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Muller's Medals:

Eric Muller is in Germany investigating the life and death of his great-uncle Leo, a victim of the Holocaust. In this moving post, Eric relates his discovery of his great-uncle's WWI medals in a Gestapo file on his uncle in the Bavarian state archive. Eric believes the medals belong to his family. Accordingly, he will be filing a request to get them back today. I wish him luck.

Richard Aubrey (mail):
Went to a party yesterday where most of the folks were extremely well educated.
I contemplated again my view that accumulated classroom seat time is 'way overrated. Most of the people who think it's important have accumulated a good deal of accumulated classroom seat time.
I try to be nice to my wife's colleagues, starting conversational threads and letting others carry them, asking questions, never saying you're a stupid idiot for acting all surprised that George Washington didn't win a lot of battles, considering you have a masters in history and all.

But I lost it when some clown started in on how the Germans, where he does some work, are really up on American foreign policy and think we're wrong, but, he hastened to assure the alarmed crowd, they differentiate between Bush and the rest of us.
My response was that my father had been shot in three countries straightening out the last German big idea in foreign policy and, as far as I could care, eff'em, only I didn't say "eff".
Then I repeated my comment about the world-record oxymoron, "European Diplomacy". If ED were a disease, would it be worse than the Black Death. How many people have died of ED?

The Germans have at least ten generations before they dare say word one about somebody else's foreign policy.

And Adler's quoted post is on point.

Not sure I'll be invited back. Just as well. Patience is a wasting asset.
3.19.2007 10:15am
M (mail):
Thanks for sharing, Rich.
3.19.2007 10:46am
Mike BUSL07 (mail):
Richard - thanks - I felt vicariously empowered. My fiancee and I were talking to a nice young lady in Starbucks the other day - a finance journalist, quite well educated. We talked about film. Then we talked about Russian film, and then she said, "I think communism is a really good idea, in theory." I have to admit - I was shocked. I didn't know serious people still said things like that. I just told her that having lived under it in practice, I didn't share her opinion.
3.19.2007 11:10am
Shangui (mail):
The Germans have at least ten generations before they dare say word one about somebody else's foreign policy.

So, how long until Americans get to say a word about race relations in another country? I guess we were really out of line being so hard on the Germans for their treatment of Jew, what with that whole slavery thing and all.

Here's siding with your hosts if they don't invite you back, or don't pay much attention to you if they do.
3.19.2007 11:11am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Actually, shan, the US doesn't say much about "relations", but we do say things about murder and so forth. I'm not sure we should recuse ourselves if the basis is race.

But, to take your statement as if it had weight, okay, we don't. Just as long as the Germans keep their pieholes shut about their incredibly nuanced views of war, peace, foreign policy and so forth. Good swap.
3.19.2007 11:29am
Shangui (mail):
Richard,

Agreed then.

The snarkiness of my original comment notwithstanding, I do share some of your annoyance. I remember being abroad in the 80's and being lectured by the French about US involvment in Vietnam (really) and by some Germans about the shallowness of American culture. Said Germans were wearing Chicago Bulls t-shirts and Nike baseball caps. But I've certainly heard Americans say enough moronic things as well so I guess we're all pretty much idiots.
3.19.2007 11:42am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Shan.
I volunteered with American Field Service exchange student program for twenty-plus years. One of the interesting things was the returnees from Europe--but not elsewhere.
Their inevitable infatuation with European everything lasted about six weeks. Part of it was that they'd left a foreign land with its adventures and--usually--a loving family. Hard to give that up. But they figured it out.
Castles are nice to look at, but when you figure why and how they were built, it's another thing. Rode from near Madrid to Valencia and it seemed as if every eighth hill had some ancient fortification on it. Even in Europe, rocks do not roll up hill. Somebody had to do it with their own sweat, while their sustenance was sweated out of starving peasants. But the reason was that armies or brigand gangs weren't paid in those days. If you took a city, you got to work out on the civilians. No win, no pay. No finance clerks, either, which is a Very Good Thing.
It didn't take long for the charm of the old stones to wear off. And somebody's grampa to straighten them out on certain other things.

Mike. As Orwell or somebody said, some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.

