The inability to accept the past by Japanese leaders stands in stark contrast to Germany’s clear acknowledgment of its responsibility for the Holocaust. The deep layers of reconciliation Germany developed with France, Poland, Israel, and the Czech Republic stand in contrast to Japan’s apologies to its neighbors, which have been thin, intermittent, and devoid of follow-up in bilateral policies toward China and South Korea that show a genuine desire to make amends. Germany’s experience—apologize, offer compensation, build other relationship—can serve as a guideline for continuing reconciliation in East Asia.

On January 20, 2010, the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) hosted a luncheon discussion with Dr. Jennifer Lind, Dartmouth College, to discuss comparative reconciliation efforts in Japan and Germany. Most participants concluded that Japan’s hesitance to acknowledge and apologize to former victims is damaging Japan’s foreign relations with countries such as China and …Read More

On May 1, 2009, AICGS held a workshop on “Reconciliation or Resentment? Honoring the Past or Minimizing It in the Foreign Policies of Germany and Japan,” which was undertaken with the generous support of the Harry & Helen Gray Culture and Politics Program and the AICGS Society, Culture, & Politics Program. Bringing together an interdisciplinary …Read More

In the growing scholarly discussion on reconciliation after violent conflicts, compensation
payments to former victims are described as a fundamental tool besides apologies, truth
commissions, or trials. Germany’s confrontation with its Nazi past is generally considered
a role model. Even if there is no consensus about a definition, “reconciliation” can be described as a process that offers former enemies a way to a shared future. The aim is to
overcome the past, but not to forget it …

Buffeted by European and global headwinds, many in Germany wish for their country to “exit from history” and chart a more peaceful and insular course. But as Ludger Kühnhardt, Director at the Center for European Integration Studies at Universität Bonn and a regular contributor to the Advisor, argues, Germany can only engineer a good future for its people as an engine of further European integration, as a partner of the United States and as a defender of universal human rights. This essay originally appeared in the June 14, 2011, edition of The Globalist.

In a new AICGS Podcast, AICGS Fellows Dr. Lily Gardner Feldman and Prof. Dr. Michael Brenner discuss with Dr. Jackson Janes the status of Germany’s “special relationship” with Israel after Chancellor Merkel’s visit and bilateral cabinet meetings, focusing on Germany’s role in the greater Middle East and the importance of interaction at all levels of society.

In a new Transatlantic Perspectives essay, DAAD/AICGS Fellow Prof. Dr. Michael Brenner analyzes the role the Jewish past and the small contemporary Jewish community played in the foreign policy of the two German states before 1989, and to a smaller extent of unified Germany. The symbolic role the Jewish community played in the recognition of West Germany as a major player on the international stage was one of importance, Prof. Dr. Brenner argues, but in contrast, only during its last years of existence did the GDR use its official Jewish community to improve its foreign relations.

In Policy Report 39, “Different Beds, Same Nightmare: The Politics of History in Germany and Japan,” Professor Thomas Berger examines the characteristics of Germany and Japan that have shaped how the two countries respond to their histories from the Second World War. Citing differences in their histories, reckonings, and international political contexts, Professor Berger shows how despite these differences, Germany’s successes can provide a roadmap for reconciliation in northeast Asia.

In the sixty years since Israel’s founding, German-Israeli relations have been nothing if not complex. On the occasion of Israel’s sixtieth anniversary, the essays in German-American Issues 8 examine the issues of remembrance, the fading of the survivor generation, the new challenges faced by both countries in the twenty-first century, and the idea of a “normal” relationship between Germany and Israel. This volume features essays written by Michael Brenner, Lily Gardner Feldman, Harald Kindermann, Shimon Stein, and Frank Stern.

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