I found this New York Times article especially compelling. It is about the Manthey brothers, Polish Germans expelled at the end of the Second World War. The writer, Richard Bernstein, noted that the brothers are much richer than the the Polish couple that now own their ancestral farm and most of the other people in the community. But the line that struck me was this one, in the last paragraph:

Citizens of a country that disappeared entirely from the map for centuries and where borders have repeatedly shifted may not expect that all the wrongs of the past, not even all those of World War II, can be righted.

What would have happened to the Manthey brothers if they had not left Poland? Would they have stayed on the farm? Would Aloys have become a travel agent? Would they be as poor as the Siejaks, the couple that currently own the farm?

When I was a child, my primary interest in life was history. Whenever I read about countries disappearing or losing large swaths of land, I felt sad - not for the livelihoods and lifestyles displaced and confused people that were affected, but for the "country." While the people gradually became absorbed and assimilated into their new country, up to the point where they or their descendants are able to drive Mercedes SUVs, the world had forever lost places like Navarre, Burgundy, Hesse. I was obsessed with historical maps.

Now, I realize that consolidation (whether that of the German principalities into a nation-state in the 19th century, or the looser concept that is the European Union) is a good thing, regardless of how boring modern maps seem. They produce greater stability and less warfare (which I now realize is nowhere are calm and clean as a number of red and blue arrows). The fact that there are several of these "map changes" are either been forgotten about by the descendants of the people affected (I think it is a miracle that there are not more separatist movements in the world) is a good thing. While it is important not to forget the wrongs of history, it is equally important to move on.