Learning from the Germans:  Race and the Memory of Evil – Holocaust Living History Workshop

(introspective music) – I’ve been asked how I
got to write this book, and I have two answers to that. One is I’ve kind of been
writing it all my life. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, not a real Southerner, my
parents moved from Chicago right before I was born,
so we were very much other. In those days in Atlanta
it was a tiny place, not what it is now. And my mother got involved in the campaign to desegregate the Atlanta public schools, so I grew up around the
civil rights movement when good and evil and progress were uncontested concepts, and I hated being from the South, I mean all I wanted to do was grow up and leave and go to New York or Europe, neither of which I knew anything about, but now looking back on
it, it was a good time to grow up then and there, and although I wouldn’t have admitted it until very recently, I
think that was probably the reason I wound up studying philosophy and within philosophy moral
and political philosophy. And so I have to thank my
mother for being an example of moral clarity when I was very young. How’d I get to Berlin? Well, so I was writing a
dissertation on Immanuel Kant in the early ’80s, and it was, it seemed like a good idea to spend what I thought would be a year in Berlin learning German, learning a little bit about Kant, and it was a time at
which almost no Americans who weren’t part of the army
and no Jews set foot there. And I kept being asked,
what’s a nice Jewish girl doing going for a whole year to Berlin? And my answer at the time
was completely naive, I said, look, the war’s
been over for 40 years, isn’t it racist to condemn
the entire German people? So I’m just gonna go and think about Kant and Goethe and that’s what I’m gonna do. And, of course, and if
you’ve been to Berlin, you realize that even back then when you had a very, you know,
it was just the beginning of the country coming to
terms with its Nazi past, even back then the war
was all over the place, you couldn’t escape it, it was
all that people talked about. And my first response actually was to be both impressed and a little ashamed that Americans didn’t talk
about the things in our past that are shameful and violent, and it was a huge contrast,
so I did think about that for a long time and watched
Germany making progress by, not by leaps and
bounds, by zigs and zags, as President Obama once put it. But I found my way back to Berlin, I stayed there for six years in the ’80s, left at a moment when everybody said, oh, nothing is going
to happen here anymore, this was 1988, nobody
knew what was coming. But I also had my first child there, and it did not feel like a normal place to raise a Jewish child or even a child who wasn’t entirely German,
I mean it was a place where it was odd and sometimes difficult to be a foreigner at
all, to look non-Aryan. So I went back to the
States, I taught at Yale, I was in Israel for five years, and the Einstein Forum found me, and it seemed like the perfect job for me because it involved
having a foot in academia but also a foot in the rest
of the world, which I like. And it seemed to me that 12
years after I had left Berlin that I could take, by that
time it was three children, I had twins the second time around, I could raise three
children who would not feel that they had to cower,
that they had to be afraid, that they had to be in
hiding in some sense. So that’s a little bit about my, the part of my biography
that doesn’t appear on the CV and then in some sense has been fueling my interest in these
topics for a long time, but the actual, there was a moment when I decided to write this book, and it was standing in
my study in June of 2015 crying watching President
Obama give the eulogy for the nine people who were
massacred in Charleston. And as awful as that was, it seemed to me with someone like Nikki Haley taking down the Confederate flag and Walmart saying they weren’t gonna sell Confederate memorabilia, I thought, wait, maybe America really
is ready to face its past. And actually this is something
that I know something about and could contribute to the discussion. So that was the moment at which
I started writing the book, and at the same time,
Germany had just welcomed one million refugees. And when I say welcomed, it’s not only that people stood at train stations carrying signs saying
welcome, which they did by the thousands, they took
people into their homes, they spent time giving
people German lessons and helping them with
bureaucracy and playing soccer and music with the children. There has been a backlash,
we can talk about that later in the Q and A if you like,
but the ultimate answer is it is still the case that more people are involved in active refugee integration than voted for, are right wing party, and that is good news, and that is, Germany’s been the most
progressive country in Europe because they have done
this historical work. They have a long compound word, Germans like long compound words, in German it’s called
vergangenheitsbewaltigung, and I have translated that
as working off the past, there are different
ways of translating it, but I think that works best. And because of that
Vergangenheitsbewaltigung, the Germans have been better
than anybody else in Europe, not to mention anywhere
else, with the refugees. And you have to, if you
think about proportions, the United States would’ve had to take in five million refugees in one year on a fraction of the land mass if we were going to mirror
what the Germans have done, so that’s just a fact. Of course, as we know,
things changed from 2015, but, again, we can also talk about that. So what I’d like to start off by doing is showing you some pictures. Most of you have probably seen pictures of the Holocaust Monument. I tried to take a picture that shows this, but it’s the American
embassy is in the way, that white building on the far right. I wanted you to get a sense of the fact that this is the center of the country. This is not off somewhere in a park. They took a piece of land the