I will get invited back by this couple,whatever the rest of the guests think. When they need lower class stuff done, like moving furniture, changing their teenage daughter's tire in the sheeting rain, hanging around after a breakin until the cops arrive, they call me. Daughter works in a facility for at-risk teens, where she's the one at risk. I taught her some moves.
I can even use a knife and fork, so I get invited--because my wife is invited.
3.19.2007 11:58am
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

I'd like to stand up for the German people here. Being European myself, I guess I might have better access to German public debate. (Having German TV here, I can see the excellent debate shows such as Sabine Christiansen, etc.) By and large, Germans have tried to be "cleaner than clean" when it comes to civil liberties and foreign policies, because of the war. I've had this conversation with German friends, and the war still matters for them. As a result, German foreign policy is always a hotly debated topic (i.e. sending a ship to Lebanon, their POV on Iraq, etc.) and the current German generations actually have less butter on their heads than the French (Algeria) or the English (Iraq). Lecturing foreign citizens about their country's foreign policy is bad manners, but a civil conversation should be possible.

As for the original post: how exactly is mr. Muller doing this? Unless he can somehow figure out what happened to these medals, who would he file suit against?
3.19.2007 12:25pm
Paddy O. (mail):
I agree with martinned. In my experience, which tends toward German theologians, they are not talking from an attitude of holier than thou. Instead, they are very much like the alcoholic who warns a person to not drink and drive. They speak from having made the mistakes themselves.

However, the problem lies in that they don't really have a good sense of American history or character. They interpret our actions as coming from the same direction as their own mistakes, and so think they are much more insightful than they are. Which leads me often to disagree but not be offended. Just like I'm not offended when a recovering alcoholic tells me I should be a teetotaler.
3.19.2007 12:47pm
markm (mail):
Cleaner than clean? Not always. German corporations helped Saddam in diverting money from "oil for food" to limousines.

As for Mr. Muller, if you followed the link to his post, he aked to see the file the Gestapo collected on his great-uncle, and found the medals enclosed in this file. I doubt he'll have to go to court, if he can show that he's the closest surviving relative, or can get the others to sign an authorization. If the Germans run to their normal form, they'll produce a mountain of paperwork to be filled out, but politely and efficiently help him find his way through it...
3.19.2007 12:51pm
Rex:
But I lost it when some clown started in on how the Germans, where he does some work, are really up on American foreign policy and think we're wrong, but, he hastened to assure the alarmed crowd, they differentiate between Bush and the rest of us.
My response was that my father had been shot in three countries straightening out the last German big idea in foreign policy and, as far as I could care, eff'em, only I didn't say "eff".


You responded to the "clown's" point about modern German understanding of American foreign policy by implying that their country is still influenced by Nazism? And people feel "empowered" by this exchange? Seriously?
3.19.2007 1:15pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Rex. Wrong, although I'm sure it didn't take many neurons to come up with that one. You may not have noticed I said nothing about Nazis. I could have thrown in a couple of great uncles gassed in WW I.

I should have been more explicit. Germans have demonstrated that they have no idea, none whatsoever, that anybody else is bound to respect about foreign policyf. If you don't believe it, look at their history.
They have no creds.
3.19.2007 2:17pm
martinned (mail) (www):
L.S.,

Allow me to bring in a bit of George Orwell, just for fun:

"By 'nationalism' I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled 'good' or 'bad'."

(Source: Notes on Nationalism)

The war, or any war that Germany was involved in, is more than 60 years ago, and only a small minority of Germans who live today were even alive in 1945. Get over it.
3.19.2007 3:03pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
martinned.

I don't think the "get over it" theme would be welcome if somebody was telling liberals to quit looking at the American south as a bunch of redneck secesh. Nope. It's selective.

Be that as it may, the fact remains that the German nation has not demonstrated that it has the cred to speak of foreign policy and be taken seriously. Twice, within less than half a century, they attacked practically everybody they could find on a map and the only reason the horrors of WW I are fading is that WW II was worse. Hitler didn't invade anybody, not did the Kaiser. Millions of enthusiastic soldiers did, supported by more millions of enthusiastic civilians.

We have two possibilities: One is that the culture and way of thinking is the same and they have to be watched. The other is that killing millions of a nation's people, pounding the place flat and forcibly remaking it our way is the only cure. Your choice?

The fact remains, sixty years or not, Germans should have the good grace to walk small on this subject.
3.19.2007 3:11pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Richard-

I should have been more explicit. Germans have demonstrated that they have no idea, none whatsoever, that anybody else is bound to respect about foreign policyf. If you don't believe it, look at their history.
They have no creds.


I call bullshit. I'm part German and I have relatives on the German side that fought for the US in both World Wars. The notion that the German people are not allowed to comment on foreign policy or military matters because some of their ancestors started terrible wars is nonsense. They have the same ability to analyze and comment on situations as anyone else. Granted they have their biases, just like anyone else as well.

