- 08 Feb 2024 10:20 am CET
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He witnessed the highlights: the Élysée Treaty between President Charles de Gaulle and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in 1963, the historic handshake between President François Mitterrand and Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Verdun in 1984. But he also followed the dissonances.
Alfred Grosser observed and analyzed Franco-German relations for over 50 years. Now the political scientist, publicist and specialist in Franco-German issues died in Paris on Wednesday, just a few days after his 99th birthday.
Grosser had made Franco-German understanding his life's work. In his numerous publications, the intellectual, who was born in Germany and emigrated to France, fought against clichés. He tried to explain Germany to the French and France to the Germans. He was an observer, advisor and mediator. His credo: to enlighten with warmth and reason.
The academic with Jewish roots not only met politicians from both countries, but also visited numerous school classes, because for the political scientist, the Franco-German Youth Office was the "most beautiful child of the Élysée Treaty". It was founded in July 1963 and emerged from the Franco-German friendship treaty signed a few months earlier, on January 22, 1963, which is considered a milestone in the reconciliation of the once hostile countries.
He took a sober view of Franco-German relations
Grosser was not a soft-spoken man. He observed the Franco-German relationship with a great deal of distance. When signing the Élysée Treaty in 1963, de Gaulle was not primarily interested in rapprochement, but in using the treaty to remove West Germany from the US sphere of influence.
Even decades later, he took a very sober view of relations. In an interview with the Deutsche Presse-Agentur in Paris on his 95th birthday, he explained that relations between Germany and France would no longer play a central role. His reasoning: there were other, new issues that had become more important. In his opinion, these included relations with the USA and China.
The intellectual did not mince his words, whatever the topic. His no to Turkey joining the EU was categorical: "Switzerland has all the advantages without the disadvantages. And Turkey wants that too, but without political co-responsibility," he said. He called the solidarity march following the attacks on the Paris editorial offices of the satirical magazine "Charlie Hebdo" in January 2015 a hypocritical parade. He found it ridiculous that politicians from Ankara and Moscow took part in the large-scale anti-terror demonstration for press freedom.
Supported Günter Grass in his criticism of Israel
In the heated debate surrounding Günter Grass' criticism of Israel and his political poem "What must be said" from 2012, he sided with the German writer, who died in 2015. In the poem, Grass had called on Germany to stop supplying submarines to Israel because otherwise the Iranian people could be wiped out. The Israeli government was being provocative, Grosser said at the time, and supported the Nobel Prize winner for literature.
Grosser has been labeled an anti-Semite at least since his book "From Auschwitz to Jerusalem" was published in 2009. In the book, he explained to Germans why they should be more critical of Israel. Few thinkers were so consistent in their convictions. But for Grosser, there was no enlightenment without criticism. Back then, when France was torturing and destroying villages in Algeria, he condemned the French with the same sharpness with which he criticizes Israel today, he explained his opinion.
A look at his biography may help to explain his critical stance. Grosser was born on February 1, 1925 in Frankfurt am Main and emigrated with his family to France in 1933, where he was granted French citizenship four years later. He converted to Catholicism almost five years later.
The Franco-German journalist studied political science and German language and literature in Paris. From 1955, he taught at the renowned Institut d'études politiques de Paris and wrote political columns for numerous newspapers. He once said of his relationship with Germany and France: in France he was part of it, in Germany he accompanied it from the outside.