Monday, July 17, 2017

Germans must remember the truth about Ukraine – for their own sake. By TIMOTHY SNYDER

Don’t fall for the official Russian line on WWII, historian Timothy Snyder warns German MPs in a speech at the Bundestag. In the debate over Germany's historical responsibility for its wartime actions in Ukraine, ‘Germany cannot afford to get major issues of its history wrong.’

The following is a transcript of a speech delivered by historian Timothy Snyder of Yale University at a conference on Germany’s Historical Responsibility towards Ukraine held in the German Bundestag, on 20 June 2017. The event was organized by the parliamentary faction of the German Green party.

When we ask ‘Why historical responsibility, why German historical responsibility?’, I want to begin from the universal point of view. I’m not coming to you as an American saying ‘we’ve understood our past and therefore everything is going well in our country.’ On the contrary, I think it’s very important for all of us, whether things are going well or things are going badly, whether we’re Americans or Germans or Russians, to be humble about our various weaknesses in dealing with our past, and above all to be realistic, to be sensitive, to be concerned about how our failures to deal with our own national past can have surprisingly great and immediate and painful consequences for the present and for the future.

So when we ask, as the ambassador did, quite rightly: why should we be discussing historical responsibility just now; why, when Russia has invaded and occupied a part of Ukraine; why, when Brexit negotiations have begun; why, when a whole series of elections between populists and others is being carried out across Europe; why, when the constitutional system of the USA is under threat from within; why, in this moment, should we talk about historical responsibility, my answer is that it is precisely for those reasons that one must talk about historical responsibility. There are many causes of the problems within the European Union and there are many causes of the crisis of democracy and the rule of law in the United States. But one of them is precisely the inability to deal with certain aspects of history.

So, as I say, I am not coming to you from the position that Americans have figured this out. On the contrary, let me begin talking about Germany by talking about the United States. Why do we have the government that we have now? In some significant measure, it is because we Americans have failed to take historical responsibility for certain important parts of our own history. How can we have a president of the United States in 2017 who is irresponsible on racial issues? How can we have an attorney general in 2017 who is a white supremacist? Because we have failed to deal with important questions of our own past. Not just the history of the Second World War.. read more: