“On Germany”

Reconciliation is a familiar theme to the various regions of Europe, where a past of extremely violent conflict still very much determines the outlook on other peoples and other nations. And reconciliation is a complicated theme for religious and less religious people alike, there is no need to explain things in great detail. This is not only true for the Balkan or Eastern Europe. Fifty years of German-French reconciliation ends in an “Aesthetic ruin park”, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recently wrote. On 8 April 2013, F.A.Z. explained to its readers, how the exhibition “De l’Allemagne, 1800-1939. German Thought and Painting, from Friedrich to Beckmann” (Louvre, 28 March-24 June 2013) had caused outrage. Marking the 50th anniversary of the French-German reconciliation, the Paris exhibition is now subject of growing German-French controversy.
It is all somewhat understandable, I think. First, there is the main title, which clearly refers to the start of World War II (1939) and the essay De l‘Allemagne (1810), in which the French Mme de Staël idealised Romantic German culture. Thus, the main title repeats the well known cliché that, in fact, this strand of German culture inevitably lead to the gas chambers. Furthermore, the notion of “German Thought” in the subtitle inescapably reminded me of Nazism. The way the exhibition is organised (it is divided in two categories: “Dionysian” (ecstatic) and “Apollonian” (rational)) also points in that direction, F.A.Z. claims. Indeed, this distinction (by Friedrich Nietzsche) made me think of the murderous concentration camps: emotionality beyond control, exaggerated rationality culminated in the industrial way of killing Jews and other “undesirables”.
Meanwhile, there is an important and harsh lesson to be learned; one which the French somehow forgot. No culture cures man of his nature! Modesty is required, because violence is in our nature and it is often difficult to do the good thing. Therefore, it will always be complicated to put reconciliation into practice. To cite one of the more important reasons: because we see each and every speck in our brother’s eye but not the log in our own (Matthew 7:3).
Read the German language article on the F.A.Z. website “De l’Allemagne” im Louvre. Aus tiefem Tal zu Riefenstahl about the exhibition and the very “Dionysian” picture here above (Franz von Stuck: Kampf ums Weib, 1905).