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Finally, Germans can freely admit, 'I love my country'

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Only two years ago, saying "I love Germany" was practically taboo.

But now, in a sudden burst of pent-up patriotism, Germans seem anything but hesitant to profess their national pride. Giddy World Cup fans frolic through the street wearing flag togas and red, black, and gold mini-dresses, mohawk wigs, gummy bracelets, and jester hats.

"It's been long enough. I think we can be proud of Germany now," says student Vanessa Trimpe, her face painted in thick bands of red, black, and gold.

Her countrymen seem to agree. One of the biggest flag-makers says sales are ten-fold what they were during Germany's jubilant 1989 reunification. Indeed, such patriotic zeal hasn't been seen here since Hitler's nationalism wreaked havoc on the country's collective identity.

While part of the elation may stem from the nation's three-game winning streak, the fervor is more than just World Cup fever. Indeed, sociol scientists say it's a cathartic moment for a people who have struggled for six decades to loose themselves from guilt over Nazi-era atrocities.

"It's a turning point," says Micha Brumlik, a professor at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt. "For the first time the public is showing that they don't feel ashamed for crimes committed by others in the past," though he adds that many still feel responsible.

For decades after World War II, only far-right German parties flew the flag proudly and patriotic talk was shunned. In 2004, when Horst Köhler left his International Monetary Fund post to become Germany's president he told a packed Parliament, "I love Germany." A hush fell over the room.

Suddenly, all that has changed. Speaking to Bild am Sonntag newspaper recently, Chancellor Angela Merkel lauded the fact that, "People are waving flags without having to justify themselves."

But it's not just the lack of shame that separates today's celebrations from past moments of revelry.

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