Students lead panel on Germany's modern role and image as a power
On Feb. 11, the Center for German and European Studies hosted "Germany in Europe: Bully or Team Player?" an event that was part of the Germany in Europe Campus Week Series. The event consisted of a student-led discussion of how the modern world perceives Germany and its contemporary politics.
Germany has a complicated history because of its participation in aggressive territorial expansion during World War I and World War II, and especially because of the Nazi party's persecution of Jews, homosexuals and other people they considered undesirable. This event was hosted to see how the student panelists saw Germany, knowing the nation's dark history.
The panel consisted of several students: Leonie Koch '16, a student assistant at the Center for German and European Studies who is from Switzerland; Ana Nioradze MS '15, who is from the country of Georgia; Arina Chithavong '15, who is also a student assistant at the center and is a German citizen; Milena Hakanpaa '17 from Finland; Leia Ruseva '15 from Bulgaria and Berk Sarioz '14 from Turkey.
The event began with Prof. Chandler Rosenberger (IGS), the moderator of the panel. Rosenberger began the event by discussing recent German history from World War II to the present day. He opened the discussion with asking the panel how they, with their very different perspectives, viewed Germany today.
Koch noted that Germans had a sense of guilt after the Second World War and that her father, a German himself, told her when the World Cup came to Germany in 2006, it was "the first time that Germany could truly wave their flag." Koch's personal experience as identifying herself as German means that even today she experiences comments about Nazis. "That has followed Germany for so long," Koch said, "I think that that might not go away."
Nioradze said that she observed that the younger generations of Germans are proud to be German and that World War II was "the problem of their grandfathers." Nioradze said that her friends who are German are "proud of their identity," even the stereotypes such as being punctual. She went on to state that Germany's history "shouldn't affect how now Germany is perceived from other countries."
Rosenberger then proposed a scenario in which the European Union has to organize a peacekeeping mission. He asked the panelists if they would "feel comfortable with German troops in the lead." The question hit upon the idea that Germany may be considered a "bully" in the international world because of its past aggressive pursuit of new territory.
Hakanpaa stated in response to Rosenberger's question that her grandmother told her, in concern to World War II and the atrocities committed during that time, that "it wasn't Germans, it was Hitler." Hakanpaa went on to say that as Germany assisted Finland against Russia and in other troubled times, she would not feel uncomfortable with German troops taking a lead.
Rosenberger then brought the panel's attention to how the world seemed to have a different view of Berlin versus Germany as a whole because of the "alternative lifestyle [and] the party culture" as well as the art scene.
Nioradze noted that in Georgia, there is an association with Berlin with parades and Cabaret and that "there are a lot of things going on." She said that it is popular for young people even from other countries to go to Berlin because of the party culture.
Tamar Forman-Gejrot '16, a student assistant at the center, having grown up in Berlin, admitted that she would "make a point" about being from Berlin rather than from Germany. She said that she found that people responded positively to Berlin because of how everybody sees Berlin as this center of the bohemian lifestyle.
Chithavong said that Berlin is not only a popular tourist spot because of the current city life but it also holds visitors' fascination because of the "historical significance" of Berlin from Nazi Germany and the Berlin wall. Berlin, in her opinion, is a mixture for everybody of Germany's past and present.
In conclusion, Rosenberger asked the panel if they would agree to live in Germany for a period of 10 years, 10 years being a "substantial" amount of time to live there. A majority of the panel said that they would base their opinion on how Germany is not very culturally different from where they're from as well as their enjoyment of German culture.