the shame of the father

yesterday i was chatting with a woman of german heritage about my trip to berlin and how impacted i was by the crash course in WWII history i received while i was there. she mentioned how impacted she was by the same history, even though she is about my age and grew up here in canada. she said that as a teenager, she felt a lot of shame in her german ancestry, as if she were in some way responsible for the genocide of millions of people.

while i don’t think it makes sense to feel guilt about something you had no part of, i can still understand why she would feel that way — i’m sure i would too — and it got me thinking that there is probably a huge number of germans and people of only partial german heritage who felt or even still feel the same shame as her. i mean, the holocaust was such a significant event that it’s basically omnipresent in our collective social consciousness. if you felt guilt about it you would probably be hyper aware of any reference to it — each mention of jews, hitler, the holocaust, german history, etc would be another needle into the already pin-cushioned flesh of your pride and self-worth.

that would be a fucking hard thing to live with, i think. i think the effects of such a constant shame would be felt in most aspects of a persons life — work, romance, friendship, whatever. if that is so, then there must be a massive sub-culture of people of german heritage who struggle with that guilt every day. but i’ve never heard of such a group of people or such a guilt complex, so i wonder: is this a documented thing that i’ve just never come across; or is there a large group of depressed people who are good at hiding their problems; or am i needlessly dreaming up a guilt complex for a group of people?

who knows. boy, there’s always a good reason to feel rotten, it seems.


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