It appears that the Germans have been expecting to be forgiven for those memorable years 1933-1945, especially when considering all the goodness and stability Germany has been spreading around the continent. But the continent is refusing to be grateful, and have become quite insolent, in fact. Germany’s push for austerity during the ongoing euro crisis has prompted Nazi depictions of Chancellor Angela Merkel in many parts of Southern Europe and mass demonstrations pushing the same idea, namely that today’s Germany is pursuing the same old targets, using economic means.
This weekend, Spiegel interviewed Brendan Peter Simms, a professor of the History of International Relations in the Center of International Studies at Cambridge University, asking poignantly: “People talk of a Fourth Reich, and the hatred is palpable. Is this just absurd dramatics, or is it a reaction to a true power shift in Germany’s favor?”
Prof. Simms enlightened Spiegel’s editors—and their German readers—on the fact that the “German question” is still very much on everybody’s mind in Europe, despite the German reunification, and perhaps because of it.
“There is no doubt Germanophobia exists,” said Simms. “Look at Greece, at Italy, even Ireland, a country that has never before expressed hostility toward Germany, but which is now full of anger over increasingly painful cuts to its standard of living, an anger that comes from people feeling they have been hung out to dry. Then, of course, there is also anti-German sentiment that stems from World War II, for example in Greece.”
According to Simms, the problem starts with German politicians who tend to emphasize almost exclusively the poor conduct of the countries at the periphery of the EU, insisting that those countries change this conduct as a prerequisite for changing the EU’s political structure.
“By taking this position, they’re failing to recognize that this poor conduct was in part a result of a design flaw in the way the euro was implemented, which led to the countries at Europe’s periphery being flooded with new, cheap money… My fear is that Germany’s policies on this point consist solely of setting the European periphery conditions it can’t fulfill.”