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comity's avatar

Today we remember Pearl Harbor,the Holocaust, the beginning of World War Two, but why do some hold this generation accountable?

Asked by comity (2832 points ) December 7th, 2011

When did you let go or haven’t you? I had family killed in concentration camps during World War Two. Two of my present buddies are German and went back to visit their home country last year. They didn’t do anything wrong and are the nicest ladies and wonderful friends. But, I know people who wouldn’t associate with someone of German descent. The same thing with people who won’t associate with those of Japanese descent. When do you let go? Prejudice against someone because of something their ancestors did I think is wrong. How about you?

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40 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

Based upon car sales I’d say that Japanese / German prejudice is a thing of the past. I just came from a Bar Mitzvah celebration this weekend in Westchester County. There were so many BMWs in the parking lot it looked like an Oktoberfest Celebration.

jaytkay's avatar

??

Speaking for the US, Germany and Japan have been very close friends for decades.

Japan might be our 2nd closest friend after Canada. I think Germany is among the top five.

lillycoyote's avatar

Some people never let go. It’s a very personal thing, I think.

comity's avatar

@jaytkay In general that’s true, but I know a few older people that still live in the past. @worriedguy Where in Westchester County was the Bar Mitzvah. I lived in Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County for 35 years before I moved to the Ithaca area.

LuckyGuy's avatar

It is easy for me to let go. I wasn’t there. If I had a number tattooed on my arm I’d likely feel very differently.

@comity I’ll PM you.

rojo's avatar

My mother was a child in Liverpool during the war. She spent time in the countryside, as did thousands of children to get them out of the cities. She has never gotten over it but the way it manifests itself is in her refusal to watch or read anything having to do with WWII. She does not deny it but will not confront anything that upsets her on the subject. She has never held it against an individual as far as I am aware. She has had German friends, transplants to the US also, along with many other nationalities. I was an extremely traumatic experience on an extremely personal basis.

JLeslie's avatar

Completely wrong and unAmerican. America is a country that is supposed to take each individual at his own merit. A surname does not determine how you are treated, or what level of society you are allowed into. A family member having had been a criminal does not have anything to do with his son. We are to be judged on our own behavior, not our parents or grandparents. That is one of the ideals I associate with America anyway.

I can understand why Jewish people have a hard time buying a German car, owning things German. I chose not to play the wedding march at my wedding for Jewish reasons, and in the end I preferred the music I chose better anyway. Having a thing, or listening to music that might be a reminder is disconcerting for many. But, our friends, the individuals we get to know and love, we don’t focus on their national origin, we focus on who they are as people. At least I do.

Surprisingly to me, when I was in school in MI, they focused on hating the Japanese way more than the Germans. It had more to do with the car industry than anything I think. Japan had taken great market share away from the American auto industry. I just found it odd when WWII came uo they dwelled on the Japanese, while me coming from the northeast and being Jewish, we focused on the Germans.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@JLeslie From what I saw this weekend it looked like Jewish people were the biggest customers for German cars. There were more BMWs than Chevys in the lot.

Tachys's avatar

The generation that lived through it will never forget. It was a defining moment. Gradually the “day that will remain in infamy” will become just another day.

JLeslie's avatar

@worriedguy Doesn’t surprise me at all. I have three Porsches and VW. My grandmother never would have ever bought a German car. At first it was odd for me too, I still lean towards buying Japanese, but it has more to do with reliability actually for me. My husband loves cars, and loves Porsche, and prefers German engineering/handeling and I just go along.

JLeslie's avatar

@worriedguy Henry Ford was considered a Nazi sympathesizer. Jews in America back in the day mostly purchased Chrysler from what I understand. My FIL says in Mexico the Jews down there bought Chrysler also. My husband’s family tended to buy Ford, but he had no idea about the history with Henry Ford. It’s more than that though for them. My FIL cobverted to Catholicism his family gave him a hard time, he hated how he was treated being Jewish. He seemed to want to reject anything that implied he was Jewish when he was a young adult. Although, not easy as his name is very very Jewish.

