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Unexpected Historical Fury in Thale

A historical parade in Thale has caused a fury in Germany. In mid June, the organizers of an annual cultural event allowed a few men to walk down the streets of this small town in Sachsen-Anhalt, a region of the former DDR, dressed in SS and Wehrmacht uniforms. The incident attracted nationwide attention.

Wulf Gallert, a member of Die Linke (The Left party), said it was "a scandal", while social-democrats accused the organizers of being irresponsible, in light of the fact that the far-right has relatively strong roots in many parts of East Germany. The president of the local cultural centre, Rainer Augustin, replied that his intention was to represent Germany's different historical periods. Any offence was unintentional, he said, downplaying the dispute. Many of those who reacted critically seemed to think that the parade in Thale was the sign of nazi resurgence in Germany, or of a sudden and dangerous lack of sensitivity. But arguably the event shows how far Germany has gone in coming to terms with its past. After more than 60 years of mourning and chest-beating, many Germans see the Third Reich as a distant era, which can now be treated as folklore and not only as a crime. Opposing this trend is perhaps more dangerous than acknowledging it.