German Innocence. How Germans camouflage their nationalism today

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Has Poland really deserved its place in the EU and the civilised West? Was this exclusive club membership the result of past wrongs inflicted by the Third Reich?

Not everyone in Poland supports the notion that the Germans should pay reparations. You could mention for instance Stefan Chwin, writer and critic, interviewed in Przegląd magazine.

In the interview by Robert Walenciak, in the admittedly post-communist periodical open to pro- Russian and anti-Ukrainian opinion, he stated that although his family suffered greatly during the Warsaw Rising of 1944, he doesn’t think it right to demand reparations from the Germans. We need to remind ourselves whether Polish claims are realistic. Chwins’s argument lies elsewhere.

He thinks that the Germans have changed. They have nothing in common with their Nazi forebears. Legally however they are the heirs of the Third Reich, ”a principle that was accepted for pragmatic, political and economic reasons”. But this has ceased to be relevant.

Most Germans were born after the second world war. Chwin cites the example of the translator of his book from Polish into German. The current social structure is visible. She is multi-national in outlook and has much of the Turkish-Islamic heritage.

On reading the interview with Chwin, one comes to the conclusion that because of the traumatic experiences of his family, his statement about reparations acquire a degree of credibility. He is a person who can feed on deep German wrongs and expect some compensation. But instead, he takes the opposite stance.

His stance is reflected by that of Gazeta Wyborcza’s Paweł Wroński. He wrote earlier whether the “reparations took the form of membership of the European Union and the civilised West”. Membership was achieved we must remember, thanks to the German state. It’s a crystalline democratic and law-abiding one, and one that was the exemplar of reconciliation to its own shameful past.

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By Filip Memches

Translated by Jan Darasz

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