Who Confronts History Better – Germany or the United States?

In Germany last spring, exhausted after a day conducting interviews in Berlin or Hamburg or visiting renewable energy projects by the Baltic or deep into the Black Forest in the south, and then returning to my hotel and spending a few hours transcribing notes, blogging, uploading photos, video and audio recordings to my Dropbox account, I’d often collapse into bed and try to lose myself channel surfing in TV-land. The first time I clicked on the tube, a documentary about Hitler was on. Not the escapist fare I was looking for. I changed the channel.

“Antisemitism in Europe,” German text from the Center for Research on Antisemitism, Berlin.

I repeated this ritual many times in Germany and there was nearly always at least one program on about some aspect of the Nazi era; frequently there was a choice of similar programs. Now, clearly this wasn’t a scientific study. I’m just one person and I was in Germany for only three weeks. Still, it was enough to capture my attention and the blog post below (by American writer and translator, Craig Morris) fits with my limited experience:

US Nazi researchers “better at PR”

You may have read that a group of US historians found that far more Nazi concentration camps, labor camps, and ghettos existed than was previously known – some 40,000, in fact.

Over at Die Zeit, a German historian has reacted to the publication with charges of plagiarism. German historian Wolfgang Benz says he was surprised to hear the US historian claim that German researchers were not given the funding to look into the matter. He reiterates that his research group published a nine-volume (!) work called “Der Ort des Terrors.” And he says the Americans copied out of it.

Benz seems to be quite upset, for he calls the American authors “frech, überheblich und größenwahnsinnig” (insulting, arrogant, and megalomaniac) for calling their publication an encyclopedia; he claims it is “full of gaps.” He calls his group’s nine volumes “a summary or documentation of what we know today.”

Mainly, he says the Americans are better at PR.

Read Morris’ entire post.

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