By Dieter Stein
Battle of Leipzig: Paintings of Vladimir Moshkov, 1815 Photo: Wikimedia
More than 6,000 participants will parade on Sunday in Leipzig-Markham in historical uniforms. It is the culmination of the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Nations on 19 October 1813, after three days of bloody struggle ended. It was then the biggest battle in world history, involving a total of about half a million soldiers. About 90,000 were killed or wounded.
It is our through the 20th Century that our shifted perspective that this date has faded in the collective memory. The First and Second World War battles with material and modern weapons of mass destruction have pushed themselves in front. And we tend to forget where our roots are. For our history and the emergence of the German national idea, the Battle of Leipzig is in fact a crucial turning point.
Moving away from a no longer viable medieval order
The Holy Roman Empire of the German nation, fragmented into many small units, had more than 300 countries before Napoleon's troops occupied it. Under the rule of the French dictator, he forcibly reduced the number to 60. Napoleon provoked the Germans to radical reforms and to move away from a no longer viable medieval order.[sic]
The French Revolution was answered with a German one. On the battlefield of Leipzig, the foundation for the unification of German states was placed in a modern nation-state, whose idea until half a century later, in 1871, was implemented in the small German solution under Bismarck.
The idea of German unity was not supported by the majority support from the outset. Parts benefited too much from the fragmentation of the whole. This tendency would revive again and again - most recently after the founding of the German states East and West Germany in 1949, as some of the political class were willing to put up with the final division. It was only the peaceful revolution in 1989 - perhaps not coincidentally - started with demonstrations in Leipzig, that national unity was put back on the agenda.
Not even a commemorative stamp
As enjoyable as many initiatives at the regional level are, and reminiscent of the great historical date of the Battle of Nations, it was reported by Central German Broadcasting in a sort of "live ticker" on the events 200 years ago as if we had lived in the year 1813.
But the most distressing and an expression of our political and historical amnesia, is that the representatives of the country - President, Chancellor, Federal - have not found a way to commemorate the event. Not even a stamp! A national official ceremony attended by representatives of former enemies and allies would have been the least.
Junge Freiheit 43/13
Edit: it was also the continuation of the persecution of the Catholic Church in these countries after Napoleon as well.