shows, is a debate not about the past but about our current values. Do we value white memory above black pain and resistance? Can we find a way to acknowledge the fundamental contradictions in America’s past to realize its promise and potential? Can American repair its treatment of Black citizens, either through reparations, policies, or other forms? Germany has stumbled many times in its dealing with the past, and Neiman discusses the shortcomings and criticisms. But she considers the country exemplary for conducting a robust discussion of how best to commemorate the past and for generally moving in the right direction of acknowledging responsibility for past crimes, and taking steps such as reparations, formal apologies, and correcting historical accounts. Her ultimate faith rests with the enlightenment principles that there are shared human concerns that supersede tribal and local interests. These principles are found in the German tradition, in Immanuel Kant, Karl Jaspers and the German-American philosopher Hannah Arendt, and also in the American tradition, with Thomas Jefferson, Frederick Douglas, and W.E.B. DuBois. Learning from the Germans aims to open up discussions in the United States that are currently stuck in polarized positions and to move past a battle over grievances to arrive at a shared present.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    read this for my thesis and i have to think/write about it a lot more so i don't know how much i wanna get into it here hahaaha but i shall try my best!! this was pretty much the first source that landed in my lap when i decided on my thesis topic last year (thank u morganlein!) and it's one of the coolest, most informative books i've ever come across author susan neiman is a philosopher with a unique backstory--she's a white jewish woman who was raised in the american south by a mother who was i read this for my thesis and i have to think/write about it a lot more so i don't know how much i wanna get into it here hahaaha but i shall try my best!! this was pretty much the first source that landed in my lap when i decided on my thesis topic last year (thank u morganlein!) and it's one of the coolest, most informative books i've ever come across author susan neiman is a philosopher with a unique backstory--she's a white jewish woman who was raised in the american south by a mother who was involved in the civil rights movement and who has now lived in berlin for a few decades. in her book, she explores vergangenheitsbewältigung ("working off the past" or "overcoming the past" in german), which is a concept that describes germans' attempts post-1945 to deal with nazism and the atrocities committed in their name. as the title implies, neiman juxtaposes germany's attempts to reckon with its racial history with how america has correspondingly dealt with (or not dealt with) chattel slavery and the post-emancipation racial terror and lynching. this is a pretty controversial premise: nearly every german interviewed by neiman states that germany is absolutely no model. germans (and pretty much everyone) believe in the singularity of the holocaust and know that it should not be compared to anything else. however, neiman isn't interested in comparing genocides. she is interested in what comes after, in how america and germany have both undergone periods of deliberate forgetting and remembering and mythologizing, periods of self-aggrandizement and self-victimization. and by no means does she suggest that germany has dealt with its history perfectly, or that america has completely failed. there is a lot of nuance, and neiman opens up conversation instead of making blanket statements about both countries my favorite aspect is how she uses the space in this book to illuminate other voices across the deep south and germany, to show wide ranging opinions and feelings regarding memory and past and present events. in addition to the interviews, this book contains some personal reflection and philosophizing (which was cool. i'm terrible at philosophy and it scares me but neiman really broke things down clearly and made it feel more accessible) and just a ton of info in general. i learned so SO much. i even enjoyed how neiman wrote about the topics i was relatively familiar with--her writing is penetrative and engaging and rather funny at times. highly recommend the chapters on vergangenheitsbewältigung in east vs west germany (her discussion of east germany in particular is really interesting--i don't know if she adequately addressed the gdr's human rights violations (and the need to also work off that part of german history) but she portrays east germany in a more positive light, countering a lot of the misconceptions), memorialization, and reparations this book has many positive attributes, but tbh if i wasn't already interested in german and american memorialization, i don't know if i would have finished it. she is a veeeery dense and long book. i feel like neiman gathered a ton of information and organized it in the best way she could, but it still feels kinda chaotically put together haha. her writing meanders about--it doesn't really feel like she is building to any BIG point (if there is a big point, i think it's just that remembering the past is very important and VERY hard, and that's established on like the first page); rather, she kinda just goes along and gives her thoughts on this and that, dropping interviews and quotes from philosophers/historians in occasionally, going off on tangents at other times. BUT maybe i still would have finished it. i didn't mind too too much. i learned something new every few pages, and there was a logical flow from point to point, even if the overall chapter/section didn't feel super structured lastly, i think this book is great and important bc it jumps right into all the conversations we are having (and we need to be having) about race in america and collective identity and our largely unaddressed history of violence against black and brown communities. i love how neiman highlights the work of many incredible individuals and organizations in the us that are actively doing the work--facing the past head on and pursuing racial reconciliation (a few of these organizations: the william winter institute, the equal justice initiative, the philadelphia coalition, behind the big house, the slave dwelling project, the whitney plantation). this work isn't easy at all, but neiman is trying to show that it is both doable and necessary, and that it is so good for all of us, as individuals, as a community, and as a nation. her message is one of hope. we don't dig up the past to stir up controversy or make people uncomfy or bc we are masochists or whatever--we address the past in order to build a better present and future. by looking back, we are looking forward. i don't know if i explained that well at all lol but read this book and you'll get it!! and you'll come away feeling incredibly enlightened and galvanized

