You are vacationing in Bavaria, spending a day in the market town of Rosenheim some 20 kilometers from the Austrian border. After a breakfast of dark bread and sausages, you take a stroll to see some of the historic sites in the old town district when you stumble on the mid-19th century Rathaus. No Gothic gargoyles here, just a handsome three story beige brick façade. Hmm, nice you think, none of the usual menacing medieval architecture.
As you turn to continue your exploring, you notice a statue standing high on a massive pedestal facing the wide plaza in front the Rathaus. The morning sun puts the statue in silhouette, but you feel there is something familiar about the bulky frame of the honored figure guarding his hometown City Hall.
You walk around to the front and notice the figure’s long overcoat is actually a military uniform. And the hat! You can see now an eerily familiar insignia of an eagle, wings spread, perched over an iron globe. And there it is, inside the globe, the universal mark of evil, the Nazi swastika! You let out an involuntary gasp, embarrassed that a local citizen might take offense.
Who is this man in the towering bronze monument? Oh no! Now you remember that large beefy face and contemptuous scowl. This is a statue of Hermann Göring, Hitler’s right-hand man, Luftwaffe marshal, and architect of the London blitz. But how could there be a statue of this monster here in modern, democratic Germany?
Back at the hotel you go online and find that the Göring statue was erected in 1970, 25 years after the war. More searches turn up Nazi monuments scattered throughout the Federal Republic of Germany, some erected as recently as 2010.
You meet with your old friend Hans Schroeder who assures you that the WWII monuments have nothing to do with Nazism, but that they are important cultural landmarks celebrating German heritage. This inspires Hans into sentimental reminiscing over the many accomplishments of the great men who fought for the glory of the Third Reich. You are stunned. Hans always seemed like a reasonable, educated person, progressive in his politics with no hint of racism.
On the train heading to Munich you scan the news and find more of this “Back to the Future” style madness.
The top story reports that some students protesting Nazi memorials were demanding that a statue of Hitler be removed from the site of the Munich beer hall of Putsch fame. Other protesters in Dresden tore down the Saxony State flag flying over the capital building because of the inclusion of the Nazi swastika in the upper left corner of the banner.
A week later you board a Delta flight at Frankfurt, eager to leave this Never-never-land of Nazi nostalgia. You think of how comforting it’s going to be to return to the sanity and civility of your peaceful and truly democratic hometown, Atlanta, Georgia.