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How Germany came in from the cold A century and a half after unification, the Prussian aberration has lessons for today

A state with an army, not an army with a state. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

A state with an army, not an army with a state. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images


January 18, 2021   6 mins

Today we are called upon to celebrate German Unity. The Brandenburg Gate will doubtless be lit in black-red-gold lights. “Deutschland, Deutschland”, the de-fanged, latest incarnation of Haydn’s hymn to Kaiser Francis II of the Holy Roman Empire, will segue flawlessly into Beethoven’s wonderful setting of Schiller’s awful “An die Freude”, the hymn of that new EU supra-patriotism which is more truly felt in Germany than anywhere else.

And over it all will preside Queen Angela the Great, soon to bow out, most likely replaced by her chosen successor Armin Laschet — she must, in some psychological sense, be its Queen, not its Chancellor, since it is impossible for any mere democratic leader to have approval ratings of 80% in the 15th year of their tenure. She is, quite simply, there because the Germans feel they need her.

And indeed, under her beneficent rule, modern Germany provides Europe with its one world-class industrial economy, its most rock-solid democratic institutions — able, as almost no others have been, to shrug off the challenge of populism — and its bank of last resort. It is fast becoming functionally bi-lingual in English, and is in some ways more like the real Britain than modern Britain: an eyewitness has twice told me how, how at the 2015 G7 at Schloss Elmau, Queen Angela asked David Cameron why on earth he would even consider putting 800 years of unique parliamentary tradition aside in favour of his utterly needless referendum.

So let us celebrate modern Germany. But the reign of Queen Angela, prolonged by the Covid epidemic, will soon be over. Which makes 18 January 2021 the ideal time for us all, and especially the Germans themselves, to properly consider their history — which is to say, who they truly are.

The unification of 18 January 1871 is taught in most schools, here and in Germany, as just one of the great National Unifications of the mid-19th century. The implication is that it was simply part of some natural, general and thus (according to the religion of Progress) virtually inevitable unfolding of history. In truth, it was the most fatal event in modern European history.

The so-called “German Unification” — more accurately the Reichsgruendungstag (“Day of the Founding of the Empire”) — saw the birth of a radically strange new state which, August Hayek argued, was the seed-bed of both Bolshevism and National Socialism. It represented the final, formal step in the complete takeover, by force, of wealthy, ancient, largely Catholic Germany by a far poorer and smaller Lutheran outlier whose sole but decisive advantage was that it was entirely organised for war. British readers might try to understand it by imagining that in the chaos of our own Civil Wars, the Calvinist Scots had beaten Cromwell at Dunbar and then, in alliance with their cousins, the Ulster Scots, installed Charles II as puppet king over far larger and wealthier, but hopelessly fractured England, annexing the whole of its wealth and power to their own project.

The division between the two Germanies was, until the 19th century, almost absolute. Cologne (Colonia Agrippinensis) was officially named in 50AD and designed to be the capital of Roman Germania. When the Empire fell, the baton of European civilisation and Christianity was passed, with no real break, to the Western Germanic dynasties of the Merovingians and then the Franks. Re-founded in 800AD under the greatest Frank of all, Charlemagne, the new Roman Empire (almost identical to the original EEC in geography) had its capital in Aachen. In various incarnations, that Empire remained the heart of European civilisation for a thousand years.

In the East, things were very different. Twelve hundred years after Augustus dedicated his first altar in Cologne, the Prussians were pagan Balts who had barely made First Contact with European civilisation. Then, in 1226, the Teutonic Knights arrived on the borders of modern day Lithuania and Russia, bearing fire and the sword. Eventually taking on the name of the tribe they had come to crush, they slowly expanded. Their spiritual heartland, East Prussia, remained a colonial realm, with a German elite lording it over Slav or Baltic helots, until within living memory (which is why Heinrich Himmler so loved the place, making it his blueprint for the Nazi New Order in the East).

My late father-in-law, born there in 1926, was taught to ride by a Russian stable-boy and listened as his parents spoke Lithuanian to their tenants. Any colonial elite like this has to be constantly on guard, and the Teutonic Knights eventually developed into Junker Prussia, that uniquely militarised realm of which Voltaire famously said: “All states have armies but in Prussia, the army has a state”.

This Prussia was the first place to embrace Lutheranism and fracture the unity of mediaeval Europe. Though it rose to prominence as the robber-state villain of the War of the Austrian Succession, then as the extremely lucky survivor of the Seven Years War (when it was saved from destruction only by the death of Catherine the Great), it remained an outlier of real Germany: “What did we care about Prussia, back then?” (Was ging uns Preussen damals an?) wrote Germany’s greatest author, Goethe, looking back on his youth in mid-18th-century Frankfurt. Yet within a century, this distant, dirt-poor, only semi-German colonial realm based in what’s now Russia and Poland ended up completely taking over the great lands which had been the heart of Western Europe for the best part of two millennia.

How did it happen? We are the villains. In 1814, determined to exit troublesome Europe, Britain unilaterally gifted Prussia a vast chunk of the most developed territory in Western Europe. This so-called Rhenish Prussia, overwhelmingly Catholic, provided the state-worshipping militarists of Königsberg and Berlin with a gigantic increase in revenues, and industries like Krupp’s of Essen. Panglossian British liberals assumed (as their descendants in the 1990s assumed of China) that Prosperity and Reform must inevitably go hand-in-hand.

