Steve Chapman

This trend began in 2006, when the World Cup was held there, giving Germans a chance to discover the joys of patriotic face paint. By 2009, a survey found, twice as many people were proud to be German as in 2001. At the time, University of Hohenheim sociologist Eugen Buss said, "The German soul, bruised and discredited by the Nazi era, has to a large degree been healed."

That's something to welcome, because it has come about the right way: not by forgetting or excusing the horrors of the past but by coming to grips with them. It's hard to think of any people who have gone to greater lengths to acknowledge the crimes committed by their forebears or to remember the victims.

It's not unusual to stumble across plaques and signs noting awful events from Hitler's time. There is a Holocaust monument in the middle of Berlin. But it's not called the Holocaust monument. It's called, with unsparing candor, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

Germans have earned the right to pride in country. Since the destruction of the Third Reich, they have established a prosperous market economy, a robust democracy and a tradition of cooperation with their neighbors.

They have not only left Nazism behind but also overcome communism, which for more than 50 years ruled in the eastern portion of the country. They reunited a country divided by the Cold War -- and they did it without going bankrupt, suffering political upheaval or inducing panic in countries they had once occupied.

As Germans become more comfortable with patriotic expression, they will disturb some people in Europe and beyond. But flying one's flag is normal behavior. And if we know anything about the German-caused catastrophes of the 20th century, it's that normal behavior was not the problem.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

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