By Horst Tippkötter
2014 – what a year it was, for my families in Germany, England and Sweden, for our countries and for Europe!
To start on a positive, optimistic, confident note: We were surprised by joy because a healthy, pretty, very sweet little baby boy was born to my son and his wife. His name is Florian Rafael, and he will be baptised after Christmas. How wonderful, how encouraging, particularly for the grandparents, who don’t bear the immediate responsibility for the babies and their upbringing – for Opa and Grandma or, to use the Swedish expressions,“farfar”( father’s father) and “farmur”(father’s mother) and, of course, for “murfar” and “murmur” as well.
2014 has also been the year of many anniversaries, particularly of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, as we say in Germany, or The Great War as it is called in England.
I have been reading extensively about the causes of this “Urkatastrophe”, of this catastrophy of catastrophies, always hoping to learn more about its causes, learning the lessons that this tragic chapter in the history of our two countries could and should teach us.
The Sleepwalkers. How Europe Went to War in 1914 , written by the Australian, Christopher Clark, Professor of History at the University of Cambridge, was the most inspiring and helpful book that I have been reading and studying on this topic.
In due course, in the wake of the Elections to the European Parliament in May 2014, my English wife Patricia and I visited the battlefields of the Somme in Rancourt, France, to remember my uncle Heinrich Horstmann, my mother’s eldest brother who was killed in action on July 1st, the first day of the battle of the Somme…We remembered him, as well as the more than 800.000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who lost their lives and all the others from so many nations who were happy before the war ate them up, cannon fodder…
Helmut Kohl, the great German Chancellor, always insisted, that Europe is a question of war and peace. For a long time, even to people of my generation, this seemed to be an exaggeration.
Looking at the result of the European election, looking at a wave of surging and resurging nationalism and populism in all our countries, looking at Mr. Putin who obviously wants to re-erect a Russian Empire –“Russia is where Russians live!” – my conclusion as a European who has family in three countries is clear:
Don’t believe in pied pipers!
Don’t be afraid!
Keep calm and carry on !
We will sort out our European problems, with patience, tolerance, good will and in a democratic way, and we will remember all those who laid down their lives for their countries, for freedom and peace in Europe.
Dr. Horst Tippkötter (77), former Head of the Werner-Heisenberg-Gymnasium in Leverkusen (1986 – 2001), deputy chairman of the Freundeskreis Bracknell Leverkusen e.V (2001 – 2006), member of the Europa-Union Leverkusen for many years, lives in Bergisch Gladbach and Bournemouth.