Here, from a reporter for The Wall Street Journal who specializes in Germany, are portraits-in-miniature of the divided-and-reunited nation's ""mental decolonization,"" as the continental colossus struggles to reshape after the fall of the Berlin Wall. With a cool yet not-unsympathetic eye, Shlaes examines the physical and psychic exiles trying to piece together the shards of their homeland from the wreck of Kaiser Wilhelm's and Hitler's Germany. ""The more I studied these 'borderline,' disparate groups,"" she writes, ""the more evident it became that their problems and projects were the clearest reflection of the problems and projects of German society."" With the exception of a meandering chapter on Munich's Prince Regent Theater and the extravagant Bavarian culture it represents, Shlaes offers perceptive glimpses of such phenomena as West Berlin's Jewish School; ""the Barbaras,"" a volunteer group that resettled nearly 350,000 East Germans in the Federal Republic in 1989; and Prince Karl von Schwarzenberg, one of the descendants of noble families who have found new roles as political advisers in the new Europe. And although these pieces don't add up to the cohesive whole she desires, Shlaes has uncovered a small but significant stratum of German society largely ignored in other accounts (including David Marsh's estimably comprehensive The Germans, p. 1232). A somewhat offbeat, personality-centered look at the world the Germans thought they had lost--but which, in some senses, they are finally regaining.