Lexikon der Christlichen Demokratie in Deutschland

Article excerpt

Lexikon der Christlichen Demokratie in Deutschland. Edited by Winfried Becker, Gunter Buchstab, Anselm Doering-Manteuffel, and Rudolf Morsey. (Paderborn: Ferdinand Schoningh. 2002. Pp. 809.)

At first glance, scholars might be skeptical of this work's scholarly value and integrity, as it is an encyclopedia that largely deals with the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) of Germany and its Bavarian partner, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and is published on behalf of the CDU's own Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, with financial support of the German government. Many of the shorter entries stem from the foundation's staff. One finds, however, a useful reference tool that, by and large, is more accurate and fair than flattering and hagiographie.

The encyclopedia contains a discussion of the term "Christian Democracy," followed by several brief historical essays on the history of Christian politics in Germany, and an extensive timeline.The two largest sections are one of brief biographical sketches of leading German Christian politicians and one of short essays on items relevant to Christian politics. Finally, there are about a hundred pages of tables and lists with statistical data as well as an extended bibliography. all of the authors of the historical essays are renowned German scholars.

The CDU is seen as the necessary culmination of a process by which Germany's Christian Democrats overcame their confessional differences in order to provide a truly viable alternative to both political liberalism and socialism. At times, difficult internal debates, such as the vehement disagreements of the late forties between those who sought to create a party modeled on the British Labour Party, such as Jakob Kaiser, and the more conservative wing under Konrad Adenauer, or the revolt against Helmut Kohl in the late 1990's, are left largely unexplained. (Heiner Geißler's attempt to elect a new party chair is characterized either as a fronde or aputscb.) Similarly, Adenauer's immediate rejection of the Stalin-Note of 1952 is not even mentioned. On the whole, however, the authors are objective in their assessments of the three phases of Christian Democratic development: the Adenauer era, the party's re-orientation in the sixties and seventies, and the Kohl era. Interestingly enough, no parallels are drawn between observations that Adenauer's delayed exit from politics may have done his party more harm than good and the final years of the Kohl cabinet. While Adenauer's failure to develop the party's internal decision-making mechanisms is criticized, Kohl's centralization of power in the chancery office is welcomed as a necessary step in refocusing the energies of Christian Democrats after a decade of internal debates. …