By: Conrad Yiridoe
Smith’s article provides multiple interesting points regarding the preservation of a historical event, in this case being the Holocaust. As, well, it provides an intriguing look at what some motivations that may have been present, for Germans to remember and acknowledge the historical events and the toll they took, in such a public way. The author notes for example that “In my investigations, I rarely read of local activists—those school teachers, archivists, and retirees—who mention being inspired by the miniseries (though some invoke the trials).” Rather, there were factors, often times based out of a local grassroots effort (rather than national governmental) level that provided the motivation to ensure that the harsh lessons of the war, were not forgotten.
The role that Jewish survivors played is that much more impressive given that Smith notes that “ there were not many Jews like the Spiegels who came back to make their homes in the very towns where locals had jeered and howled with approval when the Nazis destroyed and desecrated synagogues.” In fact, “it was precisely when returning Jews gathered the courage to complain about the state of the cemetery in their home town, or to ask why there was no plaque or sign stating what had occurred during Kristallnacht, that something began to move among local people”. This appears to suggest that the impetus seems to have been on Jewish survivors and their families, rather than the Germans (whom in many cases were the perpetrators during that era) to get something done. Over time however, it is described that multiple towns across the country organised “visitor weeks” to invite Jewish people from around the world, which I feel was an important act in order to establish a sense of closure and proper appreciation for what had occurred.
In conclusion, there are some words from the Smith article which perhaps provide a roadmap for achieving some sort of reconciliation and understanding with these difficult topics. Here, Smith says “There are many lessons—local, national, and transnational—that we could learn from this German-Jewish story: the importance of community work, the necessity of reaching across divides, and the crucial role that local schoolteachers, archivists, retirees, hobby historians, and preservationists may well play in the great transformations of a nation’s memory.” One could see this roadmap could be applied not only just to the historical event which inspired this article, but also many other historical events of the past which inspire high emotion and grievance, in order to set a path towards mutual understanding and acceptance.