German History Essay
1) “two Germanies”
Germany has often been called a nation divided within itself; there are “two Germanies.”
Traditionally, this was used to distinguish Germany as a nation of “poets and philosophers” from Germany as a nation of militarism. Thinking of the units within the course, discuss how Germany has reflected the problem of “two Germanies” and discuss the significance of this for the experience of German nationhood. In thinking about this issue, consider not only the political struggles that division had engendered, but also the social trauma that is has inflicted on individuals forced to cope with the effects of these divisions.
You must focus on one of the following “divisions”
A) Unification: Prussia versus the rest of Germany (Consider both the political significance of
Prussian leadership, but also the social effects of the breakdown of regionalism)
In examining the history of Germany post 1850, it is evident that the major problem faced by the great nation is the issue of “two Germanies”. For almost all of the second half of the twentieth century, Germany had been not one country, but two. Overall, in looking beyond the geographical boundaries held in by the two Germanies, it is evident that the two Germanies consist of, in essence, the Germany of Prussia, Militarism and the will-to-power, and the Germany of Austria the and Roman civilization.
West Germany, formally the Federal Republic of Germany, and East Germany, the German Democratic Republic. West Germany is a liberal democracy, serving a population that values political and cultural pluralism along with modified free enterprise (Orlow, 2005).
East Germany, on the other hand, East Germany spent time as a Communist state, whose leaders attempted to create a society founded on the principles of Marxism-Leninism. For most of the twentieth century, the two nations were on opposing sides of world power and theory, as West Germany was a friend to the United States and East Germany was the most important ally of the Soviet Union (Orlow, 2005).
German history post 1850 is largely classified by the period of unification sought out under Prusso-German authoritarianism. The division of the country was the result of the course of German history in the years from 1871 to the end of World War II in 1945. The unification of Prussia and Germany occurred mainly during the 18th and 19th centuries. During the 18th century, Prussia maintained its status as the third European power under the rain of Frederick of Prussia (Wikipedia, 2006).
The major social division in Prussia versus the rest of Germany stemmed from the religious differences between the Polish and German citizens. At first, Prussia dominated primarily nothern Germany. Prussia started as a small territory that was later named West and East Prussia. Originally, the territory entitled Prussia was predominately a Protestant state. However, there were many Roman Catholics residing in the Rhineland district. Additionally, the districts of Posen, Silesia, West Prussia and Warmia in the East side of Prussia had predominately Catholic poppulations. Many of the citizens of the districts in East Germany were of Polish descent, though some of the eastern Catholic districts had populations of German descent. And, in order to create a unified Germany, there needed to be a breakdown of the Catholic religion that was dominating and controlling the ways of living of the Polish people.
As a result of the Catholic religious dominance, Prussia sought out to annex the Polish territories in the Partitions of Poland, resulting in a large Polish population that resisted the rules and regulations of the German government.
During the 19th century, Prussia was ruled under the leadership of Chancellor Otto van Bismark, who sought out to unite Germany with the exclusion of the Austrian empire.In 1862, Bismark was appointed to serve as the Prime Minister of Prussia. Bismark sought out to unite the torn German nation, politically divided by Liberals and Conservaties. Bismark invisioned a German nation that was ruled by the dominating Prussian ruling class and bureacracy. Bismark led Prussia through a series of wars, creating a strong and unified Germany. By 1871, Prussia became the ruling state of Germany.
Following the unification of Germany was a period of great fortune for Prussia. Nonetheless, the Prussia-German government had some shortcomings that would lead to its undoing.
In considering the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership, it is important to mention that Prussia’s dominance was absolute, taking up three-fifths of the territory as well as two-thirds of the population. Prussia also retained a three-class voting system, which enabled the rural areas to be overrepresented.
By 1905, the Prussian population was 37,282,935, accounting for 61.5 percent of the German Empire. 63% of the population were practicing Protestants, 31.5 were Catholic and .13 percent Jews (The Catholic Encyclopedia, 2006).
With the end of World War I, Prussia became part of the Weimar republic. The kindgom of Prussia was broken apart when Nazi Germany overtook the nation, though the theories and philosiphies that drove the militaristic Prussian government have withstood and remain center to modern Germany.
It is fascinating to note that there are biological evidences to support the concept of two Germanys. Recent research conducted at the University of Munich demonstrates that West Germans tended to be taller than East Germans. Contrary to official proclamations of a classless society, there were substantial social differences in physical stature in East-Germany. As a result, the difficulties experienced by the East-German population after 1961 is evident in the increase in social inequality of physical stature thereafter, as well as in the increasing gap relative to the height of the West-German population. After unification, however, there is a tendency for East-German males, but not of females, to catch up with their West-German counterparts (Komlos and Kriwy, 2003).
Germany’s path from national unification in 1871 to political division in 1945 and reunification in our own day attempts to present the alternative aspects as well. With the fall of the Berlin wall symbolizing a new future for Germany, Germany has been reunited for more than a decade. It will be interesting to see if the new, reunited Germany will survive, or, if history will repeat itself and Germany will again be divided.
Discuss the “barbaric essence of modernity.” Drawing on anything from German history, from
1871 – 1990, how is it possible to expand Bartov’s claim, to show that modern achievements in
science and technology, along with modern forms of rationalization, have contributed resources
and justifications for efforts to dominate, to master, and to control that have shaped the traumatic
experiences of modern Germany. What I am asking you to consider, using German history as a
case study, is: who are the victims of modernity?