  10. 4 out of 5

    James Murphy

    Earlier in the year when I read Susan Neiman's 2002 book Evil in Modern Thought I was taken with her insight into the nature of evil and her judgment that the Holocaust is one of the modern examples of its presence in the world. So when I became aware she was publishing Learning from the Germans comparing Germany's anti-Semitism and the American South's white supremacy, I knew I'd read it soon after publication. Neiman has roots in both countries she writes about. She was born in Atlanta and rai Earlier in the year when I read Susan Neiman's 2002 book Evil in Modern Thought I was taken with her insight into the nature of evil and her judgment that the Holocaust is one of the modern examples of its presence in the world. So when I became aware she was publishing Learning from the Germans comparing Germany's anti-Semitism and the American South's white supremacy, I knew I'd read it soon after publication. Neiman has roots in both countries she writes about. She was born in Atlanta and raised Jewish there during the civil rights era. She's lived in Berlin since the 1980s. I was expecting a comparative analysis of German and American racism and more of her philosophical penetration into the nature of evil. But she has said her book is about comparative redemption, not comparative evil. What she finds is redemption in Germany--their word for it is 26 letters long and means working-off-the-past--but not in America. Germans have made great strides in atoning for the Holocaust, she says. They're taught as a population that the Holocaust was an event of national disgrace. Their memorials to WWII reference the victims of the Holocaust. In the American South, where monuments honor those who fought for the preservation of slavery and were mostly erected in the Jim Crow era, the work of atonement is proceeding much slower. The difference, Neiman says, is shame. Germany, as a nation and society, recognizes the shame of the Holocaust. America doesn't yet feel ashamed of its racial past. Guilt, maybe, regret, but not yet shame. She mentions Native Americans only in passing. It's generally acknowledged that America was founded as much on the genocide of Indians as it was on the enslavement of Africans, and I would've welcomed her thoughts on the subject, but that would have required a much larger book containing much larger arguments. Neiman's method is personal. She uses her knowledge of having lived in Germany, and she records her experiences while traveling through the South, primarily Mississippi, I think, in a text which reads a little like reportage. Her own philosophical reflections on evil and how memory influences popular myth, her interviews, and her personal contacts are how she comes to the truths about such topics as reparations, Confederate monuments, and the face of the new racism in Germany aimed at immigrants. Sometimes her method makes it easy to make blanket statements she probably can't support. At one point she says it's impossible to eat well in the Delta. In another place she writes about Mississippi weather conditions in a way that makes the residents seem constantly threatened by extreme heat, tornadoes, and lightning when the truth is the residents consider the conditions just a fact of living there. She finds the common Southern phrase "Bless your heart" a curse rather than an expression of sweet empathy. As if recognizing she occasionally may be guilty of overstatement, on p206 she says that philosophers don't have to be accurate in the same ways historians do. But, bless her heart, these are minor quibbles about a book that's confidently presented, wise, and whose arguments are convincing. Those of us from the South will find much to reflect on here.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    “Comparative Redemption.” An interesting phrase to be sure. Susan Neiman’s Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil Is at once unsettling, disturbing and, at times depressing. Why is it that America has been unable to solve, or even at times to acknowledge the depths of the race question in America? How can such a wound be healed? Is it even possible to solve? Indeed, how can one even define what solved means? To these questions Neiman offers a startling and disturbing series of exa “Comparative Redemption.” An interesting phrase to be sure. Susan Neiman’s Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil Is at once unsettling, disturbing and, at times depressing. Why is it that America has been unable to solve, or even at times to acknowledge the depths of the race question in America? How can such a wound be healed? Is it even possible to solve? Indeed, how can one even define what solved means? To these questions Neiman offers a startling and disturbing series of examples that frame her investigation. She is a philosopher, and so the approach is not buried within history but rather framed in a more reflective and questioning manner. Neiman’s frame of comparative redemption is Germany, specifically the German response to the events that lead up to and transpired during the Second World War. Of course the time frame is radically different. That said, the process of acknowledgement and moving forward that the Germans have applied to their collective memory has been much more effective in the healing of the nation. For the United States, the process of healing seems at times to never even have started. Germany is not perfect. No nation is. However, the nation’s collective response has been one of acknowledgement and healing. Healing. Yes please.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Diogenes

