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Lev Raphael, Author and Son of Holocaust Survivors: 'I Find Myself Defending Germany' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Lev Raphael, a New York-born author and the son of Holocaust survivors, had nothing but instinctive hatred for Germany until he paid a visit several years ago. He has penned a memoir about his change of heart, "My Germany," and this autumn he returns to once-frightening German cities for a book tour.

... Raphael: I grew up with this image of Germany as the ultimate source of evil in the world, so the thought of even crossing the German border was anathema to me. We never bought German products, even something as simple as a Deutsche Grammophon record album. My parents were music lovers, but they would not buy Deutsche Grammophon. The irony is that we lived in a German-Jewish neighborhood -- Washington Heights in New York, which at the time was called Frankfurt on the Hudson. So I heard German around me. But somehow I was able to dissociate that from my parents' own experiences.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How did Germany surprise you when you finally crossed the border?

Raphael: What surprised me first was my own reaction -- I felt more like an American than the son of Holocaust survivors. But I also can't imagine anything more wonderful than being an author on tour in Germany. Audiences treat you differently than they treat you in America; you're taken seriously. I also found people very forthcoming about their own struggles with Germany's past, and how it affected them personally. It's a more intellectual culture than the American culture in general, so people discuss things at greater depth.

And my sexual orientation was a non-issue. Compared to puritanical America, that's very nice. E. M. Forster, who was also gay, said Anglo-Saxons have never accepted the realities of human nature.

I think there's still a clichéd belief in the United States that says, "The Germans haven't really faced up to World War II." And I say, "Have you been to Berlin?" Have you seen how many museums and memorials there are? If you want an example of a country that hasn't really faced its past, how about Japan? How about even France, which seems to have had much more difficulty facing its complicity with the Nazis? So I find myself in the strange position of defending Germany against people who say, "Oh, they haven't changed." It's a very different culture now. The militarism that really didn't die in 1918 is long gone.

And, apparently, how about Fidesz-Hungary?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Oct 15th, 2010 at 02:35:18 PM EST
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