Why we Need Reminders

WWII bunker in Solingen
One of several WWII bunkers in Solingen

Walking through my hometown, Solingen, in Germany, you’ll come across some old structures. I don’t mean historic districts like Gräfrath, after WWII the only preserved part of town. No, I’m talking about bunkers (bomb shelters).

One could ask why there are still around? Too expensive to remove? Would we use them again? I doubt it. If there were ever another war, I think it’s pretty clear that enemy weapons would level everything including bunkers. No, I think these bunkers serve another very important function.

They remind us.

WWII bunker in Solingen
Bunker Brühl neighborhood in Solingen – Courtesy Solingen Stadtarchiv

Bunkers are Monuments

They remind us of the NS dictatorship, the war crimes of Nazis, the suffering of the common people under Hitler’s rein. They are monuments. Ugly, large and difficult to ignore. Which is a good thing. Because I feel these days, 73 years after WWII ended and the war’s children are dying out, many younger people don’t know and worse, don’t care. Right wing politics are on the upswing. In Europe and on a very large and dangerous scale in the U.S.

Under the current president, right wing propaganda is growing and supported. Many parallels can be seen to the 1930s in Germany. Why can’t we learn from past mistakes? Why is that term ‘history repeats itself’ so common?

I wish bunkers were standing all over the U.S. right now to remind people what fascism means. My mother, Helga, (picture below) spent horrific times in the bunker while the town around her was destroyed.

A Definition of Fascism by Merriam-Webster

a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition

a young girl standing in a garden with a bunker behind her
Helga, ca. 1944-1945 – in the background on the left: Bunker Brühl

Of course, there’s so much more to it, but you get my drift. I urge you to speak with your friends, neighbors, family, kids and grandkids about the worst war in human history and what led to it. Discrediting and banning the media, discrimination, fear mongering, racism, isolationism, saber-rattling, destroying alliances and more. Much more.

Here is an excellent and short explanation about WWII fascism and how Hitler came to power.