Magazine article The Spectator

The German Contribution

Magazine article The Spectator

The German Contribution

Article excerpt

Germans have been in the news lately in the dear old Speccie, and it looks as they will stay there, probably until the year... 3000! Alas, whenever Germans are mentioned - especially in the American press - it is Nazism that first springs to mind. Ralph Raico is a professor of history at the State University of New York, and he kindly sent me an essay of his called 'Nazifying the Germans'. It is an eye-opener. Basically he writes that, whatever else may occur, Germany will be coloured and contaminated by thoughts of the Nazis.

And yet there are 15 centuries of German contribution to European civilisation unequalled by any other country, and that includes Britain and France. Albertus Magnus, Luther, Leibniz, Kant, Goethe, Humboldt, Nietzsche, Weber, Mann, Rilke, Heidegger, Beethoven, Bach, Schiller, Schubert, Schumann, Wagner, Emil Nolde, Holderlin, Rundstedt, Guderian, von Kleist, Manteuffel, Rommel, the list goes on.

Needless to say, this reminds me of the old joke about the Italian who is crying and is asked why. `You see that hospital, that school, that library, that opera house?' he says. 'I built and paid for them. Yet once, only once, I sucked a c-. I am known by everyone as Giovanni the c- s-r.'

It is the same with the Germans. So much opprobrium has come to be attached to almost every aspect of the German past that it is impossible to say anything good about it without being condemned as a Nazi sympathiser. Nonetheless, it is hard not to conclude that the Germany of the past was vastly superior to the one about to dominate Europe for the next millennium. Germans today are whiny, parochial and unenterprising. They have 12 per cent unemployment and the lowest birth rate in Europe. Their army is a joke. German ideas are copied from American liberals. Their courts have ruled it unconstitutional to display crosses in school. It is enough to make a Ludendorff, a Moltke and a Bismarck cry.

Nazism, as far as I'm concerned, was in large part a response to Communism. That and the dishonourable treaty at Versailles, not to mention the disgrace of the German army ordered to lay down its arms on French soil. A decade ago, the learned Professor Ernst Nolte became the target of a campaign of defamation because he asked, `Didn't the Gulag Archipelago come before Auschwitz? …

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