die Vergangenheitsbewältigung: feminine noun, German.
(umlaut omitted in title for searching purposes)

This is one of those delightful German words that takes the German capacity for compounding to its unwieldy logical conclusions.

Literally, it means "coming to terms with the past" (or "past's-coming-to-terms-with-ness"). Culturally, however, it has come to be associated specifically with coming to terms with the period of Nazi rule in Germany. Guilt, denial, and rationalization all circulate in the orbit of Vergangenheitsbewältigung.

Vergangenheitsbewältigung has been the subject of numerous books and films, including Bernhard Schlink's novel Der Vorleser (on Oprah's Book Club list in English translation as The Reader) and Michael Verhoeven's 1990 film Das Schreckliche Mädchen (English title The Nasty Girl).

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