Rereading German History: From Unification to Reunification by Richard J. Evans

By Richard J. Evans

During this textual content, the writer attracts jointly his assessment essays at the political, monetary, cultural and social heritage of Germany via struggle and reunification. This e-book offers a learn of ways historians - frequently German, American, British, and French - have supplied a chain of differing and sometimes conflicting readings of the German earlier in recent times. It additionally offers a reconsideration of German historical past within the mild of the hot decline and fall of the German Democratic Republic, cave in of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany.

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What distinguished the German experience was the way in which it represented an intensified and extreme variant of patterns which could in one form or another be found in other European countries as well. As the ensuing debate began to ebb, polemic was replaced by research, especially by a massive research project on the history of the German middle classes, centred on Bielefeld; in contrast, say, to the Historikerstreit, the furious debate about the uniqueness of Auschwitz which engulfed German historians in the 1980s, generating in the process rather more heat than light, this was an encouraging example of how fruitful historical controversy can sometimes be.

In a key passage towards the end of the book, he concedes that the question of the conditions for the rise of Hitler does not, as is well known, lead to the contradictions of capitalism, but to the persistence of the power of preindustrial, traditional elites and mentalities in Germany, and of the fears of modernization which derived from the lack of bourgeois liberality. The discrepancy between a modern economy and a more premodern system of rule was basic, it leaps to our attention as we look back.

In describing the course of the war, too, Nipperdey’s desire to redress the balance against the ‘critical’ school leads him to overstep the line between even-handedness and apologetics in more than one way. Thus on the one hand, he is at pains to play down German war crimes in occupied Belgium as temporary excesses exaggerated by propaganda, (Vol. III: p. 760), although the systematic shooting of civilians has long been known to have been part of German military ocupation policy, and recent research is revealing it to have been even more widespread than previously thought.

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