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World Cup semifinals: the case for German pride

Germans are finally able to celebrate their country after more than 60 years of dealing with their past. For the rest of the world, this should be a welcome turning point.

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Germany faces Spain in the World Cup semifinals today.

Here in Berlin, Black, gold, and red – the country’s colors – are out in force. Small flags stick up from windowsill gardens, and giant ones four-stories-long roll brusquely along building facades. Others are rigged to bicycles, clamped down by car trunks, clipped onto windows, and pegged to antennas. Black, gold, and red body and fashion accessories, from women’s handbags to rubber bracelets, are making appearances on wrists, fingers, and necks. You can even get black, gold, and red face paint in a single stick, making application as neat and easy as a single flick across the cheek.

This is the World Cup, after all, a global event many times grander than the Olympics. Pride and ego are on the line. Emotions rise and fall with the movement of the ball. Displays of national fidelity are commonplace.

But Germany is a different case.

Patriotic exuberance can’t help but be accompanied by palpable unease. Embedded in German DNA is a deep knowledge of a dreadful history. Like original sin, Germans are born with a sense of wrongdoing.

At least it can feel that way.

Public education never misses an opportunity to hammer into malleable children, perhaps to a point of diminishing returns, the destruction their grandparents were party to. In matters involving Jews or Israel, Germany treads lightly. At large public gatherings, surely someone in the crowd will interject not-so-subtle allusions to Third Reich pageantry. It may be merely jest, but there is truth in jest.

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