The author attempts to answer- in very personal terms- a question to which the greatest German writers have often turned with despair- what are the Germans? For every facet of national character that she examines, she has a personal reflection or recollection from her nightmare youth under Hitler or young womanhood spent dodging in and out of the Russian zone. This adds immeasurably to the reality and the immediacy of the problems-- but she does occasionally get in the way of the issues she raises. She is at her best in demolishing the Teutonic god, Efficiency. She finds this leading to a lack of imagination and a lack of responsibility -- political and moral. And again, when she looks for a sense of cleansing guilt in her own and her parents' generations, only to come up with a sense of their impatient amnesia and disengagement -- which she believes has allowed the elevation of ex-Nazis to positions of political power by default. Although the abundance of emotion weakens her stance as an analyst (particularly in the final chapters) this remains a literate attempt to explain the tinder box of our times.