A very German generation gap
Seventy years after the End of WWII, May 8 is officially celebrated as „Liberation Day“ in Germany. Not long ago, there were still heated debates about how to call, how to define that date adequately. Now, the voices protesting against a definition of mere liberation have become fewer and softer.
My mother was eight years old in early 1945. She was absolutely convinced they were all going to be killed if the war was lost. Nobody had told her that, but she concluded it from the horror stories the girl had overheard from adults‘ conversations. By then she had already been traumatised by the constant bomb raids which destroyed her home town at the Rhine river in western Germany by 98%.
She couldn’t have experienced May 8 as liberation day then, but surely felt it had been a liberation from Nazi terror as soon as she was adult. But the majority of her generation preferred to concentrate on rebuilding Germany economically in the 1960ies and on, and not thinking too much about politics or history. And so did she, as well as my father.
I was born twenty years after what we now call Liberation Day. I grew up in full happiness, materially and mentally – until I learned about the unimaginable, tremendous crimes of the Nazi era which had ended only three decades earlier. It was a profound shock to realize that it were my beloved grandparents, their friends and neighbors, who had been the ones responsible for this nightmare. So I confronted them. It perpetually led to very painful disputes within the family, often ending in tears on both sides. Most of my friends had similar experiences in their families. Grandchildren against grandparents, the middle generation keeping out, helplessly trying to calm down their outraged children.
In 2015, my own teenage daughter has no specific interest in the Nazi era and the Holocaust. She agrees that it has to be remembered as a warning for future generations – but I can’t see much personal involvement. In turn, she tells me that I am „obsessed“ with the issue.
I should probably be happy about her attitude. And that she feels it’s natural we are celebrating „Liberation Day“.