Learning from the Germans

Race and the Memory of Evil
Narrated by: Christa Lewis
Length: 20 hrs and 6 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.7 out of 5 stars (69 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In the wake of white nationalist attacks, the ongoing debate over reparations, and the controversy surrounding Confederate monuments and the contested memories they evoke, Susan Neiman's Learning from the Germans delivers an urgently needed perspective on how a country can come to terms with its historical wrongdoings. Neiman is a white woman who came of age in the civil rights-era South and a Jewish woman who has spent much of her adult life in Berlin. Working from this unique perspective, she combines philosophical reflection, personal stories, and interviews with both Americans and Germans who are grappling with the evils of their own national histories. 

Through discussions with Germans, including Jan Philipp Reemtsma, who created the breakthrough Crimes of the Wehrmacht exhibit, and Friedrich Schorlemmer, the East German dissident preacher, Neiman tells the story of the long and difficult path Germans have faced in their effort to atone for the crimes of the Holocaust. In the United States, she interviews James Meredith about his battle for equality in Mississippi and Bryan Stevenson about his monument to the victims of lynching, as well as lesser-known social justice activists in the South, to provide a compelling picture of the work contemporary Americans are doing to confront our violent history.

©2019 Susan Neiman (P)2019 HighBridge, a division of Recorded Books

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This is an important book.

This is one of those rare books that deserves to be read, and then pressed on everyone you know. We ALL need to read this book, ....and then have a national discussion about the facts, and suggestions, it contains. Read it. Share it. Talk about it.

4 people found this helpful

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A Most Important Book

A great perspective on issues that have been avoided. A clear example, for those who claim “you cannot rewrite history “, that we are taught history from the viewpoint of those who tell the story. Having grown up in the Deep South, I learned a real history from this book. And it was needed to be learned. Thanks to Susan Neiman.

2 people found this helpful

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Good Book on Important Social Issue

This is a good book with some poignant moments that illustrate important issues. However, it is not a particularly strong philosophy book, which the author seems to acknowledge upfront, but it also is a bit longwinded at time in making simple points. Entire (long) chapters could be summarized pretty easily in just a few sentences, but she spends too much time expanding upon points with context, and not much depth. I liked the book, overall, and found its arguments compelling. But it was a long read with less depth of analysis (or philosophical contextualization) than I was hoping for.

2 people found this helpful

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The USA must acknowledge slavery and deal with it

This is a stunning book that tells us how Germany made repairs after Auschwitz. The children of the Nazis were sickened by the unspeakable crimes of their parents. They insisted that the country, as a whole, had to begin making serious reparations for what they did to the Jews and other groups. The author is pretty sure that this type of sin in United States is why our country is such a mess. There is no real acknowledgment or appeal for forgiveness or compensation to the Native Americans and into the descendents of slavery. Neiman, the author, is a philosopher who has deeply considered this task. She support her ideas using ideas from Nietzsche and Kant to Ta-Nehisi Coates and Henry Louis Gates. This is a deeply felt, incredibly well researched and righteous book that offers a path that could truly make America great again not only for our citizens but for the way we are viewed by the rest of the world. Until we directly admit the crimes of our past and deal with them, we don't have much of a future. Any sentient beings who was paying attention knows this is true. I can't tell you when I have read something more meaningful.

5 people found this helpful

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Really worth reading

This is a truly valuable book, very thoughtful and thought-provoking. I am also an American (though from New York) who lived in Germany. I was there for 24 years, from the mid-1980s until well after Reunification, so almost everything author Susan Neiman discusses is familiar to me, and I can concur with her conclusions. Since I have returned to the US, I have been struggling to understand the US national character - why Americans are the only "advanced nation" population who accept our outrageously expensive and inadequate health care; an infant mortality rate close to double the OECD nation average, and many more such examples of American exceptionalism - and yet believe themselves the "richest" nation on Earth. Others also reflect Dr. Neiman's emphasis on the American failure to face up to racism as a universal problem - listen to what Trevor Noah has to say about the difference between South Africa and the US! - but she offers the most extensive in-depth examination of the problem I have ever read. What she writes about post-war Germany also really rings true. No simple answers, for sure, but she offers the potential for reflection which is the only way we are going to get out of this! The narrator was just adequate - a tedious and inexplicable tendency to break off in the middle of almost every longer sentence and put all her emphasis on the transitory "and" or "so." Didn't anyone stop her in Chapter 1 and ask her to emphasize the important idea? And didn't ANYONE know that the acronym "SNCC" (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) is pronounced "SNICK," not "S N C C?"

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Several mispronunciations in Audible narration

Book was interesting. Several proper nouns associated with Mississippi/American South were mispronounced by the Audible narrator (who was not the author) including Tupelo, Barnett (later in book was correct), Khayat, Lafayette, Natchez, and Barbour.

3 people found this helpful