The horrors of the Nazi regime still resonate throughout Germany and will continue to for many years to come. However, there are ways to learn more about the darkest chapter in modern German history without upsetting anyone. Here's a list of what you can do and what you should avoid.
- Go to a museum: Every major city in Germany has a museum about the effects Nazi Germany had in the area and throughout the country. People working at museums will certainly be willing to answer whatever questions you may have.
- Visit a concentration camp: While many of the buildings from the concentration camps that were based in Germany were destroyed following the Allied Powers’ victory, many of the campsites have been converted into museums and serve as a reminder of the horrors perpetrated under the Nazi regime. Visitors can attend guided tours and get detailed information on how the camps were run.
Check for "stumbling stones:" There is a brass plate for every
person persecuted by the Nazis in front of where the person lived or worked.
The plates, known as stumbling stones (Stolpersteine) were introduced in the 1990’s
by German artist Gunter Demnig and have been installed - in front of houses and institutions - all over Germany and
These "Stolpersteine" display names of victims who were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp
Show any appreciation for Nazi customs: Making the Nazi salute, saying "Sieg Heil" or "Heil Hitler" is illegal throughout Germany as outlined by
Strafgesetzbuch 86a (Criminal Code section 86a). Offenders can face up to three
years in prison if found guilty.
Display Nazi symbols: Article 86a of the Criminal Code also bans the
use of "symbols of unconstitutional organizations" outside of research. While
there is no official list of symbols banned under the law, any symbol related
to Naziism, including the Swastika and Schutzstaffel (more commonly known as
the "SS") are banned. This is why the S’s in American rock band Kiss looks different in
Germany when compared to the rest of the world.
- Deny the Holocaust: Saying the Holocaust did not happen, despite the extensive documentation and the ability to visit former concentration camps throughout Europe, is a serious offense in Germany. Holocaust denial is illegal according to Section 130 of the Strafgesetzbuch, as it can "incite hatred." Those found guilty of denying the Holocaust may serve a prison sentence between three months and five years or pay a fine.
- Sing the first verse of the "Deutschlandlied": The German national anthem ("Deutschlandlied" or "Song of Germany") has three verses. The current national anthem is just the third verse, which starts out with the words "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit" (Unity and justice and freedom). The first verse, which begins with "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles" (Germany, Germany over all) was the anthem of Nazi Germany and it is therefore inappropriate to sing the first verse of the song.