Other nations could learn from Germany’s efforts to reconcile after WWII

Lily Gardner Feldman

Senior Fellow

Dr. Lily Gardner Feldman is a Senior Fellow at AICGS. She previously served as the Harry & Helen Gray Senior Fellow at AICGS and directed the Institute’s Society, Culture & Politics Program. She has a PhD in Political Science from MIT.

From 1978 until 1991, Dr. Gardner Feldman was a professor of political science (tenured) at Tufts University in Boston. She was also a Research Associate at Harvard University’s Center for European Studies, where she chaired the German Study Group and edited German Politics and Society; and a Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs, where she chaired the Seminar on the European Community and undertook research in the University Consortium for Research on North America. From 1990 until 1995, Dr. Gardner Feldman was the first Research Director of AICGS and its Co-director in 1995. From 1995 until 1999, she was a Senior Scholar in Residence at the BMW Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University. She returned to Johns Hopkins University in 1999.

Dr. Gardner Feldman has published widely in the U.S. and Europe on German foreign policy, German-Jewish relations, international reconciliation, non-state entities as foreign policy players, and the EU as an international actor. Her latest publications are: Germany’s Foreign Policy of Reconciliation: From Enmity to Amity, 2014; “Die Bedeutung zivilgesellschaftlicher und staatlicher Institutionen: Zur Vielfalt und Komplexität von Versöhnung,” in Corine Defrance and Ulrich Pfeil, eds., Verständigung und Versöhnung, 2016; and “The Limits and Opportunities of Reconciliation with West Germany During the Cold War: A Comparative Analysis of France, Israel, Poland and Czechoslovakia” in Hideki Kan, ed., The Transformation of the Cold War and the History Problem, 2017 (in Japanese). Her work on Germany’s foreign policy of reconciliation has led to lecture tours in Japan and South Korea.

In early March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Japan, her first trip to the country in seven years. She met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss climate change, terrorism, and free trade ahead of this summer’s G-7 economic summit. She mostly followed the anticipated script, including innocuous photo ops at stopovers like the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. But to the surprise of some and probable irritation of her host, no less than four times during the two-day visit, Merkel brought up how her country rehabilitated its international reputation after World War II by reconciling with Nazi victims and acknowledging the atrocities Germany had committed. At an event in Tokyo organized by the left-leaning newspaper Asahi Shimbun, Merkel referred to a 1985 speech by then West German president Richard von Weizsäcker, who called Germany’s wartime defeat a “day of liberation.” She added, “We Germans will never forget the hand of reconciliation that was extended to us after all the suffering that our country had brought to Europe and the world.”

The original article appeared in Johns Hopkins Magazine on June 10, 2015. Continue Reading here.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.