Segev wrote that democracy is a key component of the collective identity of Germans today.
“The most important reason for the success of democracy is that the majority of Germans – though not always voluntarily – took responsibility for the crimes of the Nazi regime, the war and in particular the Holocaust,” Segev wrote in the left-leaning liberal newspaper. “Most Germans have drawn the right lessons from their past, among them the defence of civil rights and the limits on the army.”
The historian said studies showed that youth in Germany today have a deeper democratic awareness than their counterparts in Israel.
At the same time, Segev said there was a difficult-to-explain fear in German society.
“It’s diffuse, not always justified but it’s deeply rooted,” he said, adding that in part it possibly reflected a “feeling that (Germany) hasn’t really earned prosperity, power – including reunification – and that it could be taken away from them again.”
The Israeli historian said the “fear reminds the majority that democracy needs constant care.”
His comments come a day after Germany marked the 60th anniversary of its constitution with a huge “citizens’ festival” in Berlin and celebrations in Bonn and other cities.
Some 750,000 people turned out to celebrate all things German from beer to Beethoven at the landmark Brandenburg Gate and along the Unter den Linden avenue in Berlin.
Around 2,000 leftists also attended a counter “antinationalist” parade in the city.
Germany’s constitution or “basic law” established the post-World War II federal republic. Originally known abroad as West Germany, it expanded to incorporate the formerly communist east when the country was reunited in 1990.
Specifically, the events celebrate the 1949 creation of a democratic nation that still bore the shame of the Nazis’ horrors and was struggling to rebuild after total defeat and destruction in 1945.
Other events to mark the milestone are planned across Germany in 2009, which also sees the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall before the unification of West and East Germany in 1990 – all of this in an election year.