Adenauer, Konrad: End of Nationalism

[From “World Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All”; transl. Richard & Clara Winston; © Harper & Brothers, New York 1955]

THOUGH IT IS often said that mankind is incapable of learning from history, this is not absolutely correct, to judge by our German experience.

As a result of the disaster which two world wars have brought to Germany, the great majority of our people have consciously or intuitively realized that nations cannot continue to live exclusively according to their own desires and inclinations, but must merge their interests with those of the other peoples of the world. There is no longer any important problem which is only a German or even only a European one. We must learn to think and to act in larger terms.

The saying “We are all brothers!” is not an empty phrase and must never be allowed to become one. We must not think of certain countries as far away and therefore of no interest to us. Every country concerns us, for peace is indivisible and unless every country, in its decisions and acts, takes thought of the state of the whole world, this peace will never come.

What happens in East Asia concerns us every bit as much as what happens on our borders. When it comes to the repercussions of political events, East and West are connected by a direct line.

We are not alone. We are needed in the world, but still more we need the world. We are harshly misjudged by those people who say our present foreign policy is an attempt to bargain with the West at a point when she needs every ally she can get. On the contrary, we realize very clearly that purely national-political advantages, which have no bearing on the larger interdependency in which we all live, will do us no good whatsoever. It is not only a question of political problems. In the economic and cultural sphere as well we are no longer alone. In the long run, nobody can exist relying only on himself. This holds true for both the East and the West.

The present-day world situation is such that one can only serve the interests of one’s country by acting in concert with other countries. Old-fashioned politics whereby a great nation maintained its supremacy or enforced its will on others on the basis of sheer power is a thing of the past, for every country.

The age of national states has come to an end. Everyone must feel that a change has taken place, that an era has vanished and that a new age is dawning in which men will look beyond the borders of their own country and work in fraternal co-operation with other nations for the true aims of humanity. Whoever fails to realize this is beyond help. This very task and the construction of a Europe dedicated to this goal afford a great mission for German youth. And when this Europe, this new Europe, is built, our young people will once more find scope for active and peaceful lives.

We in Europe must break ourselves of the habit of thinking in terms of national states. As a result of the last war and the technological development of weapons, the strides of technology in general, a set of completely new conditions obtains in the world.

If the political and military implications of the recent H-bomb tests would induce the Soviet regime to reconsider its own position, we might well see a new chapter in East-West relations. First, however, the West must organize itself in full consciousness of its strength. In Europe the answer is integration. The process of integration, which in my opinion is the great movement of our time, is also a process of regeneration.

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