June 2011 – Jack Granatstein, a member of MLI’s Research Advisory Board, writes a monthly column for the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute. This month, he writes about how the presence of present-day German soldiers at the Menin Gate Memorial ceremony in Ypres, Belgium is a lesson that nations can change. An excerpt below:
But now the Germans are allies of long-standing, fellow members of the North Atlantic alliance, and fighting side by side with Canada in Afghanistan. The Germans there have suffered casualties, but the caveats imposed by their government in Berlin have limited the kinds of operations their troops can undertake, and hence their casualties. The Germans are sometimes said to have had the aggression bred out of them in the years since the cataclysmic defeat they suffered in 1945. The names on the walls of the Menin Gate, like those on the Vimy Memorial and at the Thiepval Memorial on the Somme in France strongly suggest that this may not be a bad thing.
Granatstein concludes with:
The Menin Gate ceremony is a touching daily reminder that we ought not forget those who fought and died for their nation. Leopards may not change their spots, but the presence of present-day German soldiers there last week was a lesson that nations can change. Kaiser Wilhelm and Adolf Hitler are long gone, and Germany today is a rich, thriving democracy. If anyone is to bail out the insolvent members of the European Community, it will certainly be Angela Merkel’s country. If any are ever again to struggle to maintain freedom in Europe, it is surely a good thing that the Germans this time will be on the right side.