Sunday, January 08, 2006

Goldhagen's Open Letter to Turkey

Daniel Goldhagen wrote an open letter that appeared yesterday in Die Welt. He links the success of German democracy to its explorations of the past and reparations, all of which helped it to prosper and join the community of nations, and uses that history to argue that Turkey should do the same (and drop the case against Orhan Pamuk.) If I find the English version somewhere, I'll post it instead. Otherwise, this is my translation of a few passages.
On the other hand, had post-war Germany attempted to lie and to cover up the whole truth, that the Nazi regime and many Germans would eliminate the Jews, neither the European project nor the Germany's standing in the world would have prospered they have. Had Germany systematically lied, it would have come into continuous conflict with its neighbors and the world and incessant doubt about how much Germany had actually reformed. It is accepted that German politics without an honest discussion with the past would be less democratic and tolerant than it is today, and would be worrily observed by its neighbors. ...
About the Pamuk trial in specific:
The whole world sees this historical and juridical farce. The suppression of the whole historical truth through the Turkish government, the people and the intimidated, or nationalistic, intellectuals will only cause Turkey great difficulties as they attempt to join the European Union and leave their undemocratic past behind them. The commissioner of expansion of the EU, Ollie Rehn, has already warned, "It is not Orhan Pamuk who stands before the court ... but Turkey." ...
I do have one question: what if Jews and Israelis had been cold to German offers of reparations (and many were), what if the discourse only occurred within German society, would the results have been the same?

[ETA] After further reflection, I think that although Goldhagen is generally correct, Germany democracy might have evolved for some time, perhaps until the Eichmann trial, without confronting the legacy of the Holocaust. Neither the US nor the core members of the European Coal and Steel Community raised the Holocaust as an issue. Their concerns were security (making sure the German army was no threat) and rebuilding (finding a context to share economic resources.)


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