In This Review

From Weimar to the Wall: My Life in German Politics
From Weimar to the Wall: My Life in German Politics
By Richard Von Weizsucker
Broadway Books, 1999, 496 pp

Richard von Weizsucker is best remembered as the West German president who in 1985 delivered the "most moving political and personal speech of [his] Presidency," reminding the German people of Hitler's crimes, especially against the Jews, to draw from the Nazi past important lessons for the future. Weizsucker's autobiography does not contribute profoundly to our understanding of German history. It does, however, offer a gentle and humane account of a life whose early happiness in a large and distinguished family was followed by the agonizing moral dilemmas that Hitler imposed -- especially after Weizsucker's father became state secretary in the Ministry of foreign Affairs. Although the son defends the father's record and memory, his account of the Federal Republic's development, his own career in the Christian Democratic Party, and Germany's unification is extraordinarily devoid of any malice or bitterness. He has nothing but praise for most of the statesmen he has met and is particularly illuminating on Helmut Kohl and generous toward Francois Mitterrand. He never even raises his voice when complaining about Margaret Thatcher's inability to listen. Like the rest of this memoir, his concluding call for freedom and responsibility is understated and warm.