The Corner

Can We All Calm Down?

Ralph Peters is often a provocative and enlightening read, but I have to say that I read this piece with nothing less than astonishment. Here’s an extract:

“Of course, there are good Germans. Plenty of them. But they live in Philadelphia, not Frankfurt. They or their ancestors all left Germany by 1938. Those who stayed didn’t just support Hitler – they loved him and fought for him to the bitter end.”

That is, quite simply, nonsense. Yes, far too many Germans supported Hitler, something that will stain the name of their country so long as history is written. And yes, a shocking number stuck with that monster until the very end. At the same time, even a quick glance at the historical record shows that, by early 1945, Wehrmacht troops were to surrendering in droves in the West. On the Eastern Front, of course, it was a different matter. But against Stalin’s Red Army, surrender was never a realistic option. For the men it meant the Gulag or worse and, well, just read any account of the fall of Berlin to see what it meant for the women.

There’s more too. Mr. Peters’ comments about von Stauffenberg are, I fear, are an insult to the memory of a brave man. They also reveal a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the German resistance to Hitler (grossly insufficient though that resistance undoubtedly was) and they ignore for example, the role that the Allies’ insistence on the unconditional surrender of even a Hitler-free Germany played in undermining the development of that resistance. As a start, Mr. Peters should take a look at the career of Adam von Trott, a man whose opposition to Hitler began in the late 1930s and ended with his grotesquely cruel execution in Plotzensee Prison in 1944.

But this historical debate is to miss the point. Germany’s horrific past will forever mean that any hint of a resurgent anti-Semitism is deeply, deeply disturbing, but to move from that to suggest that, nearly sixty years after the war, this entire nation in some way still dreams of the old Reich is wrong. Yes, Germany’s role in the run-up to the Iraq war was a disgrace. Yes, Chancellor Schroeder’s manipulation of anti-American sentiment to secure re-election was repellent, and, yes, there’s no doubt that a particularly malign form of anti-Americanism is currently on the rise in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. The US response to such stupidity should not, however, be to descend to equally crude ‘anti-Europeanism’.

This country is better than that.

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