Der 9.November 1989:
Reunited Germany - The New Danger
Aus dem SEARCHLIGHT Special "Reunited Germany -
The New Danger",
erschienen im Januar 1995
The world celebrated when the Berlin Wall
opened and Germany could once more be united. People across the globe
felt that here was a new opportunity for a Germany which had learned the
lessons of her militarist past and had atoned for the crimes committed
during the Nazi period.
Nobody then could have predicted the course that events would take,
just as nobody now should take what is happening in Germany as anything
other than a warning to the world.
We are all familiar with the headlines - now
becoming fewer as violence is more and more accepted as normality -
about nazi terror and burning refugee hostels. Who can forget the
nightmarish images that have come to be associated with the names of
Hoyerswerda, Rostock, Mölln and Solingen?
These images are the most visible part of a torrent of fascist,
racist and antisemitic criminality let loose by reunification of
But are the nazis really the only problem? This is the question this
pamphlet sets out to answer.
In my opinion, the nazis are only a small part of a much bigger problem
of German nationalism which permeates almost the whole of German society
and which now finds an ever more open expression within the ranks of
Germany's political class, the intellectuals (with a few honourable
exceptions like Günther Grass and Ralph
Giordano), the judiciary, the Vertriebene who want back the "lost
territories" and, most ominously, the military.
The time for shame is over.
German tanks at Arc de Triomphe
in Paris July 1994
This nationalism, fundamentally antidemocratic and filled with hatred
for the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity, was not created
by today's Hitler fans.
They just make use of this lethal leftover
from the past, while nobody puts the real national revivalists under
It is almost a matter of bad taste to talk about the German government
and nationalism all in the same breath.
Facts, however, are stubborn things. They can be rather unpleasant,
too. And the fact is, that to ensure the fulfilment of German unity as
part of their political programme. Chancellor Kohl's Christian
Democratic Union (CDU) and their allies in the Bavarian Christian Social
Union (CSU) drove the process of reunification forward with the whip
(and, for some, the carrot) of nationalism.
The new Great Power Germany, which begins - even if cautiously - once
more to militarise its politics, is not what most people wished for from
reunification. They did not think it was part of the package. And few
would have thought that the question of how to relate to this would-be
superpower would now be exercising the minds of politicians of other
The nationalism unleashed during that indecently short period
between 9 November 1989, when the Berlin Wall opened, and 3 October 1990,
when Germany was reunited, cannot be put back into the bottle like a
It has become the leitmotiv of German foreign policy. It determines
community relations inside Germany where, thanks to talk by CDU and CSU
politicians about "foreign infiltration", foreigners are made to feel
exactly what they are: foreigners.
It provokes ugly antisemitic attitudes that are not confined to
street-comer shaven-headed louts but which reach as far as Helmut Kohl's
Each day we see more and more of the real
consequences of all the talk about "German identity", "German
sovereignty", "German destiny" and "German nationhood" in the eleven
months leading up to reunification when Bild, read by 17 million
people a day, often carried its headlines in the German national colours
of black, red and gold. It is Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the now Green and
former "Red" hero of the 1968 student revolt in Paris, who today waves
these other colours and demands that the German airforce bombs Belgrade.
So, who needs Bild?
The "ambitions" of the government haven't yet got round to include
bombing anyone. Germany wants a seat in the UN Security Council. Its
generals want to build an army of intervention. Its political leaders
want to decide on the future of other members of the European Union and
when anybody objects, well, there is always the Bundesbank on hand to
dish out a currency devaluation or two to keep the objectors in line.
The situation is - another unpalatable fact - slipping out of control.
The mess surrounding the policies of the United Nations, NATO and the
European Union in former Yugoslavia testifies to the inability of
supranational institutions to contain nationalism. To a great extent,
these last two institutions were established precisely to restrict
When these same institutions lose all authority and prove useless, what
then? National interests can only predominate and must clash at first
politically and later, such is the way of the world, with arms.
The whole tragedy of Bosnia indicates that.
And when German ambition, built up on the foundations of what German
nationalists - even the respectable ones who hold high office - see as
"German interests", is put back on the political agenda, things start
The German state arrived late on the historical scene in 1871. It
wanted its "place in the sun" and tried to get it with a war. Foreign
policy after the defeat in the First World War was not fundamentally
different. The "ambitions" remained even if the
military power to realise them was removed by the Versailles Treaty.
Then, Germany also had a democracy: the Weimar
Republic. It lasted 14 years until crisis intervened and those with
"ambition" - the politicians, the military, the captains of industry,
the intellectuals - handed the power to Hitler. "Go on," they encouraged
him, "have a try. See what you can do to make Germany great again." He
failed, of course, and we all know the price: 55 million dead, including
six million Jews and 500,000 Roma.
Chancellor Helmut Kohl is not remotely a Hitler. He is not
even a fascist. But he is a nationalist. He wants
an expansion of German power and an extension of German influence and he
is not afraid of pushing other nations around when given the chance.
He is surrounded by others who are, if anything, even worse: men like
Wolfgang Schäuble who will most probably succeed
him. Schäuble's agenda has none of Kohl's
hesitations. For him, the "Nation" lives through its "identity" and
"history". He is possessed of a sense of destiny.
We should all be rather cautious of such men. Their ideas about destiny
have a habit of leading to catastrophe.
The anti-fascist movement internationally should be especially cautious
and vigilant. What concerns us is not just the
struggle against the nazi nationalists in Germany, hard though that
It is also and must be - because Germany's history in the past 120
years dictates it - a struggle against all the attendant evils of German
nationalism, not least that of militarism, and attempts to give birth to
a new German imperialism.
I appeal to you, do not just pay attention to the nazis and their
street armies. Keep a very close watch on the big party nationalists, on
the generals, on the Rightist opinion shapers.
Above all, see that inside Germany there are many who are in active
resistance to this Grossdeutschland and
its new "ambitions". Give these people your solidarity and help. They
need it and deserve it.
And read this pamphlet and act on the warning!
Michael Schmidt is the producer of the powerful and internationally
acclaimed prize-winning documentary film on the theme of neo-nazism:
"Wahrheit macht frei"
(The Truth Shall Make You Free). He is also the author of the book
Heute gehört uns die Strasse (The New
Reich), awarded an Anne Frank Prize in 1993.
Nationalism in Germany:
Since reunification, Germany has been the recipient
of numerous protests and complaints about racism,
antisemitism, fascism and state-inspired
nationalist activities from, amongst others, the US State Department,
the Russian Foreign Ministry, the Polish Foreign Ministry, the Danish,
Czech, Nigerian, Portuguese and Israeli governments, the United Nations
refugee organisation UNHCR, the World Jewish Congress, the European
Jewish Congress, Amnesty International and the US human rights
organisation Helsinki Watch.