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The Ordering of a Superstate

GermanForeignPolicy.com [1]

BERLIN/MAGDEBURG
(Own report) — The medieval, Europe-wide Ger­man Reich is a valid mod­el for the union of Euro­pean coun­tries today. So says the Berlin State Min­is­ter for Cul­ture, Bernd Neu­mann. Accord­ing to him, the mem­o­ry of the Holy Roman Empire of the Ger­man Nation reveals “an inner his­tor­i­cal con­sis­ten­cy” with the found­ing and steady expan­sion of the Euro­pean Union. These remarks are a prepa­ra­tion for the fes­tiv­i­ties in Berlin for the fifti­eth anniver­sary of the Euro­pean Eco­nom­ic Com­mu­ni­ty (EEC), to which the Fed­er­al Chan­cel­lor, Angela Merkel, has invit­ed the Ger­man Pope, Joseph Ratzinger. Ratzinger is a com­mit­ted sup­port­er of the “Impe­r­i­al Ide­al” (Reich­sidee) and is to speak on the “spir­i­tu­al foun­da­tions” of Europe in the Ger­man cap­i­tal. This gov­ern­ment offen­sive to revi­talise the Impe­r­i­al Ide­al will under­line the Ger­man lead­er­ship of the EU and con­firm fears in France, Great Britain and almost all the states of east­ern Europe. Sec­tions of the Ger­man elites are warn­ing against an all-too-pub­lic asser­tion of Ger­man hege­mo­ny.

Great Sig­nif­i­cance
As the Berlin State Cul­ture Min­is­ter Bernd Neu­mann said, the Ger­man Reich of the Mid­dle Ages can “from today’s view­point” serve “as a valid mod­el of the func­tion­ing order of a superstate”.[1] Neu­mann took this oppor­tu­ni­ty when he opened an exhi­bi­tion last Sun­day (27 August) which is ded­i­cat­ed to this sup­posed his­tor­i­cal exem­plar (“The Holy Roman Empire of the Ger­man Nation, 962 — 1806”). Because of the promi­nence of the exhi­bi­tion (part­ly in the state-con­trolled His­tor­i­cal Muse­um in Berlin), the indi­vid­ual stands and total con­tent of the exhi­bi­tion are attract­ing remark­able pub­lic inter­est. The Cul­ture Min­is­ter’s inter­ven­tion has strength­ened the polit­i­cal charis­ma of the exhi­bi­tion. He is a com­mit­ted sup­port­er of the Fed­er­al Chan­cel­lor. It touch­es on “every great trend (...) which makes very clear to us the inner his­tor­i­cal legit­i­ma­cy and con­sis­ten­cy of Euro­pean uni­fi­ca­tion”, said Neu­mann on Sun­day. The explic­it aim of the organ­is­ers is “to exam­ine the past of Old Europe in a time of fun­da­men­tal inner and exter­nal reorientation”.[2] Accord­ing to the organ­is­ers, they have traced “struc­tures and devel­op­men­tal process­es” which are “of great sig­nif­i­cance for the fed­er­al con­struc­tion of Europe”.

The Europe of Tomor­row
The pub­lic ref­er­ences to the struc­tures of the medieval Reich which are evi­dent in Neu­man­n’s posi­tion used to be the province of the extreme right, or con­fined to cler­i­cal-con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles — at any rate since the Sec­ond World War. This was the opin­ion of the CSU (Chris­t­ian Social Union) politi­cian and grand­son of the Aus­tri­an Kaiser, Otto von Hab­s­burg who made it known at the end of the Sev­en­ties that “the Euro­pean inte­gra­tion of our times (...) fol­lows the grand out­line and prin­ci­ples of the Reich, which sur­vived 1806, because they are of last­ing validity”.[3] Sim­i­lar­ly, the Pan-Europa Union, an asso­ci­a­tion of EU sup­port­ers close to the CSU insist­ed that “the eter­nal func­tion of the Reich must be renewed in the Europe of tomor­row in the inter­est of the West”.[4] Sim­i­lar­ly, Joseph Ratzinger, the present Pope Bene­dict XVI acknowl­edged that the ori­gins of today’s EU should acknowl­edge “a com­mon impe­r­i­al ide­al (Reichsidee)”.[5] In recent years, con­ser­v­a­tive news­pa­pers have opened their columns to new advo­ca­cy for the “Reich”.[6]