You may draw on anything for this answer.
You might consider any number of the following issues: the role of technology in warfare; the
use of bureaucracy and administrative control for the Holocaust; the destruction of regionalism;
the role and effect of industrialization; the domination of science over faith; the role of
nationalism in war, and its effects (total war); rational, legal, scientific justifications used to
promote state, business, racial interests; the effect of promoting the value of efficiency over
The concept of modernity is based upon the need to create and define something new, something that has never been done before. The need for modernity is innate to every individual, seeking to make a difference and stand out. However, what results from this is the “barbaric essence of modernity.” In considering the impact of modernity on society, the nation of Germany serves as a clear-cut case for study, as no country and culture has a more profound legacy of creativity and destructiveness.
The term modernity, when used by the layperson in consideration, describes, in general, the condition of Western History since the 1400’s. The term modernity is usually used to classify a period of time, characterized by the evolution of a nation, industrialization, the rise of capitalism, the increasing role of science and technology, urbanization and the proliferation of mass media (Wikipedia, 2006).
The rise of technology is also a major contributor to the barbaric essence of modernity. However, many citizens and interest groups hail Germany as a nation of success in research and development. Consider, though, the case of literacy and access to information. In Germany, there is a comprehensive and constantly increasing selection of media playback equipment available to children, including CD players, I-Pod’s, computers and televisions. The ownership of playback equipment enables children to choose when and how to use it (Krueger, 1999). Many would argue that access to this technology will allow the children to have access to information that will enable them to be educated and productive members of society. What they did not consider is that access to these technologies contributes to the culture of modernity that will only result in failure. As a result of modernity, the culture of the past is invaded and replaced by new culture. Folktakes and stories that existed to define differences in geographic regions and classifications of people are invaded and replaced by hit songs and generalizations. This results in cultural homogination andcentralized bureacracy.
Many authors have addressed the problem of modernity. In Ekstein’s book, The Rites of Spring, the authors delves into the effects of modernism on the 20th century.
One major impact of modernism is the replacement of God in society by independent thinking. Ekstein refers to this as “aesthetic nihilism”, which has had profound impacts on the 20th Century.
In essence, German history demonstrates that the culture gave up on the prospect of reason and ethics presented and found in religion and replaced this with the arts and aesthetics as an absolute standard in determining and defining morality and value. By abandoning God, and, truth as a result of abandoning God, the German culture has turned towards existential beauty in the arts, thus enabling a culture free of rules and restraints. And, as a result of this, the German culture encountered what Ekstein calls “total war”, that was capsized by the overtaking, success and crash of Nazi Germany.
Ekstein further emphasizes the role of art in Germany as contributing to the modernity crisis in the nation. Ekstein demonstrates that art and artists stood up to challenge the bourgeois values that had dominated European culture. The artists led people away from their normal way of thinking, and enabled the people to express themselves freely, away from constraints of government.
In many ways, the development of technology has also contributed to the crisis of modernity on the citizens. In Germany, the mass move of the population from the rural areas to establishments in the cities contributed to a changing spirit among the people.
In presenting the case against modernity, Ekstein uses the character of the typical soldier of fought in the trenches. For Ekstein, the typical soldier was “not just a harbinger but the very agent of modern aesthetic, the progenitor of destruction but also the embodiment of the future.”
It is important to note that it was the average trench soldier that eventually led Germany into World War II and fell prey to the Nazi concept. The soldier believed that he was in place to fight against the bourgeois rationalism represented by England and France. In essence, England and France saw Germany as a threat to the order of Europe, and, due to this, the very meaning of meaning was destroyed. As a result, modernity became the prevailing sensibility (Lehmann-Haupt, 1989.
The trench soldiers in Germany embraced Hitler and the order that he presented, irrationally based upon the vision of creativity, which only led to destruction. The results of World War II and the rise of Nazi power in Germany radically altered the psychology of Europe and clearly demonstrate the “barbaric nature” of modernity.
All in all, modernity impacts everyone. Modernity, in its truest sense, allows for independent control of the world. However, modernity, as it impacts society, is realistically only a paradox. What modernity creates is a system of naïve followers, who are captivated by concepts of free expression and the ability to define. The culture that it seeks to give to the public only eliminates the culture upon which the public is based. Modernity does what modernity claims not to do, as it creates a system of followers who dance to the beat of death.
Catholic Encyclopedia (2006). Prussia. Retrieved December 12, 2006, from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12519c.htm
Eksteins, M. (2000). Rites of Spring : The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age. United States: Mariner Books.
Komlos, J., & Kriwy, P. (2003, July). The Biological Standard of Living in the Two Germanies. University of Munich, Department of Economics, 55, 1. Retrieved December 12, 2006, from http://ideas.repec.org/p/lmu/muenec/55.html
Krueger, S. (1999). Reading ability and the New Technology – Developments in Germany. Retrieved December 12, 2006, from http://www.ifla.org/IV/ifla65/papers/115-145e.htm
Lehmann-Haupt, C. (1989, March 13). Books of The Times; Modernism: Rites of Spring, Rites of Destruction. The New York Times, , 1. Retrieved December 12, 2006, from http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE1D9143AF930A25750C0A96F948260&sec=&pagewanted=2
Orlow, D. (2005). A History of Modern Germany: 1871 to Present (5th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice Hall Publishing.
Wikipedia (2006). The Kingdom of Prussia. Retrieved December 12, 2006, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prussia