“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. As we prepare to mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings, is Europe’s collective memory getting a little rusty? Few alive today can now personally remember the horrors of the Second World War. Are we in danger of forgetting the lessons of the 20th century and, as the philosopher George Santayana warned, making the same mistakes all over again?

On the one hand, far-right political parties failed to stage a breakthrough in the recent European Parliament elections. On the other hand, however, perhaps the “breakthrough” has already happened; so-called “national populists” are already in government in several EU countries (including Italy and, until recently, Austria). In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Rally party topped the polls. In Spain, the far-right Vox party came from nowhere to claim more than 10% of the vote during the EU elections.

It’s not just the far-right; across Europe, the political centre is crumbling. The many perceived failings of the liberal world order after the 2008 financial crisis have legitimatised failed old ideologies on both the left and right. Furthermore, in a world where truth is relative to our political beliefs, how can shared memory exist?

What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by Nate arguing that, in some parts of Europe, people still have nostalgia (or ‘Ostalgie’) for the ‘good old days’ under Communism. If that’s true then have Europeans, on both the left and the right, really come to terms with their past?

To get a reaction, we put Nate’s comment to Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of European Studies at the University of Oxford. How would he respond?

Nate, I’m sure Europeans are struggling to come to terms with their past. There are two problems: one is forgetting how bad it was, and the other is misinterpreting what happened. And we have both problems with the Communist past and the fascist past. So, actually, facing up to our own past (and also the colonial past) is, I think, a really important part of making a better Europe for tomorrow.

To get another perspective, we put the same comment to Susi Dennison, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations and director of ECFR’s European Power programme. How would she respond?

Has Europe failed to come to terms with its history? Have we forgotten how bad it was? Do we sometimes misrepresent what actually happened? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!

IMAGE CREDITS: (public domain) WikiMedia – Jolove55


17 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Paul

    It’s history isn’t the problem….it’s the future that it’s failing to grasp.

  2. avatar
    catherine benning

    Has Europe failed to come to terms with its history?

    This question is geared at persuading the indigenous population to flagellate themselves in order to repent for ‘historical politicians’ international decisions now creating embarrassment. And of course the tax payer must pay by having ‘less’ of everything they fought and worked for under force. They are clever, I’ll give them that.

  3. avatar
    William

    History as gone it’s in the past , today & the future is what matters plus common sense and not mindless control & conditioning with dump fuck-wit rules and regulations, a little bit of savvy , common sense & a free spirit to open ones mind to a fruitful life 🌈🌎👋 the world is rolling cos it round , not Flat

  4. avatar
    Krzystov

    We will never stand for fascisme anymore!!!!!!! Then why do you let the biggest fascisme that ever existed on the face of the earth invade europe???🐒💨💨💨💨💨💨💨

  5. avatar
    Johan

    U mean the fact that we brought covilization to a large part of the world. That we abolished canibalism child sacrifices, slavery, and so on ? No we seem to have forgot all that

    • avatar
      Volckaert

      Johan – don’t forget to mention at what price : slavery, ban on native culture and religion, segregation etc. etc….. You think colonialism was a good thing, a fair and just way of treating People ?

    • avatar
      Tamzin

      I would disagree, having come from a part of the world where we had civilization until the British started to act as overlords and created a parallel system for their own economy.
      “U” didn’t bring civilization. You destroyed a history of several people, treated them like animals, disdained their future and left them in chaos. In Belgium and in the Netherlands, there were human zoos! What kind of “civilized” people treat other humans like animals? What allowed apartheid if it wasn’t a barbaric system of racism?

    • avatar
      Paul

      Volckaert – colonialsim has its many mistakes and atrocities but reducing it to these mistakes and atrocities is as criminal as only enhancing its civilisational goals and consequences.

    • avatar
      Volckaert

      Paul – I didn’t reduce it , I merely countederd the 100% positive view of Johan

  6. avatar
    Dieter

    Road with Europe only brings misery!!!

  7. avatar
    Philippe

    The EU, since its creation, is a vassalization to the American banks, English banks … It is necessary to leave the EU as soon as possible

  8. avatar
    Gustavo

    What history, the real or the fake masonic “history”?

  9. avatar
    José

    yes if we talk about politics corruption

  10. avatar
    catherine benning

    Has Europe failed to come to terms with its history?

    The sickening event in this question lies in what we are seeing altered in our historial event movies, or, made for television products as they suggest they are revealing our past as it was. For example the common practice is to now alter the racial make up of the people in each historical play or story. Such as, in a Shakespeare play, onto having a large sampling of racial mixes that were not prevalent or indeed written as part of traditional books echoing the historical make up of the day. It’s frightening how the facts are being changed before our eyes. Pre war Russia come to mind.

    Just over this weekend they showed on TV a movie of the book, Vanity Fair. As a person who knows the story well, these changes of characters and races from a staunchly British historical nature to the insincere production it is, was a deliberate move to mislead citizens in a grotesque caricature of the original story and times.

    Long before Hollywood, William Shakespeare wrote historical plays to flatter the Tudor court; Richard III’s reputation has never entirely recovered. Vanity Fair, originally published as a serial in 1847-48, was itself written as a period piece, set in the early 19th century and now changed out of all proportion. A dreadful betrayal of the authors work and imagination.

    This move by those who wish to distort has also been injected for TV commercials. If you came for a visit to the UK you would believe you had stopped over in Africa or India on the way here. They are predominantly made up of ethnic families or people you do not associate with a majority white British population. We are told by our migration watch organisations that the population of our country is 80% white. Whereas TV commercials tell us 80% of our peoples are ethnic non white.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oe2YFPKzfnc

    Today

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1s5Ub8SXxc

    Now I wonder why it is so unrepresentative of our present day UK? Why the advertising organisations want to pretend the country is only representative of London. As if London is the entire standardisation of Britain. It’s similar to representing the murder rate across the UK as being equal to London as that place no longer the ambiance of the UK in general. Not to mention how that particular circumstance has become a daily war zone in head counts. Not at how it is across our nation. Unless, of course, you stay in the capital without visiting the rest we have to offer.

    So, for sure, the UK has and is failing to come to terms with our history. Those in the know are altering the reality of our past and replacing it with a present that also is not representative of who or what we are. In other words, peddling lies to confuse and imprint fantasy, as fact.

    And what do you suggest you are going to do about it? Anything?

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