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Perceptively, the political scientist Peter Graf von Kielmansegg suggests that it was the catastrophe that rendered the Germans capable of democracy. In contrast, liberal intellectuals criticize the incompleteness of the changes, stressing the need for further reforms by the social-liberal coalition, as well as the generational revolt of the s.

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Similarly, Marxists denounce the Federal Republic as a continuation of fascism, if now in a modern guise, and consider the anti-Fascist, socialist German Democratic Republic GDR , quite simply, the better Germany. The learning processes, both personal and collective, that aimed to prevent a recurrence of oppression, war, and genocide must therefore be reconstructed historically. In contrast to the unwillingness to learn after the First World War, the even more severe conditions after the Second World War seem to have fostered a drastic change of political outlook among Germans.

What were the consequences of the shocking rupture of civilization for specic realms such as attitudes toward the military, understandings of the nation, and the organization of the economy? The mental transformation that did occur in spite of much resistance 14 Introduction. Or did the destruction wrought by Nazism, which Germans experienced rsthand, along with the shameful crimes published in the media, so thoroughly discredit racist nationalism that they provoked a search for untainted values?

A rst focus of analysis is the attempt of individuals to come to terms with their own past, encouraged by hiring practices that demanded the presentation of a convincing account of their activities in the Third Reich. A second subject is the eort made by groups such as student clubs and institutions like churches to explain their more or less enthusiastic collaboration with Hitlers system.

A nal topic is the public debate about the implications of the Third Reich disaster, because it perhaps more than anything else helped to create the conditions for a renewal of political life at the national level. In all these dierent arenas, Germans simultaneously tried to make sense of their disparate experiences with Nazism, defeat, and occupation in order to chart political options for the future.

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To convince a Cold War public of the correctness of their views, they constructed ideological discourses, which tried time and again to deduce lessons from what had happened. While many people continued to equivocate about their own complicity in dictatorship and war, the tasks of rebuilding forced them to draw pragmatic conclusions from their experiences during the Third Reich and subsequent defeat. The controversy between leftist critics of the repression of guilt and rightwing apologists of a need for healing silence does not suciently consider the practical consequences of either position.

This exploration of German political culture during the second half of the twentieth century also employs an integrated, problem-oriented approach that contrasts Eastern with Western developments. As long as the histories of the GDR Introduction Since most recent syntheses primarily celebrate the success of Western democracy, they tend to grant the failed communist dictatorship only a subordinate place.

In doing so, the narrative need not strive for schematic balance but should follow the changing locations of key learning processes, while commenting only selectively on the opposite side. The fundamental decisions that created the conditions for a transformation were made in the period immediately following the wars end.


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The Potsdam program issued by the victorious powers dened the dual goals of the occupation: While the German people needed to atone for the dreadful crimes they had committed, they were at the same time to receive an opportunity to prepare for the eventual reconstruction of their life on a democratic and peaceful basis. The rst means toward accomplishing these goals was the complete disarmament and demilitarization of Germany and the admission of defeat; the second condition demanded the dismantling of the Nazi Party with all of its aliated organizations, the dissolution of all Nazi institutions, and the prohibition of Nazi propaganda; and the third point called for decentralization of the economy so as to eliminate the German potential for war and the excessive concentration of economic power.

Only after the relative stabilization of the Adenauer period, during the dynamic times of the s, did the actual breakthrough to a modern civil society occur. While the structural transformation of social conditions had already been set in motion in the late s, the acceleration of the changes during this decade managed to overcome older problematic traditions, since the process was now driven forward by critical Germans themselves.

As a result, the trend toward Westernization strengthened, promoted not only by the territorial shift westward and the political alliance with the West, but also by consumerism and popular culture, so much so that one might speak of an Americanization of values and behavior. At the same time, people grew more accustomed to the new political regime, recognizing its achievements in increasing prosperity, internalizing its liberal values, and developing an emotional attachment to representative 16 Introduction.

While the dictatorial East more and more cut itself o behind the Berlin Wall, the combination of the generational rebellion, election victory of the socialist-liberal coalition, and other changes in societal values gave added impetus to the liberalization of West German society. The last, and in many ways still incomplete, step toward the recovery of civilized normalcy is closely connected to the civic revolution of The movement for civil rights in the GDR can be seen as a surprising expression of the reemergence of civil society.

