It Takes a Village to Create a Nation’s Memory 

Returning Jews and Local Communities Worked Together to Lead Germany Toward Historical Reckoning

In the early postwar years in the German town of Warendorf, no one contributed as much to facing the difficult past as Hugo Spiegel. He was not a learned man. He was Jewish, however. And his story tells us something important about how German communities confronted their history.

The central insight is that a country can’t face up to its past alone. Germans needed help from Jews who came back to their hometowns after the war.

Spiegel, who was born in the nearby town of Versmold in 1905, belonged to a long …