Modern german history

Has Germany finally shaken off its dark past?

In 1982, a board game appeared in West Germany. If you landed on square B9 you were sent to a refugee camp in Hesse where you became ill from loneliness, unfamiliar food and not being allowed to work. Worse still, you had to miss a go and spend the free time thinking about ‘how you would feel in such a situation’. Even if, like me, your childhood was spent crying over lost games of Monopoly, nothing could quite prepare you for the cheerless experience of playing ‘Flight and Expulsion Across the World’. It’s unlikely an updated version has been commissioned for our home secretary, with players assigned counters representing the

Germany’s post-war recovery was no economic miracle

Lord Macaulay wrote that ‘during the century and a half which followed the Conquest there is, to speak strictly, no English history’, because everything in England was decided by an elite who spoke French. This, of course, makes it one of the most fascinating and overlooked parts of our national story.By a similar token, the years 1945-1955 have been neglected by German scholars, because their national history, in Macaulay’s terms, also did not properly exist. Germany, prostrate, shorn of its ancient east, its fate as yet undecided, was entirely run by occupying powers. Yet, as Harald Jähner argues, this is the very era which defined modern Germany. His Aftermath is

Is Germany really such a role model?

The British romance with Germany has always been an on-off affair. At the turn of the century, Kaiser Bill enjoyed brief popularity, based on dynastic ties, until his bombastic militarism set Germany on a path to war. Thirty years on, as Tim Bouverie reminds us in his book Appeasing Hitler, many in the English ruling class favoured Nazi Germany over revanchist France. After the war, Rhenish capitalism, Germany’s social contract between management and labour, appeared to offer a soothing alternative to strike-torn Britain. Then Mrs Thatcher arrived with stiffer medicine. John Kampfner’s Why the Germans Do It Better is a beguiling title because the British have undoubtedly hit a bad

The greatest ‘if only’ of modern history… that the Weimar Republic had succeeded

Has it ever occurred to you that the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918 might have won us the war? Until I read November 1918 it hadn’t to me. Now I know that between May and June that year, as German forces moved to within artillery range of Paris, a million of Ludendorff’s troops, half-starved owing to the British blockade, went down with the virus. Meanwhile, the better nourished British army, regrouping for the battle of Amiens, had a mere 50,000 sick. On such things history can turn. Splendidly researched, and with a striking new thesis, Robert Gerwarth’s book warns against assuming that the way things turned out was inevitable. The