In 1945 the Czechs, together with every European nation that suffered under the Third Reich, took their revenge. Up to 14,000,000 ethnic Germans, most of them women and children, were expelled from homes and communities, some of which had been settled since the twelfth century, in the largest such movement in human history. Between 500,000 and 1,500,000 died * - of cold, hunger, mass murder, locked in cattle trucks or confined in the concentration camps that had just been liberated. This ethnic cleansing was carried out under the noses of and with the full knowledge and consent of the allies. The extent of this shameful post-war inhumanity is little known, even in Germany. For my young German chums it puts into context oral history from older relatives, post-war episodes they had regarded as isolated incidents, as this post-war ethnic cleansing is barely taught in German schools for fear of stoking the embers of German nationalism.
In our own lifetime's experience we have seen in the Balkans how swiftly Europe can return to savagery and primitivism; friends and neighbours, who had lived together for generations, turned on eachother on ethnic lines. The men shot, the women and children turned out on the road, their homes looted.
It is not hard to understand why a resurgence of nationalism is so feared in Europe. It's something one can't see from the British Isles - but living here, it's easy to understand why ethnic nationalism, identitarianism and the like are so readily suppressed, so deeply distrusted. Take a look at this extract from a pre-1914 ethnographic map of Europe;
And although I can understand why many of those who support the EU do so because they believe the EU's open borders, Shengen and freedom of movement can return us to those idyllic halcyon pre-1914 days of no passports and live where you will, too much has changed for that ever to be possible again. The twentieth century and its post-war ethnic cleansing established national identity more strongly than ever before; in the 19th century, Europe was an ethnic and linguistic hotch-potch. At the end of the twentieth a Ruthenian of German origin and a South Tyrolean of German origin could not even talk to one another.
And now in the twenty-first century we walk a razor edge between proper patriotism and dangerous nationalism, between beneficent internationalism and destructive globalism. Already, the anti-tourist graffiti is going up on walls from Venice to Valencia, and the knuckle-dragging ethnic purity thugs are pulling on their boots.
The EU changes course more slowly than the largest supertanker. The longer Brussels pursues the notion of a homogeneous Europe, a Europe devoid of national identities, the more they stoke the dangerous fires of nationalism in Europe's nations. Ever closer union - or attempts to force it on the people of Europe - can have only one outcome that I can see, and that is the conflict that for seventy years we have avoided, through NATO and consumer capitalism. Please God they see their folly before it's too late.
*Orderly and Humane - The expulsion of the Germans after the Second World War, R.M. Douglas, Yale University Press, 2012