Europe seems awash with historical hang-ups. And they are important ones. They may define the continent’s future as much as the outcome of Germany’s current political convulsions, or the state of Italy’s banks, or whether Brexit Britain manages to cobble a transition deal. Large crowds of Greek people recently protested against the use of the name Macedonia by the neighbouring former Yugoslav republic.
In Paris, there is intense debate about whether the writer Charles Maurras, a leading intellectual figure of French early 20th-century ultranationalism and antisemitism and a prominent supporter of the Vichy regime, should be listed among the names to be officially “commemorated” this year (he was born in 1868). Poland’s new law aimed at curtailing any discussion of the role some Poles played in the Holocaust led to a spat with Israel and the US. In Germany, where the far-right AfD holds 94 seats in the Bundestag, a local Berlin politician (of Palestinian family background) last month called for newly arrived migrants to be sent on mandatory visits to concentration camp memorials to assist their “integration courses”.