    For what it’s worth, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to TRY to be a bit more humble in my reviews on GR. I need a good fistful of humility, and I think we could all use a healthy dose of positivity as 2021 begins. Dr. Neiman’s book was a Festivus gift, and perfectly so. Lizzie Widdicombe reviewed this book and Neiman’s idea in The New Yorker back in OCT 2019 too (https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cul...). The most favored review on here is from a German national who dislikes Dr. Neiman’s poli For what it’s worth, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to TRY to be a bit more humble in my reviews on GR. I need a good fistful of humility, and I think we could all use a healthy dose of positivity as 2021 begins. Dr. Neiman’s book was a Festivus gift, and perfectly so. Lizzie Widdicombe reviewed this book and Neiman’s idea in The New Yorker back in OCT 2019 too (https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cul...). The most favored review on here is from a German national who dislikes Dr. Neiman’s political bias. I do not know enough about contemporary German politics to dive into that. I do agree that Neiman’s political angle frames this conceptual analysis of Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, but it also reinforces her philosophical alignment with the Enlightenment rock stars and the fields of moral philosophy and social psychology that flowed from them. If one wishes to defend the capitalists or the AfD or the CDU, that’s your choice, but (in my opinion) Dr. Neiman is choosing the moral high ground and using that to emphasize her theoretical query: Can the people of the United States somehow reach a plausible working-through-the-past, in regards to historical racism, akin to the work Germany has done in the aftermath of Nazism and the Holocaust? Keep in mind that she is in no way saying there’s a suitable comparison between the two events except the organic evil of each. It most certainly is an interesting theory, and for me learning about what’s been going on in Germany since its reunification in 1990 is quite fascinating. As an aside, Neiman does begin a soapbox screed on page 340 which seems very disjointed from the more philosophical bulk of the book, and in my reading she more or less admits that the desire for an American Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung is virtually impossible, but still worth the try. Fair enough, though this was published before COVID and George Floyd and the election where chronic disinformation and conspiracies swirl within the minds of millions. Tamir Rice’s murdering executioners just got off scot-free this past week; so it goes, apparently, tragically. I do agree with the author completely about social democracy/democratic socialism, but I think the current-fascism-in-the-West section and the praising of Obama’s good heart was best left for an article, of which there are already a mind-numbing multitude. I doubt very few book readers are sitting on the fence regarding right-wing nationalism anywhere, be it in Germany, the US, India, or Brazil, but what do I know. Still, this book isn’t the Phenomenology of Perception, nor is it like a swan-dive into epistemological nihilism or some other heavy-handed philosophical peregrination; it’s designed for the average open-minded reader. Anyway, her topic is naturally very complicated and Neiman uses history deftly to help us maneuver through her intertwining threads of post-Nazi Germany and the post-Civil War South, with a more direct focus on Mississippi. She treads lightly around the massive subjects of individual psychology and the social psychology of certain groups because those aren’t her fields, and yet as a philosopher she is allowed to theorize, and (for me) she does this very well. It’s an extremely worthy pursuit. Adolf Eichmann is a perfect example on one side; so too is Emmett Louis Till on the other. Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem told us all about the banality of evil, but Bettina Stangneth’s Eichmann Before Jerusalem illuminated evil to be much more than simple banality. Neiman lets us know about the tremendous psychological defense mechanisms we all manufacture to protect us from facing a true reckoning with Reality, sociopaths and psychopaths included. This is done at the level of individuals, but it is compounded by parenting, social groups, news networks, publishing houses, scholars, courts, cops, politicians, mass media, and political parties. No one in Nazi Germany and Eastern Europe was truly ignorant of the industrial genocide of the Holocaust. Silence was complicity. The same goes for the slave-owning, Black Codes enacting, Jim Crow enforcing, voter-suppressing South. Emmett Till’s tragic story illustrates it all perfectly, and his story is over 50 years old. Germans, by and large, have worked through their horrendous past. Don’t misunderstand the fact that right-wing tribalism is rising again in some parts of Germany as much as it is here, but any act of outright racism there is quickly condemned by the public, respectable news outlets, and morally upstanding politicians (i.e., the overwhelming majority). It is a fringe effect, but nevertheless dangerous. What is happening in Germany is politically correct (PC) culture flirting with moral universalism. We need the social constructions of PC culture to survive small-minded and selfish sectarianism. It’s called civility. That doesn’t mean we cannot have civil disagreements, and it doesn’t mean everyone should be treated like a precious snowflake. A lie is a lie, hypocrisy is hypocrisy, grift and greed are greed and grift. Immorality is immorality. Racism is racism. A crime is a crime and nobody should be above the law, ever. A parliamentary system also helps negotiate radical elements, which is one reason why the US system of government has never been replicated by another country. The United States has not come close to PC acceptance and one could say we’re backsliding horribly thanks to bombastic Trumpism grafted onto longstanding GOP tenets, and all those individual, social, and public defense mechanisms have been entrenched for over 150 years now (never mind the history of Native Americans and the hypocrisy of the “Founding Fathers” regarding “black” and “brown” and “red” bodies). In the South specifically, Caucasians doubled-down post-Reconstruction, and they doubled-down again post-Civil Rights Act (one could say certain elements of society doubled-down again after a Black man became President too). After the Charleston church massacre, some serious discussions and actions were taken to tear down the mythology of the “Lost Cause”, but too many Americans are severely undereducated, lack critical thinking skills, lack the necessary empathy to acknowledge the suffering of Otherness, are ahistorical, and are too quick to defend their echo chambers of disinformation with anger, threats, and violence because that’s all they know using the flimsy defense mechanisms they possess. How do we as a society halt this delusional self-destructiveness? As a theoretical antidote to the sins of History, Neiman seeks a formula to generate systemic, soul-deep shame, and she uses others to guide her thesis towards a hypothetical possibility, reinforced by what German society has undertaken. Remember, she’s a moral philosopher, not a lawmaker. I’d also like to mention something powerful I learned from a behavioral psychologist I work with. She leads our weight management class and believes she can tell who will succeed and who will fail the class in the first 3 minutes of meeting them by doing a simple exercise of asking them to hold their breath for as long as possible (she doesn’t ask people to hold their breath, but I wonder if she should to save us all wasted time and taxpayer dollars). It is the willingness to feel emotions that are uncomfortable to an individual that is a tell-tale sign of maturity and shows the potential for psycho-emotional growth and overall success in behavior change. Without it, nothing else matters and you’ll be better off talking to the drywall. OK, first of all, the US has deep-rooted problems and a much longer timeline with them than post-Nazi Germany did. If one could say so, the federal government messed up with Reconstruction. The South should have been occupied longer, the upper crust of the South should have been tried and either imprisoned or publicly executed, freed slaves should have been adequately assuaged by all means available and given true equality reinforced by federal troops, and I suspect the “Lost Cause” mythology would have then withered on the vine in a generation or two. (The entire SS of the Nazi regime should have been swinging from ropes at the end of the Nuremberg trials too, in my opinion. A salve, but not a rectification.) Secondly, our overall population lacks sufficient education and public welfare (dare I say democratic socialistic) safeguards like Germany does. By that I mean a better educated and overall healthier population (in terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) has more flexibility to enact Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung over a less educated and unhealthy population. Germany is smaller geographically, obviously, and more densely populated in a predominantly urban and industrial nation. We are quite large, incredibly spread out, mired in drastic and increasing inequalities, deluded by plastic “exceptionalism”, and as the Red and Blue county colors show on every voting map, divided by Urban and Rural mindsets, with our 2-party system playing games in just about every district. There are so many other confounding issues in US society, such as around 70% believing halo-and-swan-winged angels exist, and that 50% of Americans believe in at least one disproven conspiracy theory (https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2020/11/...), that further contrasts between the two countries might be completely inappropriate. As Kurt Andersen convinced me, we live in a crazed Fantasyland, one easily accepting Confederate flags alongside Clean Coal, Flat-Earthers, the Plandemic, Xenu of the Galactic Confederacy, and Deep-State diggers. I think what can be universally agreed upon by most sane people though is that Slavery and the Holocaust were monstrous evils enacted by large groups of people upon millions of others. All the defense mechanisms people, groups, and political parties construct to delude and denude those evils are baseless and the core of the problem. What should also be widely acknowledged is that we must learn from History to avoid such echoing repetition of similar atrocities. Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung is about working through the past, to come to terms with what ancestors did, and to empathetically feel the effects of those heinous acts so that a society can collectively move past them. It’s a tall order, for sure. The “stumbling stones” of Germany and elsewhere seem like a profound way to help reach Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung over time. The removal of Confederate and slave-owning names from EVERYTHING, and replacing them with the names of slaves and abolitionists and the indigenous would also help. We should build a National Museum of Dehumanization in America (with a better name) right in the heart of DC. (I’m aware of the National Museum of African American History & Culture: https://nmaahc.si.edu/. I’m also knowledgeable about the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, AL: https://museumandmemorial.eji.org/visit, but I’ll never be in Montgomery and I think we could do more to acknowledge the historic pervasiveness of dehumanization on this continent, from the very first Europeans in the Americas to the next Black man shot in the back by a cowardly, Caucasian cop. Neiman spends a lot of time reflecting on the potential power of memorials, and I agree with Jan Philipp Reemtsma that “A sacred place is not our object, we are the object. It doesn’t have to justify its existence to us; we have to justify our ways of living before it.”) What would also hopefully help is teaching History accurately, hammering the atrocities and hypocrisies of past governments into the grey matter of kids. Think about two generations into the future, not the ignorant mobs that defend Confederate statutes erected in the 1920s to lord over Blacks while the Klan ran wild. If we can truly feel shame today, we can move forward cathartically. Of course we also need to destroy the systemic racism within the legal system, within policing, within the court system, and within local, state, and federal laws first. Reparations are another dicey issue, but they are being discussed and debated. I agree with how Jean Amery felt, believing nothing could truly account for the trauma inflicted upon the survivors of the Holocaust, not even the execution of 6 million non-Jewish Germans. Still, an act of sincere apology and a wholehearted conversation about reparations could go a long way to help heal this bleeding nation. Tribalism is destructive. Universalism—the fact that we’re all on this third rock swirling around a star, an aquarium that is rapidly warming thanks to vampiric Capitalism—should be the means towards a reevaluation of priorities and a striving for greater equilibrium around the world (i.e., moral universalism). But slathering Mammon rules brazenly. Should we accept the neoliberal bastardization of idealism for humankind? Neiman believes we, the minority, should continuously strive to push societies forward, “failing better” every time the masses reject progressivism, until one day, maybe, we reach some semblance of the humanistic harmony all the ancient prophets professed to portend. It’s worth the struggle and it is worth the sacrifices we will all have to make. I’m onboard, but the sand slips through the hourglass and Time is not on our side. Systemic racism is woven into the fabric of this fragile republic. Can those threads be pulled out while the whole maintained, or must a cataclysm happen so a rebuilding can begin? Neiman, through Reemtsma, sums it up well: “How can we trust modernity if it lead to Auschwitz?” I’ll go a step further and wonder how can we trust modernity, 75 years later, if it lead to the election of Donald J. Trump? The answer is, we can’t. But as the Malala Fund discovered, cutting all military spending by just 8 days a year would give everyone on Earth free education, K-12. That’s certainly a start: books, not bombs. In conclusion, if you haven’t seen Arthur Jafa’s 7-minute movie from 2016, Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death, seek it out and let your mind wrestle with it for awhile. It’s about as long as Derek Chauvin’s knee was on George Floyd’s neck. RIP, Tamir Rice, and George Floyd, and Emmett Till, and everyone else subjected to and brutalized by the systemic racism and dehumanization in the United States of Hypocrisy. #blacklivesmatter

