Germany


Christopher Jones rejects my apologia for Chancellor Brüning: "Just a short note about Heinrich Brüning, who is universally despised in Germany today. The greatest insult in German politics is a comparison to Brüning. I am more charitable: Brüning was just one of the many cod-eyed morons who ran the Weimar republic. His tenure at Harvard does not speak well for that institution". RH: Could WAIS Germanists give us a sober assessment of Brüning?

Steffen Meschkat, who lives in East Berlin, said that many East Germans long for the old socialist state in which the basics (a job, hosing, health care) were assured- Surprisingly, Christopher Jones, who longs for the old Kaiserreich, agrees: "Steffen Meschkat is correct. A couple of weeks ago in the regional elections in Thüringen, the PDS (Democratic Socialist Party) which is the successor to the old SED (Socialist Unity Party) that ruled East Germany until it collapsed, came in second to the CDU-CSU and way ahead of the ruling Socialist party (SPD) of Chancellor Schroeder. When asked why they had voted PDS, most interviewed responded that the party better understood the problems of the East and were more helpful. But we shouldn't kid ourselves: the PDS espouses communism as the solution to Germany's problems and it is riddled with ex-Stasi collaborators.

At the root of their success is the collapse of the German welfare state as it was known and loved, and the squirming and scrambling of the politicians of the big parties to come up with answers, in particular for the citizens of the old DDR who were promised a "rosy future" at re-unification. The reforms introduced in the health system have created an atmosphere of bewilderment with the proviso that every citizen pay 10 Euros when he or she has to visit a doctor. A separate dental insurance is now being introduced as well. With the burden of debt growing at an astronomical pace, the only original idea to be put forward was CDU finance guru Friedrich Merz's modified flat tax, which I sincerely hope is introduced. Nobody and no nation on earth has ever asked a prosperous people to surrender a portion of the wealth, and that is just about the state of things in Germany.

Yesterday Horst Köhler was sworn in as Federal President, but the real news was the refusal by Bavarian soccer team trainer Ottmar Hitzfeld to take over the job of Federal trainer for the national team after Rudi Völler resigned in disgust over Germany's poor showing in the European Championship cup currently underway in Portugal. In a way the plight of the team is the plight of Germany: too wealthy, too cumbersome, too old. Hitzfeld must have recognized that you cannot persuade multimillionaires to play aggressive soccer and refused the offer of 4 million euros a year".

RH:Many countries have asked a prosperous people to surrender a portion of the wealth, e.g. the income tax and capital gains tax. The comment on soccer is an argument for amateur sports.

Glenye Cein writes: "The discussion about German resistance to Hitler brings to mind a man who has always interested me: Frtiz Gerlich, an editor of Die gerade Weg in the early 1930s, who ruthlessly satirized and poked at Hitler until he was killed at Dachau on the Night of the Long Knives. I have found little about Gerlich in general circulation (there must surely be more in academic journals), although Ron Rosenbaum described his work in some detail in Ch. 9 of his book Explaining Hitler (Random House, 1998). There was also a portrayal of him in a TV movie, which at least got something of his story in front of the general public". RH: Does any WAIS Germanist have more information on Fritz Gerlich?

Jim Tent says: "Christopher Jones makes a valid point. Today’s Germany evolved from the Federal Republic and the now defunct GDR. Berlin evolved from W. Berlin (three Allied sectors) and E. Berlin (Soviet Sector) to form today’s Berlin. This hardly means that state borders are written in stone. In fact, there probably should be a reordering of the current state system. Conceivably, the Germans could come up with a Berlin-Brandenburg State or some other variant. Alas, the term “Prussia” has a tremendous amount of historical baggage: Prussian militarism, etc. If any changes can be made, they will require heavy politicking. A reordering of Berlin would mean that other anomalies such as Bremen would also come under consideration. How would Americans react to the proposal that Rhode Island be submerged into Massachusetts? For my part, I am relieved that I am only a historian and not a political scientist or politician confronting Germany’s state issues of today".

Christopher Jones writes: "I would like to expand on Jim Tent's note on Berlin's universities to say that the real question is, should there be a Berlin state at all? Many yearn for a rationalization of the German Federal structure, bloated by no less than 16 state bureaucracies. It is perfectly conceivable to merge the state of Berlin into Brandenburg, and in fact in the virtual world it has already happened. The old Berlin TV station (SFB) was merged into the Brandenburg station located at Potsdam. Many have even floated the idea of reviving the name of Prussia in a newly merged state with its capital in Potsdam. Examples can be found all over; why should Bremen have state status and shouldn't the tiny Saarland be merged into its larger neighbor?

 

Ronald Hilton -


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