Beyond the Swastika

Beyond the Swastika

Beyond the Swastika

Beyond the Swastika


Since unification, fears of resurgent German nationalism have mounted. In particular, many believe united Germany is reverting to a xenophobic nationalist stance to deal with the increased pressures of migration unleashed by the raising of the Iron curtain. Peter O'Brien argues that these fears are exaggerated. He documents a longstanding, steadily increasing, commitment to the liberal principles of the Basic Law in the Federal Republic's policies, which protect foreigners against hostile German nationalism. O'Brien goes on to criticize the very entrenched liberalism which holds German nationalism in check. He traces among German political elites the appeal and uses of 'technocratic liberalism' - an overzealous protection of Germany's liberal democracy which, paradoxically, prevents minority groups from achieving full rights of political participation. Beyond the Swastika is both unconventional and original. Peter O'Brien resists the widespread alarmist temptation to distort the political influence of German nationalism and instead uncovers sources of inequality in German liberalism which have until now gone unnoticed.


We seek not a German Europe, rather a European Germany.

(Helmut Kohl)

The Chancellor’s paraphrase of Thomas Mann’s statement tellingly reveals the nagging question surrounding united Germany. the renunciation of a ‘German Europe’ is plainly designed to allay ubiquitous fears of resurgent German nationalism—of a Germany now proud, strong, and bossy enough to dominate Europe again. the pledge to a ‘European Germany,’ by contrast, is meant as a warranty of unswerving German liberalism—of a democratic, dependable, conciliatory Germany dedicated to European integration. No one, least the Germans, doubts that united Germany will lead Europe in the future. But Angst abounds over whether Germany will lead the Continent backwards to the Europe of yesteryear, ravished by destructive nationalism, or forwards to a harmonious Europe of tomorrow which finally realizes the best of its lofty liberal tradition.

This grave concern over the tension between nationalist and liberal trends is hardly unique to the newly united Germany. Since the Second World War, it has been common to read all of modern German political history as a profound and protracted struggle between the opposing forces of

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