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Overall, the concept of shaming evil behaviors is important beyond issues of race and it was good to read about that. We seem to be living in a time of increasing shamelessness, and so it is useful to demonstrate the social benefits of appropriate shaming. There are other crucial topics covered here, but somehow it didn't come together for me. I was expecting a historical and philosophical exploration, but instead this was more like a travel log, with the author reporting about her chats with th Overall, the concept of shaming evil behaviors is important beyond issues of race and it was good to read about that. We seem to be living in a time of increasing shamelessness, and so it is useful to demonstrate the social benefits of appropriate shaming. There are other crucial topics covered here, but somehow it didn't come together for me. I was expecting a historical and philosophical exploration, but instead this was more like a travel log, with the author reporting about her chats with this person and her anecdotes on that topic. There was something that bothered me throughout the book. The author talks about "the Germans and the Jews." And this isn't because she's always including all European Jews. Mainly she's specifically talking about Jews in Germany and even Jews in Berlin. So they were German. In a whole book about trying to undo Nazi ways of thinking, going along with this facet of othering seems wrong. In terms of the point of the book about lessons for the U.S., it would be like talking about "the Americans and the Blacks." A tension in the book is that people keep telling her that the lessons from Germany don't apply to U.S. race relations, which might prompt her to ask what would apply better, but she doesn't. Even when the people she talks to in the South bring up Truth and Reconciliation, she doesn't detour to South Africa. That seemed like a missing side of the triangle for this topic. Was the South African phenomenon inspired by Germany's effort or completely independent?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Paul Loughlin

