Germany Has Created Monuments to Remember the Sins of its History. Could America?

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A rose is placed on a plaque detailing the transport dates and destinations of Jews sent from Berlin to various concentration camps between 1942 and 1944, at the Platform 17 (Gleis 17) memorial, next to the Gruenewald S-Bahn station in Berlin on January 23, 2020. - By the end of the Second World War Some 50.000 Jews were deported from this platform. World leaders are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on January 27, 2020.  (Photo by JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Last year, poet and writer Clint Smith wrote the book, “How the World is Passed,” exploring how the US has failed to come to terms with the reality and legacy of slavery. Now, for an Atlantic cover story, “Monuments to the Unthinkable” he’s traveled to Germany to see how that country has grappled with memorializing its own ugly history. We talk with Smith about history, memory, and the stories a nation tells itself.


Clint Smith, poet, "How the Word is Passed;" staff writer, The Atlantic