Wednesday, December 5, 2012

All Germans are NOT Hitler

The First thing that Americans think of when they think of Germany is World War II and Nazi’s, followed closely by Lederhosen and Beer. The reason why most Americans think of Germany first as a negative thing like Nazi’s is because world war two was one of the only times that America and Germany have had a lot to do with each other until very recently. I have never been so ignorant as to think of Germany only as these stereotypes because my mother is German and I have been to Germany many times.

That’s not to say that if I didn’t have a German mother that I would think of Germans in this way, but many Americans do. I think another reason why Americans view Germans first as Nazis is because in our school system we learn very little about German history (nothing about the kings and queens, the dark ages, only the two world wars). It also doesn’t help that in American films Germans are always portrayed as the bad guy and usually not just as the bad guy but they will portray him as evil and somehow not so right minded as well.

If a Germans is not thought of as a Nazi in America, the only other thing that Germans will be portrayed as are silly people in Lederhosen or Dirndls (not that American's know what that is necessarily) drinking beer at Oktoberfest.

Even If an American has never been to Germany he or she will surely know about German beer and Oktoberfest. The only thing other than World War II that is in American cinema is the stereotype that all Germans wear Lederhosen and are constantly drinking Maß's. Americans don’t always think of Germany as beautiful landscape with grand towns and amazing food, but instead as Oktoberfest and World War II because that’s what most Americans have seen and grown up with in regular American daily life.

Many Americans have no idea of what is happening in the world. The world is so infinitely vast in scope, but Americans tend to remain introverted, and rarely leave their homeland. In America, only a very small percentage of people have a passport, in the rest of the world a passport is almost a necessity for regular business. 

As America increasingly develops interests in the rest of the world through a global economy, why have most American citizens remained so ignorant about the rest of the world? When asking a number of my peers what they thought about Germany, a great number of them responded by saying that they don't like the idea of living under a totalitarian Nazi leader.

When a German hears this, they are appalled at such an accusation. In the past 50 years Germany has developed itself politically into a country that allows even the smallest of political groups to have their share of power in the government. Yet, many people in my generation, the students in America are left believing that Germany is still a nation fettered by totalitarianism; Nazi rule.

Why is it that Americans tend to think of the German's as a group of Nazi's. No one knows for sure, but perhaps popular culture has certainly played a role in this blatantly ignorant assumption that many young Americans make. Perhaps many of the young American's simply read more comic books featuring "Captain America vs. the super-Nazi" than they did their history text books.

Another explanation for this phenomenon is the fact that many young American's may not be able to identify what National Socialism is. As American's come to school, and salute the flag, perhaps they don't know what National Socialism is. After deciding to ask informally around, I was astounded that many students were unable to identify what a Nazi was. Perhaps young American's are only undereducated in this term, and are simply defining all German's as Nazi's because that is what classic media has taught them.

Regardless of the cause, the fact still exists that many young American's think Germany is a nation that practices National Socialism. This is significant because when people do not understand history, then it is bound to repeat itself. If American's are unable to identify a significant part of global history, then they most certainly they would be unable to notice if this particular segment of history had begun to repeat itself...

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