The “German Question”

Source: Review of To Hell and Back: Europe 1914–1949, by Ian Kershaw, and other books in The New York Review of Books, April 7


Twenty-five years after the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, the EU is still struggling to come to terms with the implications of Germany’s reunification, not because Germany poses a threat but because its sheer economic weight and political clout have transformed the inner balance of the Union.

The “German question” was a European question in the dark years of the twentieth century, and it remains one today.


6 responses to “The “German Question”

  1. Is it really a DARK question? or does it suggest the possibility that there is something about the German ethos that really works, and that other nations might study? Interestingly, after the defeat of France by Germany in 1871 (a war that France was not averse to engaging in), French musicians (i.e. Saint-Säens and Fauré and a few other high-profile composers) organized themselves into a Society for the promotion of French music, with the aim of imitating the seriousness and dedication of German musicians, in contrast to the frivolous nature of French music of the time (which had focused on operettas and salon music). Something to think about!

    • I am thinking.
      Nietzsche loved Carmen.

    • Baudelaire loved Wagner.
      Google: “Baudelaire’s essay ‘Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris’ (1861) is his only critical text devoted to music. Despite his admitted ignorance of music, Baudelaire admired and identified with the despotic master composer. He found in Wagner a fellow-translator of the soul.”

  2. Elisabeth Ecker

    Germany has managed to successfully combine Socialism with Capitalism. it goes right back to Otto von Bismarck’s whose aim was to make Germany strong by instituting a social safety net. Weaker economies in the Union keep the Euro low which helps Germany’s large trade surplus. One countries surplus is another countries deficit. John Maynard Kaynes had something to say about this. Internationally no country should be allowed not to settle a trade surplus. Example if Germany would increase its wages, Germans would spend more money in sunny Greece.

  3. Nietzsche may have loved Carmen, but the French didn’t. It was not much of a success there, when it was first staged. Its great success came when it played outside France. For one thing, in Paris it had to be shown at the Opéra Comique because it had spoken dialogue, not musical recitatives (one of those crazy rules); and for the Opera Comique, where middle class families took their families, it was much too sexual and too violent — ending with a stabbing death on stage was just shocking (even to George Bernard Shaw!!!). Eventually, after Bizet’s death, a colleague wrote the musical recitatives that we mostly hear now, thus eliminating the spoken dialogue (which is a real pity, because much of that dialogue is taken directly from the novelette and sparkles). It’s true, Nietzsche loved the opera, and it was one of Brahms’s favorites, too. And the post-1871 period is when you begin to get sonatas, and chamber music, and symphonies written by French composers. I think this is my point!

  4. Elisabeth Ecker

    The Vienna Volksopera did a production of the original Carmen last fall. I can’t make up my mind which I like better.