Has Germany Forgotten WWI?

The centenary of WWI starts this year, and Germany seems to be somewhat on the outside of the celebration. Britain, which suffered heavy casualties as the result of the war, has been in full throttle with numerous commemoration ceremonies and even school projects which honor those fallen as well as those who survived, all of them considered heroes. Many are highly aware of the parts that their relatives played in the war, whether those parts were played in the military or on the home front. Germany, however, has been relatively silent on the issue of WWI as well as their part in it, whether that part be national or personal in nature.

To be fair, it is not as if there has been no media coverage whatsoever of the centenary. To be even more fair, citizens of Germany tend to question their relations to WWI much less than their relations to WWII, for obvious reasons. They are much more concerned with whether or not their relatives were criminals in the Second World War than whether they were heroes in the First.

The nation is somewhat unique compared to others in how they experienced the war in the first place. They did not see much battle on the home front, something the majority of nations involved cannot say. That does not mean that WWI Germany was completely free from the horrors of war, as they still saw the deaths of many beloved sons whose graves still mark their soil today. This is another reason that they are more inclined to remember WWII, which was much more prevalent in those terms, the DW News reports.

Many have postured that Germany may appear to forget about WWI because, given the nature of WWII, they are actually dealing with a massive amount of shame at having taken part in any war to begin with. Under that perceived guilt many suspect denial may be the culprit. However, their native authors and historians have actually done much research into the causes of the conflicts, and some say that is the very reason for what appears to be shame or denial—they are aware that too much patriotism can result in extremist movements, and they are trying to avoid the repetition of such events in the future.

WWI Germany has been highlighted in many of their museum exhibits and recent articles in many of their publications, and they are doing their best to see the war from a multinational perspective. Having received much criticism recently for not spending as much on centenary commemorations as any other nation involved in the war, Germany has at least putting emphasis on historical considerations of WWI and its causes.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE