Book project – Workshop I
How do you write the story of European cooperation in infrastructures during World War II? How does it fit into the longue durée of said cooperation? When did the war start, when did It end? How do you talk about cooperation when it is Nazi run? What is cooperation and what is conflict and war? What is continuity and what is a break? How does the story fit into a larger context of the development of statehood and a modern economy as well as European integration?
These and many more questions were on the table in Paris. Once again, the project team had invited researchers from different countries to the German Historic Institute to discuss how to move forward concerning our book project: “Conflict and Cooperation: Cross border infrastructure governance in Europe facing the Second World War”. It is supposed to mirror the three packages of the research project: PTT during the war, PTT in a long-term perspective and a comparison to other infrastructures.
With contributions from Andreas Marklund on censorship and surveillance, Martial Libera on the chambers of commerce, Yves Bouvier on electricity, Guido Thiemeyer on the Rhine commission as well as Jiri Janac on the development of a pan European inland navigation system and Matthieu Flonneau on highways and motorways projects the sectoral comparison seems on a very interesting path – both from the perspective of the war itself as well as from a long-time perspective. Common questions arose: Was there any political idea of Europe behind the different projects or was it rather a “neutral” technical vision that kept the engineers going in the difficult time such as a war? Was the Nazi regime simply a new framework for integration? Or was the war maybe not even important and did the inner workings of the cooperation not change too much? These seem the crucial questions to which the book project attempts to find an answer.
After a long day of discussions, the outcome was clear: We need to find a common language as well as common definitions of cooperation, conflict and war. Furthermore, the periodization of the war remains an essential challenge in order to work towards a comparative time framework.