EU far from perfect but idea is inspirational
Published 25/06/2016 | 00:00
On June 10 the people of Lidice, which is in the northwest of the Czech Republic, commemorated a terrible event.
On that June day in 1942 the Germans razed the little village to the ground and killed all 172 men, sent the women and many of the children to the concentration camp at Ravensbrück. Any Aryan-looking children were sent as orphans to Germany. When they had destroyed the village they sowed grass-seed to make sure the place had been obliterated. German authorities removed the name of Lidice from maps.
They did it in revenge for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, who had been killed the previous month. It was a 'lesson' they wanted to teach the people. Not that anyone in Lidice had anything to do with the killing of Heydrich, who was deputy Protector of Bohemia and Moravia. Instructions for the butchery came directly from Hitler. It is often mentioned as one of the most evil acts of World War II. But the Germans replicated evil deeds right across Europe from Hitler's coming to power by means of election until German surrender in 1945.
How and why did it all happen? Many historians will say that the humiliation of Germany after World War I, the vile poverty and alienation experienced by millions of Germans in the 1920s and 1930s was the perfect setting for a demagogue to arrive on the scene and promise to make Germany 'strong' again. Every day they read in the papers that the French, the Russians, the English were to blame for their pain, but above, all the Jews. So, according to government policy, bash the enemy and Germany would be back in its rightful place. Tens of millions of people lost their lives as a result. And from those ashes came the dream of a Europe working in tandem.
The European Union is far from perfect and is in need of reform and change but the idea is inspirational. Think of how Ireland's accession to the Union has changed the country for the better. Surely we are far less insular in our thinking. Our students can avail of such programmes as Erasmus where they can study in other European cities. The toing and froing between the peoples of the EU States gives us all a great opportunity to see and experience other cultures and systems. The rights of workers have been improved as a result of our membership of the EU.
While economics are important, it was peaceful coexistence between nations that was the driving force to create a new Europe. War is insane. The EU has brought peace to nations that have been so often embroiled in war.
The European Union is all about subsidiarity and if the Germans have got too powerful then don't just blame the Germans, as the blame can be spread out among all the participants who sit around the table. For the EU to disintegrate is a shocking scenario. When politicians, wherever in the world, shout and scream about the importance of making their country 'strong' again it really is a scary thought.
I can't help thinking that our world has far too many similarities with the Weimar Republic. I'm scared. Demagogues, slick merchants never solve our problems and yet far too often we think they are our 'saviours'.