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Related Categories: U.S. | Anti-War
Remembrance culture and the Cold War
by Peter Wahl
Saturday Feb 27th, 2021 10:14 AM
"No to racism, anti-Semitism, the production of images of the enemy, and the slandering of history!"
Russia is once again declared the enemy, but at a rapid pace now so is China. The new Cold War seems unstoppable. Enemy images are marked by a simple binary world view. The enemy is portrayed as completely evil, and we are the good guys."
Remembrance culture and the Cold War
By Peter Wahl
[This article published in Feb 2021 is translated from the German on the Internet, Ossietzky | Erinnerungskultur und Kalter Krieg.]

Under the title "No to racism, anti-Semitism, the production of images of the enemy, and the slandering of history!", the globalization-critical network Attac has issued a remarkable statement on Auschwitz Memorial Day that has caused quite a stir (for the wording, see: https://www.attac-netzwerk.de/pg-europa). In the meantime, versions in Japanese, Dutch and English are circulating on the Internet. The text also made the rounds at the virtual World Social Forum. Apparently it hit a nerve.

It goes well beyond what is normally heard on this occasion. Without questioning the singularity of the Shoah, it also refers to the other groups - Sinti, Roma, disabled people, Soviet prisoners of war - who became victims of the murder machinery. The declaration thus sets an example against the exclusionary appropriation of memory that characterizes the official culture of remembrance and which largely ignores the war of extermination in the East.

The war in the East was also highly racially motivated. The basis was the ideology based on racial biology: The Nazi leadership wanted to enslave and destroy the "Slavic subhumans" in order to create new "living space for Aryan master race" in Eastern Europe. In the General Plan East, the extermination of 50 to 60 percent of the Russians in the European part of the Soviet Union was planned; another 15 to 25 percent were earmarked for expulsion behind the Urals. For the psychological preparation of the population for war, the ideology of the "Jewish-Bolshevik world conspiracy" played a major role.

However, the statement does not only treat Auschwitz as a historical event from a bygone era, but also establishes a connection to the intensification of the new Cold War, which is especially noticeable in these days. Since the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz coincided this time with the controversy surrounding the Nawalny case, the text took on topical explosiveness. Regarding the handling of the major media, the statement says: "As soon as it comes to the 'external enemies,' they often engage in state-supporting court reporting and hardly ask critical questions anymore. Unverifiable statements by intelligence services suddenly become sources of unquestioned truth. The most recent examples are the grotesque stagings surrounding the Skripal and Nawalny cases." It shows some courage to swim against the tide in this way at a time when a media steamroller once again wants to give the country a pensée unique.

Russia is once again declared the enemy, but at a rapid pace now so is China. The new Cold War seems unstoppable. But enemy images, according to the explanation, "are characterized by a simple, binary world view. The enemy is portrayed as completely evil, and we are the good guys." As an example, in connection with the Russian Corona vaccine, the daily newspaper DIEWELT (Nov. 4, 2020, p. 10) is quoted: "Even if a Russian product can keep up with international competition, the stamp of Russian remains a stigma." Attac comments, "The quality of such a statement is fully revealed when one imagines that instead of Russian, there would be American or even Israeli."

It is also interesting how the globalization critics describe the way enemy images work: "The enemy image always includes an idealized self-image." Taking the narrative of so-called European values as an example, they say that this "amount[s] to Eurocentric superiority thinking. Of course, values such as democracy and human rights - including those of the second generation, economic, social and cultural human rights - have universal validity as normative models. But it is precisely this universal validity that is undermined when it is selectively handled in international relations and instrumentalized for geopolitical interests. Compared with Saudi Arabia, Russia's position on democracy and human rights is quite different. Nevertheless, close economic, political and military relations are maintained with Riyadh, while Cold War is waged against Moscow." In this way, images of the enemy and the matching self-images would become the ideological basis for confrontation and readiness for aggression.

Since the leadership of the former peace party Bündnis 90/Die Grünen plays a prominent role as agitators in the current escalation of the confrontation with China and Russia, the reference to its predecessors is fitting: "Already the unscrupulous misuse of Auschwitz to justify the war against Yugoslavia in 1999, which was contrary to international law, by the then Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer was a shocking relativization of the Holocaust. This was followed by the secession of Kosovo, the first time since 1945 in Europe that borders were changed by military force." At the same time, long before the Ukraine crisis, NATO's eastward expansion had ruined the chances for a zone of security and cooperation from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

The text's critique of the EU's history policy, which sometimes more subtly, sometimes more crudely revises historical facts, is also accurate. Among the more subtle falsifications is the declaration from Brussels on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz that the camp was "liberated by the Allies." Ursula von der Leyen already wants to erase the name Red Army from history, because that could disturb the so assiduously cultivated image of Russia as an empire of darkness.

Attac counts the European Parliament's resolution on "Remembering Europe's Past for Europe's Future" of September 2019, in which "the Second World War is distorted into a joint project of Hitler and Stalin, among the cruder historical cliticizations. This is a scandalous relativization of German responsibility for the war." Yet, he said, one does not have to be a historian to recognize that an agreement reached a week before the war began could not have set the stage for a world war. After all, the statement said, there is sufficient "evidence that Hitler was heading for war from the very beginning in order to revise the results of World War I and to subjugate Eastern Europe for 'the master race' and 'the people without space.' (...) The chain of evidence ranges, among other things. from his work 'Mein Kampf' and the delusion of the Jewish-Bolshevik world conspiracy, to the massive rearmament after 1933, the intervention of the 'Legion Condor' on the side of the troops of the fascist General Franco against the elected government in Spain 1936-1939, the annexation of Austria in March 1938, the occupation of the Sudetenland in October 1938, which France and England had agreed to in the Munich Agreement, the breakup of Czechoslovakia until the decision to invade Poland in May 1939. Germany's sole guilt was also clearly proven in the Nuremberg Trials."

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