Near Weisskessel, Germany
By Fabrizio Bensch
Photos of significant gestures between two politicians often mirror the state of the relations between the two countries – and become part of our collective consciousness. As a photojournalist, I am often witness to politicians shaking hands or embracing as part of major engagements. Often it’s daily routine.
However, these days if a German chancellor and a French president reach out for one another, this signifies an important development in international relations – and is a very significant symbol for a united Europe. Historically, relations were dominated by wars – for the generation of our grandfathers and grandmothers, seeing the other country as “the enemy” rather than a neighbor was a defining political and cultural force, which molded everyday actions and experiences.
At the borders where battles used to be fought, we can now pass through freely without immigration control and without having to switch currency. Rather than having francs and Deutsche Marks, French and Germans now both use the Euro. Trade is closely linked. When going shopping in a standard German supermarket, it’s possible to choose from baguettes, different French wines and a large selection of cheeses among other things. It is part of our normality; our everyday.
In the past, Germans and French have fought bitter wars with one another, and many German cities still bear witness to the numerous confrontations.
When Berlin was the state capital of Prussia in 1806, Napoleon led his troops through the Brandenburg Gate to demonstrate his power on his way to Moscow. He never reached Russia, and when his army retreated, it was crushed in the battle of Leipzig in 1813.