Next month will also see the 70th anniversary of the end of WW2 in
Europe, the last important anniversary that will feature considerable
numbers of survivors from those events. Accordingly, we can expect to
see a number of ceremonies, speeches, and TV specials commemorating what
will be presented as an uncomplicated triumph of “good” over “evil.”
In particular, we can expect to see that peacenik and champion of
moral virtue, Vladimir Putin, exulting in the heroic role that the
equally peace-loving and virtuous Red Army played in the defeat of the
“unique evil” of Nazism.
Russia Today will probably go into overdrive, and could even
melt down like an over-excited hadron collider, creating a hole in the
space-time continuum leading to a parallel universe in which Stalin
actually was the good guy.
As we are regaled with badly-written and emotionally-manipulative
content about the triumph of the “the democratic spirit” and how the
millions who died fighting Germany did so because they implicitly
believed in mass immigration and gay marriage, no mention will be made
of the atrocities and inhumanities committed by the Allies – the mass
rapes, the fire-bombing of cities, the maltreatment of POWs, the forced
repatriation to certain death of Russian Cossacks, and the post-war
starvation forced on Germany that killed millions.
Instead we are sure to hear again and again the old, shop-worn, and
legally protected stories of the Holocaust. These will be dusted off and
rolled out to ensure that we feel the right mix of moral euphoria and
smug assurance about what were complex and multifaceted historical
Also no one will dare mention the highly significant fact
that whatever deaths occurred under the Nazis, occurred under the strain
of the greatest and most terrible war ever, nor that our “noble”
Russian allies succeeded in killing millions of innocents not in the
throes of war or revolution, but in the middle of peacetime. ( http://www.ukrweekly.com/old/archive/1983/228321.shtml )
As we wade through this lukewarm bilge of WWII triumphalism, what
will become apparent is the degree to which Germany, the dominant
economy and heart of Europe, has been morally disarmed and deprived of
its 20th-century history. Any German voices that chime in will acclaim
their country’s past evil, and express gratitude for their brutal
“liberation,” even if it was by the likes of Bomber Harris and the Red
As Brennus the leader of the Gauls who once conquered Rome proverbially said, “Vae Victis”
(woe to the vanquished). Yes, the Germans, despite being
pound-for-pound the best military force in Europe by a long way, were
ultimately the losers, and we all know who writes the history. So,
should we even care, especially since modern Germans do so little to
challenge the narrative? Weren’t they perhaps correct to just write off
the period 1914 to 1945 as wasted time?
In 1945 and the years after the war it could be argued that there was
little else for Germany to do but appease the victors and accept their
version of events. Everything had been thrown into the war, so there was
nothing left to bargain with. War had been total and so was defeat. For
the reason surrender too had to also be complete.
To avoid extinction, the Germans had to accept the narratives of the victors. If they didn’t there was every chance of the Morgenthau plan
or something similar being dusted off. Resisting the myth of Germany as
absolute evil would only have lengthened and deepened the occupation
and threatened Germany’s post-war boom. It would also have made
rapprochement with its European neighbours and the foundation of the
European Union extremely awkward.
From a pragmatic point of view, there was every reason for Germany to
knuckle under and take its bumps in the post-war order: “Yes, mea culpa, we were wrong. Sorry . . . Now, can we interest you in a Volkswagen Beetle?”
Also, how long could it have been expected to last anyway? On past
experience, it would seem only a few years. But, here we now are,
seventy years later, and it’s not just the victors of the war who are
lording it over Germany, or the Israelis with their privileged position.
It is also minnows like Greece, a country that, in the post-war period,
went through its own mini version of the great 20th-century battle
between Communism and Fascism, only to wake up in the 21st-century, as a
bankrupt social-democratic capitalist state, run by Cultural Marxists
too terrified to implement actual Marxist economic policies.
Driven by a combination of economic obsolescence and Euro parasitism,
it is this country that has belatedly latched onto Germany’s historical
blind spot, in the hope that it might be worth some money or at least
serve as a “moral” counterweight to German demands to repay debts.
Why is the Greek government now demanding €279 billion? Quite simply because it can and because it needs to.
