What awaited them was a series of close encounters with different chapters of German history. The day began with a visit to the Federal Commissioner for the Files of the State Security Service of the former GDR. A guided tour of the archives showed participants how intensive and widespread surveillance was in the former GDR and prompted lively discussions about how best to deal with this huge legacy of no less than 111 km of files and more than 1.5 million photos, videos, and films. Contrary to all expectations, public interest in these records continues unabated. Head of Archives Birgit Salamon explained that her staff had received more than 80,000 requests to inspect files in 2012 alone.
At the subsequent luncheon with Moritz Schuller, a journalist with Der Tagesspiegel, the focus was on what different forms remembrance, responsibility, and guilt may take. The group discussed whether history needs to be personalized to become part of our collective consciousness or if such efforts are in fact counterproductive. After lunch participants had the opportunity to explore these and other questions in depth with representatives of some of Germany’s political foundations.
The last item on the pgoram was a guided tour of Berlin’s Holocaust memorials. Dr. Ulrich Baumann, Deputy Director of the Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, explained the background and symbolism of the recently opened Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered under the National Socialist Regime as well as the Memorial to the Homosexuals Persecuted under the National Socialist Regime. The tour ended with a discussion at the information center of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, which underlined yet again that history is something that not only describes the past but also, and most importantly, shapes the present.
The International Diplomats Programme is an initiative of the Federal Foreign Office and the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt and is supported by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP). Every year, twelve young diplomats from the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, East Asia, and South-East Asia are invited to experience German life and institutions from a variety of angles in a year-long program run in English. For further information please contact Senta Höfer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 030 1817‑4838 or Gregor Darmer, email@example.com, 030 1817‑1086.