Like it or not, Germany still provides the global benchmark for political evil. Hitler is the devil of a secularised Europe. Nazism and the Holocaust are comparisons people reach for everywhere. Godwin’s Law, named after the American free speech lawyer Mike Godwin, famously states that “as an online discussion continues, the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or to Nazis approaches 1”. That is something today’s Germans have to live with. But there is a brighter side to this coin. For out of the experience of dealing with two dictatorships – one fascist, one communist – contemporary Germany offers the gold standard for dealing with a difficult past. Modern German has characteristically long words such as Geschichtsaufarbeitung and Vergangenheitsbewältigung to describe this complex process of dealing with, working through and even (the latter implies) “overcoming” the past. Using skills and methods developed to deal with the Nazi legacy, and honed on the Stasi one, no one has done it better. Just as there are the famous DIN standards – German industrial norms for many manufactured products – so there are DIN standards for past-beating.

more from Timothy Garton Ash at The Guardian here.