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Published by Nicholas Birns

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Published by: Nicholas Birns on Oct 16, 2011
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 Germany talk for Greg Clark and Jessica Altschul Prudential InterculturalNicholas BirnsJune 6, 2011Origins of Modern GermanyGermany was the northern frontier of the Roman Empire, its territory nothistorically part of classical civilization although some Western German citiessuch as Trier (Augusta Treverorum) and Mainz (Mogantiacum) were Romanfoundations. Pressured by migration and invasion from other Germanic andAsiatic peoples, tribes along the frontier poured into the Roman Empire in thelate 4
and early 5
centuries AD and helped contribute to its downfall in theWest. Though Germanic-speaking peoples ended up administering formerRoman provinces that became modern-day Spain, France, and parts of Italy,Germany itself was not unified.
, the first great German speakingruler (768-814) ruled France and Germany together; when Germany and Francefinally separated for good in the tenth century, Germany and north Italy were
united as part of a “Holy Roman Empire” that continued
the idea of the ancientuniversal Empire under Christian auspices, but was in essence confined toGermany, Italy and the lands between. Linguistic divisions and constant politicalcontention, between Pope and Emperor and between Emperor and localmagnates led to disunion and fissure. From the fourteenth century onward theEmpire migrated from northern-based dynasties to the Hapsburg family, withheadquarters in Vienna. The calamitous
Thirty Years War
, concluded by theTreaty of Westphalia (1648) puts an end to ideas of universal Empire andestablishes the idea of the modern, integral nation, but there is no modernGerman state equivalent to France and Spain. The German speaking lands(including Switzerland, which had seceded from the Empire in the fourteenthcentury) retain a cultural and linguistic unity but nothing likes an overall political
framework. Shifting boundaries characterize German history; today‟s Germany
lacks the traditional eastern two-fifth of German culture (now Poland. BalticStates, and Kaliningrad oblast).
Whereas the US expanded westward in astable way, Germany saw his very geographical and political definitionconstantly change,
Catholic and ProtestantPerhaps the biggest event in German history was the Protestant Reformation,theorized by a German,
Martin Luther
, and in many ways a vehicle for Germannational expression. Only the northern half of Germany securely becomesProtestant, though, and the North-South, Catholic-Protestant tension became thebiggest one in German history. Even during the Cold War, one of the differencesbetween the BRD (Bundesrepublik Deutschland; Federal Republic of Germany)and the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik; German Democratic Republic)
was that the DDR,
“East Germany, was, in ancestral t
erms, so much moreprotestant, and towards the end of the Communist East German regime tried toelevate Martin Luther as a national hero. Most traditional German culture heroesare strongly identifiable as Catholic or Protestant:
Mozart, Beethoven
and (after his conversion_ 
Friedrichvon Schlegel
Catholic. Germany, though, early on also produced thinkers whowere strongly anti-religious or areligious, and many of the great iconoclasts ordoubters have come from German-speaking lands: Freud, Marx, Nietzsche,Schopenhauer and so on. This was probably ultimately attributable to a lack ofconsensus as the polity was riven by different faith-claims.
“German idea of freedom” oppsoed to American one.
Prussia emerged as a somewhat unlikely (due to its eastward geographicalposition) leader of the Protestant cause, but by the mid-eighteenth century it hadvaulted over its traditional rival, Saxony, to be the political and economic centerof northern Germany. Prussia took a leading role in the resistance against
Napoleon‟s invasion, and it was the natural candidate to be the
spearhead forGerman unification. Difference between a
(including Austria)vision of Gemrnay and a
one. Despite the end of the Holy RomanEmpire in 1806, Austrian prerogative still held in many parts of Germany, and itwas not until
decisive deafest of Austria at Königgratz in 1866 that thepath to German unification under Prussian leadership became clear, to beachieved in 1871. Even though unification ostensibly preserved theindependence of the largely Catholic southern German states, one of the firstmoves of the man who led German unification, Chancellor
Otto von Bismarck
,was to initiate the
, or purge of German Catholics. Catholicism wasseen as anti-progressive, threatening of the unity of the state; Protestantism wasseen as aligned with industrialization and rational order, the latter the preeminentattribute of Prussian culture.
