The Germans Stumble Along the Road Back: In the Backwash of the Great Crime
In the Franconian town of Aschaffenburg an empty lot has been transformed into a little park. At the center of the saplings and flower beds there stands a simple white tombstone on which are engraved two lines that were written by Friedrich Hölderlin more than a century ago:
Alas, the dead you cannot bring to life
Unless it is love that does so.
In smaller letters, the legend continues: “Here stood the synagogue of the Jewish Community, which on November 9, 1938, was destroyed by criminal hands.”
Hölderlin’s verse, chosen by the town fathers of Aschaffenburg for the memorial stone, might well serve as a melancholy introduction to any and every survey of present-day relations between Germans and Jews. These relations are still dominated by the dead millions whom murderous hands destroyed. Of revivifying love, there is precious little sign in Germany. It is rather human inadequacy, pettiness, and selfish weakness that best flourish in the backwash of so immense and so recent a crime.
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