Susan Neiman in Aeon:
The German language has a word for coming to terms with past atrocities. Vergangenheitsbewältigung came into use in the 1960s to mean ‘we have to do something about our Nazi past’. Germany has spent much of the past 50 years in the excruciating process of dealing with the country’s national crimes. What does it mean to come to terms with the fact that your father, even if not a passionate Nazi, did nothing whatever to stop them, watched silently as his Jewish doctor or neighbour was deported, and shed blood in the name of their army? With very few exceptions, this was the fate of most Germans born between 1930-1960, and it isn’t a fate to be envied.
Working through Germany’s criminal past was not an abstract exercise; it involved confronting one’s own parents and teachers and calling their authority rotten. The 1960s in Germany were more turbulent than the 1960s in Paris or Prague — not to mention Berkeley — because they were focused not on crimes committed by someone in far-off Vietnam but considerably closer to home, by the people from whom one had learnt life’s earliest lessons.