Sunday, February 17, 2013

Why the German Obsession?

A few weeks ago I was struck by the simple fact that this blog seems to have a German obsession. Much of the blame falls on my fellow blogger, Stephen, who has written about Ernst Jünger, Heinrich Heine, Friedrich Schiller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (as well as Goethe's father), Josef Pieper, Bl. Clemens August Graf von Galen, Thomas Mann, Joseph Roth, Gottfried Benn, and Stefan Zweig (admittedly, an Austrian). Stephen is a self-professed Germanophile, but that merely pushes off the question; why does he possess such Germanophilia? And why have I, a self-professed Anglophile, written on Triumph of the Will, Claus von Stauffenberg, some of Hitler's other conservative opponents, and Hitler's election? Even Therese has written on Hannah Arendt. Why this obsession with Germany, its writers, and its history?

One answer is that many of these posts have had to do - directly or indirectly - with the rise of Hitler to power. This series of events is a real life Richard III, a morality tale about the failure of good men to stop evil (a parallelism not lost on Richard Loncraine). The history of the Third Reich also invites more specific questions about how democracy may be subverted by tyranny, what role philosophy and theology play in politics, and how Christians are called to resist political evils.

More generally, the history of Germany is a kind of compressed history of the modern West. From the Thirty Years War into the 19th century, Germany was a collection of small states on which the Great Powers waged their wars, a kind of Third World in the midst of Central Europe. But in the 19th century, two developments unfolded with great speed: industrialization and political unification. And so, in the span of a single century, Germany passed through changes which most other nations undertook much earlier and over far longer periods of time. Thus, modern Germany exemplifies in various and dramatic ways the social, political, cultural, and economic discomforts which, to some extent, can be found throughout all of Europe and indeed the world.


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