CIAO DATE: 10/07
In a little more than a decade, Germany's role in international affairs-particularly from a military perspective-has radically changed. Where-as German participation during the Persian Gulf War of 1991 was basically limited to providing financial support to the international coalition led by the United States, by the end of 2001, German soldiers were operating under combat conditions in the United Nations peacekeeping mission to Afghanistan. During (and even before) this transition, little attention has been devoted to the German Bundestag's constitutional role as overseer of executive foreign affairs activities.
In the past, this topic-parliamentary control over foreign affairs in Germany-has focused almost solely on the theoretical debate surrounding the Bundestag's legal competency to participate in forming foreign policy.1 Only one study, Parlamentarische Kontrolle der Außenpolitik, examines the Bundestag's control over foreign policy entirely from a practical perspective.2 This study looks at a small number of foreign policy decisions from the 1950s and 1960s, and, while reconstructing the events surrounding them, attempts to discern patterns of interaction between the Bundestag's political fractions and the administration. There has been, however, no attempt to systematically evaluate the Bundestag's role in controlling the administration in foreign policy matters.
This article discusses a screenplay of the television thriller Armer Nanosh (Poor Nanosh), written in 1989 by the famous German author Martin Walser and Asta Scheib. The screenplay deals with the relations between Germans and Germany's Sinti, or Gypsy, population in the shadow of Auschwitz, a subject that has hardly been touched upon by postwar German authors and dramatists.
The very thematization of such a topic reflects the deep change that occurred in the 1980s in the Federal Republic's political culture following the civil rights campaign for the Sinti and Roma organized by Gypsy activists, aided by the German civil rights organization Gesellschaft für bedrohte Völker (Society for Threatened Peoples). By the 1980s, after forty years of official German fluctuation between nonrecognition and reluctant recognition of the Sinti and Roma as victims of Nazi persecution, German political culture (but not German society) finally granted the Sinti population a status very similar to that held by Jews after the Holocaust. After that point, portraying the Gypsy as a victim became more common in German political culture. Nanosh, the protagonist in Walser and Scheib's plot, for example, is a Gypsy, a survivor of deportation to Auschwitz who is depicted as a victim rather than a criminal, unlike earlier Gypsy figures in German thrillers and films.
Christopher Simpson, ed., War Crimes of the Deutsche Bank and the Dresdner Bank. Office of Military Government (U.S.) Reports (New York and London: Holmes & Meier, 2001)
There is a real question as to whether this book should be dignified with a review, or be used by scholars since one cannot even consider it a point of departure for a modern understanding of the subject, and it lacks a satisfactory scholarly apparatus to assist them in further research. Simpson's introduction, which I suspect lies at the heart of his minimal editorial effort, is ill-informed, tendentious, and often simply deceptive. If I have nevertheless decided to write this review, it is because I think it important to make some comment for the record. I also hope it might serve as an antidote for persons inclined to accept such works at face value because it might be seen as a confirmation of preconceived notions and prejudices that are widespread with respect to corporations and National Socialism. Most of these are negative, and justifiably so, but the goal of historical scholarship is to produce informed judgements based on replicable and reliable data presented in a well-grounded context. Simpson, as shall be shown, deplores such contextualization, which he thinks nothing more than "spin-doctoring" for the corporations involved and which he apparently finds inferior to the "spin" given by postwar investigators writing in 1946. All this would be quite silly and not worth bothering about were it not for the fact that, in the process of his assault on contextualization, he attacks the essence of the historical enterprise itself.
In contrast to the political discussions outside of Germany-whether in the west or in the Islamic world-about the war in Afghanistan, the debates in Germany are not only specifically German, but are exclusively determined by domestic politics. One has the impression that the war took place in the middle of Germany. This has to do not only with the subject under discussion, but also with the political culture of this country, which is negatively influenced by political taboos.
- Bassam Tibi, Syrian born professor of politics in Göttingen and Harvard.
The epigraph seems to border on hyperbole: were the debates in the fall of 2001 really "exclusively" subsumed by domestic politics? But Bassam Tibi, one of the hundreds of experts who made the rounds on the endless talk shows and conferences in Germany, may be on to something. In a recent book about how the public intellectuals, religious leaders, and celebrities reacted to the terror attacks of September 11th, Der Spiegel essayist Hendryk Broder made a similar point as he aimed his bittersweet satirical wit at the navel-gazing, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy of Germany's public intellectuals. Broder's book is a self-conscious example of that timeless German genre, the Streitschrift, an erudite polemic in the service of both noble edification and less high-minded settling of scores with one's intellectual opponents. Although exaggerated, one-sided, and terribly funny, Broder's analysis of the German public discourse of the fall of 2001 does contain some serious arguments that anyone interested in the European perception of America cannot ignore. In this essay, I will sketch the contours of that reaction by focusing first on the kinds of issues that preoccupied German intellectuals in the wake of the attacks of September 11th; second, I will contrast that reaction to how ordinary Germans and government officials perceived those events; third, I will explore the role that anti-Americanism played in the intellectual debates of fall 2001; and finally, I will reflect on the significance of September 11th for German society in general.
Gareth Pritchard, The Making of the GDR: From Anti-Fascism to Stalinism, 1945-1953 (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000)
M.E. Sarotte, Dealing with the Devil: East Germany and Ostpolitik, 1969-1973 (Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001)
If the Nazi state and the Communist East German state can be com-pared at all, one meaningful dimension of the comparison is the paradox of total power. Ironically, in both cases, the unprecedented scope of authority claimed by political rulers over the lives of ordinary people nurtured a relentless fear among both Nazi and Communist rulers that the whole edifice of state authority could come crashing down at a moment's notice. For this reason, in retrospect both states appear at once totalitarian in aspiration and brittle in self-perception. Enemies lurked everywhere, not only from without but also from within. The Nazi and Communist Party elites felt constrained and even threatened by their own populations. They feared them.
It is true that these parallels in the dynamics of political authority say very little about what are surely crucial differences between the Nazi and Communist regimes: one launched a global war and committed genocide and the other did not. Do these differences render the comparison trivial or immoral? I do not believe they do. In this essay I argue that the comparison is worth pursuing precisely because of these differences. In fact, it is by examining the points of divergence and convergence in the two German dictatorships that we stand to learn the most about authoritarian politics in the twentieth century.
Dagmar Barnouw, Germany 1945: Views of War and Violence (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996)
Barbie Zelizer, Remembering to Forget: Holocaust Memory through the Camera's Eye (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998)
It is certainly no revelation that ours is a visual culture, a culture of the image and of the copy. Photography has dramatically changed the way in which we experience the present and how think about the recent past. Because World War II was the first event that photo-journalists documented in such detail, its images are important not only for an understanding of what happened but also for a phenomenological study of how we perceive what happened.
The most deceitful aspect of Gerald Feldman's commentary on my book is his tacit claim that he is engaged in something other than character assassination. As in other academic jihads he has pursued in the past, Feldman's most effective weapon has been his capacity for ad hominem attack. Straightforward debate concerning disputed historical evidence is considerably further down his list...