News - September 12, 2013

Meanwhile in… Germany

In the news: on 2 September the trial started in Hagen in Germany of the 92-year-old Dutch war criminal Siert Bruins. The ex-SS member, now a German national, stands accused of the murder of a Dutch resistance fighter in 1944.

Comments by Linda and Maria (pseudonyms), from Germany, both on the BSc in International Development Studies 

Maria: ‘The war was long ago and yet it has had an influence on me personally. On the way I look at the world. The sight of racism makes me emotional. So many terrible things have happened in history, so it has to make you extra open to other cultures, surely?

Linda: ‘It is very important that he is brought to justice now even though it happened so long ago. We shouldn’t forget what happened during the Second World War. My generation, and even that of my parents, were not around. Precisely for these generations, it is good for someone like Siert Bruins to be sentenced, because of the signal it sends out: this must never be allowed to happen again.’

Maria: ‘For most Germans, extreme rightwing views are taboo. But just like in other countries, there are neo Nazis in Germany too. What attracts people to these groups is that they give them a sense of community and an identity. I think the problem is that they don’t know what extreme rightwing thinking can bring about.
There was once an attempt to ban an extreme rightwing party, the NDP. It didn’t succeed in the end because of formal errors during the court case. But I don’t know whether it’s a good idea to ban such parties. I think it is better if their ideas are aired in public. Then people can see that they are wrong.’

Linda: ‘Here in Holland we sometimes get comments like, “Watch out, here come the Germans.” But they are only jokes, there is no hostility anymore. I get strikingly positive responses when I tell people I’m from Germany, in fact. “How nice, Germany is such a beautiful country,” they say. Germans have a right to be proud of their country again.’