Can Europeans Remember Together?
Is there such a thing as a common memory in Europe - and do we need it at all? This was the guiding question at the "Youth for Peace" event which opened the EUSTORY Next Generation Summit 2018 and an international youth meeting of the Franco-German Youth Foundation on 14 November in the Bolle Festsäle in Berlin.
The evening kicked off with a video installation in which young people from eight countries talked about the relevance of the topic of war and peace for them today. 500 young people from more than 50 countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa as well as 150 other guests from the worlds of politics, diplomacy, science as well as from the civil society sector followed this emotional start of the evening.
In his welcoming address, the German State Secretary in the Federal Foreign Office, Andreas Michaelis, made a particular plea to avoid black and white pictures when dealing with history in public: there are nuances and shades of gray that we should focus on. Thomas Paulsen, Chairman of the Körber Foundation, emphasised that an open approach to history is an indicator of an open democracy.
In her keynote speech, British author and journalist Afua Hirsch described vividly how her everyday life is shaped by history: from the time of her German-born great-grandfather of Jewish origin who had fought in the First World War to her daughter's history lessons in England. As a British black female with German-Ghanaian roots, she described the hostilities she is exposed to when criticising the historical narrative of her country and, for example, denouncing Great Britain’s obsession with glory. This obsession does not leave room for other aspects such as the suffering of people during the war, she claims.
In the panel that followed it became clear how diverse the perspectives on the history of war and peace in Europe are. The former French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault paid tribute to the path France and Germany have taken in the last hundred years from arch-enemies to friendly and allied states and recalled various milestones in this development. The Latvian EUSTORY Alumna Anete Kalniņa stressed that the year 1918 was by no means associated with the beginning of peace in the whole of Europe, but in the case of her home country meant the beginning of a bloody civil war. She wished for a more common, more unifying view of history for the people of Europe. The German historian Sönke Neitzel considered the chance of this to be rather small. Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Žbanić said that war experiences from a female perspective are lacking in the public discourse. In her opinion, this perspective could contribute to painting a much less heroic picture of war. The young German Julius Niewisch concluded by talking about his experiences as peace ambassador for the Institut Français d'Allemagne.
The opening event "Youth for Peace" was under the patronage of the Federal Foreign Office and the French Mission du Centenaire. It was organised by the Körber Foundation together with the Franco-German Youth Office.
The results of the seven workshops of the EUSTORY Summit will be presented on the afternoon of 18 November 2018 at the Alte Börse Marzahn.
Click here for details of EUSTORY Summit 2018.