German collective guilt

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"These atrocities: Your fault!" — a poster showing the concentration camps to the German populace

German collective guilt refers to the notion of a collective guilt attributed to Germany and its people for perpetrating the Holocaust and starting World War II.

Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote an influential essay in 1945 about this concept as a psychological phenomenon, in which he asserted that the German people felt a collective guilt (Kollektivschuld) for the atrocities committed by their fellow countrymen, and so introduced the term into German intellectual discourse. Jung said collective guilt was "for psychologists a fact, and it will be one of the most important tasks of therapy to bring the Germans to recognize this guilt."[1]

After the war, the British and US occupation forces promoted shame and guilt with a publicity campaign, which included posters depicting concentration camps with slogans such as "These Atrocities: Your Fault!" (Diese Schandtaten: Eure Schuld!).[2]

The theologian Martin Niemöller and other churchmen accepted shared guilt in the Stuttgarter Schuldbekenntnis (Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt) of 1945. The philosopher and psychologist Karl Jaspers delivered lectures to students in 1946 which were published under the title The Question of German Guilt.[3]

See also


  1. ^ Jeffrey K. Olick, Andrew J. Perrin (2010), Guilt and Defense, Harvard University Press, pp. 24–25, ISBN 978-0-674-03603-1
  2. ^ Jeffrey K. Olick (September 2003), "The Guilt of Nations?", Ethics & International Affairs, 17 (2): 109–117, doi:10.1111/j.1747-7093.2003.tb00443.x
  3. ^ Tracy Isaacs, Richard Vernon (2011), Accountability for Collective Wrongdoing, Cambridge University Press, pp. 196–199, ISBN 978-0-521-17611-8
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