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This is a first-rate study of the ideas and ideology which have made the German people what they are. Going back as far as the Middle Ages, Professor Kohn, like a detective, follows the trails of ideas which have been swimming in German heads for several centuries and have found their way to the present. It has taken a century of brutal wars and a final total collapse to make a dent in some of these ideas, but the Germans seem to believe now that much of their trouble was a result of an intellectual isolation which only superficially considered the realities of the world around them. In so many German ideas can be found the magic force of wishful thinking. But, as the author writes, there is no inevitability in history, and it is quite interesting to see how and why Germany went the way she did when there were always alternative paths. Dr. Kohn does a particularly admirable job in giving us the basic idea content of Germany's great intellectuals. Goethe, Nietzsche, Heine, Schiller, Marx, Schlegel, and others are examined in the context of the whole German mind. Perhaps even more fascinating are those who were little known outside Germany but whose profound influence of German thinking helped prepare the way for the rise of Hitler and the subsequent catastrophe. It is ironic that the Germans, who have always had an oversentimentalized approach to their own virtue, should have finally ended up committing the worst crimes in history. But Prof. Kohn sees great promise in the Germany of the present, which is now attached to the West and slowly learning the ways of democratic rule.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1960
Publisher: Scribner