Evidence of a Shared Sense of Guilt
Thank you for joining us on the High Plains Public Radio Station. My name is Jessica Sadler and I am a Science Teacher and STEAM facilitator in Olathe, Kansas. I am here with the other book leaders to discuss Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug.
Thank you for joining us on the High Plains Public Radio Station. My name is Jessica Sadler and I am a Science Teacher and STEAM facilitator in Olathe, Kansas. I am here with the other book leaders to discuss Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home by Nora Krug. This graphic novel is the author’s memoir of growing up in a post Holocaust Germany and the exploration of her families ties to World War II as all her grandparents were alive during this time. The photos in this novel are truly
exquisite and tell, as well as retell, a darker part of human history. It continues to carry the theme, Graphic Novels – Worth a Thousand Words.
Krug was born and raised in Karlsruhe, Germany. While her novel begins here, she also
shares of her time living in the United States and feeling an innate desire to “hide” her German heritage. However, it is this international experience that sparks her research and return to learn more about her family and the stories they did not share during her upbringing.
It is often easier to go through life turning a shielded eye to the potential unplesantries of history, both shared amongst nations and the history more personal to ones’ self. In the case of Nora Krug, she is exploring the crossroads of both. “No matter how hard I look, a nagging sense of unease won't disappear. Perhaps the only way to find the HEIMAT that I've lost is to look back; to move beyond the abstract shame and ask those questions that are really difficult to ask - about my own hometown, about my father's and mother's families. To make my way back to the towns where each of them is from. To return to my childhood, go back to the beginning, follow the breadcrumbs, and hope they'll lead the way home.”
I believe when humans lose touch with their roots it begins a branched path of unfulfilled wondering in their lives. Sometimes this alternative path begins with joy but there always seems to be some event that reroutes the person back to their HEIMAT. Sometimes the return is spiritual, sometimes physical, and oftentimes both. We are creatures of memory and action. If we have no memories of knowledge of certain
history, we must educate ourselves so that our actions curate a satisfactory if not better outcome.
I believe Belonging is a part of the author’s journey to do just that. Like many tragedies in history, The Holocaust carries innumerable lessons and in many cases, “... the evidence of our collective guilt.” I have had the indescribable experiences of going to several different cities in Germany and walking the grounds of not only Auschwitz but Birkenau in Poland. When your feet are walking on soil that still contains human remains, I begin to feel that the national guilt still present in Germany does not belong solely to the Germans, but all people.
The Holocaust is a part of the history for the countries that assisted or did not, they came too soon or too late, for heroic reasons or reasons beneficial due to other interests. It takes a collective group, not just one country, to decide something so terrible shouldn’t happen again. If the guilt was a commonly shared experience and history was not so rooted in the success of the victors, perhaps the histories that rhyme with the Holocaust, forced relocation and culture stripping of Native peoples in the United States, the life of Aboriginal people in Austrailia and New Zealand, and the numerous histories taking place in countries all over the world could begin to have different outcomes. Afterall, don’t we all want to find a sense of belonging and our own
version of a HEIMAT.
This is Jessica Sadler, and you are listening to the High Plains Public Radio Reader’s Book Club.