size of four football fields right next to the national symbol, which is Brandenburg Gate, and
they put a monument of shame, as they’ve been criticized
by the right for doing, a monument of shame in the
absolute heart of the country. It would be, I mean more
than the Washington Mall. But it’s not my favorite monument, this is probably my favorite monument, not that many people have seen it. It is the monument to the 13 million soldiers of the Red Army who fell in the fight to liberate
the world from fascism. I know Americans think
it was done at Normandy and Brits think it was done by the RAF, and all honor to the
servicemen who fell there, but it was 13 million Red Army soldiers, and 14 million Soviet civilians,
and we forget that often. If you get a chance to go to Berlin, I highly urge you to go to this monument. I’ve taken my rabbi there, I’ve taken bunch of people there, it is is emotional in a way that I don’t find the more famous Holocaust memorial. 7,000 of the soldiers who
fell in the battle for Berlin are buried here. And what I didn’t show is
first you come to a statue, an over life-sized statue
of a mourning mother and then there are weeping willows, and then you come to this sort of arch where the soldiers are
honoring their fallen comrades. And then you walk through a sort of set of, I mean they look like sarcophagi, they’re not, telling the story of the war. Don’t be disturbed by
the fact that the quotes, and they have quotes and
they’re sort of bas-reliefs, the quotes are by Stalin, but actually except
for the very first one, which says everything was
fine in the Soviet Union until the Nazis invaded,
except for the first one, everything that’s written there is true. So you go through and you
see this 30 meter statue, I guess it’s rather hard to see here, I’ll show you. So that’s about the size of a person. And in one hand he’s holding a sword, which has just smashed a swastika, and in the other hand he’s holding a child who he’s saved out of the rubble. Of course, they didn’t win
the war with swords on this, but this, I find it very moving. But I find even more moving this memorial. This memorial is to the
women of the Rosentrasse. The Nuremberg laws, as
I’m sure many of you know, forbade marriages between
Jewish and non-Jewish Germans, but some people who
had been married before stayed faithful to their spouses although a lot of
pressure was put on them, they would usually lose their jobs, they would, you know,
their rations would be cut, it was extremely difficult, but some people remained faithful. And their spouses were
not deported for a while. In 1943, the Nazis decided they wanted to do a trial run and
see what would happen if they did start deporting
some of these spouses who remained married, and
they rounded up 400 Jewish men who were married to Jewish women. This is February 1943, it’s
one of the worst moments of the war, it’s also freezing cold, and these women, most of
whom didn’t know each other, came spontaneously to this place where their men were being held, and they said, give us our
men back, we’re not leaving. And the Gestapo trained guns on them, and they said, you can shoot
us, we don’t care anymore, we’re not leaving you
give us our husbands back. And they got them back. None of those, I guess,
800 people was deported, they all survived, and this monument was made by a sculptor who was a child of one of these marriages. And it’s a very important and moving story that shows that resistance
is always possible, sometimes people say, well,
Gandhi worked in Britain and Martin Luther King
worked in the States because we’re civilized people. Well, actually when
people are brave enough, you never know. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna show you any, all of the, I think it’s 470
monuments in Berlin alone, but I want to show you this one. This is a monument commemorating
the book burning in 1933, when just a few months after
the Nazis took over power, there’s an inscription by
the poet Heinrich Heine who said, when they start burning books, eventually they will burn people. And an Israeli artist did this, it’s a small monument, right at the place where the books where burned, and it’s just empty
shelves, because they burned many of the great works
of German literature, philosophy, anything that was written by a Jew or a Communist or anybody else that they considered to be enemies. But you can also see in the background the Humboldt University,
and what you should know is that it was students and
professors who burnt the books. We’re not talking about an illiterate mob, the highest proportion
of Nazi party members had university degrees. So it was students and
professors burning these books. Okay, last monument slide,
this is one of my favorites, if you’ve been to Berlin,
you will have noticed the stumbling stones, they’re, well, you can see the scale
of how large they are. They were begun by this
artist, Gunter Demnig, he’s 70, he still lays
most of the stones himself. There is a stone or a brass plaque in front of houses where
people lived who were deported, it has their name, the
date of their birth, the date of their deportation,
and the date of their death if it’s known. And he insists now that
people be involved, if they want a stumbling stone,
they have to do something. They have to pay the
equivalent of about $125, which is affordable, I
mean we’re not talking about a vast amount of
money, it’s something a middle class person could decide to do, but they also have to research the history of the person who they’re commemorating and they have to get
permission from the city. And people do this. People also deface them occasionally, they sometimes pull them up, but the last time that there
were stones pulled up in Berlin more people volunteer to
replace, I mean just hundreds of people volunteered to replace them. And those stones were the inspiration for Bryan Stevenson’s Memorial. Which I hope you’ve heard about. Bryan Stevenson is
