I will, of course, be supporting England against Germany on Tuesday. But that doesn’t make me even remotely anti German. On the contrary it is a country I have come to love, as well as admire.
My first trip abroad on my own, I had just left school, was in 1964. On a student rail pass I traveled by train along the Rhine to the Nurburgring to see the German Grand Prix. Since then I have been back countless times – I met my future wife in Berlin in 1968. After reunification we walked through the Brandenburg Gate – something that thirty years earlier in a divided city we had been unable to do.
I have visited Germany frequently on business and in more recent times I have enjoyed concerts and opera across the country. I have taken an interest in German culture and history. The most remarkable part of the history of modern Germany is the post war recovery – not just economic but moral. The book “Learning from the Germans” by Susan Neiman shows how the Germans have addressed their past by being open about it. She suggests that the United States (slavery and racism) and the United Kingdom (Empire) could do the same. I agree.
Today Germany sets Britain a model that we could do well to follow. They embrace their Europeaness whilst we reject ours. They are a civilised, modern country which copes well with the challenges inherent in their multiculturalism. They have marginalised their Right Wing extremists whilst some of ours are in power , or close to it. They are welcoming whilst we close doors and, understandably, they eschew nationalism whilst we embrace it more every day. They have learned from their past ( Aus Schaden wird man klug*) whilst too often we are still living in ours.
*Failure makes you smarter.