    Other reviewers have recognised the value of this book and its publication in this era. They have appreciated and analysed its importance in the contrast it presents between Germany's approach to its criminal past and America's approach to its 'original sin' as some have labelled its history of slavery. Thinking about this book today of all days - 3rd November 2020 - reminds the reader that the current occupant of the White House has made race a centrepiece of his campaign by warning suburba Other reviewers have recognised the value of this book and its publication in this era. They have appreciated and analysed its importance in the contrast it presents between Germany's approach to its criminal past and America's approach to its 'original sin' as some have labelled its history of slavery. Thinking about this book today of all days - 3rd November 2020 - reminds the reader that the current occupant of the White House has made race a centrepiece of his campaign by warning suburbanites of the perils of low-income housing and the spreading of 'anarchy' in the streets (Trump Attack on Diversity Training Has a Quick and Chilling Effect. New York Times 13th October 2020). The diversity training on race and gender biases which so offended the White House is aimed at reducing discrimination usually against non-whites or women. In the last presidential debate Trump, who had signed an executive order forbidding federal government departments, their contractors and grantees to offer any such training, denounced it as "racist" and "teaching our people that our country is a horrible place". Diversity training is meant to improve hiring practices as well as to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. But references to "white privilege", "systematic racism" and "unconscious bias" in the organisation's training will contravene Trump's wishes and result in the loss of lucrative contracts or, in the educational sphere, the loss of crucial federal funding. (The Irish Times. 31st October 2020) Meanwhile the teaching of the realities of slavery in American schools is a rarity and in the current climate likely will remain so unless today brings a change in White House occupancy and diversity training contractors might expect a new president to strike out the old one's executive orders with a similar stroke of the pen.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Susan Neiman, an American southern Jewish woman who lived many years in Berlin, writes of the efforts made by post-WWII Germans to accept the German peoples' role in the Holocaust, apologize, and learn from it. She contrasts that with efforts by some southerners to preserve monuments to the Confederacy and perpetuate racism and white supremacy. She spends several years in Mississippi at Ole Miss and at several centers working to tell the story of the Civil Rights campaign in the deep South and p Susan Neiman, an American southern Jewish woman who lived many years in Berlin, writes of the efforts made by post-WWII Germans to accept the German peoples' role in the Holocaust, apologize, and learn from it. She contrasts that with efforts by some southerners to preserve monuments to the Confederacy and perpetuate racism and white supremacy. She spends several years in Mississippi at Ole Miss and at several centers working to tell the story of the Civil Rights campaign in the deep South and promote greater interracial harmony. The review of each country's history is painful to read and the efforts in Germany are blunted to some extent by the recent rise of the far right and its opposition to immigrants. Other big differences between the two populations studied is that the Germans were genuinely appalled at their nation's actions - but also, they knew that they needed to make drastic changes to be accepted by the rest of the world. In the American South, the most egregious offenders see nothing wrong with what they are doing and that makes for an impossible situation. Neiman is not as pessimistic as that, but she knows it will be a long road to meaningful change. And yes, the German experience does offer some lessons we can take to heart. One other interesting section of the book deals with the differences between how West Germany and East Germany dealt with the Holocaust. East Germany eliminated many more former Nazis than did the West, and that and other factors made a big difference.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

    Susan Neiman is a Jewish American philosopher who lives in Germany. The book's thesis is that we can learn from the Germans, who have faced their racist, anti-Semitic past. Some (including my husband) have found the book compelling and profound. I find it a mixed bag. On the positive side, there are wonderful chapters that are genuinely informative, such as "Lost Causes," which about the historical revisionism that portrayed the Civil War as a noble fight for Southern freedom, the chapter on E Susan Neiman is a Jewish American philosopher who lives in Germany. The book's thesis is that we can learn from the Germans, who have faced their racist, anti-Semitic past. Some (including my husband) have found the book compelling and profound. I find it a mixed bag. On the positive side, there are wonderful chapters that are genuinely informative, such as "Lost Causes," which about the historical revisionism that portrayed the Civil War as a noble fight for Southern freedom, the chapter on Emmett Till that has information that I had not seen elsewhere, and her interviews with Bryan Stevenson, which are great, because he's always interesting. However, the book's main thesis -- that we can learn from the Germans -- isn't realized. How exactly can we learn from the Germans? Neiman stresses what we must do -- "The nation must achieve a coherent and widely accepted national narrative" -- without addressing how to do it. She gives two concrete conclusions: we need to teach the real history of the United States in schools, not the whitewashed version, and we need to take down the monuments to Confederate "heroes" who fought and died for the appalling institution of slavery. I agree. But that's not terribly original. Moreover, it doesn't seem that we need to look to the Germans to come to that conclusion. That doesn't take away from the chapters on the history of white supremacy and racism in our country, but that is what I'd recommend this book for -- not the lessons we can learn from the Germans.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

    I thought this was a really interesting look at Germany after WWII and the United States after the civil war and how countries deal (or don't deal) with the guilt of crimes against humanity. Neiman is a white Jewish American woman who lived in Israel and Berlin for many years. She focused on how Germany has worked hard to overcome the stigma of the Holocaust and then contrasted that with the state of Mississippi and what is being done there to atone for the civil war and Jim Crow laws.There are I thought this was a really interesting look at Germany after WWII and the United States after the civil war and how countries deal (or don't deal) with the guilt of crimes against humanity. Neiman is a white Jewish American woman who lived in Israel and Berlin for many years. She focused on how Germany has worked hard to overcome the stigma of the Holocaust and then contrasted that with the state of Mississippi and what is being done there to atone for the civil war and Jim Crow laws.There are people who are working hard to undo the wrongs of slavery and Jim Crow, but there are too many who are happy to allow things to stay the way that they are. I think this is a book for all Americans to read. It may help white Americans to better understand the feelings of some black Americans. No one person speaks for an entire race, but a better understanding of our history will help us to do better in the future.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Astrid

    This was a 20 hours audiobook and it took some time to listen to it. The first part about Germany was easy enough to understand for me - I'm German after all :-) The second part about the US... so many names I never heard before or have only a very marginal understanding of. I bought the hardcover shortly after I started listening to the audiobook and plan to take it with me on a three week vacation soon. There was so much interesting information, so many things I did not understand fully... I n This was a 20 hours audiobook and it took some time to listen to it. The first part about Germany was easy enough to understand for me - I'm German after all :-) The second part about the US... so many names I never heard before or have only a very marginal understanding of. I bought the hardcover shortly after I started listening to the audiobook and plan to take it with me on a three week vacation soon. There was so much interesting information, so many things I did not understand fully... I need to read this with a pen in my hand. This is such an important and interesting book. I honestly hope that a lot of people read or listen to it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elena Akers