The Papal Speech
As the Speak­er of the Bun­destag Nor­bert Lam­mert (CDU) has now informed us, he has invit­ed a sup­port­er of the impe­r­i­al ide­al, Joseph Ratzinger, to Berlin next year. The invi­ta­tion was extend­ed to Ratzinger last Mon­day by the Fed­er­al Chan­cel­lor at a recep­tion in Cas­tel Gan­dol­fo. The Ger­man Pope will be in Berlin to attend the fes­tiv­i­ties for the fifti­eth anniver­sary of the Treaty of Rome and will grace the pro­ceed­ings with a speech. The Ger­man press already reports that the reli­gious con­se­cra­tion will val­i­date the Euro­pean Eco­nom­ic Com­mu­ni­ty (EEC) and will be ded­i­cat­ed to “the spir­i­tu­al foun­da­tions of Europe’s polit­i­cal unification”.[7] The invi­ta­tion legit­i­mates the “Reich” con­cept of a sta­ble co-oper­a­tion of Church and State. It will be a par­tic­u­lar affront to France, a founder mem­ber of the EEC. Paris is com­mit­ted to sec­u­lar­ism and the sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State has been a prin­ci­ple of French pub­lic life since the rev­o­lu­tion of 1789.

Cen­tral Europe
The Berlin Cul­ture Min­is­ter’s speech of last Sun­day will also affront those Euro­pean states lying to the east and south of Ger­many’s bor­ders. The Min­is­ter made an obvi­ous allu­sion to Poland and the Czech Repub­lic when he said that the Holy Roman Empire of the Ger­man Nation was “a part of the past of many Euro­pean states”. Accord­ing to Neu­mann “Ger­many and Cen­tral Europe are his­tor­i­cal­ly and cul­tur­al­ly indis­sol­ubly linked together”.[8] By this the State Min­is­ter recalled the ear­li­er Ger­man hege­mo­ny to the east of Ger­many’s present fron­tiers, which the Fed­er­al Repub­lic has tried to reassert since 1990.

Fears
The reawak­en­ing of the Reich myth has run into sharp crit­i­cism. In a press inter­view, the his­to­ri­an Hein­rich August Win­kler point­ed to the sig­nif­i­cance of the Reich myth for Nazi pro­pa­gan­da. Accord­ing to Win­kler it was deci­sive “that the Reich was always some­thing else and more than a nor­mal nation­al state”. When, in 1939, Hitler pro­claimed the Pro­tec­torate of Bohemia and Moravia over the rump of Czecho­slo­va­kia, legal his­to­ri­ans of pan-Ger­man views con­firmed that this act was quite in line with the old Impe­r­i­al ide­al which had always been supra­na­tion­al. Win­kler warns of new ten­sions between Euro­pean states. “Incan­ta­tion of the Reich” would “unavoid­ably cre­ate fears of Ger­man demands if it became again the mod­el for the order­ing of Europe”.[9] As crit­i­cism of the well-know his­to­ri­an Win­kler has been promi­nent­ly pub­li­cised for three weeks, [10] the Min­is­ter’s speech can be clear­ly under­stood as an undoubt­ed­ly inten­tion­al rebut­tal on behalf of Ger­man Reich pro­pa­gan­da.

[1] Kul­turstaatsmin­is­ter Bernd Neu­mann eröffnet Ausstel­lung “Heiliges Römis­ches Reich Deutsch­er Nation 962‑1806”; Pressemit­teilung des Presse- und Infor­ma­tion­samts der Bun­desregierung 27.08.2006
[2] www.dhm.de/ausstellungen/heiliges-roemisches-reich/index_2.html
[3] Otto von Hab­s­burg: Karl IV. Ein europäis­ch­er Friedens­fürst, München/Wien 1978
[4] Monatsin­for­ma­tio­nen der Paneu­ropa-Union, Jan­u­ar 1977
[5] see also Habe­mus Europam [2] and A Son of Ger­many [3]
[6] see also Reich­w­er­dung [4] and Heiliges Reich [5]
[7] Lam­mert lädt Papst in den Bun­destag ein; Frank­furter All­ge­meine Zeitung 28.08.2006
[8] Kul­turstaatsmin­is­ter Bernd Neu­mann eröffnet Ausstel­lung “Heiliges Römis­ches Reich Deutsch­er Nation 962‑1806”; Pressemit­teilung des Presse- und Infor­ma­tion­samts der Bun­desregierung 27.08.2006
[9], [10] “Erste Macht Europas”; Der Spiegel 32/2006