LLUÍS AMIGUET 04/11/2019 00:54 Actualizado a 04/11/2019 02:22
I am 45 years old and I enjoy peace and prosperity thanks to the rejection of nationalism on which we built the European Union. I am of Franco-German origin. I tell the little story of my family to explain the big one. Both demonstrate that affirming an identity in one territory means excluding all others.
A great little story
It is easy and pleasant to believe the politician who tells you that by being born in a place, having a last name, a culture, a language or a party card you are different, that is, better than others and you have more rights over a territory. That is why millions of Europeans once again profess the exclusive nationalism that has led us to catastrophe too many times. To combat it, Schwarz explains the little story of his grandfather, debased by German supremacism, which favored his own to sink the country they said they loved. And it combines it with the great history of Europe to remind us that nobody has more rights than anyone else on the land we all share. When we forget it, we end up turning Europe into a slaughterhouse.
Why have you investigated the lives of your grandparents?
Because it was the best way to also know the history of my two countries: my father’s Germany and my mother’s France. And that of Europe.
What have you discovered?
That my French and German grandparents, simple, middle class people, are not listed in the history books, but have their share of responsibility in it.
And do you feel legitimate to judge them?
I feel obliged to tell their lives in the rise and rise of Nazism; the Nazi occupation of France and in the postwar period until today. I do it, because, as we forget that story, we make the same mistakes as them.
My paternal grandfather was an irrelevant German who joined the Nazi party in a timely manner. He was a mitlaufer, another follower, but because he was, he benefited from the distribution of the assets of the Jews and was able to buy a small oil company well below its price.
Did he become a Nazi just for money?
And for comfort and follow-up, like millions of Germans. They were letting exclusive nationalism flatten them first; then it would reward them and then make them cross red lines: from systematic violence to genocide to destroy the country they said they loved.
How did Hitler get his membership?
He cleverly distributed the spoils expropriated to the Jews and thus bought their consciences and complicities. He also flattered his feelings of superiority with great parades and propaganda. The mediocre love the epic. But, above all, they shared a loot.
And with the French did he do the same?
Nazism also attracted millions of French who took advantage of the heritage and positions of thousands of Jews and elements contrary to the collaborationist regime.
Did your maternal grandparents also collaborate with the Nazi occupiers?
My grandfather was gendarme with the Vichy regime, so, to some extent, he did collaborate. But I must verify in my research that there is a difference between the historical memory of the Germans and that of the French.
My father, who is German, has confronted it and helped me to reflect on it. Instead, my French mother, like most of her countrymen, has avoided reflecting on the majority’s collaboration with the Vichy regime that supported Hitler.
What is the lesson of memory?
That it is easy to be tempted by an ideology that repeats to you that your identity, your language, your culture, your ethnicity is the sole and natural owner of a territory and that the others who live in it are second-class citizens. Especially if it also gives you privileges.
Who is tempted today by it?
Millions of Europeans in Hungary, Italy, France, Germany, Great Britain and Spain: throughout Europe we are forgetting where exclusionary nationalism leads.
Are there no nationalisms that are not?
Nationalism is perverse and unfair by definition. Its starting point is that in a territory there is only a proper, natural, authentic community. The others, at best, are ignored; and in the worst they end up being traitors.
Why does it end up sinking countries?
Many Germans took advantage of the fact that the regime marginalized brilliant professionals, because they did not meet their German criteria. In the end, excellent doctors and scientists, businessmen and Jewish professionals were replaced by mediocre mitlaufer. The country was losing.
Do you think Europe falls back into that?
Nationalists across Europe again use subtle mechanisms of marginalization to gain adherents. If you are a professional, say a doctor, with the identity favored by your nationalist government you will benefit from competing only with those who also have it.
Do you think Spain has done its historical memory duties with Franco?
Spain, like Germany, will have a democracy to the extent that it builds on the rejection of the dictatorship.
How to keep it alive?
We must give the floor to the witnesses, and keep alive their memory always framed by the facts. If we do not keep that memory alive, young people will end up forgetting the meaning of our democracies.
Do you think they are forgetting it?
We are forgetting that the U.E. It is a union of states that we founded on anti-nationalism to build peace and shared prosperity after the wars to which the nationalists led us.
Can we avoid it?
With political culture. Recuting the supremacists. Let us repeat that any affirmation of an identity over a territory means the exclusion of others.
Where would you put the red line?
I distrust any politician who speaks of being a single people or nation, even if he also invokes democracy. It is a trap as attractive as perverse.