    I really liked this book. I’ve been interested in Germany’s process of coming to terms with Nazi crimes for a while, and reading this I learned lots of things I didn’t know, even after being a German major. I also learned so much about American history, and I so appreciated how she juxtaposed the two. I thought Neiman’s interviews were excellent and provided a space for so many valuable voices to enter this conversation in the space of the book. However, my critique is that this book verges on b I really liked this book. I’ve been interested in Germany’s process of coming to terms with Nazi crimes for a while, and reading this I learned lots of things I didn’t know, even after being a German major. I also learned so much about American history, and I so appreciated how she juxtaposed the two. I thought Neiman’s interviews were excellent and provided a space for so many valuable voices to enter this conversation in the space of the book. However, my critique is that this book verges on being too academic. I was so hoping this would be something I could easily recommend to friends and family members to reflect on America’s crimes against Black people, but unfortunately, I feel that only those with a very academic mind could approach this book and actually finish it. It took me long enough and these topics are some of my deepest interests. Neiman often gets preoccupied with quoting other writers and philosophers and while it is interesting, it makes the work feel very “Ivory Tower”-esque and it can be difficult to follow when you are not familiar with many of those works. I would love to give this 5 stars because the information is fantastic, as is the analysis, but I was simply hoping for something more approachable. I want more people to know the topics this book covers, but I don’t feel this book would appeal to an audience in the general population.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Matt Fitz

    The author, a writer on moral philosophy, has an interesting and compelling background. She grew up in a Jewish family in Atlanta in the 60s in the midst of the anti-war and civil rights movement. Her PhD work took her to 1980s Germany. So she probably is well-suited to do a comparative analysis of Germany and its reconciliation from its evils of WWII and post-Civil War America and its twin evils of slavery and racism. It's not a perfect comparison as this book will delve into, but there are some The author, a writer on moral philosophy, has an interesting and compelling background. She grew up in a Jewish family in Atlanta in the 60s in the midst of the anti-war and civil rights movement. Her PhD work took her to 1980s Germany. So she probably is well-suited to do a comparative analysis of Germany and its reconciliation from its evils of WWII and post-Civil War America and its twin evils of slavery and racism. It's not a perfect comparison as this book will delve into, but there are some interesting discussion points that her research and interviews bring out. The significant thing about this book is it's so much more than the instinctive comparison of evil, which we all fall prey to (Nazi! Hitler!). It's also a comparative analysis of mechanisms of atonement and redemption from the evil. We do have a lot we can learn from the Germans. As a case in point: When the Germans moved on from their own evil and atrocities, they did it collectively. In America, much of the work, especially in contemporary post-bellum atonement, has fallen on black civil rights leaders and activists. Can you imagine if German atonement was the responsibility of the recently rescued Jewish community? Something worth pondering.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ietrio

    A small and tormented mind brings forth the worst in christianity to form yet another one size fits all solution to a problem that might be on its way out.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mark O'brien

    This is a very important book that presents great information and should provoke more thought and discussion by Americans wrestling with all the honor granted to Southerners in the Civil War. The author, a Jew who grew up in Atlanta and became a philosopher, has lived in Germany, Israel and the United States, and she brings various perspectives to the issue of how we remember evil and the people involved. It's a bit of apples-and-oranges to compare post-WWII Germany with the South after the Civil This is a very important book that presents great information and should provoke more thought and discussion by Americans wrestling with all the honor granted to Southerners in the Civil War. The author, a Jew who grew up in Atlanta and became a philosopher, has lived in Germany, Israel and the United States, and she brings various perspectives to the issue of how we remember evil and the people involved. It's a bit of apples-and-oranges to compare post-WWII Germany with the South after the Civil War, but there are many learning points to be found here. Personally, I can't take Alabama seriously as long as it still has Jefferson Davis Day as a state holiday. Ditto for Mississippi and its Confederate Heritage Month.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Laura Jordan

    This started off really promisingly, although I'm not sure the rest of the book really lived up to the beginning sections. The interviews — particularly of Germans who feel like they haven't done enough to fully address and atone for the Holocaust — were interesting, though, and I did learn a wonderful new word in German: Vergangenheitsaufbeitung (translated as "working-off-the-past"). The Germans really do have a word for everything. This started off really promisingly, although I'm not sure the rest of the book really lived up to the beginning sections. The interviews — particularly of Germans who feel like they haven't done enough to fully address and atone for the Holocaust — were interesting, though, and I did learn a wonderful new word in German: Vergangenheitsaufbeitung (translated as "working-off-the-past"). The Germans really do have a word for everything.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Taylor

    Learning from the Germans is not, as one might expect, an account of how German methods of working through its Nazi past can be applied to America's legacy of slavery and racism. It is, rather, a meandering diatribe of the author's personal observations, conversations with friends, and philosophical musings. Learning from the Germans is not, as one might expect, an account of how German methods of working through its Nazi past can be applied to America's legacy of slavery and racism. It is, rather, a meandering diatribe of the author's personal observations, conversations with friends, and philosophical musings.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Katz

