AFTER THE WALL by Marc Fisher


Germany, the Germans, and the Burdens of History
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 A disturbing look at the problems facing contemporary Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The former Bonn and Berlin bureau chief for the Washington Post has combined a journalist's accessibility with a historian's attention to context in his portrait of Germany since 1989. Supplementing personal interviews with historical flashbacks, the book demolishes the common perception of Germany as a well-ordered, prosperous, and stable nation at peace with its horrendous past. Fisher uses the wall as a metaphor to analyze the contrasts between east and west Germany, between the Germans and others, and between the Germans and their history. Readers will be shocked to discover the level of regimentation and restriction that penetrate every level of German society and alarmed to realize that the Turk and the Gypsy have replaced the Jew as the ``Other'' in the national psyche. Perhaps more than any other nationality, Germans are burdened by their history: The wall fell on November 9, 1989, the 51st anniversary of Kristallnacht. Yet the author shows that for all the history that appears on the surface, Germans have not yet managed to ``work through'' the recent past. As much as the Germans might ``lust for normalcy,'' the unavoidable reality is that National Socialism and the Holocaust remain central to our conception of Germans and their conception of themselves. An ugly portrait emerges from Fisher's work. When a professor in Berlin admits, in 1994, ``We will even accept injustice before lack of order in our private lives or in public,'' the reader understands that this is not an abstract, theoretical critique of German society, but a common sentiment voiced in different ways throughout the country. Fisher's thought-provoking examination demands of us a more sober, less idealistic assessment of German society and culture after unification.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-684-80291-0
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1995


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