Aethelflaed's avatar

While I would agree that pretty much all of the people who committed the actual atrocities of WWII are dead (or senile), it’s not really that easy. They had kids, and they taught there kids stuff, and that culture continued and changed and reacted, and stuff like that. Germany’s put a lot of work into getting the hell away from the Nazi thing, and some of those tactics have worked better than others, and sometimes they go too far in the other direction (Munich, 1972, etc). But it’s just not as simple as “they’re dead, so everything’s ok now”. Notice how all of the Americans who (legally) owned slaves are dead, and yet racism is still around, and blacks are still suffering from the effects of slavery? It’s like that. Not that I’m trying to say that holding today’s German and Japanese citizens responsible for the crimes of their parents/grandparents/great-grandparents is the way to go, just that it’s a bit more complicated.

jaytkay's avatar

@JLeslie My Jewish wife who lived all her life in the Detroit suburbs was surprised to learn of Henry Ford’s anti-semitism and his Jew-hating newspaper. When we discussed it in 2002.

JLeslie's avatar

@jaytkay I’m sure Detroit would like to bury that little tidbit altogether. Meanwhile, Ford Motor company today, and Ford’s descendents, I would never label as antisemetic. I don’t know them well, I only know them in terms of cars and innovations in the industry, but I doubt highly any antisemitism is still present in any sort of way.

comity's avatar

Interesting about cars. I have a Jewish friend who will never buy a German car and a Chinese daughter- in- law who will never buy a Japanese car. That tells me they haven’t let go of the wrong doings of the past. But, how does that affect them? How does that action affect those they’re reacting to?

DaphneT's avatar

I wasn’t there, but I lived it through the books, movies and television shows of my growing up years. My parents were children through it, but somewhat separate in that they were farm children. Work and immediate surroundings took precedence over concerns for causes and responsibilities of war. To his dying day my father forbade us to own german-made cars. This thinking colors my view of the world. Prejudices formed from something like WWII is en-cultured and takes a while to push out of society.

We are supposed to learn from our history and while today may be 3 or 4 generations later, we still haven’t promulgated the entire historical record of that time to everyone. There is a lot of ‘history’ related to WWII that is represented one way in Germany, another in Italy, another in UK, another in US, another in Japan, etc. Each one speaks to the ‘truth’ of the events that occurred, but that’s a lot of data to absorb, accept and resolve as valid points of view.

Only recently has my mother spoken of her parents and grandparents decision to declare themselves Prussians. It was a way to protect themselves from backlash for their Germanic roots during WWI. My aunt’s genealogy work has shown that most of my mother’s family is descended from border areas that were once Prussian/German. Today that is all German. My father’s side was Polish and Dad’s grandfather was encouraged to leave his country before WWI as well, to protect him and his brother from conscription. I have no way of knowing how much of that is true, so I choose to accept my parents reports. I was lucky in that my father enjoyed exploring history and geography, so his curiosity rubbed into me. This has made me more open to the historical re-writes we experience today. I didn’t learn such and such in school still comes out of my mouth, but I’ve gotten old enough to understand that in the ‘40s the world’s civilizations exploded and we’re still putting them back together.

jaytkay's avatar

@JLeslie I was just saying by anecdote that Jews I know don’t have an anti-Ford bias.

But then again, they drive Cadillac and Lexus cars, so maybe the point was moot:)

JLeslie's avatar

@comity The way I see it, they don’t want their money to go to helping the Germans or Japenese. Helping the people or the economy.

Germany and also German citizens are different than Germans in America in the perception of most Jews I think. A second or third generation American is, well, American. And, I don’t mean most Jews feel negatively about German citizens at this point, but the idea, especially if someone is 60+ years old I think is troubling. When I travelled to Germany almost 30 years ago, it was a little odd for me, especially at night. Lying there thinking, 50 years ago they would have just come into my room and shot me on the spot or put me on a train. Meanwhile at home, one of the friends I spent a ton of time with after school was German, first generation American.