actually one of my heroes, because he has done or continues to do two incredibly
important and moving things. One is he fights the death penalty and he actually has saved people’s lives. If you haven’t read his
wonderful book, Just Mercy, please do so, it’s fantastic. But the other thing that he does is to connect the racism
and mass incarceration that we’re dealing with
today with American history and with our inability to have faced the depth of white supremacy. And he told me, I went to
Montgomery to interview him, he told me, well, I went
’cause I had seen something where he said he was
completely inspired by Germany and by the ways in which the Germans had changed the iconography, and he was to do the
same thing in the South. So there’s the large monument, but the large monument
has a kind of parallel, outside there’s a block for each county in which his institute, the
Equal Justice Initiative has researched a documented lynching. And the idea is that the county should come back and claim their marker so that along with, if
you ever spend any time in the South, you can’t go two miles without seeing a sign commemorating some Confederate battle or another, the idea is that the counties should also have these markers
commemorating lynchings, and they’re doing it. They’re actually, the museum only opened last year,
and they’re doing it. So how come the Germans have
done all this and we haven’t? I know that Nazi, Holocaust, are often, I gather, not in this
crowd, I was just told this is a very educated audience, but in many parts of this
country and in Britain as well, Nazi just means absolute evil without knowing anything about
how the Nazis came to power, without knowing anything
about how the Germans have dealt with it in
the intervening 75 years. And so the assumption isn’t, you know, the thought is Nazi, cattle car, gas chamber, oven, they must have fallen on their knees the minute the war was over. We do have the picture of Willy Brandt, who was a complete outlier,
we can talk about that. We all, in the rest of the world, admired him for showing
that there were good Germans even though he spent the war in exile, that there were Germans who
felt like falling on their knees and begging forgiveness,
he was an outlier, and the gesture was not appreciated in West Germany at the time at all. On the contrary, their
cities had been destroyed, seven million people, seven
million Germans had died in the war, and even though there was some attempt in the first years of the Allied occupation to force Germans to go to concentration camps, there you can see, you see a woman smiling, you
see a woman being horrified. People complained about it. They complained about Nuremberg as a case of victor’s justice. And their basic view was, we were the worst victims of the war. Our cities were destroyed,
the flower of our youths, somebody’s shaking her head, I know, it took me
decades to realize this. I had many friends when
I first came to Germany who would tell me, my parents were Nazis and they were ashamed, or
my father would never talk about what he did on the eastern front and I wish I knew, but he would
just get angry if I asked. So they would tell me that much, but they never said, my parents were Nazis and they thought they were
the war’s worst victims, which is, it was, that was too much shame. So it took me a very long
time to figure it out, it was really only when I
was researching the book that I was reading things
written and transcripts and studies done right after the war where this opinion got voiced very often. Then I would ask people about it, really? And they said, oh, of course, of course we thought we
were the worst victims. We were hungry, it was
cold, there was no fuel, the flower of our men had
been killed in the war, people were incinerated in the bombings, and on top of that, well, let me show you another slide, by the way, this is not
just a view in the late ’40s and early ’50s, when, in 1995 at the 50th anniversary of the war the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, which was actually founded
and run by a friend of mine who I interview extensively in this book, decided to do a big exhibit
called the Wehrmacht Exhibit which broke the country’s last taboo, because there were 18 million
men serving in the Wehrmacht, and the line had been, oh yeah, well we heard about the
concentration camps, but that was the SS, that
wasn’t the Wehrmacht, there were a few bad
apples, we had trials, we had the Auschwitz
trials which made more of an impression in Germany
than the Eichmann trial, but it was a few bad apples. And the Wehrmacht Exhibit set out to show that actually the Wehrmacht itself was a criminal organization, they violated every law of war, they routinely and systematically killed civilians. We know that, I felt like it was, saying what I heard about it was like, oh, yeah, like the Earth
is round or water is wet, this is news? But actually it was
incredibly controversial, it was shown in 33 cities in Germany, one place that was fire bombed, and there were counterdemonstrations, this is what was so interesting. So on the far right it says, our grandfathers were heroes. Down here it says, I’m
standing up for my ancestor, all he was doing was
defending his homeland against the nasty Bolsheviks, and you’re dishonoring my
ancestors by showing this exhibit. Who does that sound like? (audience laughs) Oh my God. Same kind of language that we have seen in the battles over the
Confederate monuments, exactly the same kind of language. Now, the good news in Germany is 5,000 neo Nazis demonstrated in Munich but 10,000 counter
demonstrators demonstrated back, fascism isn’t an opinion, it’s a crime, no Nazis in Munich. At the top you can
actually see the exhibit, and a million people came to see it in the various places that it was shown, and were looking to see if they
could recognize themselves, if they could recognize their relatives. The exhibit itself became
subject of documentation because people’s reactions were so strong, it went all the way to parliament, some people argued it should