When Germany decided to allow its wartime enemies a virtual monopoly
on the historical narrative, it basically granted them a moral blank
cheque that they could fill in and cash anytime. In the Cold War period,
the Western powers, keen to foster German goodwill and bolster NATO,
were careful not to overuse the privilege. The Soviet Union, by
contrast, used it to justify the existence of its zombie East German
state for four decades.
Nowhere was it ever imagined that the Greeks would make use of this
moral blank cheque to demand “reparations” long after the vast majority
of those involved in the war had passed on.
As a simple rule, reparations – if such a thing can be admitted to
exist in international law – should be paid by the vanquished to the
victor in the years immediately after a conflict. To diverge from this
principle, opens up all sorts of problematic possibilities, as most
countries have at one time or another attacked, invaded, occupied, and
abused others. To allow any country, therefore, to claim reparations at
any time from any country that wronged it is to abolish the distinctions
between peace and war, and a recipe for global chaos.
There is also blatant injustice involved in these demands. While
being conquered by the Germans and then mainly occupied by their Italian
allies could not have been pleasant for the Greeks, they were treated
no worse and in fact a lot better than many other European countries
occupied in the 20th century. If Greece can demand €279 billion for four
years of relatively mild Axis occupation, then what does Russia owe
Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for their 50-year occupations?
You could also throw in the fact that the Greeks were treated a lot
worse by the Turks. As recently as the 1920s, millions of Greeks were forcibly expelled by the Kemalite Turkish state, losing much of their wealth and property in the process.
Should Greece demand reparations there? Of course they won’t. Turkey,
despite the genocide it committed against the Armenians, which actually
started 100 years ago this month, is a country that makes considerable
efforts to defend its historical narrative and is not prepared to be
told how it should view its past.
We see the same thing in Putin’s Russia, which celebrates its
Stalinist past along with its Tsarist one. China, too, is not shy about
pushing a moralizing historical narrative that serves to justify Chinese
From an objective point of view, it may seem odd that China obsesses
more about the tens of thousands supposedly killed in Nanking by
Japanese troops than the tens of millions who died on the communist
government’s own watch.
Japan, too, despite sharing “Axis pariah state” status with Germany,
has made efforts to retain a positive sense of its past. Military and
government personnel damned as “war criminals” by the occupation
authorities are “enshrined” in Yasukuni Jinja, and history books are
rewritten to give a more morally acceptable picture of Japan’s actions.
These countries – Turkey, Russia, China, and Japan – all realize that
national history is less about objective truth and more about an
expression of will to exist. For this reason, the Greek attempt at moral
extortion is useful because it reminds us not only that Germany has
neglected its past for too long, but also points to the consequences of
this moral pacifism and historical masochism.
In the past, it may have suited the interests of post-war Germany’s
powerful export industries to accept such a negative characterization of
the preceding period, and it probably that such an attitude played a
part in Germany’s tremendous economic success. But, while Germany has
apparently achieved economic and a degree of political dominance in
Europe by following this path, it has also left itself open to easy
attack, rather in the same way that the incompleteness of the Maginot
Line left the French open to a devastating flank attack. Germany’s
economic power has a great and glaring weakness – the country’s
dangerous moral disarmament and weak sense of itself. As Tsipras’s
behaviour demonstrates, any country that wants can effortlessly insult
and denigrate modern Germany.
This not only leaves Germany weak but also Europe, because Germany
lies at the heart of the continent and is its most important country. A
morally weak Germany, ashamed of its past and which believes itself to
be uniquely evil, is a void at the heart of Europe.
But to avoid this, Germany does not even need to lie about its
history in the way that Turkey and Russia so obviously do. It does not
need to go to the trouble of creating a positive myth. So negative is the negative myth that
just by switching to an objective and proportionate view of its
history, the German sense of moral worth can be immensely bolstered.
For this reason, it is time for Germany to stop apologizing, to stop
allowing the likes of Tsipras to kick it in the shins with their tardy
and insolvent demands. It is time for Germany to face its history and
that of its rivals with a sense of objectivity and balance. It is time
for Germany to stop seeing itself through the wartime propaganda of its
enemies – not because that generation has died off, but because that idea
of Germany was always wrong and one-sided. It is time that the idea of
Germany being the only “uniquely evil” country in world history was
bulldozed into a pit and covered with quicklime.
If Tsipras’s inopportune and improvident demands can help push
Germans in this direction, then the billions he is demanding may well be
a fee worth paying.