Germany: a hostile friend

1 09 2007

Source: Wprost weekly of 2 Sep. 2007
Author: Krystyna Grzybowska
Translation from Polish for this blog: MoPoPressReview

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Should we acknowledge the German domination in Europe and humbly take in the attacks of the German media and some of the German politicians on this country? Or should we continue the hard policy of defending national interests, like the Germans do, on the European and international stage? As far as the relations with Germany are concerned, these are the options Poland has. Think not Poland has to do talk with Germany knelt down. Germany respects a nation that respects itself; and won’t be frightened. This is one of the reasons they treat Russia with such respect. The lesson they’ve got in Stalingrad got deep into their minds.

German patriotism

We are not a superpower; not with us the German government is competing in pursuit of being the first in Europe, or the leading world superpower. Chancellor Merkel receives such praise in Germany not due to her new orders in internal politics or important reforms. She’s so popular because she maintains strong position “in the world of Bush, Sarkozy and Putin”. It’s about influencing the world – because 62 years after the war the Germans are regaining self-confidence, which they lacked for decades. German self-confidence is however always combined with nationalism and arrogance. That’s how it was in history, and how it is now.

For a long time the word ‘patriot’ was regarded in Germany as offence – complained ‘Die Welt’ daily in one of it’s commentaries. And that makes the Polish accusation of German chauvinistic attitude towards them absurd. It is true, that one of the elements of de-Nazification of the West Germany was avoidance of presenting attachment to Vaterland, as there was the fear that it would turn to nationalism. I didn’t, however, notice any indications of patriotism in German everyday life – because patriotism in Polish, French or American style doesn’t exist there. The national euphoria during the recent football world cup faded away together with the event. Despite president Horst Koehler’s calls to continue with this patriotic enthusiasm. Germans don’t know what is patriotism. You need ages of fighting and efforts to keep territory, to have freedom; and also humility, to know what it means to love one’s home country.

German courage

For hundreds of years Germany, or German states and their variable coalitions to be more specific, have been pursuing to take other people’s territories in possession – until it ended with a barbarian war started by Hitler. Today Prussia is being glorified, and called German’s pride. ‘Der Spiegel’ weekly devotes pages to descriptions of the might and great merits the Prussian state made to the Germans. Grateful readers are sending letters thanking the paper for having courage to have this difficult subject published. “You rehabilitate the the biggest, and politically and culturally the most influential German state, dissolved in 1947 by the winners. No institution either in the East, or in the West, has ever had that courage” – wrote Joerg Ulrich Stange from Sleswig-Holsatia. It isn’t the first or the only attempt to rehabilitate the disgraceful German past.

The most worrying is the tone of the media, which accuse Jarosław Kaczynski, and the current Polish administration, of nationalism. “Prime-minister’s rhetoric, seasoned with nationalism, falls on the fertile ground among the elderly, who lived through the German occupation” – wrote the conservative German ‘Focus’ weekly. Is that supposed to mean, that those Poles who made it to survive and escape the death from German barbarians, are nationalists? One is tempted to paraphrase the famous Jacques Chirac’s quote “The Germans didn’t use the opportunity to be quiet”.

There are several words and terms the Germans shouldn’t use in relation to other nations, and most importantly in relation to Jewish and Polish nations. One of those is ‘nationalism’. It sounds cynical, coming from a country that apparently has overcome nationalism; although it’s citizens can freely associate in fascist parties like NPD, and bald-headed “patriots” run around East-German city streets bashing every foreigner who happens to be of different skin colour than a typical blonde would have had. Recent violence, that affected people of Hindu origin, highly-skilled professionals – which the richest country in Europe constantly lacks, prove how multiculturalism and tolerance work in the soul of an average simple German.

In the German East nationalism is visible straight-forward, whereas in the West it proliferates in beer pubs, manifested in complaints on Polish car-thieves and dirty Turks. On the other hand, political correctness and fear of the Muslims mean that the Germans are having even more mosques built, like the one in Cologne, although there already are over 2500 Islamic temples in the country.

