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Why the EU is here to stay

Sam Roggeveen recently pointed to an article by Peter Gumble which asked whether Germany will ever escape its past. Gumble pointed to one of the first rationales for the European project: the formation of the EU as a bulwark against a German-caused conflict in Europe. He argues that this is still used as a justification for the EU, but that it won’t be enough for future generations of Europeans.

This line of reasoning ultimately falls short in two important aspects. First, Germany has atoned for the worst ever state-led crime in history, the Holocaust, and continues to do so. Contrary to other countries under the banner of fascism until 1945, there is not even a trace of an official German excuse or justification for its Nazi past. Whether this also applies to the collective memory of the Germans is another question.

The eminent historian and philosopher of the Holocaust, Saul Friedländer, has in a recent publication examined the ebb and flow of the formation of the collective memory surrounding the Holocaust, both in Germany and globally. This collective memory is in part reflected by the tremendous echo generated by Holocaust (NBC TV miniseries, 1977), Shoa (directed by Claude Lanzmann, 1985) and Schindler’s List (directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the book by Thomas Kennealy, 1993). Friedländer’s conclusion is ultimately pessimistic. He believes that the historically correct memory (‘Hitler’s willing executioners’) will fade when the grandchildren of the Germans seduced by Nazi ideology reach adulthood.

I am not sure whether I can follow him all the way there. My anecdotal experience points to an ongoing no-go zone of Nazism and Hitlerism respected by most Germans, young and old. The exception, in form of a right-wing fringe, continues to be relatively small, and their motives are …read more

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