Burdened by historical guilt — how Germans remember

The world remembers the Holocaust. On Monday 27 January 2020, it will be the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi extermination camps near Krakow in Poland.

“The industrial mass murder of six million Jews, the worst crime in the history of humanity, it was committed by my countrymen,” German president Frank Walter Steinmeier told 40 statesmen at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel, on 23 January 2020.

“The terrible war, which cost far more than 50 million lives, it originated from my country,” he continued.

No other date tells the history of twentieth-century Germany as poignantly as November 9. No other date is so laden with the burdens of the history of this country. And no other date symbolizes so strongly irreversible changes about to become reality. On two occasions in 1918 and 1988, they were joyful occasions when political systems ended and there were new beginnings. In 1938 it was the long night into the despair of what became the Shoah.

The Brandenburger Gate in Berlin. Once the symbol for division between East and West Berlin. © Anli Serfontein

The End of World War One

On November 9, 1918 upheaval and an anti-government revolution with a strong anti-war sentiment reached Berlin. It forced the German Kaiser Wilhelm the…

Silver Bear named after first Berlinale director Alfred Bauer shelved

The Berlinale has suspended one of its prestigious annual prizes after it emerged that the first Berlinale director after whom The Alfred Bauer Silver Bear Prize is named, had a prominent Nazi past that has remained hidden to this day. Bauer is accused to have lied during the denazification process, that took place immediately after the end of the war in 1945.

On Wednesday this week the weekly newspaper Die Zeit titled an investigative article “An eager SA man,” in which they revealed that Alfred Bauer had been an active…

Sea-Watch 4 set sail in the Mediterranean

The additional refugee sea rescue ship Sea-Watch 4 initiated by the German Protestant churches umbrella body EKD with the “United4Rescue” alliance has set off on its first mission in the Mediterranean after a year of preparations.

Sea-Watch 4 on a test sail off the coast of Spain in July 2020 © United4Rescue, Chris Grodotzki

The ship, financed by donations led by German Protestant churches, left the Spanish port of Burriana on Saturday August 15, 2020 and is on its way to the search and rescue zone off the coast of Libya.

The chairperson of the EKD (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland), the umbrella body of the German Protestant churches Lutheran bishop Dr. …

“It is the most trying Madiba Day since democracy”

South Africa faced its worst post-democracy Mandela Day, since 1994.

On July 18, each year the world remembers Nelson Mandela’s birthday with Madiba Day where his legacy is honored through 67 minutes of volunteering and community service. In South Africa this year the mood was circumspect. After a week of looting, destruction and anarchy, South Africa’s constitutional democracy is facing unprecedented threats.

This week Cape Town’s Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba told me:

“It is the most trying Madiba Day since democracy. …

You make some valid points and in dealing with their past they have set a good example in recent years, but it took a long time. You would no doubt know from your time here that the reality is much more complicated. The German Bishop's Conference is certainly not united on all issues: they are pretty divided on many other issues - how to deal with sexual abuse cases, for example. And there are huge differences between the different Dioceses and some of these conflicts sometimes spill over into the public domain.

South African investigative journalist, speaker of truth to power

Hennie (JHP) Serfontein is especially remembered for his Broederbond investigative journalism exposés.

Serfontein was also the journalist who broke the news that then political prisoner Nelson Mandela was in secret talks with the apartheid South African Government. A major journalistic scoop at the time. His sources were de facto first hand.

“Nelson Mandela, the imprisoned leader of the banned African National Congress, has been involved in “serious dialogue” with senior members of the government for almost three years.”

Hennie Serfontein August 4, 1989

30 years after reunification still no unity

Area of Berlin Wall today © Anli Serfontein

THIRTY years after reunification, the old divisions between East and West Germany have not been fully overcome in German Churches or wider society.

For the first time since reunification, in late August, the five church leaders of the East German regional Protestant Churches of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) met. The meeting, in the East German city of Greifswald, was labelled a laboratory for the future.

“The sense of community in the Church is different” in their Churches, the president, the Revd Joachim Liebig, from the west, said.

World church bodies in solidarity with Zimbabwean churches

International church organisations on Monday rallied to show solidarity with churches in Zimbabwe under attack from the government.

Zimbabwean bishops © ZCBC

The Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Communion of Reformed Churches, and the World Methodist Council sent a message of solidarity of their “yearning for the realization of their human rights, for justice and for physical and economic security” in an open pastoral letter to the churches and people of Zimbabwe on August 17.

They condemned the use of violence against those protesting the “failure of governance structures” to protect the Zimbabwe people from “deteriorating” conditions.


Catholic bishops denounce State crackdown, drawing sharp government attack

Zimbabwe’s Catholic bishops (ZCBC) drew a sharp government response after issuing a Pastoral Letter, titled ‘The March Is Not Ended’ on the current crisis in the southern African nation. In a vitriolic attack on the bishops, a government minister played on delicate tribal divisions and was herself accused of stirring genocide.

In a Pastoral Letter released on August 14, the ZCBC condemned the government’s current crackdown on any form of dissent, citing actions such as against journalists and political opposition leaders arrested and charged and left in jail.

“Fear runs down the spine of many of our people today. The…

Anli Serfontein

South African journalist, author & filmmaker in Berlin. Writing on southern Africa, Germany, politics, culture, films, books, interfaith. www.serfontein.org

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