Ein Shinto-Schrein, die Verfassung und der Friede

How to remember those killed in the last war?

Neue Wache, Berlin *


How to remember those killed in the last war?

Asahi Shimbun 27.5.2005

From planning to completion, it took 17 years before the Berlin Holocaust Memorial finally opened this month in the German capital. Located near the Brandenburg Gate in central Berlin, the memorial forms a sprawling maze of 2,711 dark gray stone slabs that represent tombstones. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder attended the May 10 opening ceremony. The massive memorial, which serves as a stark reminder of that dreadful period of Germany's history, is also close to the Federal Parliament Building and the Federal Chancellery. The neighbourhood may be considered the German equivalent of the Nagatacho district in Tokyo.

The choice of such a location seems to indicate the German resolve to face up to, and condemn, the sheer enormity of the crimes against humanity that were perpetrated by Nazi Germany. Controversy raged when the memorial was in its planning stages: Who was the monument for? Who should it be dedicated to? It was ultimately decided that the memorial should be dedicated to the more than 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, except that none of them would be identified by name.

Not far away from the new memorial is another, called Neue Wache in Germany, which is dedicated to the war dead of all nationalities and backgrounds. It has a plaque outside that says: ``We remember all peoples who suffered in war. We remember their citizens who were persecuted and lost their lives. We remember all the soldiers who lost their lives in world wars and the innocent people who lost their lives because of the consequences of war at home, in captivity, and during the expulsion ... .'' A Japanese translation of this text is credited to Morio Minami in a Kinohanasha Publishing Co. book, titled ``Kokuritsu Tsuito Shisetsu o Kangaeru'' (About national memorials) and edited by Nobumasa Tanaka.

As is obvious from the plaque, the Neue Wache remembers all people who died in war-never mind their nationality, ethnicity or whether they were combatants. They were all victims of utterly deplorable acts. Inside this facility is a bronze sculpture of a mother holding her dead son. He is naked, just like on the day she gave him birth. It will soon be the 60th summer since Japan lost World War II. It is time for us to truly open ourselves to the question: How do we want to remember that war and the people who died during, and as a result of, that war?


* Die "Neue Wache", von Schinkel 1818 erbaut, ist seit 1993 Gedenkstätte für die Opfer des Krieges und der Gewaltherrschaft. Er beherbergt die Pieta der Künstlerin Käthe Kollwitz: eine Mutter trauert um ihren Sohn.


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