The German Predicament: Memory and Power in the New Europe

By Andrei S. Markovits; Simon Reich | Go to book overview

PREFACE

What is the future role for the Germans in Europe? One answer sees the Germans as resurrected and tamed in the aftermath of Auschwitz and the formation of the Federal Republic. The new Berlin Republic is, it believes, constrained by domestic institutions; rid of the conservative coalitions that fostered National Socialism; socialized by educational policies that have explored the causes of the onset of Germany's uniquely heinous brand of fascism; and enmeshed in a web of international commitments. German power in this view has been either blunted or saddled to good effect in the context of the European Union. The country now is trustworthy, firmly embedded in the camp of stable, capitalist, liberal-democratic, Western nations. Germans themselves are "peaceful and green." In public opinion polls, Germans consistently emphasize these values, which are espoused by Germany's political and economic elites. The predatory behavior of the past is finished. This is the Germany of the Bundesrepublik; the country has been "Europeanized."

A second answer focuses on the less recent past. The same proclivities that fostered Auschwitz have, in this view, been suppressed rather than obliterated. Germany's stability is more fragile than its proponents recognize. Germany's liberal democracy was imposed from without by the allied victors; shorn of the Cold War's structures, it will fray, if not disintegrate, under conservative impulses. With unification will therefore come a return to the predatory expansion of the past. Proponents of this view point out that adverse developments occur around the Germans -- the disintegration of Yugoslavia, economic recession in Europe -- and they attribute such events to malign German intent. This is the Germany of Deutschland; the fear is that Europe will be "Germanized."

How can these answers be reconciled? If Germany has no interest in expansion,

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