I don't know the work of the German-Irish writer Hugo Hamilton, but his recent essay entitled "The Loneliness of Being German" makes me want to start looking for his books.
Hamilton describes a facet of the German character I apologize for the slovenly generalization that most Americans probably can't begin to understand:
On a reading tour in Germany, I recently asked students at a secondary school in the southern town of Otterberg if it meant anything to be German. Was there anything the Germans could be proud of? The students and teachers stared back in shock. Nobody knew what to say. I had explained to them that my German-Irish childhood in had been plagued by these questions of nationalism, the ebbing Irish nationalism on my father's side and the legacy of German nationalism which my mother experienced under nazism. I had outlined the language war into which I had been conscripted as a child, forced to speak only Irish and German, wearing Aran sweaters and lederhosen, forbidden from speaking English.
[. . .]
I felt like I had thrown a grenade into the school at Otterberg. Being German was not something they had thought much about before, it seemed, apart from the fact that they all had a German history and German postal addresses. I told them that I had been called a Kraut and a Nazi as a child, that I had been put on trial by other children and that I had also denied being German. I told them I had the feeling that being German was a forbidden identity, that I still have difficulty saying "we Germans" and would rather just say I was Irish.
I lived in Germany a couple of times when I was a graduate student, and I encountered Germans who had similar difficulties with being German. It's not quite right to say that they were ashamed of being German, but they obviously found the weight of the past to be a heavy burden. Strangely enough, though, all the Germans I ever met were more than willing to discuss the past literally, all of them, if the subject came up which I always thought was to their great credit.
Most Americans are proud to be American, whereas quite a few Germans, it seems to me, don't quite know what to make of the fact that they're German. It's a big gulf between the two countries that too many people on both sides tend to overlook.