Visitors often remark that Berlin has in many ways dealt remarkably well with its grim Nazi past. Whether you take the gigantic Holocaust memorial right next to the Brandenburg Gate — memorably described by former chancellor Gerhard Schröder as "a place one likes to visit" — or the less visible small Stolpersteine, the cobblestone-sized memorials for individual victims of Nazism that are embedded across the pavements, the city's manifold gestures of remembrance are seen as impressive rather than oppressive.
However, Berliners seem to be in two minds about just how its Jewish heritage should be conserved. Jewishness is still a delicate subject. A recent survey suggested that as many as 20 per cent of Germans harbour latent anti-Semitic feelings, with another 20 per cent agreeing with statements claiming that Jews had too much power in business. While polls in Britain or France might show similar results, anti-Semitism will always have a different, more sinister ring to it in Germany, no matter how much Vergangenheitsbewältigung (coming to terms with the past) has occurred.
Take the public outcry over the scandal that recently gripped the country when it emerged that a right-wing terror cell had managed to operate for more than ten years without being detected by the authorities, who, some are inclined to believe, deliberately turned a blind eye. But for every shocking revelation about the country being unable to shake off its ghosts there's a story that's ultimately more compelling.
The past five years have seen an influx of foreigners coming to live in Berlin. A large proportion of them are urban, well-educated Americans, some of whom are Jewish. Israelis are reported to be moving to Berlin in increasing numbers too. As a friend of mine recently observed, this love affair with Berlin seems almost like a counter-reaction to previous generations' feelings about Germany. Their grandparents had fled the Nazis, their parents boycotted all things German, but their children — now in their twenties and thirties — flock to Berlin, perhaps not only attracted by cheap rents and a lively arts scene but out of curiosity about their families' roots.