Comment: Nationalism changed Europe 30 years after the fall of the Wall

Comment on 30 Years Fall of the Wall:Nationalism changed Europe after 1989

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  • Holger Schmale.

    Holger Schmale


Pegida members demonstrate against “migration” in Berlin at the beginning of December.


imago / IPON

Thirty years ago, in January 1989, the European world seemed well organized. Germany consisted of two states with which the respective neighbors were doing well. A year later, this world looked different. The wall had fallen, and people in East Germany were pulling black-red-golden flags, and Germany, Germany shouting through the streets.

Now, in the joy of the destruction of the Iron Curtain, a new concern mingled: the one before an overpowering Germany. Newspapers in Poland and Italy, in Czechoslovakia and in Britain summoned up the danger of a Fourth Reich, and politicians took up these fears. Italian Prime Minister Andreotti said: “There are two German states, and two should remain.” And Polish Foreign Minister Skubiszewski stated: “Self-determination is a nice thing, but with the Germans it is something else.”

Fears thanks Kohl disappeared

1989 was also the year of the 50th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland, followed by the brutal subjugation of almost all of Europe by the Germans and a devastating war. The people of these countries could still remember it well. What if this Ungeist now returned with the union of the two states? Or if the Germans just say goodbye to the process of European unification and from now on would prefer to follow their own interests as superpower again?

We know today that history has gone differently. It is not least thanks to Helmut Kohl, this convinced European, that the fears of the neighbors have quickly disappeared. He had understood that the United Federal Republic had to act even more European than others in order to pave the way for unity and to contain even smoldering great-power fantasies.

Ultimately, the task of the strong D-mark and the introduction of the euro at the price that Germany has paid for its undisturbed development. That it also benefits from this is another part of this success story.

I i i

That sounds like a good story. If she did not have that bitter irony. Because today, 30 years later, in many of these countries, which were dreading a new German nationalism, even nationalists have the say. In Poland and Hungary, there are parties that are interested in money from Brussels alone, while they laugh at European values. In Italy, things are not much better. In Britain, the EU’s opponents are completing their work of destruction. They are all admirers of Donald Trump, who has made the motto of “I come first” socially acceptable again. That a concept in which all I, I, I call, ultimately can not work, has never interested egotists and nationalists.

It is one of the great achievements of the political culture of the Federal Republic, that this scam in this country has never been a majority. From the left to the CSU, the parties have a basically Europe-friendly attitude, reaching more than 80 percent of voters – so far. The rest is collected by the AfD. That it will not be more than that, that is the big challenge for the European elections in May. Measured against the challenges 30 years ago, it would have to be overcome. But this includes the fantasy of telling the success story of the past decades so exciting that nobody has to be afraid.