Harald Welzer in a dispute with Andriy Melnyk

Et is May 8th, the day on which the end of the Second World War 77 years ago is commemorated in Europe. And the day on which Chancellor Olaf Scholz addresses the nation in a speech. He wants to explain himself and the situation. Also, why the federal government has now decided to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine. A few at least. He speaks of “brute force” that “breaks the law”. Two now enemy countries that once fought together against Nazi Germany. Germany was guilty of both. In Germany, May 8 was primarily characterized by two words: never again. Important words that are now being overtaken by the facts that create Putin and his war. One defends law and freedom on the side of Ukraine, says Scholz. However, “thought out” and “carefully weighed” – from a safe distance, so to speak. His office obliges him to do this by oath: to keep harm away from the German people. Despite this, the chancellor says Putin must not win. And that completes the dilemma.

Anne Will had now invited to follow the Chancellor’s words, to interpret them a little and to get to the bottom of the different positions under the supervision of the Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk. A kind of dramatic triangle quickly formed on Sunday evening: the social psychologist and publicist Harald Welzer, who, along with Alice Schwarzer and Gerhard Polt, was one of the signatories of the open letter to the Federal Chancellor warning of a further escalation of the Ukraine war and the delivery of heavy weapons ; Ruprecht Polenz from the CDU, who co-signed the letter from the publicist Ralf Fücks, who in turn advocates continuing to supply arms to Ukraine in order to prevent the success of the Russian war of aggression and Melnyk. The latter, hopefully invited not only because of his reliably robust choice of words, may have felt somewhat out of place as the ambassador of an attacked country in view of the pros and cons, which were eloquent but ultimately abstract from his point of view – even if he repeatedly protested that he was happy to be invited this May 8th. His comment that “people are dying in Ukraine every day” led not only Anne Will’s show, but also every talk show at the moment, to absurdity forever.

“We will not make ourselves a war party”

And maybe that’s why the SPD general secretary Kevin Kühnert felt visibly “uncomfortable” and didn’t feel like doing “exegesis”, while the parliamentary group leader of the Greens, Britta Haßelmann, always with a look at Melnyk, waiting for the effect of her words, mainly talked about it how important it is to talk about it.

But it’s in the nature of German talk shows that people keep talking anyway, about how they talk and write. “Highly indifferent,” was Welzer’s verdict on the chancellor’s speech. Polenz saw “nothing entirely new” in Scholz’s speech, so it was up to the SPD member who had once tried to prevent Scholz as chancellor from filling his words with life. He referred to the unshakeable principles made strong by Scholz and his party, at least one of which – “we are not making ourselves a war party” – raises the slightest doubt as to whether “we” even have it in our hands.

Melnyk, who has been missing concrete help from Germany since the beginning of the war, explained that seven self-propelled howitzers was a very “good decision”, but that “heaven and hell” should be set in motion. According to the survey, however, 45 percent of Germans are against it, also because there is a fear that Putin will also move heaven and earth to achieve his goals.

Philosophizing in the professor’s room?

There was plenty of exegesis after all: what was the ultimate purpose of the letter signed by Welzer and vehemently defended here? A surrender of Ukraine? No, Welzer started to declare an armistice that could become the basis for possible negotiations – but Anne Will actually didn’t really let anyone finish speaking that evening and improved or made translation offers where she felt it was necessary. From time to time she also had to slow down Melnyk, who accused Welzer of finding it easy for him to “sit in his professor’s room and philosophize”. And so things got even more complicated when the latter cited the aftermath of the war of German families to justify his position and went as far as the Weizsäcker speech of 1985 – “May 8 was a day of liberation”; acknowledged by Melnyk: “I’m not a student”.

In this confusing situation, between the historical guilt towards Ukraine, which was also addressed by the Chancellor and Melnyk, the strategic demand to use weapons to balance the imbalance in the military forces and the fear of an escalation of the war through precisely those arms deliveries, we talk for ten minutes all mixed up before the end. Polenz’s reference to the fact that things could of course escalate if Putin gets away with everything is almost lost.

The only thing that is certain is that, for the first time in a long time, the words “never again” are linked to the question of what one is willing to do for it. Or as Melnyk puts it more sharply: This kind of memory policy is now being “put to the test in Ukraine”. So that evening one witnessed how two logics collided: the logic of a country at war with Russia. And the logic of a country that does not want to get involved in a war with Russia. The question remains: how much room for maneuver is there between “never again” and this new war?



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