Criticising Kaczyński, and accusing him of nationalism, when he warns Civic Platform party (PO) of being over-submissive towards Germany, is another attack on Poland, a country which hasn’t done anything wrong to the Germans, which was ready to put aside the past and reconcile with a nation that has done her so much harm.

Polish-German idyll

It were the Germans who began to revise history, when they recognised they can allow themselves for that. And the recent Expelled Associations’ congress in Berlin showed that this revision could have European dimension. The sole presence of the European Parliament’s president Hans-Gert Poettering on this undoubtedly anti-Polish event, only proves this point. How is the Polish government and the Polish public supposed to react for such demonstration? Should we pretend that everything is all right, and Erika Steinbach and her federation is a margin – like the politicians of German left and right would want us to believe?

Polish politics is a deep crisis. Parliamentary opposition, although among which there are many patriots, is demolishing the state in plain view of Europe and to German praise. The German media for some time have been trying to influence the Polish public, fighting together with the Polish opposition with Kaczyński brothers. They are almost certain that PO will win the next elections and form coalition with The Left and Democrats (LiD), which will finally relieve the nationalist tendencies in Poland. And there will be idyll between Poland and Germany: the way the Germans want of course.

People who defend the theory about the marginal role of the Federation of Expellees cite positive examples: for it was the enthusiasm for “Solidarność” that was the impulse for Merkel to get into politics – wrote Thomas Urban, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung correspondent in Poland. Germans like symbols, symbolic gestures are to fix problems between the two nations. The joint declaration of German president Johannes Rau and his Polish counterpart Aleksander Kwaśniewski in 2003, according to Poettering, has provided a final solution for the claims. ‘Bla bla bla’ – one would want to say. 22 families have to leave their homes, because these homes will be returned to the Germans. Further evictions are on their way.

If the next Polish government is to lead the equal partnership policy with Germany through trivial declarations, we will find ourselves in a corner, and without any chance for regaining the position the current government has undoubtedly won. We might also learn that the Polish veto against Russia is a betrayal of European interests – while the Baltic pipeline is only a gesture of German-Russian reconciliation.

We are fed up with the symbols of Polish-German reconciliation. German politicians very eagerly refer to the Letter of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops, and the famous quote “We forgive and we ask for forgiveness”. Today these words are getting new meaning, Poles ask for forgiveness for they must be guilty. Hans-Gert Poettering assured he represents the 27 European Union member states – and this is another example of the German arrogance and disrespect for other nations, especially Polish. Unconvincing is the argument, that Poettering as a German Christian Democrat wants to win the favour of the expelled as voters – because he does it at the expense of Polish fears, and he doesn’t care if he increases the tension between the Polish and the German.

* * *


If you enjoyed this post why not visit Polandian, a collaborative blog on Poland.

 

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20 responses

1 09 2007
darthsida

My 3 cents.

Janusz Korwin Mikke you-tubed somewehere and printed S Michalkiewicz here http://www.michalkiewicz.pl/tyg1_19-12-2006.php claim (or have claimed recently) that Poland and Germany don’t have a valid peace treaty. Whether this should mean that the two countries are at war – or that the two guys are unhinged – well, beats me and my knowledge.

Another point of theirs is that Germany pay more into EU budget than gets from it. “There’s no free lunch”, we know it, so why would Germany pay? It must have some hidden longer-term interests in mind.

Plus, the main now opposition party (Civic Platform) has been sponsored with German funds for a number of years. Unlike the Kaczynskis. All in all, I know anti-German media outburst owes to Polish domestic politics, these things will ebb away after some time, yet there is that (German) conspiracy theory I’d like to know more about.

8 09 2007
beatroot

The Germany thing is really a political class in Poland trying to find some identity for itself. It’s playing the ‘national’ card in the hope that it can form some kind of bond with the electorate. The Russian thing is similar but then…

But the outgoing Polish government wants it both ways with Germany…they didn;t like the last lot in Berlin (they agreed behind Warsaw’s back to build that pipeline with Moscow) and then the Christian Merkel democrats got in. And they were always going to be more orientated to the past….German land, German art works. I think they would even like Selisia and Danzig back.

But in the end germany is not a big problem and their weight is getting smaller all the time in the EU as the EU gets bigger – something they were in favour of.

