Germans are a romantic people - romanticism knows no moderation.
Originally Posted by Hanseat
I could sit here all day thinking about the past... then again we know about history as opposed to most americans I've talked to (AP US History 5 points; AP US and Comp. Government 5 points). But we had a bit of learning from our history to do... I guess it's just in our genes
Well it certainly has a bit to do with history if you look at it: Start out with one of the greater German contributions, the reformation, causing uprisings that Luther himself did not even anticipate. The Uprisings were brutally put down. The spread of the reformation and the restoration that followed caused a shift in the power balance in Germany that was one of the reasons for the greatest catastrophe in German history, the 30 year war(1618-1648), that devastated large parts of the country. Looting armies and the plague that followed them elliminated about 20% of the population - the village my parents live in had a population of 200 before the war and a population of 20 after the war, some parts of the country were void of a population for some time afterwards. Since the war was not won by any party, Germany could not develop into a nation-state as France and England did, the loose federation of German states became ever weaker and after the French revolution could not defend itself. So the French eventually did away with the Reich (the first Reich) and Napoleon established a system af alliances with local rulers in western Germany. That time marks the beginning of German nationalism. However, these were also the times of Goethe, and especially Schiller, so after the defeat of Napoleon, and after once again a period of restoration, the ideas of the French revolution stayed. This eventually led to another failed revolution, in 1848, followed by yet another restoration that caused the population to withdraw into privacy (Biedermeier). The ideas of the enlighment were pushed back in Germany as a result, replaced by a more romantic view of the world, less based on thinking or studying and more on feeling and experiencing, feeling sentimental one could say. Eventually Prussia dominated Germany and a new Reich (the second one) could be established. (The by now well established idea of nationalism prevented the multi-ethnic Austria to be included). We are now in 1871, France was just defeated by Prussia. The establishment of the 2nd Reich, however, lead to a power shift in Europe: Suddenly a united German empire comes into play. As European leaders tried to balance it out by a system of alliances an enourmously complicated system evolved. (the time of Bismarck's Realpolitik that oddly enough G.W. Bush became interested in lately.) That system of alliances of course turned the ethnic uprisings in the Austro-Ungarian Empire into WW I, as suddely a chain reaction of declarations of war was triggered. I don't see Germany as the country that started it, I suppose the decision to attack France quickly was seen as dictated by the geographic position of Germany: The war will come anyway, if Germany wants to win she has to attack (move to Paris with all forces, then shift to the east and repell the attacking Russians - a plan that was drawn up well before the war (Schliefen Plan)). Did not work, Germans lost their nerve when the Russians indeed did attack in the east and moved forces to the east prematurely. Also the meaning of new weapon technology on the battlefield was misinterpreted (no, you cannot use mashine guns to just mow down defending troops). After WW I we have two revolutions at the same time, finally a democracy, but also huge inflation, the revenge of the victors, a democracy that most people despise - western liberal ideas (of the victors) don't have much of a foothold in the general population so again it is these romantic, illogical, sentimental, ideas that take hold. You all know what followed then: the celebration of that mystical, sentimental aspect, this time modernised and disguised as science, excecuted without moderation, there is no place for moderation in mystical romaticism. To make a long story short I believe Germans are a sentimental people because - The 30 year war halted political progress and political unity in Germany - The political ideas of the French revolution were supressed after the defeat of Napoleon and replaced by romanticism. - Germany was either too weak or too strong most of the time and as a result Germans never feel secure. - A united Germany rarely happens - Most revolutions, most attempts of the population to gain freedom, failed. - an enlighned view of the world is sometimes seen as superficial, not connected to the knowledge of a mystical depth (little example to German students: "Die Amerikanischen Studenten lernen ja nur anwendungsbezogenes Wissen - in Deutschland bohren wir dickere Bretter.....") It's a refuge: picture members of the old Germanic tribes sitting in the woods at night, in touch with their pagan gods, tourches light the clearing, Wagner music in the background, mourning the death of their king. That feeling, I believe, is indeed in our genes.