Here on fluther we have some German jellies, and they are the least tolerant of anything Nazi, and speak out quite often on Q’s about patriotism and nationalism. They tend to find it very scary.

The Chinese were treated very badly by the Japenese for a very long time in history. You probably know that. Just thought I would mention it.

JLeslie's avatar

@jaytkay Oh, got it. I agree. It is just a generalization with some background. Jews also tended to drink Coke not Pepsi, prefer Hershey’s, and loyal to Helmann’s mayo. But, that is another topic for another Q, and probably has changed over time.

TexasDude's avatar

A lot of living GIs who fought in the Pacific refuse to buy Japanese products to this day. It’s really common. The wounds run that deep for them, and I really can’t say I blame them. The Japanese were absolutely brutal. I’ve noticed that this kind of animosity doesn’t really translate to the Germans. If I had a choice of being captured by the Germans or the Japanese in WWII if I was a US GI, I’d go with the Germans by a long shot. Also, a lot of Germans were conscripts and just because someone was a member of the Wehrmacht does not mean they were a Nazi. The Japanese military was a lot more ideologically homogeneous and I can see why the people who dealt with them wouldn’t really be apt to trust them, even to this day long after the war is over. I’m not making a value judgment on the issue, but I can understand the sentiment.

Nullo's avatar

I was in eighth grade in a foreign country and had just had a minor altercation with another eighth grader from Germany. I was all set to play the Nazi card when I realized then that what our grandfathers did to each other (and to other people) was only related to our own issues in the causal sense, and so it was silly to try to make a point with it.

JLeslie's avatar

I meant to add, that there is some continued distrust. When the wall came down a few of the Jewish people around me did not see it as a great day. They felt the Russians being there helped keep the Germans in check. It was said to me they started WWI and WWII, why not three? Germans still have the stereotype of being very ethnocentric, and that they feel they are superior to others. Not antisemetic per se, although I know there are some neo nazi’s in Germany, there are in America also, but a general idea of being better. I am not saying that is what they really believe about themselves, I am only talking about how some people perceive them. So, money to Germany would be similar to how we talk about money to Arab countries for oil when some of it seems to be going to terrorist organizations. It’s not just about the past for some, it lives in present day.

digitalimpression's avatar

It’s important to not let go of those events in history. It is equally important which portion you choose to keep hold of.

zensky's avatar

@DaphneT We are supposed to learn from our history and while today may be 3 or 4 generations later – My mother is a survivor, my grandparents lost 5 and 4 siblings and their parents respectively. There are still nazi leaders alive and well (mostly in Argentina and Arab countries – places where they have actively harbored nazis since the end of the war.)

You might want to look up the Simon Weisenthal Museum.

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Blackberry's avatar

They’re dumb. There were people saying “fuck the japs” on facebook. Really?

Edit: the young ones are dumb, the people that went through the events are something different.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@comity I’m supposed to hold someone accountable for something some other person did? I’m with you. I find the idea ridiculous.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blackberry When I was in MI the term Jap was short for Japanese, when I was in Northeast it was JAP Jewish American Princess. Just to circle back to my earlier post, and what I recently wrote on a different Q, which was, “When I was in college I jokingly said, we need to get some chanukah decorations up also, to a girl who was working in my dorm, and she replied, “why, are you from Canada?”

zensky's avatar

Hanukkah is Canada’s National day of Candle lighting.

rojo's avatar

@JLeslie Here in Texas, Japs is short for Jalapenos.

JLeslie's avatar

Someone on the other Q figured out the girl probably mixed chanukah up with Canuck, as in Canadian. Here’s the Q if you want to read, not that it provides much more info. It’s the last 6 or 7 posts at the bottom of the thread.

