The Dilemmas of Commemoration

in German Politics and Society

A few weeks after the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany

in May 1949, American High Commissioner John McCloy addressed

an assembly of representatives from the West German Jewish community.

In a much-discussed speech, he emphasized the central

importance of public recollection of the crimes of the Third Reich for

the political culture of the young republic. In particular, said McCloy,

the relationship of West Germany towards the Jews would be “one of

the real touchstones and the test of Germany’s progress toward the

light. The moment that Germany has forgotten the Buchenwalds and

Auschwitzes, that was the point at which everyone could begin to

despair of any progress in Germany.”

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