Conservative Commentary
"the blogger whose youthful effusions have won him bookmarks all over Whitehall ... horribly compelling" - The Guardian
Great Weblogs
The Enemy Within

Most recent posts ...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Wrongful revisions

Perhaps it's something that as a Tory eurosceptic I should keep to myself, but at heart I am very pro-German. Quite apart from all the cultural reasons to be a Germanophile, as a self-conscious, rather socially wary type, I have some affinity with what since World War II has been a whole nation of such people.

But if Germany has changed greatly for the better since World War II because of its war guilt - and she has - I'm keen that the country retain an accurate memory of what it did in the former half of the twentieth century. Certainly shame about some areas of the past should be balanced by a great deal of pride in other areas, but revisionism about the Nazi era is not the right way to achieve the appropriate mix.

For this reason - and of course on grounds of respect for plain historical truth - it is important to support those Poles who are opposing Martin Schulz's commemorative motion to the European Parliament (where he heads the Party of European Socialists) in which no mention is made of Germany's role in the holocaust save for phrases like "the sixtieth anniversary of the opening of the gates of the Auschwitz extermination camp in Poland".

Foxy quotes the Polish efforts:

Mr. Schulz is trying to rewrite history and shift the blame from Germany for the annihilation of the Central European Jewish population to some unspecified Nazis. There is no trace, in his resolution, that it was the German III Reich, German National Socialists (Nazis), or Hitler's Germany that built the camps and exterminated innocent human beings.

...Why is it that 60 years after the fact, some members of this Parliament want to give a false account of the Holocaust and ignore the fact that many nations and groups of people were murdered alongside their Jewish neighbours, that it was in fact, National Socialist Germany that committed these great crimes against humanity and not some "extermination camp in Poland"?

The point about blaming "unspecified Nazis" for the action of a whole nation is particularly apt in the more general sense - and it needs to be heeded by many people outside Germany as well as inside.

Equally, and more disgracefully, it is crucial to be wary of another aspect of this revisionism, which so often seeks to blame "nationalism in Europe" for the such conflicts as the Second World War. In this case, the behaviour is even less forgivable, as it is so clearly intended to serve the political goal of presenting all European nation states as guilty - and the European Union as the solution. Charles Kennedy once said explicitly that the EU had been such a good thing because before it came into being, Europe had been torn apart by rivalries between nation states, as if no country could really be blamed any more than any other, and as if national sovereignty rather than national socialism were really responsible for plunging Europe into war.

German nationalism most certainly did have dire implications for millions of people. But the British nationalism, self-confidence and self-belief that Winston Churchill was able to summon saved Europe from this threat. It is no more accurate to blame World War II on 'nationalism' than on advanced armaments or the belief that victory was possible - yes, it's sad Germany possessed these things; but it's a damn good thing the Allies did, too.

There is certainly an argument to be made that the German inclination toward war with her neighbours was tempered in part by the structures and requirements of the European Community - though it is really only convincing when explained in the qualified, refined and multi-causal way that theorists such as Robert Cooper put it. But to suggest that Britain needed to be tempered in the same way is as historically false as it is politically suspect.

Yes, perhaps Germany may once have needed the European Union to help pacify her and so spare the rest of us much grief. But no, Britain never did.

Great Sites
Tory Party
Reading ...