be shown in parliament, it wasn’t. Oh, I should have mentioned actually, sorry, in the course of writing this book, I was invited to give a
talk at the University of Mississippi, and I’m the kind of person who was nervous to cross the state line. And I went because I thought, you know, before you tell Americans
what they should learn from the Germans actually
really ought to see what people who are dealing
with American history on the ground are doing. And there was a wonderful little institute called the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation
based at the University of Mississippi, they’re,
of course, a tiny minority, but they are working to
examine American history and to create social justice. They were responsible for
bringing Edgar Ray Killen, the murderer of Chaney,
Goodman, and Schwerner to trial 40 years later. They were responsible for some of the Emmett Till memorializing, so I was fascinated with their work, I loved it, and I asked
if I could come back. Said, don’t worry, you
won’t have to pay for me, I have a sabbatical coming to me, but can I just come and watch what you do and follow you around and interview people and use that as a base for half a year? So I did. But of course I was listening all the time to these battles over the, this was 2017, the battles over the monuments. Mississippi, I should make it very clear, because I spent so much
time in Mississippi and because the book is focused in many ways on Germany
and the American South, I don’t by any means mean to suggest that racism is only a problem
in the American South. As we know, it’s a problem
all over the country. But the South won the narrative, actually, and by actually being in
the South for two reasons, you can study American
racism and American attempts to face it in a more
concrete way than you can, I dare say, looking at the
composition of this audience, in certain spaces in southern California or Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I spent a lot of my time, there simply
are more African Americans in Mississippi, and so
race is always conscious. I’m not saying that people
know how to deal with it, but it’s not something that you can ignore as easily as you can
ignore it in other spaces. And the other thing is that Mississippians are obsessed with their history. So while they often get it wrong, you can’t say they’re not
talking about history, they are. And it was there that
I realized, you know, one thing we can learn from the Germans is that this is really hard. Even the Nazis weren’t
ready to face their past. It took a lot of work. Some people think it took
a change of generations, but a change of generations
by itself didn’t do it, there was a lot of civil
engagement by a fairly, I mean, the people who were pushing this when I first came to Berlin in the ’80s were basically educated
middle class people in their 20s and 30s who felt terrible about the fact that their teachers and parents had been Nazis
or at best bystanders. So they really did this work, but they were called nestbeschmutzern, people who dirty their own nest. There was a huge amount of pushback in West Germany, East
Germany was different. I could go into that if you’re interested. So we shouldn’t be surprised, and this was actually a message of hope to my friends in Mississippi
and activist colleagues there who have sometimes struggled with despair and how hard it is to get
people to actually acknowledge the depth of racism in this country. It was interesting for
them and hopeful to them to hear, oh, it took the
Germans a lot of work too. And so it’s not surprising
if Newt Gingrich goes off the deep end
when the New York Times initiates the 1619 project, of course there’s gonna be opposition, nobody wants to face the shameful things
that were done in their name, but they can. So I just want to, before
we turn to a discussion, I want to run through a few
things that I think are crucial to any form of working off the past. One is, of course, questions of justice. There were the Nuremberg Trials, a very small number of big fish were tried and even smaller number were executed, most of them got very short sentences that were very quickly commuted, and they often went right
into the government, except at the very top level, that was a sort of unspoken bargain that Adenauer made, we’ll pay reparations to the state of Israel and
to individual survivors as long as we don’t actually have to do any Vergangenheitsbewaltigung, we don’t actually have to get the Nazis out of the civil service, the schools, the police, and we don’t have to talk about this stuff, we can just. So there were very few
trials in West Germany. There were quite a few
more in East Germany. So here are two rather famous trials, you may not recognize the man here, it was not until I think
’94 that Edgar Ray Killen, the Klan leader who masterminded the murder of Chaney,
Goodman, and Schwerner was actually brought to trial. But he did die in jail recently, even though people were reluctant to try an 80-year-old man
and a preacher, at that, but as we know there, the trials of other murderers
have not been as happy, and that is something that
we still need to work on. But I want to conclude on a hopeful note, because I’m kind of a silver
lining sort of a woman, and it’s been very hard
to find a silver lining in the last couple of years. I have been in despair many, many times, and there were moments when
I was writing this book where I thought, you’re gonna write a, you think it’s useful to write a book, I mean honestly this is ridiculous. The situation is too bad. I believe that the horribleness of the presidency that we’re experiencing, hopefully not for all that much longer, the horribleness of it
has caused white Americans to realize how deep white supremacy is a part of our history. And it’s not that we
were totally ignorant. As I said, I grew up during
the civil rights movement, but the assumption was,
okay, there was slavery, but then we fought a civil war and there was segregation
but then there was a civil rights movement, and nobody I know
