No important decision can be taken in the European Union without an agreement between France and Germany, and any decision can also be canceled when no agreement is reached between the two countries. This is what contemporary political analysts say, but the contradiction between the two countries was in the past much greater and took many linguistic, cultural and political patterns.
The cultural rivalry between Germany and France extends back to a distant history that traces its roots back to the time of war between the Greeks and the Germanic tribes (who settled in southern Scandinavia, northern and western modern Germany, and then expanded south and east), when the Roman general and writer Julius Caesar (died 44 BC) recorded his memoirs of the nine years Which he spent fighting local armies in Gaul (modern France, Belgium and some Switzerland).
The Gauls repeatedly raided Roman lands, especially in 390 BC, and seized Rome itself before receiving a large ransom in exchange for leaving it. On the other hand, the Germanic tribes were more isolated and divided, and because their country was protected by strong natural barriers of the Alps, the Rhine, the Danube, and the rivers and dense forests, the Roman Empire turned its expansionist direction towards Gaul first and reached its climax in Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul in the fifties BC, and these continued. Roman domination over three centuries.
Gaul gradually adopted the Latin alphabet and imbued its people with many Roman customs, mixing their native languages with Latin to produce Old French that developed with the Middle Ages into contemporary French.
On the other hand, Germania did not recognize the Latin letters, and West Germany, known to the Romans as Germania, did not integrate into the empire until the first century AD, and the Romans stopped trying to invade the eastern half of Germany after the disastrous battle of the Teutoburg Forest against the Romans in AD 9.
The roots of the contradiction
The cultural differences between the Greeks and the Germans increased with time, especially in the late Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages, but the Franks or Franks (who are Western Germanic tribes within the alliance of Germanic tribes) crossed the Rhine and settled the northern regions of Gaul, especially during the era of the Roman decline in the fifth century, where They reached the Roman city of Paris and the Frankish Empire extended its grip on large parts of Western Europe after they converted to Christianity, and their king Clovis I (died 511 AD) united all the tribes to establish what became known as a united France for the first time in 486 AD, and made Paris its capital after he was defeated The Romans in the Fifth Century AD.
But France was quickly divided in the ninth century AD, and the north-eastern part of it became the subject of a cultural and political conflict between the western and eastern kingdoms, which developed into the modern countries known as France and Germany.
The rapid rise of Prussia in the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth century changed the balance of power between the German Empire and France, and the Franco-Prussian War flared up in the period between 1870-1871, and modern national sentiments contributed to the increase in hostility between them. Historians and writers in both countries set out to rewrite and interpret history to fit the concept of “genetic hostility” between them.
Enemies by heredity
In a report published in the French newspaper “Le Monde”, author Thomas Wider sheds light on the book “Enemies in heredity” by historians Andreas Wershing and Helen Mayar Delacroix, which deals with the nature of relations between France and Germany over the past two centuries, and the concept indicates a long history of contradiction And hostility between the two European countries.
The historians Wershing and Mayr Delacroix wrote about the recent crisis, saying that “the Coronavirus epidemic has overturned many data that were thought to never change, the first of which is restricting the freedom of movement of people .. Who would have believed that even the governments most associated with this achievement, such as French and German, would be given Closing national borders? Secondly, we find defending financial solidarity … Who would have imagined that Germany, within a few weeks, would support the idea of a common European debt? This represented a real shift compared to the positions that the German chancellor defended in recent years.
Hélène Miard-Delacroix and Andreas Wirsching – Hereditary enemies? A Franco-German dialogue to be published in October by Fayard (fr. De Von Erbfeinden zu guten Nachbarn. Ein deutsch-französischer Dialog published in 2019 by Reclam) pic.twitter.com/M38k6W9TIR
— Florian Louis (@flr_louis) September 8, 2020
The writer adds that understanding the nature of these transformations and positions requires research in history, and this is exactly what the French historian Helen Mayar Delacroix, a professor at the Sorbonne University, and the German Andreas Wershing, a professor at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, did in an interesting book that provides a reading of two centuries of French-German relations .
The book, entitled “Enemies by Heredity,” explains the extent to which relations between the two countries are primarily a matter of rivalry.
According to historians, France was until the second third of the nineteenth century the country that Germany feared, and not the other way around. Because of the history of Louis XIV and then Napoleon, the Germans considered the French as a people “yearning to conquer and plunder,” and it was only after the war of 1870-1871 that France “began to worry about Germany’s aggression.”
Sixty years after Claude Dijon’s famous thesis entitled “The German Crisis of French Thought,” published in 1959, Wershing and Mayr Delacroix clearly explain how the defeat of France in the face of a unified state in 1871 imposed “a structural and iterative scheme in Franco-German relations.” Starting from this date, the two historians assert that the French side “easily stimulates the feeling of threat, consciously or unconsciously.”
From this point of view, the dates of 1918 and 1945 did not fundamentally change this perception, and historians note that “during the 1990 German reunification, this pattern appeared again in an unexpected way, explaining to what extent its imprint remained strong and deep in France’s relationship with its neighbor.”
Compatibility and creation of the Euro
The author adds that in addition to those related to the war of 1870-1871, the pages devoted to the period following the fall of the Berlin Wall are among the most interesting pages of the book. According to the authors, this event led to the lack of the language of dialogue between French President Francois Mitterrand and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, not only because Mitterrand stood against the idea of unifying Germany, but mainly because of the ambiguity of Helmut Kohl’s position on the East German borders according to the Oder-Neuse line that was demarcated. At the Potsdam Conference in 1945.
In fact, that tension did not last long, after the French fear of reuniting Germany on a national basis, as happened during the rule of Bismarck, the two countries quickly turned to the option of rapprochement, and the stage culminated in the creation of the euro, thanks to awareness of common interests, as will be the case again in the spring of 2020, In light of the spread of the Corona virus epidemic.
Hence, the two historians concluded that “this solidarity is also a story of common interests. (…) It is important to recall that, otherwise a superficial vision of the Franco-German bilateral relations will dominate, fed by the old discourse of reconciliation.”