How did we Germans suddenly start to care about Ukraine

The unease in political debates today stems from the harshness with which the positions of the speakers concerned are presented. Of course, ardent arguments about right and wrong were not about the beauty of the argument and the tone of the contradiction. How many one-dimensional articles about the war in Ukraine—whether printed in popular newspapers or published in the social media world with the whims of the moment—lead toward phrases like “one would have known” or “I always said that,” unfortunately, The need to change perspective and broaden horizons is often disappointing.

Certainly, there are notable exceptions such as Karl Schlögel, whose ancient texts read like warning signs today. In his recent lecture at the Frankfurt-Romerberg talks, he once again identified a problem with the public perception of Ukraine, which can be described as a refusal to understand. And this in no way affects only the Social Democratic Party, which is often denounced for its historical error.

Karl Schlögl explicitly addressed the We group. “This big country hasn’t existed for us for long, or only as a fringe, as a subversive agent.” It can be tolerated if one has no idea about Ukrainian history.”

A generation of Ukrainians has gone global – and is being ignored

According to Schlugel, this country did not exist for Europeans, even educated ones: although Kyiv is a thousand years old, the peace of Odessa, and Kharkiv in modern times, the history of multi-ethnic cities, a country in the post-Soviet decades was on its way to being It becomes an ordinary, open European country that has the characteristics of a tiger country. The generation that became cosmopolitan, traveling in Europe and with it great literature, simply did not notice.

Schluggle’s critique coincides with my humble experience. In 2006, I was completely amazed and amazed at the moment, I took part in a conference in Lviv, where the history of Lemberg, Lwow and Lviv was discussed.

During the breaks, the participants, the majority of whom were Germans, spoke with writer Yuri Andruchovich, literary scholar and translator Yorko Proshasko, who shamed us for knowing disarming German literature and urging it to become an influential player in European culture sooner rather than later in Ukraine, at that time Western Ukraine in the first place, able to make an important contribution.

On the sidelines of the conference organized by the Zeit Foundation, there was an argument between the Ukrainian participants and the Polish historian Włodzimierz Borodziej, who died about a year ago. It was about the differing views of Poles and Ukrainians about the history of violence that has not been adequately addressed in the region.

In his recently published book “Zerborstene Zeit” (CH Beck), historian Michael Wilde tried, in all succinctness, to describe the escalating situation around 1941, which led to the fragmentation of the apparent pluralism of the Habsburg Empire.

It seems that Borodzig’s controversy was more than a side note from a conference. However, the predominantly Germanic audience was more embarrassed than curious, and the agenda soon resumed. The realization that there are more stories of perpetrators than one would like to admit is now horribly back in the past, with Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera an example of an unscrupulous anti-Semitic collaborator and Nazi for some and a heroic resistance fighter for others, who violently promoted the idea of ​​the state Ukrainian.

Intellectual stagnation and the history of guilt among the Germans

The Limberg Conference is certainly little more than a single memory, which I am now trying to use to explain my own intellectual lethargy, and perhaps also the memories of my generation. It has a lot to do with the fact that we settled on admitting the Germans’ history of guilt, which left no room for more confused and confusing accounts of the perpetrators. The word guilt, which has not just appeared, has been dismissed as a supposed battle cry of right-wing discourse rather than supplemented and peppered with historical facts and stories.

And so Banderas’ assassination by the KGB in the post-war period in Munich was seen primarily as a special legal case, but not as a dark chapter in the sometimes raging Cold War.

The same applies to the perception of the belated trial of John Demjanjuk, who, as a Ukrainian soldier in the Red Army, had served as an auxiliary volunteer in 1942 for the German Wehrmacht and the SS, which provided the crew for operation. German concentration camps.

John Demjanjuk and German-Ukrainian history

After a week-long hearing, Demjanjuk, who was over 90 at the time, was sentenced to five years in prison in 2011 for being an accomplice in the murders of 28,060 people. This trial was also primarily concerned with questions of later guilt and the fact that it could not be established that the accused had committed individual acts.

The historical constellation in which a willing assistant like Demjanjuk became the culprit is largely ignored and what the consequences of a shared understanding of German and Ukrainian history might be has been largely ignored.