    Until somewhere just past the midpoint of this book my mental debate was whether to give it a 4 or a 5. By the time I was done I decided on 3(.75). Make no mistake: It's a very, very good book. Neiman's descriptions and analyses of the German experience are thorough, insightful, provocative, and very timely. She brings a lot to the subject: She's an Jewish American expatriate who currently lives in Germany (after being born and raised in Atlanta and spending some years in Israel), and a philosop Until somewhere just past the midpoint of this book my mental debate was whether to give it a 4 or a 5. By the time I was done I decided on 3(.75). Make no mistake: It's a very, very good book. Neiman's descriptions and analyses of the German experience are thorough, insightful, provocative, and very timely. She brings a lot to the subject: She's an Jewish American expatriate who currently lives in Germany (after being born and raised in Atlanta and spending some years in Israel), and a philosopher with a special interest in the idea of Evil. She has an agile mind and a truly impressive mastery of philosophy and social psychology. When she moved to Germany, she was struck by how "present" World War Two was in society, politics, and culture. As an expatriate American, she found herself wondering, "Why are [Germans] so focused on [their past], when Americans seem to do their best to forget history?’ The book is largely an attempt to wrestle with that question. She began working on the book shortly after Dylan Roof murdered nine Black churchgoers in Charleston. I was fascinated her discussion of the generational gap between the war generation and their children: The parents who had lived through the war went through all manner of mental gymnastics to deny they had any guilt for what had happened or even what they had themselves done. They felt that they had suffered every bit as much, maybe even more, in the bombing of German cities and the Russian military invasion as any of the "victims" of Germany, including those who suffered and died in the Holocaust. Their children, however -- the ones who were born late in or after the war and had thus escaped Nazi indoctrination -- once they began to learn and understand what the Nazis had done were horrified and angry at their parents' generation. Neiman offers some fascinating insight into the complicated psychological processes that both generations experienced, and what seems to be happening in Germany today with the rise of the hard right AfD. Neiman also explains how different the after-war responses to Nazism were in East and Germany. It wasn't at all what I would have expected. Her discussion of the United States' problem with Lost Cause mythologizing and obfuscation begins very well. As part of her research she spent a good deal of time driving through the South and speaking with all manner of people: academics, activists, and just-plain-folk, including some whom she found rather frightening. Hearing her experiences, the reader gets insight into how different America's treatment of its past -- specifically, the Civil War and its aftermath -- is from Germany's. Neiman doesn't argue that Germany's story of dealing with its Nazi past has been an unmitigated success, but even with its many flaws and missteps, it is far beyond what America has done. As she convincingly demonstrates, Germany has (belatedly, often reluctantly) confronted what was done in its name. The United States has not. Instead, we have replaced history with legend and myth. Where she went wrong, in my opinion, is late in the book when her attention turns first to racism in general. It's clearly an absolutely necessary topic and deeply connected to America's sense of itself and its history, but I found her discussion lacking in focus and inadequately linked to her main argument. Worse, to my mind, is when she turns to Post-Structuralism and other such topics. I think I understand what she was going for, but it felt superfluous and untethered. I think this is what me drop a star: the first 3/4 of the book were so good that these last chapters sometimes felt like they belonged in another book entirely. I'm very glad I read it. I learned a great deal and I recommend it without hesitation. But I believe it would have benefited from a tighter editorial hand. To get a good introduction to the author's thinking, try this: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/arc... One last thing. Christa Lewis' narration is absolutely perfect. She flawlessly pronounced German words that to my American ears sounded like they had as many syllables as my first paragraph above: Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, for example. (It means something like 'working off the past.') One other last thing (yes, "last things" tend to proliferate as we enter spring in the DC metropolitan area): In case you're wondering, Donald Trump does appear in the book -- frequently -- and does not come off well. At times it felt unnecessary but it was never inappropriate.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Jewish-American philosopher and author Susan Neiman looks at how Germany has been dealing with confronting the memories and guilt related to the horrors of the Holocaust from the immediate post-WWII era to today and contrasts it with America's approach (or lack thereof) in confronting its own horrible past of slavery and racism. Having grown up in Germany, I'm quite familiar with its strategy of "working off the past" and thus didn't find this as groundbreaking as an American reader who has not Jewish-American philosopher and author Susan Neiman looks at how Germany has been dealing with confronting the memories and guilt related to the horrors of the Holocaust from the immediate post-WWII era to today and contrasts it with America's approach (or lack thereof) in confronting its own horrible past of slavery and racism. Having grown up in Germany, I'm quite familiar with its strategy of "working off the past" and thus didn't find this as groundbreaking as an American reader who has not engaged with that particular subject before might. Neiman's thoughtful, deeply researched approach to such a difficult subject makes for intriguing reading.

