Friday, October 29, 2004

European pacifism

Earlier this week, I wrote about a toy manufacturer from Ohio, who seemed to have forgotten what the second world war was fought over.
Apparently, he's not the only one. The Queen of England is about to make a state visit to Germany -- and Bild, Germany's best-selling newspaper, has just launched a campaign to get her to apologize for British wartime bombing. According to the London Times,
The Queen’s visit, which begins on Tuesday... is rapidly becoming entangled with emotional questions about German victimhood: Germany, it seems, wants its wartime suffering to be acknowledged....
The question “Will the Queen apologise?” was plastered over the front page of Bild, which has a readership of more than nine million. A photograph of British aircraft dropping bombs and a rather grim-looking Queen drove home the message. So far no German editorials or politicians have called for an outright apology. Bild’s tactic, a newspaper insider says, is “to generate a big readership response so that it can present itself as the voice of an aggrieved nation just before the Queen arrives”.
The real grievance, apparently, is that Germans are sick and tired of what they see as Britain's 'morbid fascination with the war,' which they think is stopping the Brits appreciating modern Germany.
Unfortunately, the Germans have their own reasons for wanting to erase memory of the Second World War. And it seems to me that their paranoia ('everyone thinks we're nazis'), their own obsession with the war, and perhaps watching too much Fawlty Towers is completely distorting their view of Britain. I don't think people here have an unrealistic, war-centered view of Germany at all.
That being said, if they did, would they be unjustified? Do Germans realize what the Second World War did to this country -- millions of deaths, hundreds of thousands of families evacuated and seperated, a capital city bombed and devestated, a country bankrupted, rationing that ended after Russia's! Things like that have a habit of lingering in national memory.
There's simply one word for asking the Queen to 'apologize' for bombing Germany, as a pretext or anything else, and that's 'chutzpah.' Germany brought its 'wartime suffering' entirely on itself. They were aggressors, who wanted to take away our freedom. Not only were the allies justified in bombing German cities, they had every imperative -- military and moral -- to do so. To ask the Queen to apologise for fighting evil, and to imply that the two sides were in any way equally responsible for the atrocities of the War or in any way equally aggrieved is to show that they have never internalized their own culpability.
More importantly, and more relevant to today, is that the attitude shows just how far European (and specifically German) pacifism has spread -- even to history. No violence, no fighting is acceptable in today's politically correct European climate, even in face of a terrible enemy, even in self-defense. Which, again, does not bode well at a time when our freedoms are under renewed threat.

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