A savvy audit of the Bundesbank, which, the author observes, ``has replaced the Wehrmacht as Germany's best-known and most feared institution.'' Marsh (chief European correspondent for London's Financial Times; The Germans, 1990) offers an accessible, often absorbing, appraisal of the Federal Republic's Frankfurt-based central bank, whose ``anti-inflationary rectitude'' has made it a power to be reckoned with in global finance. After a chatty briefing on those now running the show, the author provides a detailed rundown on the Bundesbank's predecessors, most notably the Reichsbank that was put out of business in 1945. Allied forces created a transitional replacement in what was then West Germany; in 1957, Bonn established the Bundesbank as a politically independent entity that, at least in theory, isn't accountable to other agencies of federal or state government. Given its role as guardian of the deutsche mark, its statutory right to set interest rates, and Germany's post-WW II emergence as an economic colossus, the Bundesbank wields unrivaled influence over domestic policy. In turn, the strength of the D-mark has given the FRB-like institution worldwide clout. But although invariably effective, the Bundesbank is by no means infallible, and Marsh leaves little doubt that great demands will be placed on its capacities in the period immediately ahead--in particular, he cites the challenges posed by German reunification and by the integration of Europe's monetary systems. The author is more sanguine about the bank's ability to unify a formerly partitioned Fatherland than about its willingness to support a union in which EC counterparts might not be as committed to currency stability as the Bundesbank is. A perceptive evaluation of a pivotal financial institution that's been overtaken by events it helped precipitate.