Federal Cloud-Cuckoo-Land

The Federal Republic of Germany

by Alfred Grosser
Praeger, 150 pp., $4.50

This Germany

by Rudolf Walter Leonhardt
New York Graphic Society, 275 pp., $7.95

The dreadful thing about the German question is the way it forces people to take sides. Some are afraid for Germany, others are afraid of Germany. It is not easy to decide who makes one more impatient, the fierce detractors or the uncritical admirers of the Federal Republic. In fact, as a practical issue of politics, the German question has gone stone cold. As the focus of international tension swings decisively from Europe to Asia, even those who have played it hardest are coming to realize that they are flogging a tired horse. Contrary to predictions from the Left, the Federal Republic has not proved to be merely a temporary halting place on the road back to Hitler. Contrary to predictions from the Right, the division of Germany has not endangered world peace. No sensible person today pays much heed to what a Swiss writer has called “the hypocritical wailing” about reunification. It has become a ritual, like prayers for rain in a dry summer. But the bogies raised by Left and Right ten years ago, at the height of the controversy over the Paris treaties, have dissolved into thin air, like smoke from a dying bonfire on a still evening in the fall.

This, of course, is no reason for complacency, and the professional apologists who paint the Federal Republic as a democratic paradise (and the People’s Republic as a hell on earth) are doing Germans no service. The Federal Republic, as we meet it in the pages of Professor Grosser and Herr Leonhardt, is not a peculiarly likeable place. It is also not a particularly stable place. It would be surprising if it were. A people that has suffered so many ups and downs in so few years is unlikely to land on level ground. But it is also not a particularly dangerous place. The simple but decisive fact about the Federal Republic is that it has come to rest, almost gratefully, in the ranks of the second-rate. It has come to terms with ineluctable demographic facts. The folie de grandeur, which seized Germany between Bismarck’s fall in 1890 and Hitler’s suicide in 1945, has burnt itself out. In a world of super-powers, where even President Sukarno rules over a hundred million people, no country of 55 millions can aspire to a “world mission.” Despite Hitler’s pleas to the contrary, it looks today as though Germany is going, after all, “to terminate its life as a secondary Holland or a second Switzerland.”

That means, of course, that the Federal Republic is a very mediocre, if not a dreary sort of place. Professor Grosser, a leading French expert on German affairs, has contrived without difficulty to make it respectable, but even he, sympathetic as he is, cannot make it exciting or even very interesting. On the whole, however, this is probably the most level-headed account of the Federal Republic we possess. Its sober professionalism marks it off from Herr Leonhardt’s long, discursive, and thoroughly …

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