Monday, February 6

Juan Cruz interviews Géraldine Schwarz “Each voter for an extremist or populist party contributes to the sabotage of European democracy”

She is a journalist, a historian, an intellectual who grew up in the very center of what was the scene of the Second World War. Her knowledge of the dramatic development of that disaster gives rise to her conviction that “history can come back violently in the present.” Geraldine Schwarz She was born in 1974 in Strasbourg, the daughter of a German and a Frenchman, the granddaughter of an industrialist who, in times of Hitler’s power, took advantage, like many others, of the precarious situation of the Jews. From the knowledge of that family experience, and of others that she learned traveling the world, published in 2019 amnesiacs (Tusquets), about those who looked the other way when that dictator launched the anti-Semitic holocaust. He now faces, from the collection of facts of which he was then aware, the analysis of eThis drama that many associate, seeing what Putin does, to the barbarities that Hitler did against the territories at war. We spoke on Skype, she from Berlin. Her countenance is that of a young woman wounded by history.

How does a Central European of your generation contemplate this drama?

Putin’s war makes me think of a book published in the 1960s by the German psychoanalysts Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich, The inability to mourn, a study on the inability of his German patients to accept the defeat of Nazi Germany and the loss of their hopes… Decades after the end of the war, they continued to develop strategies of repression and denial. Only now the patient is Russian and the lost empire is the Soviet Union. We are going through a period in which history seems to resurface violently in the present.

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In the case of Putin, he is also compared to Hitler…

Because Hitler had the same kind of emotional need for revenge, personal revenge. The big difference is the direct reaction of the citizens… On the one hand, I am very sad, of course, that in the 21st century we see repeated autocratic models. And you can see that even though these characters are still living in the past and in the 20th century, people are no longer in the 20th century. In fact, I am very touched by the amount of support given to Ukraine and the values ​​that people hold dear all over the world.

“Putin’s war makes me think of a book by two psychoanalysts, ‘The Inability to Grieve’, a study of their German patients’ inability to accept the defeat of Nazi Germany and the loss of their hopes”

Today there are fewer amnesiacs…

There are still amnesiacs, people who have power and become amnesiac when they rule… A year ago I didn’t feel so optimistic, but I am very positively surprised by the mobilization of citizens, because I had the feeling that we live in an era in which people it is only capable of mobilizing for individual liberties. It could also be seen during the pandemic throughout Europe. People even reduced the value of freedom against the protection of their own egoism or individual privileges.

“What happens shows that history can come back violently like a boomerang”

Germany was hesitant, at the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine, about sending weapons… Now it is with the rest of Europe.

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I think we are experiencing a real change when it comes to German foreign policy. It is a big step to unlock 100 billion euros for the military budget. The Germans continue to fear that, in the future, they may once again be on the wrong side of history. This is the reason why Germany refuses to have the nuclear bomb. Former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt once said: “I’d rather negotiate a hundred hours for nothing than shoot for a minute.” That’s how I was raised. But we have to face a new reality: although the majority of the world’s peoples, including the Russians, want peace and freedom, they are often led by political leaders who do not care in the least about the citizens and become autocrats like Putin. With those leaders who live in a world of paranoia and lies, negotiation is useless. However, none of us in Europe can stand alone against this autocratic wave from Russia and China. We have to stay together, united. I am very moved by the mobilization of the European people in support of the Ukrainians. It shows that we are still capable of fighting for collective freedom, and not just when our petty selfish privileges are at stake (eg the anti-vaccine movement).

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How do you feel, as a person, seeing the images, reading the stories of what happens?

The fight against autocrats like Putin begins in European countries, standing up to political parties and their accomplices who try to sabotage Europe, our democracies and our freedoms from within. They use the values ​​of tolerance and freedom to destroy them, step by step. We are under the illusion that our institutions will withstand any assault from within. But you can destroy a democracy and Europe from within; It’s what Hitler did. Every voter of an extremist or populist party contributes to this sabotage…

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