Yes, I realize it's ancient history. I realize fifty years have passed since World War II, but I defy anybody traveling from Prague to Berlin not to want to fling themselves out of the train window when they hear this heavily-accented message over the intercom:
"We have arrived now at the German border station. Thank you for riding with us. Goodbye."
I was perfectly willing to forgive Germany. They said they're sorry a million times, and at some point you have to let it go. But then I got to the actual country, the place where it all happened, and a thought hit my brain and just would not let go:
So, this is where Hitler killed six million people in his attempt to take over the world.
Um, why is this place still here?
See, there are certain things you can't recover from. If your wife catches you naked in a hot tub with a troop of Boy Scouts, you can't just say, "Okay, I've made a serious mistake, but let's just say I'm sorry and start over from square one." No, there's a price to pay, and even on this magnitude that price includes things like jail, divorce, or gunplay.
Every once in a while I realize I've made a fatal error. "Well, it was a good try 'til now," I tell myself as I pack up my stuff and hit the road, ditching my old name and saying farewell to my old life. And that's just prompted by stuff like farting in bed.
In Germany, they didn't even change their name.
Now, I know they're sorry. They've said so more than once, and the city is liberally dotted with monuments to their mistakes. Unfortunately, to see the monuments is to recognize that this isn't nearly enough. A thousand cement coffins to commemorate six million people killed? That's the stupidest thing I ever heard. It's too small, too cheap, too easy. It's like totalling your boyfriend's Jaguar and then offering him a Kit Kat bar in recompense.
Not enough? Okay, I'll toss in some Almond Roca too.
The Germans recognize their failure to address the scale of the matter, so the monuments keep going up. "Do you get what we did?" a government minister asks. "I mean really, really get what we did?"
His coworker sighs. "It's beyond comprehension, really." Pause. "Why don't we express our remorse to the world with a pointy cement obelisk?"
"Brilliant!" the minister says. "We can use that big empty space by the Reichstag where Hitler used to parade the troops."
It's sad. It's fruitless. And now, ironically, every new monument just seems to confirm the impossibility. The air has been tainted; the ground has been spoiled. The crime was just too big. This is a past that demands that the country be relegated to history in the same way its victims were.
So, Germany, I know you're sorry. I know you're a beautiful land full of terrific people. But as long there's shame and nuclear weapons in the world, you should not exist.
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