What is "the German identity" and what does it mean to be German?

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Answered by: Brie, An Expert in the European Continent Category
Although World War 2 ended nearly 70 years ago, Germany is still, even today, constantly being shadowed by its dark past. In the aftermath of World War 1, with high rates of inflation, and a record level of unemployment, Germany fell under the power of the National Socialist Party, more commonly known as the Nazis. Over the next several decades, millions of Jewish people were killed during this holocaust, and the world (rightly) was not quick to forget.

Due to the lasting effects of the war on Germany and the rest of the world, the notion of being "German" and a "German identity" are relatively new concepts. Although now, without the consequences of World War 2 constantly looming over their heads, many people living in Germany are beginning to create a new identity for themselves. So what does it truly mean to be a German citizen today?

Obviously, to be a German means to live within the boundaries of Germany, and receive the same rights and privileges as its other citizens. But to many people, being German is more than that. To be German is to be a part of the culture of Germany, to drink beer, sit in cafes, enjoy art and music, and be a part of the community and the country that one lives in.

However, that's not to say that World War 2 has not had a great influence in shaping German culture. Unfortunately, this means there are also grim aspects to the German identity. Many Germans, unlike Americans, are shocked by the idea of senseless violence in films, music, and other parts of popular culture. The fear and senseless violence caused during the War no doubt influenced this quality of the German identity. World War 2 has also done a great deal in shaping the architecture and cityscapes in Germany, particularly in Berlin. Fascist and Imperial style buildings still remain in the city, and are both landmarks and reminders of the history that this buildings were once a part of. These buildings are as much a part of the German identity as the culture that has been created around them.

Therefore, the notion of "being German" is not always black and white. The history of Germany has greatly shaped the ideas and emotions of the people living in Germany today, but recently Germans have been able to turn a page in their history. It is still important to remember the cruelty faced during the Second World War, as it was very influential in more than one way. It is important not to live in the past though, Germany is a revived country, that has a new opportunity to leave a positive mark on the world in regards to science, popular culture, art, music, and literature. To be German is not to be held down by the unfortunate consequences of World War 2. To be German is to be strong, to remember, to be sad, to laugh, to learn, to accept, to create, and to enjoy life to the fullest.

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