Courtesy Reuters

A Divided Europe: The New Deutschlandpolitik

The Ostpolitik of the 1970s has given way to the Deutschlandpolitik of the 1980s. The former, with then Chancellor Willy Brandt as its leading champion, focused predominantly on détente. It coincided with a weakening of the desire for reunification among Germans, and as a consequence there was a tendency in many countries to misunderstand Ostpolitik as being in itself a settlement of the German Question.

Deutschlandpolitik is a reflection of changing West German attitudes. The quest for new ideals and opportunities for personal identification is leading Germans back to their own history and into public discussion of "national awareness," "homeland," "fatherland" and "nation." These "national" tendencies can be observed in the peace movement and elsewhere on the left. Even the neutralist Greens are actively pursuing their own Deutschlandpolitik.

The "ice age" between East and West Germany that was predicted by many critics of the current West German government led by Helmut Kohl has not occurred. On the contrary, a broad range of contacts, meetings and negotiations now exists between the two states in Germany, more than ever in the past. The postponement of the visit to West Germany by East German leader Erich Honecker has not ended these activities.

Indeed, the quest for a "German identity" that has been taken up in West Germany is also emerging to an increasing extent in East Germany. The German Democratic Republic's historical claims are today no longer limited to humanistic traditions and revolutionary forces. This is an astonishing turnaround for the G.D.R. In the 1970s the East German leaders went to considerable trouble trying to persuade their people not only that German political unity was a thing of the past, but that a single German nation no longer existed. Today the East German Communists base their legitimacy on German history, laying claim to that history as a whole, without any limitations regarding historical periods, geography or class.

Deutschlandpolitik is not being considered solely from the limited perspective of reunification; it is

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