Working To Get Memory, And The Past, Right
By David N. Myers
In a stunning twist of historical fate, Germany has assumed the mantle of conscience of the world. How dramatic a shift this is from the not-too-distant past when Germany was guilty of unprecedented crimes against humanity. A series of German leaders, from Konrad Adenauer to Willy Brandt to Helmut Kohl to its current chancellor, Angela Merkel, has skillfully guided the country down the path of historical penance.
It is especially striking in the case of Merkel, the modest pastor’s daughter from East Germany. In responding to the great refugee crisis of this century, Merkel acted boldly, not by shutting the doors of her country, but by opening them up. In 2015, Germany accepted more than a million refugees, many of them from war-torn Syria. The challenge of integrating that massive a number of new immigrants has been substantial and undeniably disruptive to German society. But Merkel has stayed the course with steely determination. More recently, with President Trump’s mixed messages about both global and transatlantic commitments, the chancellor has come to be seen by many as the leading exponent of the post-WWII democratic order—and indeed, as the leader of the free world.