Among the people who have researched this story closely is the American historian Timothy Snyder. His book was Bloodlands (CH Beck), in which he studied Stalin’s terrorist struggle, Hitler’s Holocaust and the Hunger War against prisoners of war as well as against the non-Jewish population of the territory of Ukraine in their relations and interactions. It has also received the attention it deserves in Germany.

In a recent interview with the Berliner Zeitung newspaper, soberly Snyder said that for the German perception it was Russia, not Ukraine, that remained the center of the suffering caused by Germany. “Although it is of course true that the Soviet Union suffered greatly from the consequences of the 1941 war, the Soviet Union was an aggressor on the side of Germany in the 1939 war.”

Moscow as the moral center of Ostpolitik?

But from a German perspective, Moscow should have become the moral center of Ostpolitik. Moscow was the key to the desired diplomatic successes of the so-called Ossetian policy. And when the Soviet Union collapsed two decades later, recognizing Moscow as the moral center of this Ossetian policy was even more problematic.

The reassessment was absolutely necessary, according to Schneider, because Belarus and Ukraine suffered more from the war than Russia. But: “This basic fact has never entered the public debate in Germany. The period after 1991 deserved a reasonable admission of the past, as the Germans had to pay much more attention to Ukraine. After all, it was the German war in Ukraine in 1941 that made the Holocaust possible, according to Timothy Snyder in the Berlin newspaper.

Indeed, there are much more uses for self-enlightenment to catch up, and works such as those by Karl Schlögl and Timothy Snyder are undoubtedly very useful in this regard.

A lot of ancient texts have been quoted in recent weeks. Correspondents’ reports from several newspapers impressively reveal the effects of widespread social ignorance and lack of awareness. However, this remains with the allegations being leveled with great moral urgency against politicians, who are seen as compliant representatives of unscrupulous interests and energy politics. Schroeder, Steinmeier, Schweig – you know.

Ukraine and Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “Babi Yar”

I would like to mention the speech given by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in September 2016 at the opening of an exhibition at the Documentation Center for the Topography of Terror in Berlin, it was a thought-provoking self-examination.

Steinmeier first emphasized his sincere interest in Eastern Europe. “Belarus, Moldova and the Baltic states – I have not traveled to any other part of the world so much in recent years; I have not driven or fly over any other landscape so often as this sight.” It would be easy to accuse the Secretary of State of that today. “We, German foreign policy and our partners, are committed – as far as possible – to peace and understanding in the east of our continent, especially in the conflict over eastern Ukraine.”

Desire for peace an empty equation? Perhaps that too, but one cannot assume that Steinmeier lacked historical awareness of what had happened. “But – and this” but “has a lot of weight,” he continued. “Under these landscapes, and beneath the here and now, there are hidden layers that connect us Germans to this region even more deeply and destinedly.”

To prove this, Steinmeier then recited Eckhard Maas’s poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko “Babyg Yar”, which was translated into German by Paul Ceylan. In 1941, in just two days, 33,771 Jewish women, men, and children were shot in the Babi Yar Pass near Kyiv. This is the beast that lurks beneath these landscapes, Steinmeier said in his speech, also referring to Timothy Snyder.

However, something was left out. Yevtushenko’s poem is considered a key text because the poem first referred to the mass murder of Kievan Jews in 1961 in Soviet public opinion and linked the Germans’ crimes to Soviet anti-Semitism. It has long been refused to erect their own memorial to the relatives of the victims. The fact that Putin’s army attacked Babi Yar again says a lot about the tyrant’s understanding of history and politics.

In Steinmeier’s 2016 speech, the victims of Babi Yar were added to the 25 million casualties caused by the German war of annihilation and invasion in the Soviet Union. The disparate history that names the sufferings of Ukrainians, Belarusians, Lithuanians, etc., must not be rewritten. But beyond the heated debates over the delivery of heavy weapons, the concept of surrender and the nuclear threat, the public awareness pierces, at best, vaguely, that the admission of guilt towards the former Soviet Union, expressed in the spirit of peace, has shrouded much of what is now on the agenda belongs to the formation of newly formed Europe.

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