In This Review

Germany's Second Chance: Truth, Justice and Democratization
Germany's Second Chance: Truth, Justice and Democratization
By Anne Sa'adah
Harvard University Press, 1998, 384 pp

After analyzing the politics of exclusion in revolutionary France, Sa'adah has now focused on the politics of inclusion and reconciliation in Germany after 1989. This rich and complex study dissects the problem of political trials by bringing in novels, individual cases, and comparative French, Czech, and German perspectives, contrasting the "institutional" with the "cultural" approach. The former limits punishment for crimes of the past to ensure political stability in the future, while the latter insists on punishing past sins and addressing the suffering of victims. Sa'adah argues for the institutional approach, which she sees as better at promoting reconciliation. However, she also acknowledges its drawback: an inability to create greater trustworthiness among citizens. Her account of eastern Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall illustrates how difficult it is to find a satisfactory mix, especially during great political and cultural upheaval. And her conclusion -- that democratic politics requires civility as well as bargaining -- is just as valid for the United States today. A provocative and brilliant work.