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Germany today.

Germany Today.

Germany Today. Walter Laquer. Little, Brown, $16.95. A Bonn correspondent for an American publication once told me what frustrated him about covering Germany. "Unless you write that the Nazis are coming back or the Russians are marching in,' he said as he packed his suitcase for a weekend in Paris, "the editors aren't interested.'

In Germany Today, Walter Laquer analyzes the country's rarely discussed middle class, as well as some of Germany's major problems: the nation's petrified intelligentsia; its reemerging, troubled partriotism; its longstanding apocalyptic qualms. A German heritage aided Mr. Laquer's dive into the clouded German pond and helped him to collect some clear pictures of its murky bottom. His conclusions, though muted, indicate that Germany will remain a strong, stable member of the Western alliance for the next 20 years.

"Almost every year since the end of the Second World War some over-anxious outside observers have announced the impending resurgence of neo-Nazism, or some such calamity,' writes Laquer. "But the "Boys from Brazil' have not returned to power in Bonn, the fears were unfounded, and this specter should have been exorcized.'

Not all of this "personal report' is rosy. Laquer shows how misguided educational reform and an over-politicized, self-conscious youth are producing a nation with too few leaders. "Goethe,' he notes, "had written his Werther, as well as many poems, and Schiller had published Die Rauber, well before they were twenty-five . . . with all the mitigating circumstances it is still remarkable that in an age of youth revolutions with so much creative energy set free it is quite difficult to think of major cultural or scientific achievements by young Germans under the age of, say, thirty-five.'

Germany Today offers a cogent account of the ideological backflip that produced West Germany's current Bildungskatastrophe, or catastrophe of education. German ideas about learning have influenced education throughout the world, but over the past 20 years German university reforms aimed at democratization have converted the likes of Heidelberg and Gottingen into the equivalents of some of our underfunded city universities. Top-heavy university bureaucracies and too much undirected "nonauthoritarian' discussion were chief causes of the problem.

Like most other reports arriving from Germany, this one describes a youth pessimistic about its future. A technology studeent tells the author: "My friends and I firmly believe the end is near.' But Laquer also reecords the humor inherent in the intense interest in the now 40-year-old German Question. "Young Germans,' he notes, are "probably the most investigated group of people in the world. There are reliable data about whether they suffer headaches more frequently in autumn than in spring, whether they prefer to take their holidays alone or together, what they think of Luther, the pill, and their mother-in-law, when they drank water from the tap most recently.'

For all its strengths, Germany Today is too carefully balanced, too cautious in its conclusions about Germany's future. Given Laquer's statute as a scholar of German history and culture, his opinions, as well as his descriptions, would be valuable in helping readers understand what is probably the most important country in Europe.
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Author:Shlaes, Amity
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1985
Words:516
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