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Germany in the Twentieth Century.

Germany in the Twentieth Century. David Childs, Batsford. 25.00 [pounds].

David Childs, Professor of German Politcs at Nottingham University, has given a new title to the third edition of what was formerly Germany since 1918. More than that: he has added a chapter recounting the merger of East and West, appended a useful and unusual statistical section, and provided a collection of very brief 'Who's Who's -- 152 in number, for easy reference. And by writing in a straightforward, even flat, style, and by avoiding footnotes, scholarly apparatus, German quotations, and all jargon, he lets the events unfold naturally. The Weinmar Republic, the Nazi era, the Communist tyranny of Eastern Germany snce 1945 become--almost--a normal part of a nation's history, arising from what went before. What emerges is a workmanlke political handbook, all but devoid of emotion.

It is, however, more than that. For the drama is in the story itself; of violence and defeat twice over, of partition and Four-Power Occupation, of the efforts of two states to overcome disunity -- and of new threats and new challenges. There is sunshine amid the many storms. The Germany of these pages--the Kaiser's and Hitler's country, Walter Ulbricht's and Erich Honecker's country too -- was also the seed-bed of the Welfare State, even if it was a state always more paternalist and planned than liberal and spontaneous It bred technocratic Universities that were totally distinct from and in many ways superior to Oxford and Cambridge; the new American Universities of the late nineteenth century and their graduate schools were modelled on Germany, not on Britain, and to their advantage. Germany was Right-wing, not democratic, its industry State-supported, its Left always close to Marxist Communism and fuelled from the East.

History has inevitably overtakne Professor Childs. There is too little here (only one paragraph iin his last chapter) on Germany's continuing fear of those who lived beyond its eastern mark, whatever ther labels: whether Poles, Magyars, 'gypsies', Jews, Turks or |guest-workers'; it re-absorbs its own folk, as did Hitler; but it has been and will be less welcoming of the many would-be incomers who are not ethnic Germans than are -- until now, apparently some of its fellow-members in the EC. Again, we could have benefited from more on industrial conditions in North-Rhine Westphalia, where the |British disease' now seems epidemic. We do not have explained here why the formerly much-praised econony of the GDR (praised in earlier editiions and other books by Professor Childs) is now revealed as inefficient, labour-intensive and corrupt. But the perspective here is welcome. We tend to see Europe sas dominated (threatened?) by Germany (whether West, or re-united). We may be right. But Germans West and East have other views: Childs quotes from a poll in the Sud-deutsche Zeitung: 40% of them see Switzerland as the model, 29% admire Sweden, only 2% would choose Britain. It is salutary to be reminded of the new from Munish, and points East.

Esmond Wright
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Author:Wright, Esmond
Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 1992
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