May 09, 2010

A Sleazy Spectacle

Yesterday, 25 years years ago, on the fortieth anniversary of the end of WWII, Richard von Weizsäcker, then President of the Federal Republic of Germany, delivered a speech in an address to the German parliament that marked a new aera for the German public image: "May 8th was a day of liberation. It freed us all from the inhumane system of National Socialist rule." While this was, strictly speaking, true, that wasn't how most Germans saw it in 1945, so the message this speech was supposed to convey, namely that Germany had overcome its past of lies, silence, denial and repression, was plainly wrong. Apart from persecuted groups, political prisoners and concentration camps inmates, it is fair to say that virtually no one felt liberated and that the event was rather perceived as an anticlimax by the vast majority of Germans, an anticlimax which had caused, together with the demise of the state, that of their hopes and ambitions. The story of Germany since then has been one firmly assuring the world -- and themselves -- that Germans knew nothing or very little of what was happening around them and that they could have done nothing, even if they had known, anyway. This speech, no doubt given in good faith, delivered the ideological underpinning for that, so, although hailed as an important first step towards a new image, just gave the old rhetoric a new spin. The innocent German people had been hijacked by some evil, almost alien, force that went by the names of "Hitler" and "the Nazis". Austria and East Germany could even be less bothered with soul searching, hadn't they been, after all, according to their own interpretation of history, somehow been forcibly occupied by "Hitler's Germany" in the course leading to WWII.

Since then, "our past" has been, and is, shamelessly abused. For example, when Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer explained 1999 why he was in for sending German troops to Kosovo, it was with reference to the same "past" and who cared that this had been before a reason for Germany precisely not to send troops abroad: "No more Auschwitz, no more genocide, no more fascism", just as "our past" is, specifically disingenious, used as the excuse to side with Israel's enemies and to "stand with praise and censure at Israel's side as ethical probation officer to keep the victim from committing a second offence." Wolfgang Pohrt, who coined this priceless quote, went on saying that the Germans with their obsession with responsibility ("Verantwortungsfimmel") resemble a convicted child molester who thinks he is specifically qualified for a job as kindergarden teacher. All in the name of "our past".

Off my soapbox now and back to today's business. In the light of this, can somebody explain please what Merkel's business was to be in Moscow today? She looked even more incongruous than Hu Jintau and only marginally less so than the French troops. (And boy, DID they look incongruous! It was, after all, a victory parade.)

Either Germany lost the war and has still some responsibility to bear, then she had no business to be there, or the "Germans just needed to be freed from the inhumane system of National Socialist rule" spin has really won them all. But then, maybe it's REALLY just business and we'll have after Gazprom Gerd our very own Alfa Angie soon.

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