This reminds me of all the hate directed at the French when they - rightly - said we shouldn't go into Iraq and refused to participate. Everyone said they should shut up because they would be speaking German if it wasn't for us. Then everyone got mad at me when I reminded them that we would be speaking English if it had not been for LaFayette and the French during the Revolution.
3.19.2007 3:19pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Richard-

We have two possibilities: One is that the culture and way of thinking is the same and they have to be watched. The other is that killing millions of a nation's people, pounding the place flat and forcibly remaking it our way is the only cure. Your choice?

Now you've lapsed into racist slurs. Nice.

You might want to watch spouting ignorant garbage like that. Most German-Americans are pretty easygoing, but we do have a somewhat different culture from the ones over there and we don't have the guilt complex. So we tend not to put up with racist garbage from people.
3.19.2007 3:34pm
Jeek:
The war, or any war that Germany was involved in, is more than 60 years ago, and only a small minority of Germans who live today were even alive in 1945.

This is the reason we should pay LESS attention to their opinions on the subject of war, not more. They don't know war, they don't do war. Their culture has been convincingly debellicized, and this is NOT a Good Thing in a world where not every other culture has also been debellicized.
3.19.2007 3:36pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Correction: Ethno-supremicist slurs, not racist ones.
3.19.2007 3:36pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Psi. I'm talking about Germans, not Americans whose ancestors were smart enough to leave.

And I'm not talking about "allowing" anybody to do anything, as any fool can plainly see.

I'm talking about the current Germans having the grace to shut up and the rest of us ignoring them if they don't. For historical reasons.

This is kind of funny. We condemn the US for its history wrt slavery and Indian policy and expansionism, Spain for colonizing Latin America, the Brits for colonizing most of the rest of non-Europe, but the Germans get a pass. Not buying.
3.19.2007 3:50pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Martinned has it pretty much right
By and large, Germans have tried to be "cleaner than clean" when it comes to civil liberties and foreign policies, because of the war. I've had this conversation with German friends, and the war still matters for them. As a result, German foreign policy is always a hotly debated topic

with the exception that there are still a a few unreconstructed Nazis you can run into and a new crowd of racist skinheads mostly from the East, who blame their hard times on everyone else....
3.19.2007 5:10pm
Eli Rabett (www):
If the medals are in the file, he should be able to get them.
3.19.2007 5:10pm
Hattio (mail):
Eli Rabett,
How dare you talk about the actual substance of the post. Can't you tell this post has been successfully hijacked to address whether or not the German people show the appropriate level of remorse/humility in foreign affairs/sense of sorrow at their past evil deeds. Now away with you and your rational comments.
3.19.2007 8:55pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Richard Aubrey-

I'm talking about the current Germans having the grace to shut up and the rest of us ignoring them if they don't. For historical reasons.

Well if you want to ignore someone, fine. But you were sort of claiming that they shouldn't be heard simply because of their history, which most of the current citizens didn't have anything to do with.

This is kind of funny. We condemn the US for its history wrt slavery and Indian policy and expansionism, Spain for colonizing Latin America, the Brits for colonizing most of the rest of non-Europe, but the Germans get a pass. Not buying.

Come on, they get slammed constantly for the Nazi period and both world wars. Claiming they shouldn't be allowed to express their opinion because of history or their ethnicity is excessive, and it borders on ethno-supremacy.
3.20.2007 8:35am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Eli Rabett-

with the exception that there are still a a few unreconstructed Nazis you can run into and a new crowd of racist skinheads mostly from the East, who blame their hard times on everyone else....

Yeah, like there's not ethno-supremicist groups of all stripes over here in the land of freedom fries.
3.20.2007 8:38am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Psi. So what's wrong with ethno supremacy? You got any way of convincing anybody of ethno equality?

Some cultures are superior, either by our standards, or by theirs. You ask what the people there want and see if they have it. We may have more of it by accident, if not on purpose. If so, we're superior even by their standards.

You must be a liberal. You keep insisting that objecting to something means not allowing. You know better, but it's a tropism. Can't help it.

And, the point of those who object to my point is that we shouldn't be hammering the Germans for their little quirks in history. The guilty are mostly gone. So while they get hammered generally, on this thread it's a bad idea.
The Germans were big into WMD facilities in Iraq. Just for the fun of it, you may want to read Manchester's "The Arms of Krupp".

The Germans ought to walk small in instructing the rest of us on foreign policy. Some things just don't go away in a couple of decades. And Americans who buy what they're selling ought to know better. And the rest of us should ignore both.
3.20.2007 5:27pm