But while the democratic awakening may have been able to triumph over the communist dictatorship, the unication of the bankrupt East with the more successful West brought with it new problems for internal unity, forcing the abandonment of many lofty expectations for the future. At the same time, other pressures generated by accelerating globalization of the economy and worldwide migration demanded a new and unfamiliar international openness.

Feeling threatened by these rapid changes, a minority soon fell back on the practiced reexes of racial hatred against foreigners. In spite of its imperfections, the recivilizing of Germans during the second half of the twentieth century represents an exemplary case, because it suggests the possibility of practical redemption from moral disaster. Critical observers such as U. Did the Germans really learn from their catastrophe and reject the negative patterns that led them and their neighbors to disaster? Was the subsequent transformation primarily a product of total defeat, a result of transnational processes of modernization, or the outcome of their own decision, based on contrition?

Its exemplary interest lies precisely in the dramatic struggles that it took to reach and maintain a tolerant civil society.

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Introduction Given the Wehrmachts ruthless conduct of the war, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin were hardly willing to distinguish between the Nazis who were responsible for the carnage and the wider population that had only lent a helping hand. The mood of their negotiations during the winter of therefore inclined more toward punishment than rehabilitation. The rst occupation directives, as well as order number of the American Joint Chiefs of Sta, spoke a similarly clear language: Germany will not be occupied for the purpose of liberation, but as a defeated nation.

The postwar challenge was therefore not just to eradicate the Nazi tyranny root and branch but to change German political culture more thoroughly than occurred after the First World War.

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While the National Socialist institutions and attitudes, which had brought so much suering to the world, needed to be eliminated, the Allied planners envisaged a more radical break with the traditions that had made Hitlers tyranny and its untold atrocities possible in the rst place.

The Norwegian author Sigrid Undset, however, deemed a reorientation of the national mentality dicult, as the terrible crimes which were committed as a consequence of German thought would never be forgotten. We stand shaken before the ruins of the Third Reich, which collapsed because of the principles upon which it was based, lamented the rst edition of the leading newspaper in the Rhineland, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, and are oppressed by the thought that we as a people bear primary responsibility for the misery that has come over Europe.


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  • While the majority of the former Nazi followers were preoccupied with sheer survival, a critical minority emerging from the liberated concentration camps and devastated cities attempted to draw lessons from the catastrophe for which they were ready to accept the blame. Our goal is to shape a new and better future.

    That is what we must focus our attention on, insisted Hans Fuchs, the newly appointed president of the North Rhine province. We must create a new life, not just materially, but also intellectually and spiritually. Devastated by their collaboration with the regime and trying to salvage some sense of national continuity in the wake of the collapse, elites sought refuge in those religious beliefs or humanistic traditions that the Third Reich might have left undamaged.

    In this vein, the philosopher Karl Jaspers pleaded for a transformation through self-education that would join a frank exposure of the crimes of the dictatorship with historical self-reection on the basis of Western civilization so as to strengthen the responsibility of the individual. Wiener Stadt- und Landesarchiv, Handschriftsammlung.

    Uniwersytet Jagiellonski, Biblioteka Jagiellonska. The Royal Institution of Great Britain. John Tyndall Collection. Contains correspondence with du Bois-Reymond. Princeton University, Firestone Library. Contains a copy of a typescript of the journals of Thomas Archer Hirst. University of Chicago Library, Special Collections. For secondary literature, consult Karl E.

    Geburtstag am Oktober , ed. Unfortunately, this latter compilation is incomplete and inaccurate. Observations by Prof. Dubois Reymond. Berlinischer Nachrichten von Staats- und gelehrten Sachen. Erste Beilage, No. Der Sturm auf dem Rhein.

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    Athenaeum, No. Eine Skizze, tr. Comptes rendus Gotha: Perthes, Mind, o. Berlin, The Pharsalia of Lucan. Sir Edward Ridley. Erste Beilage, Nr. Wiener medizinische Wochenschrift Literarische Culturstudien. Aarsleff, Hans.