Katarina Witt, winner of two Olympic gold medals in women’s figure skating, was an anomaly. It’s like she’s from another planet. Her grace in winning those two medals are unlike the normal way of Germans, who excel in discipline, strength and stamina. Germans are not known for their tact. This has been on display for all to see lately.
It is no surprise that Ms. Witt won two Olympic gold medals and numerous other competitions as an East German. It is surprising, however, that she won her gold using techniques which are as foreign to Germans as home-grown citrus. Ms. Witt won because of her grace, not her power.
In case you are unaware, German authorities recovered over 1400 pieces of artwork recently. The works were thought to have been destroyed during WW II. They were in fact discovered in a ramshackle apartment in Munich’s ‘art district’, two years ago. The authorities only came forward with this information a few weeks ago after a German magazine broke the story.
Germany could learn much from Ms Witt. Germany has bungled (as only they could) the opportunity to ‘make good’ on the returning of looted art (see here) from the Nazi period back to the rightful owners with grace and contrition. Instead, we have seen missed chances which have put the darker chapters of Germany back in the limelight.
As the story of ‘Nazi Art’ continues to unfold, Germany has been placed in a most uncomfortable (for them) position. The authorities have been less than forthcoming, have compounded mistakes, and generally have exhibited a malaise that is truly mindboggling.
How could they sit on this for two years?
Yesterday, Germany announced that they had found another 22 works – and they found them in the apartment of a relative of the person who allegedly had the original 1400. Hadn’t anybody thought to take a gander into the lives of relatives of the person sitting on all of these works?
My numerous German friends ask me how long must they bear the Nazi burden. I surmise it will be a long time. Part of the problem is that the Nazis went to such painstaking lengths to document it all. This makes for fascinating reading and study, allows Germany a chance to make amends, and keeps it synonymous with Germany as a whole.
Although the popular idea that Germans are ‘cold, calculated, and emotionless’ is mostly an urban myth, one can’t help but feel certain hints of these when looking at their handling of the ‘pillaged Nazi art’. Germany will always be forced to go the extra mile, and if they hesitate but for a moment, the catcalls will proceed.
Anything the Germans do about the art is sure to be criticized. But whatever they decide, they need to do it quickly and with grace. Just like Ms Witt did.