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After a Russian missile attack: Lviv in May. © AFP

What does Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s speech have to do with a conference in Lviv. Searching for traces of a country’s history and its misjudgment.

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 so much 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—leave toward phrases such as “one would have known” or “I always said,” unfortunately, that the 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 last lecture at the Frankfurt-Römerberg talks (published in the FR newspaper on May 3) 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.

Schlögl explicitly addressed the collective we are. “This big country hasn’t existed for us for that long, or only as a fringe party, as a disruptive agent.” He can afford it if no one has any idea of ​​Ukrainian history.”

According to Schlugel, this country did not exist for educated Europe either: despite the thousand-year-old Kyiv, the hand of Odessa, modern Kharkiv, the history of multi-ethnic cities, a country that in the post-Soviet decades was the way to an ordinary open European state with the qualities of 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, completely amazed and amazed, I participated in a conference in Lviv, where the history of Lemberg, Lwow and Lviv was discussed. During the breaks, the predominantly German public spoke to the writer Yuri Andruchovich, the literary scholar and translator Yorko Proshasko, we were ashamed of his amazing knowledge of German literature and urged him to become a player in shaping European culture sooner rather than later in Ukraine, at that time Western Ukraine in First of all, 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 Ludzimir Borodzig, who died about a year ago. It was about different Polish and Ukrainian views on the history of violence that were not adequately addressed in the region.

In his recently published book “Zerborstene Zeit” (CH Beck), historian Michael Wilde attempted to describe the escalating situation around 1941 quite succinctly, breaking up 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 being 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 Ukrainian state.

The Limberg Conference is certainly nothing more than a single memory, which I now use to attempt to explain my own intellectual inertia, 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 pride, 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. After weeks of court hearings, 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 voluntary assistant like Demjanjuk became the culprit is largely ignored and what consequences this would have for a common understanding of German and Ukrainian history have been largely ignored.

Among the people who have researched this story closely is the American historian Timothy Snyder. True, his book “Bloodlands” (CH Beck), in which he dealt with Stalin’s terrorist struggle, Hitler’s Holocaust and the war of hunger 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, somewhat alert Snyder said that to the German perception, Russia, not Ukraine, 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 Germany’s side in the 1939 war.”

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, when the Germans should have paid much more attention to Ukraine. Timothy Snyder.

Indeed, there are much more uses for self-enlightenment to catch up, and works such as those of 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 in light of the allegations leveled with great moral urgency against politicians, who are seen as compliant representatives of unscrupulous interests and energy politics. Schroeder, Steinmeier, Schweig – you know.

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 this landscape, beneath the here and now, there are hidden layers that connect us Germans much deeper, much more fateful to this region.” Steinmeier then recited Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s poem “Babyg Yar” by Paul Ceylan, as evidence of his translation into German. 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 behind the heated debates about the delivery of heavy weapons, the concept of surrender and the nuclear threat, there is at best a vague perception of the public perception that the admission of guilt towards the former Soviet Union, was expressed in the spirit of peace. , and it covered much of what is now on the agenda belonging to the newly formed Europe.

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