East Germany didn’t start that way. Their first official act was to apologize to the world.
By 1989, the people of East Germany had been cut off from the rest of the world for several decades. The Berlin Wall, a massive structure built by Soviet Communists, ran through the center of Berlin and cast a dark and terrifying shadow on all those who lived behind it. When the mighty wall came crumbling down that November, it was a collapse celebrated around the world.
Immediately, the people of East Germany began instituting a government and talking with West Germany about reunification. Once again, the German people – central characters (and aggressors) in both World Wars – were the focus of the world’s attention.
By April of 1990, leaders from East Germany were poised to launch their first democratic government in decades, but instead of proposing laws or setting up taxation, the Parliament’s first official act was to confess their nation’s history of unchecked violence against Jews during the Holocaust. The 400 deputies of the brand new government issued the following statement to the world:
We, the first freely elected parliamentarians of the GDR (German Democratic Republic)…on behalf of the citizens of this land, admit responsibility for the humiliation, expulsion and murder of Jewish men, women and children. We feel sorrow and shame, and acknowledge this burden of German history. Immeasurable suffering was inflicted on the peoples of the world during the era of national socialism. We ask all the Jews of the world to forgive us. We ask the people of Israel to forgive us for the hypocrisy and hostility of official East German policies toward Israel and for the persecution and humiliation of Jewish citizens in our country after 1945 as well.
Today, Germany is a reunited nation, and one of the strongest countries in the European Union. Their current status, prosperity, and power could have something to do with the fact that their chief priority was to seek the forgiveness of those they’d wronged.
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Topics Illustrated Include:
World War II
(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)