@rojo Seriously? Do they pronounce them haps?

rojo's avatar

@JLeslie Nope, japs

Blackberry's avatar

@rojo Lol. I can imagine some awkward miscommunication going on down there.

zensky's avatar

Maybe it was mixed up with the Montreal Canadiens – also known as the Habs.

comity's avatar

@JLeslie I remember reading about Henry Ford being more for Facism and Mussolini and then he supported Hitler and anti semitism in the 1920s. In the 1930s it was Father Coughlin – The father of hate who preached anti semitism and tried to reach a vast audience through the radio. Reminds me of Rush Limbaugh. We live in pretty good times now, although I’ve heard that anti semitism is on the rise but I don’t know where. Do you? You’re having a good time and here I am talking about glum things. Sorry!

JLeslie's avatar

@comity What I remember is Ford helped publish a periodical, so it had his name on it, maybe the assumption was he was antisemetic, because there was nazi sympathesizing articles and antisemitism in the paper, but possibly he was not antisemetic himself? I’m not sure, I’ll try to research it.

Personally I feel grateful to live in a country that’s foundation is freedom of religion. I also, as an American, feel safe overall and free. I don’t come across antisemitism in my own life much really. I don’t feel endangered or discriminated against, except for a few moments in time, like when swastikas were drawn on a dorm at my school, or when the KKK marches where I live, that I feel very aware I am Jewish, and of the history of my people, and that there are some people who hate me without knowing me, but those are far and few between. Right now in America the Christians overall are very very supportive of the Jewish people, because of their support of Israel, so for now things are good.

Jews in America are so lucky. I never take my freedom or my citizenship for granted. When I hear some conservative wignut imply liberal are not patriotic it really bothers me, because the more recent immigrant tend to be Democrats and liberal and they least of everyone, take America for granted, including Jews who know the suffering many of our families went through before finding their way to America. My husband’s family is Mexican, and his father tells me how very different it is being Jewish in America compared to Mexico. Maybe it is better in Mexico now, but even when he was a child 60 years ago, it was pretty much ok in America to be Jewish, there was not a lot of antisemitism.

JLeslie's avatar

I found this about Ford. Some of what is written towards the bottom of the page is very interesting. It says: The Independent charged that the national debt was Jewish-inspired to enslave Americans, and that German Jewish financier Paul Warburg had emigrated to America “for the express purpose of changing our financial system” by creating the Federal Reserve. The paper labeled Jews an “international nation” with had an unfair advantage in business over Christians, who relied on individualism to get ahead. The paper even described American Jewish aid for oppressed Jews overseas as part of the conspiracy. Some of that sounds very familiar.

comity's avatar

@JLeslie Interesting! I heard at the anti wall street protests there were a few discontents sputtering anti semetic remarks http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/22/nyregion/occupy-wall-street-criticized-for-flashes-of-anti-semitism.html but other then that I don’t see anti semitism sprouting – I think some people may over react and have the motto “lest we forget” due to fear of past experiences.

JLeslie's avatar

@comity I do feel there is still a feeling among some that the Jews own and control everything. Especially things like the media. There definitely is a perception that we are all wealthy, and since there is somewhat of a backlash against the “educated elite” I think Jews sometimes get mushed into that stereotype. I don’t hear that much here in the Memphis area, I think they are too unaware of who is Jewish and who isn’t, but communities where they are more aware they are more likely to think that way. As recently as 10 years ago I had someone say to my face while at a dinner part in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, “oh your Jewish, all Jewish people have money.” She said it not admiringly, but with a hint of jealousy and annoyance. My response was basically, “first that isn’t true, and second if they have a lot of money, how do you think they got it, by pointing a gun at someones head? No, most studied and worked very hard, anyone can do it.” I think among some minorities in some communities there is still the idea of Jewish people owning the buildings, some being slumlords, and not caring about who lives there, just caring about the rent being paid.

comity's avatar

@JLeslie I love the way you write and analyze! I don’t see the prejudice or feel it now-a-days or maybe I’m just old and tired and choose not to : )

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