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.

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