Interest groups and supra-state – The Europanization of World War veterans and European integration in die early postwar period

Research groups - Democracy and statehood
Start of project: April 2021

The project analyzes the relationship between West German and French veterans associations on the one hand and European integration on the other. Its work is based on broad concept of integration, which included plans for a European Defense Community just as much as the Western European Union in the frame of NATO. In the 1950s, veterans Europeanized, which manifested inter alia in the foundation of European umbrella associations. The context of integration politics is one factor explaining this; at the same time, the veterans' Europeanization should be grasped as a process with its own dynamics.

The project is located in historical research firstly on the political role of veterans and secondly on European integration. The first is captivated by the impression of an apparent contradiction: While the interwar years are full of examples of a radical threat to the European republics emanating from organized veterans (think of the "Stahlhelm" or the "Croix de Feu", for example), there were no such threats in the postwar. The Europeanization under analysis in the project may help to resolve this tension.

Concerning European integration, the project follows several trends aiming to historicize European union beyond the heroic narrative of the European institutions from Monnet to Delors. By analyzing allegedly marginal actors and taking their concepts seriously as European claims of their own right, the project can contribute to this agenda.

The project is about actors who address the state in the expectation (or the illusion) of its supranationalisation. Several tensions lay in the uncertainty of the moment, in the interplay between expectation of and actual integration and the unpredictability of the success and failure of integration politics. In studying these tensions, much can be learned about the experience of statehood at the time of its Europeanization.