What comes next for Confederate statues? Memory Project suggests looking to Germany for answers

A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville that white supremacist protesters...
A statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville that white supremacist protesters rallied around in 2017.(Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
Updated: Apr. 14, 2021 at 6:16 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Now that Charlottesville can take down its Confederate monuments, what happens next? Researchers, authors and activists say we should look to Germany for answers.

The Memory Project of University of Virginia’s Democracy Initiative held a webinar called “Memorializing Racial Trauma: What Americans Can Learn from the Germans” with Dr. Susan Neiman - an author, philosopher, and German history expert - to learn how post-war Germany redressed the trauma and violence perpetrated by the Third Reich.

Neiman said after World War II, Germany removed almost all of its Nazi symbols and monuments from public view. Germany, she said, took the approach of memorializing victims of violence instead of keeping monuments glorifying Nazi soldiers in public spaces.

The same should be done in the United States, she said, given the reason why Confederate monuments were erected in the first place.

“As soon as you do a little digging, you realize that these were very conscious white supremacist movements to memorialize at very crucial points at which civil rights were being rolled back or threatened,” Neiman explained.

Neiman said the taking down of Confederate statues would allow communities to think about what could replace such monuments to better represent with their values. Such changes, Neiman said, would not diminish the history of the Confederacy, especially if children have educational opportunities to learn about the Civil War, the Confederacy and the U.S.’s history of racial violence.

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