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Why, as a Czech, am I so worried about the German Ukraine debate

One thing should be made clear at the outset.

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Why, as a Czech, am I so worried about the German Ukraine debate

One thing should be made clear at the outset. Manifestos as a genre belong in every civilized society. The same also applies to the right to write or sign manifestos. This right is inviolable in both the political and cultural spheres, no matter how clever, inspirational, or even provocative and short-sighted.

I myself had the pleasure of supporting a number of manifestos, both before and after the political change in my country. Incidentally, among these manifestos is one that calls for the Czech Republic to become a monarchy again. Whether I would do it again is hard to say. The fact is that I have other worries today, looking at the current world situation. I am thinking above all of the Russian war against Ukraine.

I'm definitely not the only one with this concern. This is evidenced, among other things, by the debate that flared up in Germany in relation to the “Manifesto for Peace”. It's been a while since this manifesto was published, but it's still making waves - and not only in the media landscape. This manifesto should therefore not be taken lightly, not even in other European countries.

The manifesto, with its request to stop arms deliveries, is aimed at the Federal Chancellor, but as someone who sees himself as a European partner, neighbor and friend of Germany, I would also like to comment on this. That seems to me to be important for my country and me.

I hope that the meanwhile long-lasting, solid and sincere partnership between Germany and its neighboring countries entitles me to react very briefly to the "Manifesto for Peace" - even if I was not asked. I promise I'll be brief.

But before that, I have to make one more remark. In the 1990s, Vaclav Havel, the former president of my country, tried to push the long overdue German-Czech reconciliation forward. He wanted to define what Germany means to us in the Czech Republic. He used two terms at the time. pain and inspiration. In the following twenty years, thanks to the tireless efforts of both sides, we have managed to minimize the pain and even increase the inspiration.

A key part of this inspiration was the way German society came to terms with its own past. In our view, coming to terms with the past, to put it bluntly, had become a special German discipline over the years. We were glad that we could always learn something from Germany, no matter how painful it might be for us.

Now back to the manifesto. I don't want to be unfair, but I have to say that while reading I find references to war history in general, but almost nothing that could be understood as a lesson from modern European history. There is hardly any distinction between perpetrators and victims, and there is no appeal that this time, too, the beginnings – which clearly come from Putin's Russia – should be resisted.

What you find on the other hand is a lot of fear. This fear appears not only as a feeling, but also indirectly as an argument for doing without justice and historical lessons this time.

Being afraid is human, and people are also afraid in the European partner countries. I'm afraid too. But that shouldn't be the reason why, in Germany of all places, in the country of our inspiration, the lessons of coming to terms with the past are being abandoned.

I hope that the public debate will lead to this result. Then the “Manifesto for Peace” – I personally appreciate some of the signatories – could also achieve something positive. Also with us, the European partners.

The author, Tomas Kafka, is the Czech ambassador in Berlin and works as a writer and translator.

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