So, fuss about nothing. Next…

10 09 2007
subsea

These are article refers to old issues that are being dragged out by the old timers and turned into Nationalist slogans for the sake of gaining voters – in both countries.

The Kaczynski brother are digging deep into the mire of populist sentiment to hold onto power. They were conditioned by the old order and their sentiments and knee jerk reactions – whilst sometimes striking a chord of truth however inelegantly phrased, and this was taken into account in the recent european negotiations – are mainly out of place and out of time. The sooner they are replaced by more modern, more professional and more balanced leaders the better it will be for Poland and for Europe. Europe needs a Poland grounded in its own strength, not one that is still haunted by the twin ghosts of Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany.

The Germans are a sad country that have been burdened since the end of the war by the massive guilt of their own making. For them part of the rehabilitation process is to reflect anew on the past and try to see some light amongst the dank darkness. After all, who wants to raise their children in a culture of knowing that your nation was responsible for the misery of millions when to be a Nazi was to be German, and to be German was to be a Nazi. So the healing process has to involve accepting the evils of the past whist finding lots of some good. Unfortunately for the Germans have a tendency to look for sympathy for their own misery whilst blaming others for it, specifically Poland in the case of the Expelled Germans congress. While Germany has zero empathy for the far worse plight of the Poles and ignores to accept their own responsibility for the events that led to the Germans in Poland being expelled, they will never overcome their own moral burden and will in the process make a mockery of themselves. Unfortunately I would say the Germans have many more decades to go before their healing process is over, all we can do is help them.

10 09 2007
silke

Pawel, you were very right. I really don’t like that article very much. In my (German) eyes, it is more than lopsided and contradictory. Not very surprisingly, hu?
Only to name one example: In the second paragraph the author states that Germany’s self-confidence always goes hand-in-hand with arrogance and nationalism. In the next paragraph she claims that Germany has no idea what patriotism is. I don’t get that. In my understanding, nationalism is a stronger form of patriotism.
I’ve just had a look at the Spiegel dossier on Prussia. Without really knowing the dossier (it is not available online, anymore) and by only reading the titles and subtitles, I came to a totally different impression: the articles of the dossier discuss both positive and negative aspects of Prussia.
Here is my translation of one of the titles / subtitles:
“Prussia. The martial reform-state.
Even six decades after its doo, no other German state is as disputed as Prussia. On the one hand, Prusia embodies pettiness, craving for power and militarism, on the other hand, efficiency, sense of duty and religious tolerance.”
[Look here for more examples (in German)]
In my humble opinion, this doesn’t sound like an attempt to rehabilitate Prussia, does it?
“The Germans didn’t use the opportunity to be quiet” – Pardon me? Because Germany was a nationalistic state, the Germans are not allowed to name nationalism when we sense it somewhere else? That’s sweet! As nationalism/militarism/colonialism was widespread in Europe, only few states have the right to wag their finger. So, we better mind our own business, right?
“22 families have to leave their homes, because these homes will be returned to the Germans. Further evictions are on their way.”
Where? Why? Who lodged the claim? Who admitted the claim? Does anybody out there has further information on that?

Darth Sida: There is a very simple explanation (Sorry, no conspiracy theory):
Establishing strong ties with the Western world was the only possible way for Germany to regain part of our independence after wwII. Why we pay more into the EU budget than we get EU funds? Because the EU domestic market offers so many opportunities for our economy – that’s one important reason why we are export world champion. 3/4 of our exports are delivered to members of the EU. It’s nothing about nationalism – it’s mere capitalism!
[For further information, please click here (www.destatis.de / Germany’s import and export partners as a pdf in German)

beatroot: I am sure that there are some Germans who think differently, but I don’t know anybody who wants to have Selisia and Pomerania back – and I know quite a few people who were driven away from these regions. They all feel home where they are now.
I am sure the waste majority of the Germans don’t want to reestablish the German Reich!!!!

Bye for now!
silke

10 09 2007
polishpress

Thanks for responding Silke, I still have an exam to pass in the next few days, and I’ll get back to this topic soon.

