After 60 years, Germans learn to love themselves

Sun May 17, 2009 8:21pm EDT
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By Madeline Chambers

BERLIN (Reuters) - After six decades atoning for the crimes of the Nazis, Germans are rediscovering a sense of patriotism and are no longer ashamed to wave their flag and sing the national anthem.

They are even daring to discuss bringing back a bravery medal -- unthinkable a decade ago in a country which rejected militarism and turned fiercely pacifist.

This non-aggressive self confidence, also evident in a more assertive foreign policy, is increasingly manifesting itself as Germany this year celebrates 60 years as a democracy and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"The German soul, bruised and discredited by the Nazi era, has to a large degree been healed," said Eugen Buss, a sociology professor at the University of Hohenheim.

"We're seeing a normalization," he told Reuters. Buss was a consultant for a recent study on German identity, published before celebrations for the constitution's 60th birthday get going this month with street parties and public events.

The study, carried out by the Identity Foundation in Duesseldorf, showed twice as many Germans were "very proud" to be German as eight years ago, said Buss. Almost 73 percent think they should show more confidence about being German.

The experience of managing a successful democracy and economy have taught both eastern and western Germans they are entitled to feelings other than shame about the past, said Buss.

The nation startled itself during the 2006 soccer World Cup tournament, when millions of people painted flags on their faces, wearing red, gold and black hats and chanting the national anthem.   Continued...

<p>Puppy "Duje" wears a bandana in German national flag colours as he attends the reception for the German women's national soccer team in Frankfurt, in this October 1, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/Files</p>