Within the past few years, postwar Europe has been turned upside down. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union and its empire, a major part of the postwar system has disappeared. The West is deeply affected along with the East. The essays here on Germany are part of a continuing effort at SAIS to keep abreast of the changes. Among countries that have belonged to the West, none finds its situation more altered than the Federal Republic of Germany. Our German authors are interesting and diverse, perhaps not “representative” in any mechanical fashion, but experienced, reflective, principled, and well-equipped to think seriously about the future of their country. What they say is unusually open and original. Taken together, their observations paint a complex and troubled picture, both of the “new Germany” and of the “new Europe.” They identify difficult political, economic, moral and psychological problems on all sides. Not least among these is the old German problem of self-definition. The question, “What is Germany?” (or, “Who are the Germans?”), is now a domestic issue within Germany and a foreign issue between Germans and the rest of Europe. Despite our authors’ lengthy catalogue of problems, and their often sober view of the difficulties of overcoming them, they nevertheless share a high level of optimism about the future—a level, it might be said, not entirely justified by their analysis.
Our first author, Klaus Blech, served the Federal Republic as its ambassador in Moscow at the time of unification. He explores Germany’s new/old eastern dimension. His topic, he notes, directs him to consider [End Page 5] united Germany as somehow “between” the eastern and western halves of Europe. “Between,” he observes, has two possible meanings—a central geographical location or a consciously chosen special national political identity and interest. The first denotes a geographical fact, the second a conscious political reaction. Blech denies any deterministic link between the two. Germans have to come to terms with their geographical location, but their national and European identity, or their alliance loyalties, are not simply determined by geography.
Germany is now in a “double between,” Blech notes. The East-West distinction within newly united Germany creates a challenge for national identity and cohesion. And the East-West dimension within a newly open Europe also poses a challenge not just to Germany, but to the West as a whole. Blech finds a significant cleavage over East-West issues between one German generation and another. His generation (Generation One) was raised before Germany was divided by the Cold War. He labels Generation Two those raised after World War II. Generation One, he says, never ceased to think of the people of the old German Democratic Republic as a part of the German nation. Having also experienced, at least indirectly, the shaming personal compromises necessary for surviving in a totalitarian society, Generation One has special insight and sympathy for the psychological condition of today’s East Germans. Generation One also remembers an “old Europe,” where eastern Europe’s distinctive cultures were an important contribution to the richness of the whole. For Generation Two, raised after World War II in the comfortable, free and decent society of the Federal Republic, the GDR was an alien country. There is no psychological bond and a more judgmental and less forgiving approach to past behavior. Generation Two sees itself as firmly west European and is not deeply involved—emotionally or culturally—in eastern Europe. Generation Two is, so to speak, more at home in Tuscany than in Saxony. East Germans are remote and embarrassing relations, accepted as an obligation, but with no real family bond.
What practical consequences, we might ask, could follow from Blech’s generational cleavage? Like it or not, Germany is reunited and eastern Europe opened up. Generation Two will have to come to terms with these [End Page 6] new realities. But Generation Two presumably does not have to go on sustaining the present extraordinarily high West German transfers to the East, or be enthusiastic about absorbing east European countries rapidly into the European Union and NATO. Much will presumably depend on the costs—financial, diplomatic, and military. If...