There's a line in Munich. You can cross it, step on it and even touch it if you wish. It's on a random side street, is yellow and is about 60 metres long. Meandering along, it curves along it's 20cm width and is pretty boring to look at to be honest. It doesn't seem to serve a purpose. And that's where it's beauty is as once you know the reason for the line's existence you can step back and say 'aaaah fair one'.
Germans are honest. I think it's fair to say they have a little bit of modern history to contend with and being honest about it is both brave and sensible. What fools they'd look if they just brushed it all under the carpet. They'll talk about it as much as you want, they learn about it from day one in school. It's a cathartic process that may take centuries. It's unfortunate for them that it all happened at the beginning of modern news gathering techniques: forever more if you mention Germany certain words will be associated: holocaust, Hitler, genocide etc
Compare that to how we treat British history in the UK. For a start it's telling that I've learnt more outside of the UK than I ever did at school where I remember: the Vikings, bits of kings and queens and lots of non-interconnected rubbish. I know far more about the American civil war than I ever will the English equivalent. I'm not sure it was ever actually mentioned. Mrs Jones? You were a bit shit. But then it was a shit school and at the time I didn't care about history anyway.
To find out about the conduct of the glorious British empire you have to go and visit it, only to find out, unsurpisingly to be honest (I'm not that naive), that we treated the world's people's like utter cunts. The shame I felt in India was palpable when all the guys are really happy to learn you're from England. I just felt ashamed and wanted to apologise for brutally raping their country - right up until the 1940s when we were admonishing Germany for doing similar things to Poland.
Germany is full of monuments, plaques and all sorts of gubbins commemorating WW2 and other stuff. The thing is, very little of it is blatant and in your face. There're museums explaining the nastier elements (special mention for the Dokumentcentrum in Nuremberg - best abc scariest museum in the world IMO) but the most interesting stuff is hidden in plain sight. It's treated like: we did it, this is our apology, move the fuck on.
I did a walking tour of Munich devoted to the third Reich. The guide was english and a right history buff. He'd been doing these tours for four years before finding yet another memorial in a random park and it took him another 6 months of research to find out it was for the romany gypsies persecuted in the war.
There's a mausoleum in Berlin. This building is vast-ish. It has bars on the front of it and as you look through the bars (theres no actual door into it that i could see) in the middle, alone, sits a life-sized sculpture of a woman sitting proud. Again, it's a memorial to a certain subsection of humanity that suffered.
The Memorial to the Victims of the Holocaust AKA The Jewish Memorial is very marmite. The guide hated it but I thought it was elegant and served very well. Imagine a football field covered in rectangular concrete monoliths or stele. They're all different heights and the ground undulates. It's ugly, it's hard to look at and it's perfect. (Controversial fact fans might like to know that during it's construction they were worried about graffiti so they covered all the blocks with some special...stuff. That just happened to be sourced from the same company that made Zyklon B. Oops)
And that yellow line. During the October putsch some activists died. They were against the Nazis but they were turned via propaganda into martyrs for the cause. Every time the average german went past this spot they had to give the nazi salute. Obviously a lot of people objected to this so they went around the block. They did this knowing full well there were a couple of SS guards stood there who then proceeded to give them a pasting. And that's what the line signifies: the german objectors and their defiance. Nowhere does it say this. Without doing the tour you'd think someone has spilled some yellow paint. It's very, very cool.