Readers have their say on politics in Germany, and make comparisons to Britain.
The German people believe Angela Merkel will tell them the truth (“Trust helps Germany through its crisis”, TNE #215). The biggest issue with our government is a lack of faith.
The trust in Boris Johnson and his uninspiring crew has been systematically undermined and its credibility repeatedly brought into question as they over-promise and under-deliver across a whole range of issues. Glib phrases like “world class” or “world-beating” fall from Johnson’s lips only to be followed by chaos and failed performance. And people continue to die in increasing numbers.
Very few people trust Johnson, particularly after he refused to sack Dominic Cummings for breaking lockdown.
I would like to commend Ian Walker on his excellent article on the creation of the post-war German polity (“The roots amid the ruins”, TNE #214). However, I do have one caveat which has more contemporary echoes.
He is critical of the Christian Democrats and Christian Socialists for employing former members of the Nazi party to key positions. One needs to take into account that to keep one’s job as a university lecturer, teacher, policeman, civil servant or other government employee in Nazi Germany it was necessary to join the party.
Therefore it is a mistake to conflate party membership with being a Nazi, indeed many members of the resistance joined to give themselves cover from the Gestapo and SD. Consequently, Adenauer rightly ignored these criticisms and appointed able people to important jobs. Contrast this with the hapless Paul Bremer in Iraq after the US occupation. He was warned not to disband the Iraqi army but only the hard-line Baathists in the officer corps. He then dismissed all Baath party members from civil and military occupations, even though reasons for membership were akin to those operating in Nazi Germany.
At a stroke, he alienated huge swathes of Iraqi society, especially 400,000 young soldiers who had lost their jobs and had access to weapons. The consequences of such folly are still with us.
As my father had been part of the Control Commission for Germany in 1946/7, helping German trade unions get back on their feet, he was asked to go back in 1960 to the so-called ‘capital village’ of Bonn.
I was only a child, but even then marvelled at how sophisticated, organised, prosperous and elegant the whole town was. Coming from suburban Surbiton, I found another and more magical world.
I look back now to realise only 15 years had gone by since the end of the war. It really was a case of “He that is down needs fear no fall”, and I have continued to marvel at the humility, the sober sensibleness and willingness to learn of the Germans as a people. My father found the people he worked with admirable, and we made many lifelong friends.
Such a shame that as I have got older, hatred for Germany seems to be growing in this country. When we are on the way down, we invoke the past. Most Germans don’t want to do that: they look ahead, but clear-eyed.
Two excellent pieces in TNE #214 reminded me why it is such a worthwhile read.
Nine writers (coincidentally all women) from across the continent reflected on why Europe is “A Place of Hope”, while Liz Gerard very cogently mused on “Why the Centre cannot hold” by looking at past experience in the UK.
It seems to me, however, that nobody in our lifetime has experienced such a desperate political and economic meltdown as we are living through at the moment, and perhaps instead of gazing wistfully across the 22 miles of Channel at the hope and liberalism on the other side, other solutions must be found.
This can only be an emergency coalition of all the opposition parties with the single aim of fielding just one candidate against the Tories and enacting proportional representation immediately, after which the coalition could be annulled.
Nothing less will rid us of this carcinogenic and frightening government.
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