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News - Miscellaneous - 12 Feb 2008

News Item 1487 of 1498 

Miscellaneous: 12 Feb 2008
In Germany, an anniversary overlooked but never forgotten

BERLIN - The 75th anniversary of Adolf Hitler's elevation to German chancellor on Wednesday Jan 30th was one the country would prefer to forget, but the ignominious event remains part of the weighted history that drives past and future generations to remember the victims of the Nazi regime and ensure their crimes cannot happen again.

Hitler's accession to chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933, gave the Nazi party its "in" to eventually consolidate absolute control over the country in the months soon after, setting it on the path to World War II and the Holocaust that left millions of people dead.

But while few public events were planned to mark the anniversary, the lessons of the date are not lost on those whose parents were not even born the day Hitler was appointed.

"I will definitely talk to my students about this date," Frank Rudolph, 44, a history teacher at a Berlin high school, said Tuesday. "It is a very important day in German history, but of course it's not as easily remembered as, for example, Kristallnacht on November 9, because nobody was hurt on January 30."

The head of the German Teachers Association said many schools had received letters from state governments asking them to mark the date with special sessions in class.

"Definitely the entire period of the Third Reich is taught in more detail than most other historical times," said Heinz-Peter Meidinger, who is also the principal of the Robert-Koch-Gymnasium in Deggendorf. "The only problem we have is that there are so many dates to commemorate in Germany."

German students spend at least half a school year learning about Hitler's rise to power and the Third Reich, part of a concerted effort on the part of modern Germany to prevent history from repeating itself.

The Holocaust remains "for us Germans an indelible part of our history," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said as the country marked the 63rd year since the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp in annual Holocaust remembrance ceremonies

"The memory of the genocide committed by the Germans serves to keep us alert and fight anti-Semitism and racial hatred around the world," he said.

The rise of Hitler, and the Nazis, is viewed with national shame and horror, but its reasons for happening were complex, said Hans Ottomeyer, director of Berlin's German Historical Museum.

He cited the First World War, the rampant inflation in the postwar years, the world economic collapse of 1929 and the country's massive unemployment as factors that led people to vote for extremist parties.

"The general fear of social and economic decline was stirred from both the left and the right," he said. "They all tried to consolidate their positions with violence, and that opened the flank to this seizure of power."

About a month after being appointed chancellor, Hitler used the torching of the Reichstag - blamed on a Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe parliament building to strengthen his grip on power, suspending civil liberties and cracking down on opposition parties.

Van der Lubbe, a bricklayer, was convicted of arson and high treason in December 1933 and executed in January 1934. In a move that shows Germany's rehabilitation is still going on, prosecutors earlier this month formally overturned van der Lubbe's conviction.

In accepting responsibility for the Nazi Holocaust, in which six million people, primarily Jews, were killed, Germany has established scores of memorials and museums across the country.

Two new memorials are planned for the capital near the Reichstag building: one commemorating Roma and Sinti, or Gypsy, victims of the Nazis and another remembering homosexual victims.

The Reichstag building - which again became the seat of the lower house of parliament after reunification - already hosts a memorial to political victims of the Nazis. The much bigger Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe - 2,711 concrete slabs in undulating rows that opened in 2005 - sits nearby on the other side of the landmark Brandenburg Gate.

"The important thing is to never forget, to never erase the memory of the Holocaust - not to punish future generations of Germans, but to serve as a warning to us all," said Rabbi Burt Schuman, an American who leads Poland's Reform Jewish community. "I can't think of a society that Hitler would have hated more than the Germany of Angela Merkel or most of her predecessors."

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David Rising And Kirsten Grieshaber, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
 

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