One thing I wanted to say now, and which may clear some of my intentions out, is that the weekly that produced this article is not exactly of the respected kind. It’s like the Bild Zeitung a bit. Some people say that they closely co-operate with the Kaczynskis clan… Its pretty obvious how low quality their articles are, what I wanted to do with this article here is to show what SOME PEOPLE in this country think, as this reflects it somehow. And articles like these inflict the fear of “the Germans”.

This said, it also has to be noted that there are some important gestures from the German side missing. I’m talking about political gestures, like for instance the German state taking financial responsibility for the German people’s claims over land left in Poland. Like Poland has taken the responsibility for the claims of the Poles expelled from today’s Ukraine, Belarus and Russia after WW2.

11 09 2007
subsea

Silke

Sorry, but I’ll have to pick you up on one of your comments …”In the second paragraph the author states that Germany’s self-confidence always goes hand-in-hand with arrogance and nationalism. In the next paragraph she claims that Germany has no idea what patriotism is. I don’t get that. In my understanding, nationalism is a stronger form of patriotism.” You need to look deeper.

Patriotism is driven by love for ones country and people. Nationalism is a warped version of that and is driven by domination and hatred. By not fully understanding this you are actually demonstrating a symptom of the german condition after the war. Kids in Germany in the 50’s and 60’s were steered away from Patriotism (waving flags, singing songs) for fear of it turning into the much harder, colder and easier “Nationalism”. The above article is not far off the mark there. Think about it a bit and you will see how the ordinary german was hurt after the war, and now he or she has to recover to a more normal emotional equilibrium. Its not easy.

While I’m not a great fan of Wprost magazine which is fairly right wing conservative and opinionated – but like all such mags, there’s a fair sprinkling of truth mixed in there. What I am against though is both politicians and the media from using the base language of nationalism to stir up the mud at the lower end of society to get the greatest number of votes. In Poland, Germany is a big issue because Poland has been hurt badly by Germany and its there in the collective conscience. In Germany Poland is not such a big deal, because there is no threat there only the opportunity for making money which is why Merkel shuts up when she is insulted by the Kaczinskis – for that reason and because she is a way better and more cultured politician.

My only hope now is that the Kaczynski twins are booted out and are replaced by someone that is more democratic and more in touch with the real Poland, and not those that have been twisted by fading history.

12 09 2007
silke

Subsea,
thanks for sharing your views with the rest of us.
When I understand you right, you are of the opinion that the Germans are not able to love themselves, but they are still able to hate others and to feel superiour over others?! 😀 Very well put!

I am totally aware of the definitions of patriotism (love towards one’s nation) and nationalism (feeling of superiority over other nations), but I think that one is not able to feel superior over others without loving oneself. But thinking about it now, there might be another form of hate and aggression towards others that is fed from a feeling of self-hate and inferriority. It’s kind of a self-defense mechanism. But would you call this notion “nationalism” as well?
If you feel inferior on an individual level, say because of unemployment, you could try to defend your self-esteem by identifying with an in-group that is seen as positive. But would that also work out, if the in-group is only associated with negative things?

I am very sorry that I skipped your comment last time, because it is very well balanced and much more elaborate than everything I’ve written on this subject for the last few weeks.

You are very right, Poland is not very important on the German media agenda.
What I learned during the last few weeks of discussing with Polish Press and Darth Sida is that I am very badly informed about this whole topic. And to be honest, the discussion didn’t really help me to overcome this state of ignorance. A lot more questions – and very few answers.

12 09 2007
silke

Polishpress:

O don’t worry, I totally understand that this article is not representing your personal opinion. You explained yourself on my blog already, so I didn’t feel offended or anything.

Good luck for your exams!!!
silke

12 09 2007
silke

Darth Sida,

O, I always thought that we – the Germans and the Poles – would have a peace treaty in which Germany accepted the Oder-Neisse-line as its Eastern border.
I thought it was signed in the course of the German reunion process.
Is that correct????

silke

12 09 2007
silke

Darth Sida,
what does “my 3 cents” mean?
silke

13 09 2007
darthsida

Silke,

(1) “My 3 cents” is more than “my 2 cents” 🙂 And “my 2 cents” is an idiom.