thought that the election of President Obama meant we were going to live in a post-racial future, but the arc was bending in
the right direction, right? And suddenly there’s simply no denying that Trump would never have been elected did he not feed on the rage of millions of people who were angry
about a black family in the White House and a black family who, you can disagree with this or that policy of President Obama’s,
I can wish that he did a few things differently,
I think he’s too much of a neo liberal, but all five of them, including Marilynne
Robinson, the first granny, behaved with perfect
grace, dignity, integrity, for eight years, and it enraged people. I met the people in the deep South, these are not, I mean I have friends who are enraged that
he was too neo liberal, but I met people who found it unbearable that basically the Obama family undermined every possible excuse for racism, right? I mean I never felt more proud to be represented by an American president and a first family, I never
felt that in my entire life. Okay. But I really think that the awareness that white Americans are coming to as a result of this monstrous presidency that we’re now living under has created an interest and awareness, remember the 1619 project, I don’t know how many of you have seen it, it’s not just commemorating
400 years of slavery, the goal is to retell
the history of America through the eyes of slavery. This is not a blip on our history, this is a fundamental part of who we were, and Henry Louis Gates’ book and program on reconstruction, just the very fact that people are talking
about reconstruction, until I started doing this research, I’m embarrassed to say
that my understanding of the period between
the end of the Civil War and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
was kind of a big blur. And Hillary Clinton could say in 2016 and she’s certainly an educated woman, she was asked, you may remember, who her favorite president was, and she said, well, Abraham Lincoln. Fine, that’s a great one to pick. She said, because if he
hadn’t been assassinated, there wouldn’t have been all that mess with reconstruction
and Jim Crow and stuff. Now, three years later you can groan and that is a measure of the fact that historians have been writing
now in general publications, of course historians knew all the time, but you cannot escape it anymore, it’s part of the general conversation, it’s part of the conversation
around the monuments because we know the monuments were put up in a particular time and
place for particular reasons. Who knew? I didn’t know, until I
started doing this research. That is from the 1619 project, that quote. And I was asked by the
editor of a distinguished national publication, she
obviously hadn’t read my book, but that’s okay, she asked if
I wanted to write something that was, this was maybe a
month ago or three weeks ago, there was a Twitter storm, a white guest had complained that she
went on a plantation tour and it was her vacation
and she didn’t want to hear about slavery and why
was she forced to do this, and this editor asked,
well, would you like to write something arguing that Americans should treat Confederate sites the way Germans treat Nazi sites? And I started thinking about it, I said, Nazi sites, Nazi
sites are concentration camps. There is no one, not
even our right wing AfD, who would somehow suggest,
there are pictures of SS guards frolicking at
Auschwitz, you can see them, I mean people grinning on their day off and picnicking and stuff like that, but nobody would suggest that we should go and have holidays and dress up in dirndls the way people dress up in hoop skirts. I know AOC got into a lot of trouble for calling the camps at the
border concentration camps, but of course they’re concentration camps. Concentration camp is not the
same thing as a death camp, as I’m sure many of you know. There were thousands
of concentration camps all over Germany, they
were not just in Poland, that’s where the death camps were. And millions of people were forced, Jews and, well, in the
end not so many Jews, but political prisoners and
Russian prisoners of war were forced to do slave labor
under terrible conditions. They were tortured. Many, many of them died. And, you know, plantation is a form
of concentration camp. I mean that’s what we’re
celebrating when we, I mean I love the live oaks
as much as anybody does, I don’t know if you’ve been to the South, there’s something very
haunting about live oaks, but you don’t have to go to a plantation to see the live oaks, there
are some wonderful ones in the Louis Armstrong Park in New Orleans if you want to have your fill of live oak. So last thing, but this is
now a subject of conversation, and it wasn’t, plantations were places to hold wedding ceremonies or
stay at a bed and breakfast. I knew that I was going to have to write a chapter in this book on reparations, and I left it next to last, because I really wasn’t
sure what I thought. But if any of you here, or those of you who are writers will know
that you’ll often write to figure out what you think. And I was very of two minds because several people who I take very seriously, also African American
scholars like Cornel West and Adolph Reid had come out very strongly against reparations, they were arguing that we really need social democracy and reparations muddies the picture. Well, I’m in favor of
social democracy too, I am fortunate to live on a continent where things like health
care and education and parental leave and vacations and labor rights are
considered to be rights and not benefits, and that
makes all the difference in the world in how they’re treated. So I would be in favor of social democracy in this country myself. Bernie Sanders is actually to the right of Angela Merkel, seriously, and Angela Merkel is a
conservative government, her, the social policies
just people have become so deeply convinced that these
things are matters of rights that it goes quite a bit farther than any American politician
