The Legacy of Nazi Occupation: Patriotic Memory and National Recovery in Western Europe, 1945-1965

By Pieter Lagrou | Go to book overview

14
Remembering the war and legitimising the
post-war international order

In strong contrast to the endless controversies over the resistance contribution to post-war domestic politics — restoration or renewal — is the apparent consensus over its contribution to international politics. According to this consensus, European integration is the most enduring ideological heritage that can be credited to the resistance movements. United in their revolt against war, oppression and nationalism, these movements were very early protagonists in the global conflict, in total unanimity after the defeat of Nazism, on the need to build a new Europe based on co-operation between the peoples that had suffered so cruelly in this internecine struggle. The plans elaborated during the war by the underground movement were gradually implemented after the war, and gave birth to the Treaties of Rome and Maastricht. This consensus was of course primarily promoted by pro-European militants, for whom the resistance heroes were a very convenient, noble and consensual set of founding fathers.1 After all, any new nation-building requires some sort of historical legitimisation, and in this respect European federalists are no different from pan-Hellenic enthusiasts 2,500 years earlier, from the heralds of the nineteenth-century nation-states or the apologists of the colonial order. Under this premise, the resistance offered a better common ground than other pretenders — medieval Europe united by one language, one education system and one religion, just as that same religion was losing most of its unifying potential in a European homeland of secularisation, or the Europes of the Renaissance or the Enlightenment, eras of less than edifying dynastic warfare.

More surprisingly, the same consensus applies to most textbooks on the history of European integration and European post-war history in general. Derek W. Urwin's Western Europe Since 1945, probably the most

____________________
1
For recent examples of Europeanist rhetoric, see Europe. Dream—Adventure—Reality (Brussels, 1987); Henri Rieben, Des guerres européennes à l'Union de l'Europe (Lausanne, 1987); Henri Brugmans, L'Idée Européenne, 1920–1970 (Bruges, 1970). For a complete reference, see Pieter Lagrou, 'La Résistance et les conceptions de l'Europe, 1945–1965', in Antoine Fleury and Robert Frank (eds.), Le Rôle des guerres dans la mémoire des européens (Bern, 1997), pp. 137–81.

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