The whole Mankind over time has suffered a good deal from the effects of nationalism – and is indeed still suffering from it. Mistrust, hate, conflicts and even wars have had their origin in an odd concept that one Nation has more rights than the other, that one nation is superior to the other, that one nation is more beloved by God than the other and so on... In the 20th century the concept of “race” was added to this and thus a most contemptuous and deadly mixture was born.
In Freiburg the main shopping street in the town centre lately was completely restructured. At one end of this street there used to be a place called “Siegesdenkmal” (Victory Monument) located next to the “Karlskaserne” (Charles’ Barracks – built in 1773). The Siegesdenkmal was erected in 1876 to commemorate the victory of the German troops over the French in 1870/71 – in fact the last war that Germany ever won. But the monument was not to be seen on that place for several years. After the Second World War the place was transformed into a large and exceedingly ugly traffic roundabout and the Siegesdenkmal itself was erected some 150 meters west of its original location, quite out of sight really.
Within the last two years the roundabout was removed and the Siegesdenkmal was finally brought back to its old and rather prominent location. But this only happened after a lot of quite controversial discussions in the citizenship and in the city council. The vast majority agreed that neither the war nor the victory of 1870/71 was something to be proud of. So should we melt down that monument and forget all about it, was the question? The City of Freiburg decided: No! Nationalist madness sadly did happen and this monument should serve as a memento against it. The place has now been renamed to reflect the hope we have for the further relation with our neighbours: Europa-Platz.
So “Once upon a time: Nationalism”? Sadly enough – that is not really the case. There is a disconcerting awakening of Nationalism in many countries of the Western world and it is up to us to stand up for humanity and against nationalism wherever we encounter it.