Democracy has been, and still is, fought for all around the world. And fought against, too. No less in Germany, where two dictatorships have left their marks. Plurality and the liberal-democratic order are still being called into question today. That’s why we want to intervene, looking back at history to pose questions for the future.
The past is never over. That’s why we remember National Socialist crimes and the injustices committed under the SED dictatorship. We speak about forgotten groups of victims and those who resisted. About those who fought for their freedom and for the freedom of others. In doing so, we are not stuck in the past – in some circles today, political extremism is socially acceptable again. To counter it, we deploy education and counselling services, art and culture, campaigns and festivals. Civic engagement has many faces, and many roads lead to a community based on diversity.
Twelve years of National Socialism left deep scars in Europe. Many current social debates and problems cannot be understood without knowledge of those times. Gegen Vergessen - Für Demokratie e.V. seeks to inform people about the inhumanity of National Socialist policies, to keep the memory of the victims of National Socialism alive and to honour all those who resisted it. In order to do so, new methods for transmitting history and fresh forms of commemoration must constantly be developed.
The injustices and persecution implemented by the communist SED dictatorship shaped attitudes and behaviours for decades, both in the GDR and in the Federal Republic of Germany. They included the suppression of any democratic development of informed opinion, the marginalisation of individual freedoms, the oppression of a large portion of the population by means of a system of surveillance, and the partition of Germany. Only through knowledge of the insidious system of the GDR and by raising interest through a culture of remembrance can the true value of freedom and democracy today be grasped.
Democracy always faces the thrilling challenge of safeguarding its citizens’ fundamental freedoms at the same time as ensuring its own preservation. Confronting Germany’s recent history compels Gegen Vergessen - Für Demokratie e.V. to stand up to all threats to democracy. The association has made it a goal to challenge racism, xenophobia, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other misanthropic attitudes. Political extremism, too, must be addressed with preventative measures.
Looking back at the emergence of both German dictatorships in the 20th century shows that democracy is not to be taken for granted, even though it has now been embedded in the western part of Germany for more than 60 years. State authority can only come from the people if citizens are ready to play an active role in shaping their democracy. Gegen Vergessen - Für Demokratie e.V. supports voluntary commitment for a cohesive society based on tolerance and dialogue. The association thereby shares one of its key findings: commitment does not just cost time and effort; it also gives a lot back to the person making it. Commitment to democratic unity is always worth it.