THE FOURTH AND RICHEST REICH by Edwin Hartrich

THE FOURTH AND RICHEST REICH

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KIRKUS REVIEW

To the world at large, Hartrich notes, postwar Germany's rise from the abyss to its present economic eminence seems little short of a miracle, but he deems it simply the honest fruit of hard work, dedication, and sensible application of Adam Smith's free-market economics to all aspects of German life. Though other commentators have more complex explanations, the tale Hartrich weaves is quite interesting. He starts with the meeting between General Lucius Clay and Professor Ludwig Erhard in which Erhard won Allied acceptance for his soziale Marktwirt-schaft--the market economy with a social conscience. As Hartrich tells it, Erhard's restoration of the profit motive as the prime mover in German life was a fundamental step fortuitously furthered by currency reforms and the outbreak of the Cold War--not only did business quickly get back on its feet and begin its phenomenal growth, but even the socialists saw the light and opted in 1959 for a ""consumer socialism."" (Hartrich labels this moment ""capitalism's finest hour."") And Hartrich's portraits of Erhard, Adenauer, Scheel, Schmidt, and the major industrialists--along with the roles they played in the creation of the world's first ""eco-political"" state--all lead to one message: Germany has at last conquered the world--economically that is--and thank God that at least one nation is running a tight ship. But this theme points to the book's major flaw: it becomes a panegyric on the Germanic sense of sound banking. The human cost of Germany's success, as revealed by Baader-Meinhof and brilliantly chronicled in the recent Marriage of Maria Braun, rates a mere four or five pages in an Epilogue that almost chokes on its attempt to picture Chancellor Schmidt as a latter-day Bismarck. In the closing chapter, moreover, Hartrich reveals that he was the public relations man hired by the Krupps' to clean up their image, which only fuels the suspicion that he's hardly an objective observer. Finally, Hartrich displays only a weak sense of how modern Germany fits into its history, while the ominous continuities between an earlier paternalism and the present German social welfare state escape him completely. The positive side of the ledger, and even then incomplete.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1980
Publisher: Macmillan