Three Differences Between Germany and the US Regarding Historical Atrocities

Takeaways as the US grapples with its slave-owning roots

A.J. Bryant
6 min readNov 9


picture of Auschwitz concentration camp barracks behind razor wire with sign that says ‘Halt/Stop’ with skull and crossbones
Photo by Jean Carlo Emer on Unsplash

There wasn’t a memorial at the Dachau Nazi concentration camp until 1965. That was 20 years after the Allies liberated the Holocaust site.

That’s one of the eye-opening facts from this excellent Atlantic piece about German Holocaust remembrance.

Here’s another one: Less than half of one percent of Germany’s population is Jewish. Germany, with a population of 83 million has fewer than 120 thousand Jews. More Jews live in Boston, than all of Germany.

Compare that to the United States and the number of blacks and descendants of slaves.

Blacks make up more than 14 percent of the US population. The US population is more than 330 million. That alone demonstrates the difficulty for the US to arrive at a collective reckoning about its slave-holding past.

In Germany, people can go for days, perhaps their whole lives without meeting a Jew. That is not the case with African Americans in the United States.

The chances that a white person will run into someone black are infinitely higher.

In Germany, a Holocaust memorial is removed from the people being honored.

Yet, in the US, the effects and descendants of the evil practice are all around us. That changes how we both heal and discuss the trauma.

No Memorial Satisfies

Satisfaction is impossible. There is no amount of national hand-wringing, monument size, or number that is ‘enough.’

Nothing can be done to honor the victims commensurate with the near-total annihilation of Jews from Europe.

Multiple people interviewed in the article said this. The author, Clint Smith, asked the Germans he interviewed, ‘Were their actions sufficient?’ None of them ever said it was or wasn’t.

There was a recognition that it was enough.

Doing nothing, they admitted felt wrong. But at the same time, there was no way to make a grand enough gesture to say ‘sorry.’



A.J. Bryant

Adopted from Kerala. I write about adoption, my intercultural marriage, and contemporary India. Prawns are my love language. @adoptedkeralite