The Stormy Twentieth Century
Until 1871, Germany had not even been a nation; after 1871, it became anempire. This vaulting from a patchwork of principalities, bishoprics, kingdoms,and city-states to not just a unified nation but also a polity that made attempts tobe a world power, rivaling England and France, was bound to create tension anddifficulties. Germany scrambled to catch up to its rivals in terms of overseascolonies hurriedly annexing leftover parts of Africa and the Southwest Pacific thatfew other powers wanted but antagonizing world opinion (which had so recentlycheered for German unification) in the process. Germany had been the underdogfor centuries. The great enigma of Europe, and much of the complexity andachievement of German thought and culture (Germany was unquestionably theleading nation in the world as far as philosophy, science, music were concerned)came from a sense of bafflement and query about why Germany seemed sodisadvantaged.
Once Germany became „whole‟ the sometimes self 
-justifying andself-pitying rhetoric of the underdog became less apropos, but it was difficult for
the German culture and polity to make that adaptation. One reason for frequentemigration even after country is unified.Germany was the aggressor in both World Wars (1914-1918 and 1939-45) and itfound its dreams for European hegemony ruthlessly humbled.
The “Third Reich:of Hitler, intended to succeed the “First Reich” (the Holy Roman Empire) and the
Second Reich (the post-1871 German Empire) was vaunted to last a thousandyears, instead collapsed after only twelve after causing unprecedented,senseless suffering. The eastern third of the former German Empire wasannexed and repopulated by Poland and the Soviet Union; combined with theearlier de-Germanization of the Baltic States, this shifted the gravity of theGerman-speaking world decisively to the West, and sharply diminished its extent.But what seemed to be catastrophe for the German nation turned out to besalvation. Divided into four occupation zones (US, UK, French, Soviet) the threenon-Communist powers
‟ zones
quickly combined and, in 1955, werereconstituted as the new
Federal Republic of Germany
. The constitutionalstructure of this new Republic granting substantial power to the
(states)but concentrating policy leverage in the hands of the
(Chancellor-Prime Minister) with a President of only ceremonial powers gave German polityan assurance and effectiveness it had never had. The federal structure of thecountry meant both that no one figure or party could amass conclusive power,but also that legislation could be passed and agendas could be enacted.Germany also for the first time achieved a polity not defined by exclusion,whether of the lower classes, Catholics, Jews, foreigners and so on; previousGerman solidarities had been purchased at the expanse of persecution and/ormarginalization of the excluded. Despite constituting only two-fifths of theterritory of the old German empire, and despite not having the military clout of thecountries that had been victorious in the war, West Germany soon became oneof the most powerful and prosperous nations of the world. For much of the ColdWar, though, reunification (
) was seen as a distant possibility;few thought the Soviet Union
would ever give up „its‟ part of Germany.
But theWest German governed never conceded the permanence of division, locating itscapital at the obviously provisional site of Bonn rather than larger cities such asFrankfurt or Munich.With the
Wende ( 
change, turn) contingent on the fall of the
Berliner Mauer 
(BerlinWall) Germany became unexpectedly catapulted into a new era. East Germanywas reintegrated into the West, acceding as five new
. Some complainedthat the culture of the former East Germany, which had produced an indigenousresistance separate from Western attempts to liberate the East fromCommunism, was too easily reabsorbed into the West, but for most freedom wasa tonic that remedied any abruptness or unilateralism. The capital was returnedto Berlin, which became a showplace for the new Germany, although onefinancially burdened by the extravagance of its overzealous 1990s planners.Reunification not only solved the problems of the Cold War, but allowed WorldWar II and the Nazi regime to be integrated more firmly into the past. After a

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