Gunter Grass on the sixty years since May 8, 1945:

We all are witnesses to the fact that production is being demolished worldwide, that so-called hostile and friendly takeovers are destroying thousands of jobs, that the mere announcement of measures like the dismissal of workers and employees makes share prices rise, and this is regarded unthinkingly as the price to be paid for “living in freedom.” The consequences of this development disguised as globalization are clearly coming to light and can be read from the statistics. With the consistently high number of jobless, which in Germany has now reached five million, and the equally constant refusal of industry to create jobs, despite demonstrably higher earnings, especially from exports, the hope of full employment has evaporated. Older employees, who still had years of work left in them, are pushed into early retirement. Young people are denied the skills for entering the world of work. Even worse, with complaints that an aging population is a threat and simultaneous demands, repeated parrot-fashion, to do more for young people and education, the Federal Republic – still a rich country – is permitting, to a shameful extent, the growth of what is called “child poverty.” All this is now accepted as if divinely ordained, accompanied at most by the customary national grumbles. Worse, those who point to this state of affairs and to the people forced into social oblivion are at best ridiculed by slick young journalists as “social romantics,” but usually vilified as “do-gooders.” Questions about the reasons for the growing gap between rich and poor are dismissed as “the politics of envy.” The desire for justice is ridiculed as utopian. The concept of “solidarity” is relegated to the dictionary’s list of foreign words…

When the German Reich unconditionally surrendered 60 years ago, a system of power and terror was thereby defeated. This system, which had caused fear throughout Europe for 12 years, still casts its shadow today. We Germans have repeatedly faced up to this inherited shame and have been forced to do so if we hesitated. The memory of the suffering that we caused others and ourselves has been kept alive through the generations. Compared with other nations which have to live with shame acquired elsewhere – I’m thinking of Japan, Turkey, the former European colonial powers – we have not shaken off the burden of our past. It will remain part of our history as a challenge. We can only hope we will be able to cope with today’s risk of a new totalitarianism, backed as it is by the world’s last remaining ideology. As conscious democrats, we should freely resist the power of capital, which sees mankind as nothing more than something which consumes and produces. Those who treat their donated freedom as a stock market profit have failed to understand what May 8 teaches us every year.

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