Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Deutschland 2010

October 3 was German (re)unification day. It has been 20 years since the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany went from being two countries that never existed before World War II to being one "reunified" country that never existed before 1990. I am not sure what the state of mind in Germany was for this anniversary (they don't tend to exhibit 4th of July-style bombast), but it is clear that changes are afoot in Germany.

First, the Christian Science Monitor reports that Germany finally paid off that Visa it got in college. No wait, Germany actually made the final payment on the reparations from World War I. No need to occupy the Ruhr, France and Belgium, nothing to see here. This actually does at least symbolically close an era (as if the intervening events of Hitler, the Holocaust, the Cold War, and Wiedervereinigung did not). The end of reparations is another step in Germany being a fully "normal" country again.

While almost certainly unrelated to the end of reparations, the New York Times reported on the resurgence of German identity. One thing striking to a Midwesterner in Germany was that there were no German flags in public. In the Midwest they are everywhere. Every gas station, government facility (including rest stops on the highway), and plenty of houses have American flags in front of them. It was really striking. Now it appears that Germans are starting to express pride in aspects of their history and culture. Frankly, this strikes me as appropriate. Those Europeans who are "concerned" that Germany is not "committed" to Europe are mostly countries that provide less material benefit to their European partners. In other words, countries with an interest in guilty Germans paying the bills. As long as German national pride does not spill over into Antisemitism or other negative behavior, there is nothing wrong with celebrating the national team's World Cup wins, or using German on train signs instead of English. Everyone else does it too.

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