For Germans the past is present, relevant, of great importance. The past explains who we are, where we come from, how the present has become the way it is. For them the past is not history in the sense of gone, over, irrelevant. History is present and future, a part of their identity.
Old buildings, with their stairwells and staircases, ceilings and facades, and many other kinds of cultural monuments are protected in Germany by Denkmalschutz – laws requiring their protection and preservation – even if they are in dire need of reburbishment or reconstruction.
Entire sections of German towns can be placed under Denkmalschutz. History is heritage. Heritage is identity. The battle for and against Stuttgart 21 – a modernization of Stuttgart’s main train station – went on for several years and became the prominent issue in recent state-wide elections in Baden-Württemberg.
To be a part of tradition
Outdoor museums in Germany show how people of past epochs lived and worked. Castles from the Middle Ages with their fascinating guided tours are popular day-trip destinations. In every German village, town and city one finds remnants of the past. Town gates, walls, even moats, and chapels are integrated seamlessly into the modern.
In elementary schools children learn Heimatkunde – history of their local region. The Heimatfilm – movies set in a specific region such as Bavaria or the Black Forest – remain a constant in the German media landscape, keeping alive regional customs and traditions. Many detective TV series are regionally based, one week in Hamburg in the north, the next in Leipzig in the East, the one thereafter in Cologne in the Rhineland.