When I registered for Germany Close Up, I did not realize the program’s full nature. I imagined a casual tour with some history, politics, and cultural exposure. After two days in Berlin though, I have realized that this is not your average Euro trip. For me, this is a chance to explore many levels of German post-Shoah society, while exploring Jewish identity.
Last night after dinner, the Orthodox Union students and the young German guides accompanying us had a passionate discussion about anti-Semitism – past, present, and future. Each of us had opinion, but by far the most touching came from the Germans as they vehemently condemned and distanced themselves from those same feelings that contributed to the Holocaust. By no means did they paint a rosy picture of modern Germany, but they proved that – contrary to the belief of some Jews I have spoken with – not all German are Nazis. The Torah teaches that children cannot be blamed for the sins of their ancestors, that people are capable of doing teshuva, repentance. The Torah’s truths apply here too. These Germans recognize their country committed atrocities, and they are working to prevent such calamities in the future.
Listening to them tell their stories has helped me explore my vision for my own future. Coming here and remembering both Jewish suffering, as well as life and accomplishments, has strengthened my desire understand our heritage and history. This trip shows how history is brimming with relevance to modern society. I know that I can never forget this relevance.
Ilana Ben-Ezra, just completed her Bachelor’s degree at Binghamton University. She will be starting her Master’s in history at Binghamton next month, focusing on Medieval interfaith conflict and relations.