27 January 2005 - Thursday

Memory and shame

City Journal has published an intriguing article called "The Specters Haunting Dresden." The author, Theodore Dalrymple, uses the rebuilt city of Dresden, which was firebombed out of existence by the Allies in World War II, as the basis of a discourse on the relationships among history, collective identity, and guilt.

Nowhere in the world (except, perhaps, in Israel or Russia) does history weigh as heavily, as palpably, upon ordinary people as in Germany. Sixty years after the end of the Second World War, the disaster of Nazism is still unmistakably and inescapably inscribed upon almost every town and cityscape, in whichever direction you look. The urban environment of Germany, whose towns and cities were once among the most beautiful in the world, second only to Italy’s, is now a wasteland of functional yet discordant modern architecture, soulless and incapable of inspiring anything but a vague existential unease, with a sense of impermanence and unreality that mere prosperity can do nothing to dispel. Well-stocked shops do not supply meaning or purpose. Beauty, at least in its man-made form, has left the land for good; and such remnants of past glories as remain serve only as a constant, nagging reminder of what has been lost, destroyed, utterly and irretrievably smashed up.

| Posted by Wilson at 23:48 Central | TrackBack
| Report submitted to the Humanities Desk