What has been the overall effect of reunification on the writing of German history? Some, in particular the young, Cardiff-based historian Stefan Berger, have warned that reunification threatens the plurality of views on German history and poses the serious danger of a return to the narrow concern with national history and national identity which characterized German historiography for two centuries previously. Berger has argued that a ‘renationalization’ of German history is in progress. While some historians, like Gregor Schöllgen and Michael Stürmer, have revived the geopolitical interpretation of German history, according to which Imperial Germany got involved in a world war because it was ‘surrounded’ by hostile powers, others, like Rainer Zitelmann, Ernst Nolte and Christian Striefler, have urged a more positive interpretation of National Socalism as a consciously modernizing force which amounted to a rational and defensible response to the threat of Communism. This in Berger’s view amounts to a ‘torrent of Prussian calls for a revival of “national history”’. It has been aided and abetted by the emergence of a more negative assessment of the Federal Republic, now seen by historians like Karl Heinz Bohrer as a provincial deviation from the mainstream of German national history, created against the Germans’ wishes by the Allies in 1949. German national identity, according to the young historian Karlheinz Weissmann, is based on collective memory and shared German ethnicity—the Volk, in fact: and Weissmann among others has been loud in his calls for Germans to reclaim it, just as others have accompanied this with the argument that the Federal Republic was too subservient to ‘the West’.
The clamour for a revived German national identity also, in Berger’s view, involved attacks on the legitimacy of the East German state and the wholesale denigration of its historians as Marxist hacks parroting the views of the Communist hierarchy. And not only East German historians. The new nationalists have also attacked the West German historical profession for failing to contribute significantly to the process of reunification. They were either silent in 1989/90, or hostile; and their main effect, through their consistently critical attitude to the German past and the history of German