The word Nazi hits a specific, uncomfortable, personal note with me. More than uncomfortable, the offhand usage of the word repulses me. Like those of most Germans, my grandparents helped in the German war effort during World War II. Growing up in the United States with this background has been hard.
Because my American education has repeatedly showed the evil of Nazism to me (and I could not agree more), I have had an inner struggle to reconcile my dear grandparents with the Nazi regime. In Germany even, where I have gone to school for intermittent years, I remember talking about the horrors of Nazism with my fourth grade religion class. We discussed how we all had relatives who had been involved with the Nazis and what kind of an impact that had permanently made on the German people.
Later, back in the United States, in a unit about Anne Frank, my eighth grade teacher repeatedly said, "If you are not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem." This in particular frustrated me, because my grandparents had not directly been a part of the problem (they had not been directly involved with the murdering of Jews), but they had not taken a stand against anti-semitism and the Nazis. Instead they joined the Nazis.
When Begnini's Life Is Beautiful came out, I went with my Jewish boyfriend to see it. Afterwards he had to comfort me, because I could only think of the cruelty my people had inflicted on people like him, and the knowledge that my grandparents had been somehow involved.
I know my grandparents to be good people, and they reproach themselves for having been a part of Nazism, but it is still a hard topic for me. When friends of mine have used "Nazi" flippantly, it shocks me. They do not know the pain of the subject, not only for the Jewish community, but also for the Germans who have to live with the knowledge of their people's actions.
I'm not saying we should forget that the Nazis existed. I think we should study Hitler's and the Nazis' actions. If we do not learn from mistakes the human race has made in the past, they are likely to reoccur, and who wants another Holocaust?