  27. 4 out of 5

    krn ਕਰਨ

    What does one philosopher say to another? Take your time. Neiman does. Take her time. At no point does one get the sense that this work is rushed. Consequently, reading it takes time too. The pages are densely packed. Skimming doesn't work. Throw in the copious references at the end and what we have here is a genre-bending, myth-busting, mildly infuriating book that straddles many disciplines. History? Current Affairs/Politics? Sociology? Answer: all of the above, with power to add. What brings it What does one philosopher say to another? Take your time. Neiman does. Take her time. At no point does one get the sense that this work is rushed. Consequently, reading it takes time too. The pages are densely packed. Skimming doesn't work. Throw in the copious references at the end and what we have here is a genre-bending, myth-busting, mildly infuriating book that straddles many disciplines. History? Current Affairs/Politics? Sociology? Answer: all of the above, with power to add. What brings it all together is Neiman's voice. Unmistakably warm, convivial, funny, sharp without being alienating, cultured but not exclusive. So taken was I with this voice in print that I looked it up online to view her contibutions to scholar panel discussions. It's immediately apparent when you see Neiman interacting with various people representing divergent opinions that she values argument, dissent, and expression as quintessential tools to create a better life for humans. The reason I pick up on the voice is because it has a ring of recognition. Reminds me of Wendy Doniger. Among the shared traits: clear-eyed and self-aware engagement with fraught material, fearless drive to create and support inclusive spaces, and intellectual courage to recognise and call out the contingent nature of orthodoxy. That's all very well, but does it stack up? Is Learning from the Germans: Confronting Race and the Memory of Evil any good? My answer is an enthusiastic yes. It's richly detailed, strikes a lovely balance between the personal and the professional, operates across a wide spectrum of stakeholders, and remains true to its animating intuition. Which is what? Which is that it's possible for nations, groups, tribes to atone for the past. The process is not perfect nor is it terminal - the vigilance never ends - but it is demonstrably doable. This is being set up for a 'but'. Is a 'but' on the way? Nope, no buts. I like the book a lot. Many learnings. The visceral antagonism between fascism and communism, for instance. I didn't appreciate how deeply this was felt in the early 20th century, and how pervasive its legacy remains to this day. The much-heralded The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America doesn't quite do justice to the strength of this division. (Incidentally, Neiman is no fan of Timothy Snyder either. Couple of instances of mild kvetching in the book.) So why not give it the full five-star rating? A few relatively minor quibbles: (1) Structurally, I would have preferred if Neiman (and the editorial team) hadn't gone with the traditional waterfall-type layout. You know, gather information, talk to the experts, organise by geography, capture questions and potential objections, and then do a big reveal/response at the end. Most of the questions can be anticipated up front. Neiman addresses them with her usual wit and aplomb in chapter 9. I would begin with that chapter and layer the narrative as a series of interconnected back stories, as it were. (2) I wish Neiman would make more of the paradigm/performative distinction, especially in the American context. To perform or enact atonement isn't the same as to dismantle the paradigm that created the act which is being atoned for. In the culture of spectacle, what one says - and is seen to be saying - is inevitably staged for the spectator. In fact one can say things that are intended, in effect, to bring about the exact opposite of what is being said. This is why African-American scholars speak of slavery as paradigmatic, which means the apology/atonement also needs to have an internal/subconscious architectural dimension. Neiman is aware of the name for this - Afropessimism - but she only devotes one sentence to it in the entire book (p. 376). (3) The German program of Vergangensheitaufarbeitung (working-off-the-past) does not, it seems, extend to the atrocities committed in Namibia (erstwhile German South West Africa). Again, there is a brief reference to the genocide of the Herero (p. 363) but the treatment is not commensurate to the problem. (4) Neiman falls for the inspirational Beckett trap. That fail better quote (p. 373) seems to keep the entire positivity industry afloat. Need a quick pick-me-up? Quote Beckett from Worstward Ho out of context. The lines immediately following the #failbetter bit read thus: “Try again. Fail again. Better again. Or better worse. Fail worse again. Still worse again. Till sick for good. Throw up for good. Go for good. Where neither for good. Good and all.”

  28. 4 out of 5

    MotherCrow

    An attempt to recast history. This author spreads the misinformation that East Germany was “anti-fascist” and that the E. German government turned Buchenwald into a museum, when it is well documented that the concentration camp was in fact used by the communists (after the Nazis) to slaughter political dissidents (and ex-Nazis). It only turned museum after unification btw East and West. She also claims that not many in the E German communist administration were former Nazis- also untrue. Further An attempt to recast history. This author spreads the misinformation that East Germany was “anti-fascist” and that the E. German government turned Buchenwald into a museum, when it is well documented that the concentration camp was in fact used by the communists (after the Nazis) to slaughter political dissidents (and ex-Nazis). It only turned museum after unification btw East and West. She also claims that not many in the E German communist administration were former Nazis- also untrue. Further, she casts Stalin as a “liberator” when he in fact murdered millions of innocent civilians including many Jews. I would like to know why this author/academic uses her position of authority to spread false information? Anyone who was there and suffered under the E. German government (as my family did) or anyone interested in historical fact will hopefully see through her propaganda. What her motives are is anyone’s guess... an attempt to get in the spotlight/join the anti-racist conversation? She did not even know when Indigenous Peoples Day was. Need I say more?

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hal

    The subject matter, while not for the faint of heart, is something we must not shy away from. Part One of the book deals with how Germans (in a divided Germany, post-WWII) worked off their NAZI past. As a Jewish American (as is the author, although she's lived in Berlin for many years), I was surprised to learn about the differences (between East Germany & West Germany) in how thoroughly they were able to (or unable to) live down the immense guilt of having participated in Hitler's Reich. Part Tw The subject matter, while not for the faint of heart, is something we must not shy away from. Part One of the book deals with how Germans (in a divided Germany, post-WWII) worked off their NAZI past. As a Jewish American (as is the author, although she's lived in Berlin for many years), I was surprised to learn about the differences (between East Germany & West Germany) in how thoroughly they were able to (or unable to) live down the immense guilt of having participated in Hitler's Reich. Part Two of the book jumps to Mississippi, arguably the epicenter of racial strife in the U.S.A. (Sorry, Alabama -- you're # 2 -- try harder!) First of, Americans need to know our history. The "benefits" of the slavery and post-slavery systems accrued to many of us, beyond the Deep South, across several generations. Who was Emmett Till? Who were Goodman, Schwerner, & Chaney? If you don't know, you need to find out. If you already know, don't let that stop you . . . you'll still wanna read this book. There is a Part Three . . . but I don't want to give away more . . . go get the book! In conclusion: this book is a significant contribution to what humanity ought to learn about "race relations." It is well-written and thought-provoking, to say the least!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Dom

    Such a deep meditation. Really important book, especially if you care about the peaceful future of our planet. Thankfully, as a Kiwi, we are vigorously and rigorously confronting and dealing with our past national mistakes. Um, from the outside, and through this book, it seems like America still has a hell of a lot to work through. As an aside, I just started reading 'Evil men' by James Dawes. Telling the stories of some Japanese soldiers involved in WW2 atrocities & War crimes. Facing up to the Such a deep meditation. Really important book, especially if you care about the peaceful future of our planet. Thankfully, as a Kiwi, we are vigorously and rigorously confronting and dealing with our past national mistakes. Um, from the outside, and through this book, it seems like America still has a hell of a lot to work through. As an aside, I just started reading 'Evil men' by James Dawes. Telling the stories of some Japanese soldiers involved in WW2 atrocities & War crimes. Facing up to their crimes became paramount for these soldiers who returned & formed the 'Chukiren' association.... 'we must ask young people never to repeat our mistakes. We must say this consistently until we die.'

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