The Home Front:

BOHN, WILLIAM E.

THE HOME FRONT By William E. Bohn A Fine New German History I have already paid my respects in this space to the University of Michigan series, History of the Modern World. The newest...

...Three short chapters take us from Tacitus and Arminius (called "Herrmann") to the 18th century, and six solid chapters are devoted to the life and death of Hitler and Nazism...
...456 pp...
...The age-old political game continues...
...It must often have been difficult for the author of this fine volume to maintain a scholarly, balanced view...
...These books are just the sort to suit the needs of modern manódiplomats, lawyers, teachers...
...The nature of German Socialism, German Communism, Nazism, German religion and German industry all invite the theorist to look for sweeping historical causes...
...There ought to be a copy of the whole series in every school library...
...Our author does not set himself up as a historical philosopher...
...The Russians, with all their pretenses of Communism and democracy, have beaten the people of the East down to their old status...
...Once more it took a whole array of powerful nations to overthrow one country...
...For nearly 2,000 years Germany has been pulled in opposite directions by Eastern and Western powers...
...A short history of Germany inevitably involves simplifying many complicated elements and passing judgment on whole complexes of problems...
...How could a country remain so backward in some respects and become so progressive and really first-class in others...
...And near the end he writes: "She has come an astonishingly long way, much farther than anyone in 1945 would have dared to predict...
...In the end, the reader faces the two Germanies, with Russia and the West pulling in opposite directions...
...Here we have, as in a mirror, two Germanies, two civilizations, two ways of life in dramatic contrastówith eager refugees rushing from East to West...
...The very fact that she is currently divided into two states, one influenced by the West and one by the East, underlines this statement...
...Not long ago the Germans were our enemies and the despicable Hitler was their spokesman...
...When Hitler came along, striding in his jackboots, he seemed to symbolize all of the backward cruelty of the East...
...Again the lower layers of the German population seemed to have won the mastery...
...8.75), has all the virtues of its 15 predecessors...
...But it must be said to Dill's credit that he guides us through the most difficult passages of Central European affairs with a cool and even sense of justice...
...Germany's part in the two great World Wars leaves many other questions to be answered as well...
...We still have two Germanies...
...How could both Britain and France leave Germany behind in every sort of political achievement...
...He begins his volume with these sentences: "Germany is today the country of the middle...
...And the point at issue becomes the cold war of industry and ideas...
...In rapid-fire fashion, the whole long and complicated history of Germany is covered, with the most emphasis given to those features which have deposited the most vexatious problems on the modern world's doorstep...
...In dealing with both Nazis and Communists he maintains an admirable and even temper, no small achievement in the light of 20th century history...
...Poor Germany is drawn and quartered by the contending East and West...
...But Dill sticks doggedly and cheerfully to his knitting, telling his story of political, military and social affairs as it goes on from age to age...
...Then, to the surprise of some but not of all, the Russian Communists quickly but smoothly shifted parts and took over the role of the ancient oppressors...
...How could it be so enterprising in industry and yet so stupid in politics as to fall the willing victim of Adolf Hitler...
...As the narrative nears the end, the center of interest inevitably shifts...
...Fortunately, too, they are living in real Western prosperity...
...In the West, on the contrary, the people are living as free as Westerners elsewhere...
...The newest volume in the set, Germany, by Marshall Dill Jr...
...Not that Dill's work lacks grounding in historical theory...
...Dill's history of Germany is foreshortened in such a way as to make for a rapid, attractive and yet pithy narrative...
...Germany is once again a world problem...
...And ever since then, in the time of Charlemagne, during the Reformation, in the so-called Revolution of 1848, at the time of the Weimar Republicóagain and again the Germans were torn between the progressive and democratic ideas of the West and the brutal and conservative instincts of the Eastern and Central areas...
...When the ancient Teutonic tribesmen defeated the Romans, they created the first division into East and West...
...In a world so torn with strife as the world of 1961, it is extremely encouraging to be optimistic about any segment of it...
...Speaking of the West, Dill concludes: "One can afford at least moderate optimism...

Vol. 44 • July 1961 • No. 28


 
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