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After 60 years, Germans learn to love themselves
Sun May 17, 2009 8:21pm EDT
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By Madeline Chambers
BERLIN (Reuters) - After six decades atoning for the crimes of the Nazis, Germans are rediscovering a sense of patriotism and are no longer ashamed to wave their flag and sing the national anthem.
They are even daring to discuss bringing back a bravery medal -- unthinkable a decade ago in a country which rejected militarism and turned fiercely pacifist.
This non-aggressive self confidence, also evident in a more assertive foreign policy, is increasingly manifesting itself as Germany this year celebrates 60 years as a democracy and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
"The German soul, bruised and discredited by the Nazi era, has to a large degree been healed," said Eugen Buss, a sociology professor at the University of Hohenheim.
"We're seeing a normalization," he told Reuters. Buss was a consultant for a recent study on German identity, published before celebrations for the constitution's 60th birthday get going this month with street parties and public events.
The study, carried out by the Identity Foundation in Duesseldorf, showed twice as many Germans were "very proud" to be German as eight years ago, said Buss. Almost 73 percent think they should show more confidence about being German.
The experience of managing a successful democracy and economy have taught both eastern and western Germans they are entitled to feelings other than shame about the past, said Buss.
The nation startled itself during the 2006 soccer World Cup tournament, when millions of people painted flags on their faces, wearing red, gold and black hats and chanting the national anthem.
Younger generations seem to be particularly relaxed.
"I'm not ashamed of being German -- maybe my parents or grandparents were because they were closer to the National Socialist era," said Nina Krause, a 14-year-old student in a group visiting Berlin's German Historical Museum.
"To me, being German means I am comfortable and have the chance to have a good future," she said.
The museum, which attracts 50,000 visitors a month, opened its permanent exhibition on German history just three years ago.
It starts in 9 A.D. with the battle of Teutoburg Forest when German tribesmen defeated the Romans and stopped Germania beyond the river Rhine becoming part of the Roman empire.
Exhibits include a cavalry mask from that battle, a giant globe that sat in Hitler's office with a bullet hole through Germany -- probably inflicted by a Soviet soldier -- and a section of the Berlin Wall.
The most popular exhibit, however, is a large changing map of Europe which shows how borders have emerged and disappeared over 2,000 years, says the museum's Director Hans Ottomeyer. Continued...
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