would dream of suggesting. But I started thinking, so what if, it’s a thought experiment, a Holocaust survivor who
chose to stay in Germany, and some did, not very many but some did, would have the same social rights as any other German, wouldn’t we think they were owed more? And I decided I have to argue for the justice of reparations
to African Americans. I don’t have a better plan
than anybody else does about exactly how it’s supposed to work, I think this is something that economists and working together
perhaps with philosophers and other people need to work out. But when I wrote that chapter
last August I thought, oh boy, have you gone out on a limb, it’s you and Ta-Nehisi Coates and people who have been reading this so far and saying, okay, she’s got a point, maybe we need to things, oh,
no, now she’s gone too far. I didn’t dream that we would in half a year have five
presidential candidates discussing the subject or that the house would finally, after refusing to do it for 30 years, hold hearings on the fact. And, again, I think all of this is really, this is the silver lining
in this horrible presidency that Americans really are coming to terms. We’ve gone a long way to go, but I think people are open. Before we talk about what needs
to be done in this country in the long run, I want
to talk about what needs to be done right now. I think we will be processing and atoning for the Trump presidency as the sort of, you know, the end point of a horrible history, we’ll
be processing it for some time. But there’s something we have to do first. I’m assuming but I’m happy
to explain if you don’t, especially the younger people, are there people here who don’t know what Freedom Summer was? Or who James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Mickey Schwerner were? I’m glad you all know. Ah, you don’t all know. Okay, so really briefly, in the early ’60s, a
brilliant community organizer who also happened to study
philosophy at Harvard, (laughs) and was Barack Obama’s inspiration for going into community organizing, named Bob Moses decided it’s fine to desegregate lunch counters
and forms of transportation, but what really needs to
happen is to make sure that African Americans
in the South are voting. Because there’s a huge population who have been intimidated and
aren’t registered to vote, and there’s a whole series of practices that are not just prejudice,
they’re state-sponsored ways in which African Americans
are prevented from voting. So Moses leaves Harvard
and goes to Mississippi, which he called the heart of the iceberg, and he begins trying to
encourage community leaders, brave people in the field,
to register to vote. They get beaten to the
point of being crippled, several of them are murdered, and Moses is feeling quite horrible about all the campaign for
the voter registration drive has brought is death and terror to African American families. So he has this idea of Freedom Summer which was that, you know, if a thousand white college students come
down from other places, and I know someone came from California, if a thousand white college students come down to register voters, surely people, the nation’s
eyes will be focused on this problem and surely the
Klan won’t dare to kill them. In fact, they did. They killed, Andrew Goodman was a New York Jewish college student, 20 years old, on his very first day in Mississippi, and he was murdered
along with James Chaney, a local young African American and Michael Schwerner,
who had finished college and had gone down a little earlier than the rest of the students. And I asked because I
was dismayed recently at how few young people under 35 or so actually know who these people were. Because I grew up in the
South, they were my heroes. I was too young to join Freedom Summer but gosh do I wish I had been there. And I’ve been shocked recently to see how their memory has been forgotten, but I am simply throwing out
that the most important thing that college students
and young people can do for the next year is to
fight voter suppression, because the Republicans will not win unless they continue to
manage to suppress poor and minority voters. Now, this was an idea that came to me if, okay, my people reading my book, what, is there something I can
use if I have a platform? And I don’t yet have,
I’m just throwing it out to everybody I talk to. I did find out there is an
Andrew Goodman Foundation that his parents founded, that
is exactly devoted to this and people like Bob Moses is actually, and Harry Belafonte are on the board, so there is an organization
if you’re interested. I am working on doing
what I can to support them and further that and see what other kinds of initiatives, ’cause a lot of my friends in this country teach on college campuses where they complain to
me, the students care about social justice,
but they’re often focused on niche campus questions. And those are important questions, I don’t mean to denigrate
them, but they’re not urgent. And what is urgent is to do this. Bryan Stevenson said
something very moving to me when I was interviewing him, he said, it’s very important that
we remember the terror, that we remember the
murders and the lynchings, but we also need to remember our heroes. He said there are white Southerners
who were against slavery and against lynching, and
you don’t know their names, and it’s really important
that we know their names. And this is the other thing, if you’re thinking
about new understandings of our national history,
people like the Newt Gingrich’s of the world who say it’s gonna
tear up our national fabric and we won’t have anything to be proud of and we won’t have any national identity. Well, we can rewrite a new one. Obama did give the families
of these three heroes posthumously the Medal of Freedom. But by starting a voter
drive what we’re both doing is remembering genuine American heroes, people who stood up and gave their lives for another vision of America. – [Moderator] Please join
me to thank Susan Neiman for a very stimulating talk. (introspective music)

