REBUILDING A HOUSE DIVIDED by Hans-Dietrich Genscher

REBUILDING A HOUSE DIVIDED

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The former foreign minister for the Federal Republic of Germany reports on his accomplishments. Genscher's career as a lion of foreign policy is long and distinguished and his 18-year tenure (197492) as West German minister of foreign affairs unparalleled. He was the ``architect'' of the bumpy and still unfinished process of German unification. In addition to that story, he details his work with Gorbachev and Shevardnadze on perestroika, his attempts to consolidate the European Union at Maastricht, and the German role in the Gulf War. What may strike the American reader of this memoir of power and influence, though, is its tone. Postwar German politics has been characterized by a studied distance from the language of rhetorical passion that characterized the Nazi era. Genscher has composed his memoir in this dispassionate, even chilly idiom. It is Genscher's narrative strategy to stick to the facts of his day-to-day policymaking, while often ignoring the larger questions. For example, many view the German Yugoslav policy as his greatest blunder. Germany broke ranks with the other Western powers by prematurely recognizing Croatia as an independent state. Genscher shows the rational steps that went into this decision, simplistically casting himself as the friend of freedom-loving Croatia and the enemy of oppressive Serbia. However, he discusses neither the fraught history of Croatian-German-Serbian relations nor the objections of the US to early recognition of Croatia. He dismisses out of hand the fear, expressed by many at the time, that the accelerated breakup of the Yugoslav state would result in a war, not in Croatia, but in Bosnia--which it did. By sticking to the facts and omitting the hard parts, Genscher tells a bright and uncomplicated story of his success. An essential book for anyone interested in European policymaking, but the great man plays his cards too close to his chest.

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 1998
ISBN: 0-553-06712-5
Page count: 752pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1997