The German Vice Chancellor has announced this morning, 8th September, that because of its strong economy, Germany can accept up to half a million refugees a year for several years – but that other European nations must play their part in the effort.
Everything that Germany has done since the second World War cold not demonstrate ore powerfully that this is a nation that fully absorbed the essential meaning of serious lessons learned in that experience.
The country was effectively taken over by a totalitarian regime unable to tolerate difference, literally – physically – expunging difference and proposing a nationalist and socialist philosophy that was a relentless monoculture. This imposed its authority across a country that had no idea where it would lead – by fear, threat, cult, pressure to conform and unstoppable momentum.
The damage that this regime did to its own country as well as to the Jewish race and to other nations worldwide is almost impossible to grasp.
But out of the utter collapse of the post-war German economy and the long payment of reparations, Germany has built a country with a powerful and well managed economy – and a nation that invariably, selflessly, does the right thing – and makes it work.
There was the European Community – that became the European Economic Community and morphed into the European Union. Led essentially by the stabilising duet of France and Germany this adventure has been and remains dedicated to ensuring peaceful co-existence, social, economic and political collaboration across the continent.
Through this collective, the European voice is one to which attention must be paid on the world stage. Through this collective, we are all less strange to our continental peers than we would otherwise have been, although still, in the case of the United Kingdom, less than we might be. And Germany, singly and without complaint, shoulders the economic weight of keeping the show on the road.
Then there was the fall of the Berlin wall and the opening up, by default, of the German Democratic Republic.
The Federal Republic of Germany – or ‘West Germany’ – did not hesitate. It offered union, it accepted responsibility for east Germany, it took the economic hit – and it rebuilt its economy once more.
Then there was the collapse within the EU of the Greek economy and, while Germany held Greece to account as best it could, in order to reinforce the need for national fiscal responsibility – and responsibility to its peers in the EU – Germany nevertheless paid to keep Greece afloat and to keep the European dream alive – a dream which we have to remember is at heart a dream of peace and shared prosperity.
Now there is the refugee crisis – the result of conflicts in other countries in which, unlike the UK, Germany has played no part.
The UK is prepared – under severe internal as well as external humanitarian duress, to take 4,000 had picked refugees a year for five years, from specific camps on the Syrian border – and therefore racially restricted.
Germany is saying it can take half a million refugees a year for several years.
Of course the physical size of the two counties and the size of their respective economies are not comparable – but proportionately, no one can say that Germany is anything less than inspirationally – sensationally – willing to be an engaged part of humanity.
It could be said that Germany has continued to make reparations for its part in a peri0d of history that is now just that and from which the country immediately and perpetually distanced itself and committed to a very different and exemplary set of values.
And the UK?
Our culture might be summed up in matters to which we all – by default, subscribed and are subscribing.
The Mediterranean island of Malta was devastated by attacks inflicted upon it in the second World War because of its relationship with Britain and the strategically vital base it offered to our navy and air force. After the war, the Maltese asked for British citizenship. Instead of that we gave the entire island a medal – the George Cross and to our shame, continue to celebrate our munificence in so doing.
The Gurkhas gave their strength, their redoubtability as fighters and their lives for Britain. They too wanted citizenship. After decades of hardship inflicted upon them by our refusal to recognise with gratitude a debt of honour, we gave them far too little far too late – and congratulated ourselves.
Today, those who acted as translators for our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan are left unprotected from murderous revenge in the aftermath of our withdrawal. These few vital supporters of our military effort have asked for British citizenship in the clearest possible case of need for asylum. We have not offered it and some – and members of their families – have died, with others already at risk.
The spirit and the example of Germany are well worth absorbing and taking to ourselves.