The two pictures from my family trip to Germany last month do not look like typical tourist pics, no castles, beer steins, lederhosen. Saw plenty of that, but these pics mean something else. One is a memorial in Berlin to the murdered Jewish population of Europe, the other, right behind the memorial, is close to where Hitler made his last stand, dying in a bunker in the last days of the war as Berlin burned above him.
Germany is filled with images like this, reminders of the horrors of the Nazi era eighty some years ago, memorials to victims, slave laborers, whole sections of cities rebuilt after being bombed flat. In some places you can still see bullet damage on statues, the sides of buildings. How did all of that happen, an advanced, sophisticated country become known for horror, a place where millions were murdered, millions more died in a war which wrecked much of it. It is easy to think that all of that happened because the Germans were dumb, crazy, mean, why some of them fell for Hitler. Most World War 2 movies and popular histories fall into this view, the Germans are mean looking guys in grey jackets clutching rifles with permanent frowns. In reality, actual Germans look exactly like, well, people here, not surprising as a good part of the population of central Minnesota is of German descent.
Countries, and people fall for hate, and violence when they reject the rule of law, lie about their history, and scapegoat others for their problems. It is good for us to keep that in mind when we hear politicians, and candidates preach hate, undermine the rule of law, believe that they are entitled to hold power regardless of the results of elections. Amazingly, some people in this country actually preach Nazi ideas and white supremacy. Anyone who believes that violence and hate are the way to go would be wise to look at how that worked when it was tried before, Hitler, dead in a bunker after ruining his country.