The site is near Hitler's bunker, where he killed himself. The bunker was destroyed by the Russians and the site remains unmarked. By design, no one can say exactly where it was. Time marches on.
I stood in front of the memorial when Berlin's "Christopher Street" parade came marching by, a gay pride parade held annually in Berlin since 1979 and modeled on New York's own spectacle. Homosexuals in Germany want a Holocaust memorial, too, to honor the thousands of homosexuals who were made to wear armbands marked with pink triangles. Many died in concentration camps.
Germans have never been noted for their acceptance of difference, and their toleration of foreigners has always been strained. In the '60s Turks were invited to West Germany as "guest workers" with the idea that they would take jobs nobody wanted and eventually go home. Many stayed, raised families, built mosques and began to feel more comfortable as their children went to school with their German peers. But integration was slow. More recently the Turks have been joined by refugees from the Balkans and East European countries.
The newest demographic estimates suggest that Germany will require between 250,000 to 300,000 immigrants a year if the country remains at its current economic size, and many Germans worry that the refugees won't learn the language or appreciate the culture. (Sound familiar?) In Kreuzberg and Wedding, neighborhoods in Berlin where many Turkish immigrants live, huge satellite dishes decorate balconies so the immigrants can receive their foreign language television programs.
The war against terror exacerbates German suspicions that foreigners may not be able or willing to integrate and assimilate. Textbooks at King Fahd Academy, a private Islamic school in Bonn funded by Saudis, teaches that "the Muslim people's existence has been threatened by Jews and Christians since the crusades, and it is the first duty of every Muslim to prepare to fight against these enemies." The school was forced to sack a teacher last year after he gave an inflammatory speech calling for jihad, or holy war.
Caught between a weak economy and a shrinking German population, the new president and his nation need all the optimism he can conjure. We must wish him well. It won't be easy.
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