Is patriotism alive? Does it influence citizens’ historical representations? As for many other issues, George Orwell, during WW II, was lucidly able to anticipate its importance when he said: “One cannot see the modern world as it is, unless one recognizes the overwhelming strength of patriotism, national loyalty. In certain circumstances, it may crumble; at certain levels of civilization, it does not exist; yet as a positive force, there is nothing comparable. Next to it, Christianity and international socialism are weak as hay.”
One can argue that, after WW II, patriotism and its presence in public history remained, generally, a rather old fashioned question until 9/11 (2001), when it came to life again.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper recently published an article by Berlin historian Alexander Demandt which had previously been rejected by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, a conservative political foundation. The following republication of the article by Swiss paper Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) caused a debate. Demandt’s hypothesis: the fall of the Roman Empire provides immediate historical lessons for today’s migrant crisis which must no longer be ignored.
Immigrating Germanic Hordes
In his article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) from January, 21st 2016, Alexander Demandt employs the seemingly matter-of-fact tone of the chronicler to speak of the “end of the old order” without explicitly referencing present-day problems. Those who know Demandt as a theorist of history and as a classicist cannot help being irritated by this text. On the one hand, Demandt should be better aware than anyone else that the end of the Roman Empire was not simply caused by “Germanic hordes”, as he puts it, and by seemingly unmanageable “numbers of immigrants”, but by a number of complex and intertwined factors.