16 thoughts on “Learning from the Germans:  Race and the Memory of Evil – Holocaust Living History Workshop”

  1. I came here to down-vote 🙂
    If you are looking for the part where she, inevitably, likens the Nazis to Trump, here it is: 24:55

  2. Please show me some examples of racism in 2019 in the southern part of America other than a picture of someone wearing a Maga hat! If I was convinced that racism is a big problem I would definitely do something to stop it! I’m just not seeing it! Oh. And don’t assume that you know my ethnicity because of my comment because that is racist, and you might be surprised!

  3. I wish there were more people talking about the holocaust that took place in Ukraine around 1932 where an estimated 11 million people were sentenced to death when the Soviets came in the middle of the winter and took all the farmers crops and stores in the name of socialism. They froze and starved to death. This after the Germans had devistated Ukraine. Btw, G. Soros has been meddling in Ukraine since the 1980s and has more recently been involved in setting up the anti-corruption agencies that are actually protecting the corrupt. Like the US DOJ protecting HIllary Clinton from conviction for her violations regarding her private unsecured email server that according to documents recieved by Judicial Watch through FOIA, and the report just released, compromised National Security nearly 600 times and violated the law 91 times. My condolences to all those abused, tortured and/or murdered by their oppressors of all nationalities. Monthly income in Ukraine is $200, 85% of people live under the poverty level because of the oligarchs that have been looting them for decades. Thanks to Pres, Trump for getting us out of the Middle East! Since this lecture has decided to make this a political statement against our duly elected president who is doing exactly what we elected him to do. He is NOT a racist, he's a realist and we want our borders secured, not just from Mexicans but, any of the people from 56 countries that have been apprehended breaching our border unchecked. I pray the lunatic left will wake up to the mass lying by the media who are undermining the fabric of our nation. I despise those who hate Trump more than they love America and are blocking anything he does. I have zero respect for any of you, including the narrator of this video. Lying about our president

