The Abnormal Nation

Since the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990, Germans have debated the question of whether their country can ever be a “normal” one again.  A current best-selling book—Finis Germania, by Rolf Peter Sieferle, a former left-wing intellectual who committed suicide before its publication—argues that since 1945 the German people have made scapegoats of themselves in much the same way that the Germans and other antisemites scapegoated the Jewish people.  As the ancestors of contemporary Germans set the mark of ineradicable and eternal blame on the Jews for the Crucifixion, Sieferle wrote, so they have condemned themselves eternally for the holocaust and denied that they should ever be “normal” again.  This thesis itself has been denounced as antisemitic and revisionist, and the newspaper Der Spiegel has removed it from its best-seller list.

This rather artificial and self-conscious crisis overlooks or ignores the fact that the Jews who gathered outside the Roman governor’s residence to urge Pontius Pilate to condemn Christ, and again at Golgotha to encourage the executioners at their work, were not “the Jews” but, relatively speaking, a very small group of Jewish persons.  Similarly, the percentage of the German people directly complicit in the murder of eight million Jews by the regime was very small, though it is certainly true that antisemitism in Germany had become...

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