(2) Has the treaty been signed? I ask the question myself! There’re people claiming that Germany / Poland don’t have a valid peace treaty. Much like Russia and Japan not having a peace treaty.

(3) Evictions. There’s more but in Polish. Generally, AFAIR (dimly), and knowing this from the media, there are some gaps / ommissions in mortage registers (Grundbuchregister are they called?) Due to which, former German homeowners are not really former – they are still owners and have never ceased to be. Legally speaking, they may and do want their property in Poland back. Whether this is a case of “Gierek’s Germans” who left Poland in the 70s, or Prussian Trust dealing – I can’t say. Both, probably – or yet more. (A curious thing though. Look at the English site of the Trust: there are 23 claims mentioned, but 22 in its Polish version.)
More on the PT here.
More on cases dating back to the Gierek’s 70: here (in German) or there (in English).

13 09 2007
silke

Hi DS.
1) O, I now understand “my two cents”- I better should have tried to look this up instead of googeling “Kiss Meyers”. He.
2) I found something about that issue here (Wikipedia_en) . It seems to me that a “Völkerrechtlicher Vertrag” is a peace treaty, but I am no expert in international law.
3) Thanks for clarifying this to me. I heard about the “Grundbucheintrag”- issue in a Polish-German TV programme a while ago, but it was said there that the return of the houses to the former German owners was still under discussion. I’ll read these articles later today.
silke

13 09 2007
silke

2) There also seems to be a neighbourhood treaty (Nachbarschaftsvertrag) from 1991, and in addition we are both, Poland and Germany, members of the UN, the EU and the NATO. Do all these treaties make up for a peace treaty?
Thinking about this issue, I am wondering if Germany has peace treaties with all, some, none of its neighbours? I don’t think so.
silke

14 09 2007
darthsida

I found this Q/A in Polish. The answerer puts it “originally, Germany was expected to sign peace treaties with other states, like it had done after like WW1, but this never happened. Poland signed a peace treaty with Western Germany (RFN) in XII 1970, under which RFN acknowledged the Western border of Poland.” Well, this sounds like a border treaty, not peace treaty to me.

I think this calls for a pro in bilateral history – or a better googlist 🙂 A peace treaty is something to follow a war. But after WW2 there were two Germanies BRD and there was DDR – and there was PRL (speaking USSR’s voice). Then PRL, DDR, USSR were no longer.

17 09 2007
silke

DarthSida:
So we seem to have NO peace treaty, is that an issue in the Polish public?
For me – and I think I can speak for many if not the majority of Germans – this is no issue at all. War in Europe – between members of the EU – is beyond imagination.
Do you feel that this is different in Poland?
silke

22 09 2007
Wickman

Stupid article with hipocrital comments and contradictions…I’m not german..I’m swede.

27 10 2007
Dee

Hello,

and NO Silke, you speak not for all (or even most) Germans.

Lot’s of Germans feel patriotic and have a big intest in Schlesien, Ost-Preußen und Pommern.

There are many Germans who have issues with Poland!
Where not all is peachy with with our neighbour. Who very well think the stolen art must given back, who mistrust Poles that much that they prefer a pipeline away from polish grounds etc. etc. etc…..

Sorry to burst your bubble!

Auf Wiedersehen

29 06 2008
Nestor

I had the opportunity to visit Poland. And after reading this I remembered again the impression that I got after visiting that sad and hostile country of Poland. People there is full of resentlement against everything, either Germany, Russia, western europe, czechs, etc, but what is worst is that they blame the nazis, but they are the worst xenophobic people that I have ever met. That double mind of poles of trying to appear as victims all the time, but at the same time being so racist and xenophobic make everyone sick!!!

20 11 2008
marilyn kolichinsky

The red army lost 1.1 million killed at stalingrad while Germany lost about 175,000. Usually it is supposed to be over 200,000 but most people dont realise that during the offensive along the don which tore the romanians and hungarians apart a pocket of about 50,000 german troops were swept out of the pocket and were able to escape. But most people are unaware of this usullay count them as losses of 6th army.

15 07 2010
work at home income1418

polishpress.wordpress.com is awesome, I have got to tell each and everyone about this site

here are a few words of chaos:
The properties turns out, what that

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