Joschka Fischer and the Making of the Berlin Republic: An Alternative History of Postwar Germany

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Joschka Fischer and the Making of the Berlin Republic: An Alternative History of Postwar Germany

By Paul Hockenos
Oxford University Press, 2008
400 pp. $35.00

Joschka Fischer began his political career as a rock-throwing leftist protester and ended it with a seven-year stint as Germany's distinguished foreign minister -- and most popular politician. The story of this unusual path is not only a fascinating personal tale but also a superb window through which to observe the postwar evolution of the Federal Republic of Germany. As ethnic Germans expelled from Hungary, the Fischers faced the difficult challenge of settling in the new Federal Republic. In the late 1960s, the teenage Joschka joined the radical student movement, but he soon turned his back on those advocating violent overthrow of the capitalist industrial state. In 1983, Fischer was part of the first-ever Green Party parliamentary delegation, pressing an environmental agenda, opposing Germany's position in the Western alliance, and protesting against the deployment of U.S. Pershing and cruise missiles. Suspicious of German nationalism like many on the left, he opposed the use of military force abroad. As the years passed, however, Germany proved itself to be a stable and responsible democracy, and radicals such as Fischer gradually came to trust it: by the end, Fischer as foreign minister is arguing that Germany must intervene in places such as Kosovo and Afghanistan -- because of Germany's history, not in spite of it. Hockenos, an American based in Berlin, is sympathetic to Fischer, to the Greens, and to Germany in general -- but he is also exceptionally knowledgeable about his subject, fair to all sides in the debate, and unafraid to criticize his subject. This is biographical history at its best.

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