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“Germany supposed to be strong and weak at the same time”

“Germany supposed to be strong and weak at the same time”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Jochen Braun

Schuman lecture by Irish historian Brendan Simms

Germany – but where is it located? These words by the poet Friedrich Schiller were used by Irish historian Brendan Simms as a point of departure for his Schuman lecture, organised by Studium Generale.

According to Brendan Simms, professor of the History of International Relations at the University of Cambridge, Germany has been the pivoting point of European history for the past five hundred years. This is because of its central location, the size of the country, its economic potential and its military knowhow.

Germany was always a constant threat to the balance in Europe. That is why no other country has been a target for foreign aggression so often. This started with the Thirty Years War in 1618, Simms writes. This war was largely waged in a fragmented Germany, and one third of the Germans lost their lives.

That the country forms a threat to Europe’s equilibrium has never been so evident as in the twentieth century with its two world wars. According to Simms, Germany’s two traumatic defeats portray the country’s dilemma: it seems as if Germany is supposed to be too weak and too strong at the same time.

After the Second World War, things went well in Europe for sixty years. Until the Euro crisis struck. Then it appeared, says Simms, that the EU was unable to counter Putin’s aggression, neither in a military nor in a political sense. That is why Simms argues for a “United State of Europe”. This is the only way in which Europe can pursue its common interests. Moreover, Germany can then be completely integrated, both economically and militarily, in a large entity.

Simms recently wrote in The Guardian: “If we eurozoners do not act quickly and create a single state on Anglo-American lines, we will be history too – but not in the way we had hoped.”

The Schuman lecture by Simms reminds one of the Tans lecture by Christopher Clark, eighteen months ago. Both historians are fascinated by Germany and make a detailed analysis of the foreign policies of states. Clark did so in his book Sleepwalkers, in which he argues that Germany is not the only one to blame for the First World War. Simms is now working on a biography of Hitler.

The Schuman lecture by historian Brendan Simms is on Tuesday, 10 May (20:00hrs.) in the lecture hall on the Tongersestraat 53

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