  4. Oh my God I just heard you say that Trump was elected only because a country full of white racists wanted Obama out of the White House? You can only serve eight years as president in the whitehouse!! This awful racist country elected and reelected a black man as president! I would love to see you donate all proceeds from your book to helping victims of racist white people! Give it all to Jussie! Do you feel that strong about? Or getting rich from separating blacks and whites!

  5. Nazis were evil
    They killed people

    Censored free speech
    Did not allow any criticism

    Lied about historical facts
    They made false accusations

    Seized control of the media
    Used propaganda to spread lies

    Sterized dark skin people
    De-humanized other people

    Thought themselves special
    Wanted their own Ethno State

    Never engaged in any debate
    Never answer anyone's questions

    They destroyed the European economy
    Used their military to attack their neighbours

    Mixed old mythology + fascist politics
    Wanted a new world order they controlled

    Believed in collective punishment
    Killed innocent men, women, children + babies

    Believed their loss + suffering in war was greater than other people's

  6. The same Germans who now want a EU army and a EU empire with its own flag and anthem, the more things change the more they stay the same and we will again see Germany reduce Europe to ruins in the next ten years with war and poverty, already the right is growing in strength by the day as countries respond to austerity brought about by the EU, German banks are about to collapse and Russia have a army on the Ukraine border facing 8 battalions of NATO troops, France Sweden Estonia Poland and Norway have reintroduced compulsory national service and soon the rest of the EU and the the UK will follow and Turkey will start world war three in the Middle East, ignore history and it has a habit of repeating itself

  7. Actual jew communist. Fucking perfect. Why are you still here, mam? Don't you have your own country now?

  8. The German people, the vast majority of witch were ignorant of the atrocities are not to blame. Blame lays in the systemic government that allows evil to dominate. How can you support the very evil you say you hate?

  9. The left are the cause of modern anti semetism and will also be the instrument provoking a far right back lash. So we can learn nothing from this so called lifetime of work

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