America has never grappled with its racist past. Could Germany be a model?

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The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, commemorates the victims of lynching in the United States. The memorial, opened in 2018, features steel blocks dangling like bodies.  | In Pictures via Getty Images

The long and public reckoning that followed the Holocaust shows a path forward for a United States that desperately needs to confront its racist past.

In the mid-1950s, a decade after World War II ended, the town of Dachau took down the directional signs that pointed to its concentration camp.

Visitors had swarmed the area — not just survivors of the Holocaust who’d been imprisoned there, but journalists and tourists who wanted to see what remained of the first Nazi concentration camp, where more than 200,000 people were detained and at least 32,000 were killed between 1933 and 1945. The attention exasperated the local population.

A writer for the New York Herald-Tribune made the trip to Dachau in March 1954 and met a German caretaker who tried to convince him that it was the Americans who had built the larger of the camp’s two crematoriums to make the Germans look bad. A clipping from a German newspaper dated around…


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