Thursday 27 October 2016

Germany and the unresolved legacy of World War II

Published 19/08/2016 | 02:30

Polish partisans fire on German troops in 1944, during the brutal Nazi occupation of Poland. Photo: Getty
Polish partisans fire on German troops in 1944, during the brutal Nazi occupation of Poland. Photo: Getty

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has reminded Germany that its debts were cancelled after World War II.

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In June 2011, the historian Albrecht Ritschl stated in his interview for 'Der Spiegel': "With the exception of compensation paid out to forced labourers, Germany did not pay any reparations after 1990 and neither did it pay off the loans and occupation costs it pressed out of the countries it had occupied during World War II."

Germany owes even more to Poland - conservative estimates calculate the loss of 84pc of its infrastructure and 16.7pc of its citizens during the Nazi occupation of the country as the equivalent of $845bn.

The German government hides behind the fact that in 1953 Poland announced that it would unilaterally waive its right to war reparations, but it conveniently forgets that this was only in relation to East Germany and provided that in the event of a reunification, the issue of German reparations from World War II would be revisited.

Is there a way out of this conundrum? In 2005, Jaroslaw Kaczynski magnanimously proposed the so-called 'zero option', whereby both countries would waive all claims, but this was rejected by Angela Merkel.

German philosopher Immanuel Kant claimed that nothing "can be held to be good without limitation, excepting only a good will".

I don't see German politicians preaching Europe solidarity - except when it suits them.

Grzegorz Kolodziej

Bray, Co Wicklow

Poetry ban at the Rose of Tralee

I write to comment on the decision by the powers that be at the Rose of Tralee festival to ban the recitation of poetry by Roses at this year's televised contest. I refer specifically to the recent comments on the ban by Rose of Tralee spokesperson Mr Drummey, suggesting that "poetry had a place in the contest in the "olden days" when "poems were seen as a form of entertainment before all the modern entertainment we now see".

As a poet, I take umbrage with the suggestion that poetry and poems are no longer seen as a form of art or worthy entertainment. It seems a bit strange and incongruent that a festival which traces its genesis to the lyrical verses of the popular iconic rhyming poetic ballad 'The Rose of Tralee' has abandoned poetry, the very basis of its foundation.

Even more interestingly, the poetic ballad that spawned the festival suggests that the literary Rose:

Was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer and 'twas not her beauty alone that won me;

Oh no, 'twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning,

That made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee.

So in essence, it is crystal clear that in pursuit of viewing figures the Rose of Tralee organisers have abandoned the very art form, poetry, that brought about the festival's existence. Are there no sacred cows left in the lexicon of the Irish summer? What's next? Perhaps soon the goat at Puck Fair won't be allowed any more due to some idiotic bureaucratic EU regulations.

Recitation of poems by prospective Roses of Tralee is as emblematic of the month of August in an Irish summer as the Galway Races, the Dublin Horse Show and Wexford strawberries

I call on the organisers to reconsider and revoke their decision to exclude poetry from the contest. If this isn't possible and there are to be no poetry recitations at this year's event, will they forego the singing of the poetic ballad that is the very lifeblood of the festival?

It seems extremely ironic that if it wasn't for the poetic lyrical verse of the ballad of 'The Rose of Tralee', perhaps the festival wouldn't exist at all.

The poet Shelley and many others have suggested that it has been proved time and again in history that poetry is the highest form of art and literature.

In our new culture of TV ratings and false urgency, nothing, even traditional poetry recitation, remains immune from galloping tides of mass popular media.

Paul Horan

Assistant Professor

Trinity College Dublin

State exam body does essential job

Vincent J Lavery (Irish Independent, Letters, August 18) should note that the mission of the State Examinations Commission is "to provide a high-quality state examinations and assessment system incorporating the highest standards of openness, fairness and accountability".

Replacing its professional service with some ad hoc, 'yellow pack' scheme can only have a negative impact on our students.

The grading of State exams is not the makeshift, cheap and cheerful, insecure, three-day process that he seems to envisage.

It is vital that consistency and uniformity be maintained in the correcting.

A script from Donegal must be corrected in exactly the same way as one from Kerry.

The chief examiner and senior examining team meet, develop a draft marking scheme, then pre-test this against a sample of scripts.

The entire marking team then meets for a two-day conference to explore all possible student answers, to practise the application of the marking scheme and correct sample scripts.

Over the next few weeks, the marking team, who are all experienced correctors and subject experts, proceed to correct the scripts while keeping in daily contact with an advising examiner, who monitors their work and recorrects a sample of their scripts to ensure quality control.

The student then receives their grade, confident in the knowledge that the process is anonymous, transparent, fair and up to international standards.

Kevin P McCarthy

Killarney, Co Kerry

Burkini ban: let's be consistent

When I first saw the smiling woman wearing a burkini on your letters page (Irish Independent, August 17) I thought that she was wearing a diver's wet suit.

Maybe, therefore, since both of these costumes seem so similar in terms of appearance, they should both be banned by the Corsican authorities.

After all, if one all-over costume poses a distinct danger, then the other must also.

In which case, divers swimming without wet suits will just have to get used to the cold water for the sake of the perceived safety of the general public.

Seán O'Brien

Kilrush, Co Clare

Irish Independent

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