When we choose we can relive 1066, yet we have wilful amnesia about the shameful events of our recent history

Immediately after the second world war, German people were required to watch documentaries about the horrors of the concentration camps before they could get their ration cards. But the fact that they went, Tony Judt points out in his book Postwar, didn’t mean they actually watched. “In the half-light of the projector, I could see that most people turned their faces away after the beginning of the film, and stayed that way until the film was over,” wrote the German author Stephan Hermlin many years later. “Today I think that turned-away face was indeed the attitude of many millions.”

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