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Germans should take more pride in their achievements as a democracy, the head of the country's largest Jewish organization said Wednesday, calling for a national debate on a positive patriotic expression.
Charlotte Knobloch, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said while German national pride has remained stigmatized since Adolf Hitler perverted and abused it, the time had come for Germans to recognize the need to appreciate their democratic accomplishments.
"Only those who are conscious of the value of their homeland, only he who loves his country can be committed to its existence and further growth," Knobloch said in a prepared speech delivered at the Tutzing Evangelical Academy in Munich.
Germany has built a strong democracy and become a reliable international partner and that "should make us proud and thankful," said Knobloch, who survived the Nazi Kristallnacht attack on Jewish homes and businesses as a child in Munich in 1938.
Only by making patriotism a positive sentiment among all Germans can its negative associations with Adolf Hitler be overcome, Knobloch said.
"If we can create the concept of patriotism anew and positively, we can take this space from the Nazis," she said.
In addition, a more healthy relationship to their homeland could help Germans to integrate the many newcomers to the country.
"Immigrants often ask, why the Germans don't love their country," she said, asking how foreigners could be integrated in a country whose own citizens "treat it indifferently or negatively."
Germany has seen both new growth in its Jewish community, which celebrated the opening of a new synagogue in Munich in November, and at the same time, gains by far-right parties in several regions in former communist East Germany. A far-right party has won seats in two regional legislatures, and many officials have called for stronger measures to discourage the phenomenon.
The country showed new signs of patriotism while it hosted the World Cup soccer tournament last summer, with unprecedented mass displays of flag-waving that broke a longtime taboo.