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Turningpoint Srebrenica

Massgrave near Srebrenica
In August 1995 Serb forces overran the Bosnian city of Srebrenica and executed
nearly 8000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. Photo: Source unknown

In 1995 the Bosnian war reached its tragic climax: Serb forces under General Ratko Mladic overran the UN-protected safe-haven Srebrenica and killed some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys.

The singular magnitude of the Srebrenica massacre jolted many Germans - including Joschka Fischer - and forced them to abandon their objections to intervention on behalf of the Bosnian Muslims. More broadly, it set Germans to rethinking the roles that Europe, and Germany as part of it, should play in the world.

Within the Greens this debate was particularly polarizing. In an open letter, Fischer reversed his own position and exhorted the Greens to wake up to the reality that international policy in Bosnia had failed. He argued that the Greens' nonviolent options –  tighter sanctions, further negotiations, more humanitarian aid – were paper tigers in the face of full-blown war and the deliberate ethnic politics that fueled it. "Are pacifists prepared to accept the triumph of brutal, naked violence in Bosnia? What should we do when all existing [non-military] means to stop military violence have been exhausted?" The Greens – above all, the Greens – Fischer argued, can't stand by and watch as whole populations are ethnically cleansed, and men herded into concentration camps and slaughtered. His arguments differed little from those that Cohn-Bendit shouted in his direction a full two years before.

Srebrenica changed the attitude of many of the emerging opinion makes in Germany on the use of armed force.

[pp. 247-248]

Joschka Fischer and the Making of the Berlin Republic. 2007. [Oxford University Press]

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