Courtesy Reuters

A Divided Europe: The German Question Transformed

We are the allies of the United States, not their vassals." These words were spoken in late September 1984 by the Minister of the Interior of the West German state of Hesse, a Social Democrat. He was responding to an American corps commander who had called German demonstrators at an American military training area "anarchists and criminals," and demanded their full prosecution under German law. According to the U.S. officer, the demonstrators had "damaged military vehicles, sprayed paint and thrown rocks at soldiers." German police arrested 188 demonstrators, charged them with disturbing the peace, trespassing and damaging property, and then released them.

Reading about this incident in the American press during a prolonged absence from the Federal Republic of Germany, I have no means to judge whether the corps commander overdramatized a certainly illegal, but otherwise peaceful demonstration, or whether the police and the minister ignored the rocks thrown at American soldiers. What concerns me is the tone of the minister's sentence. It expresses a mood which is, I believe, typical of large numbers of West Germans today.

With a slight variation, it could be typical of many East German leaders as well. The East German party chief, Erich Honecker, and many of the men around him would no doubt like to say that they are "the allies of the Soviet Union, not its vassals." Only they cannot afford to say it-that is the little difference.

The mood of many people in responsible positions is comparable in both German states today. Each is determined to stick to its alliance-the West Germans because the Atlantic Alliance is the ultimate protection of their political freedom against Soviet blackmail, the East German leaders because the Warsaw Pact is the ultimate guarantee of their own rule. But both have a more conscious sense of their national identity, not to say of their national dignity than, say, 15 years ago-and it is a common national identity.

This is the new form the German Question has gradually assumed in

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