The German Predicament: Memory and Power in the New Europe

In This Review

The German Predicament: Memory and Power in the New Europe

By Andrei S. Markovits and Simon Reich
Cornell University Press, 1997
248 pp. $29.95
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One more book about the German Question! A set of chapters examines public and elite opinion about Germany in the United States, where "ambivalence about things German" prevails, in Austria, where a strong affinity to Germany goes along with "unquestioned autonomy," and in Western Europe, where the authors find the British less insecure than the French, although German unification had "a seriously unsettling effect on both." Another set of chapters deals in depth with the issue of German power. These chapters find the restrictions on German troops abroad "self-imposed and ideological rather than externally or institutionally constructed," thus resulting from "a particular collective memory" that could be fading. They show how much the European Union favors German economic power and wealth and "reduces that of its major trading partners." They fear a decline of Atlanticism and of the commitment to European integration in the post-Kohl era, and the rise of voices that would like to "normalize" Auschwitz -- not because they do not welcome the gradual transformation of "guilt, shame, and responsibility" into "knowledge, acknowledgment, and analysis," but because they are not sure that "this major change" would "bode well for the future of the Berlin Republic and its neighbors." The debate will continue. But by rejecting complacency, the authors provoke us into remaining concerned.