After all, the Prussians were Protestants and surely, as Lord Macauley taught, Protestants were progressives? Instead, Otto von Bismarck toughed it out, Tiananmen Square-like, with the Rhineland parliamentarians: at the height of the constitutional struggle, in June 1865, the centre of Cologne was cleared at bayonet-point by troops who even enlisted an elephant from the zoo to help drive the reformists from the streets. Meanwhile, armies of state-funded Prussian university professors, their works consciously modelled on our own Whig History, embarked on a campaign to prove that Royal and Lutheran Prussia had a manifest destiny to lead all Germany. Then, in 1866, Bismarck declared long-planned war on Western Germany.

All the four other fully-fledged kingdoms of Germany backed Austria. Hanover defeated a Prussian army in the first major engagement. But the tax-take and hardware from the Rhineland gave Prussia an unbeatable edge. On 3 July 1866 at Koenniggratz the Austrians, who still used Waterloo-style muzzle-loaders, were routed at the greatest battle in Europe between 1815 and 1914. Without any real hope, the west of Germany fought on for another three weeks. Frankfurt, the ancient imperial capital, was surrounded by General von Manteuffel, who informed its citizenry that if they didn’t provide a vast ransom in bullion within 24 hours, he would give them over to plunder by his East Prussian farm-boys. This wasn’t unification, it was conquest. Bismarck waited until 1871 to dragoon the remaining kingdoms into his “German Empire” simply because he was, until then, still unsure that Prussia could digest them. Not for nothing did Disraeli call the new Empire “Prussia-Germany” or simply “Prussia” to the end of his days.

Now, Prussia-Germany was able to deploy all Germany’s industry and manhood eastwards, in pursuit of what had always really mattered to it. By late 1887, the future Chancellor von Buelow was already describing a plan which sounds like Ludendorff’s vision in 1917-18 and Hitler’s in 1941-2: the Prussian-German armies would  “devastate Russia’s black earth region”, destroy its ports and industries and set up a vassal-state in the Ukraine. This was nothing to do with German thinking and everything to do with Prussian thinking: 1871-1945 was the great aberration in German history.

It is incredibly tempting to dream about how different things might have been had Napoleon simply abolished Prussia, as he actively considered doing after trouncing it in 1806.  Imagine: after Napoleon’s fall, we would have had a wealthy, voluntarily but loosely united, largely Catholic Germany, its capital Frankfurt, at the heart of a golden European century which had no need to copy the Prussians and turn the Continent into an armed camp
 the Good Russians, with this example before them, finally consigning Absolutism to the rubbish-dump of history
  Alas! Alternative History is even more absurd than Whig History. But if the past can’t be changed, it can be learned from.

The first lesson is that Germany is not naturally some megalomaniac power bent on domination. That was Prussia. Prussia is gone. If the western Germans keep their nerve, they can safely ignore the last undead hauntings from the East. Germany’s future is where it’s past always truly was: in the West.

The greater, and more worrying lesson is that the most ancient, civilised and wealthy lands can, if disunited and unprepared to defend themselves, end up powerless against brute force wielded by a leader prepared to play va banque, backed by a bloated military who positively long to prove themselves irreplaceable. One of the many tragedies of Brexit is that an EU Army would inevitably have had English as its language of command. We, with the only major battle-hardened force in Europe, would surely have led it. No wonder Putin longed for Brexit.

So let’s not deny the excellent modern Germans our attendance at their celebration. But once the Beethoven and the fireworks and the black-red-gold lights (which would have infuriated Bismarck) on the Brandenburg Gate have faded, let us — above all, the Germans themselves — learn from the their real history. For time, as the man said,  is short.


James Hawes’s The Shortest History of Germany is out in over 20 countries. The Shortest History of England is just out.

 

jameshawes2

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7882 fremic
7882 fremic
3 years ago

English may have been the language of the EU army, but it would merely have been weasely, cowardly, indecisive, vasilating, partisan, political, and an utter shambles in English instead of whatever Babble it uses. An army of 27 nations is not a fighting force, it is unlikely to be more unified than 27 cats thinking of going for a walk together.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

-love the 27 cats image.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

The armies of the Roman Empire (and probably several others) are a counterexample to your theory.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

The armies of the Napoleonic era are a counterexample to the counterexample, surely. Six of seven coalitions against Napoleon fell apart when defeated and the EU army Napoleon took into Russia caused his own coalition to fall apart.

When you consider that Germany jerrymanders (see what I did there?) its apparent defence spending by including the autobahn maintenance budget (essential for defence, nicht wahr, innit?), you are reminded that an EU army without Britain is like the RAF without Spitfires.

In fact, when are we renaming the Eurofighter the Spitfire?!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Eurofighter the Spitfire?

You mean Typhoon?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Typhoon was a stupid name all along. The original Typhoon was a ground attack aircraft, not a fighter. Spitfire would have reminded the continentals what they owe us.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Mustang would be a better name?

andrewrhayden
andrewrhayden
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Er, no.

Janusz Przeniczny
Janusz Przeniczny
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Typhoon ? Isn’t that a tea bag?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

We’ll have no teabagging in this thread thank you. A disgraceful practice.

andrewrhayden
andrewrhayden
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I’m embarrassed to say that I had to look that up. Now, I wish I hadn’t.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
3 years ago
Reply to  7882 fremic

I think we can safely say, with or without the British Army, an EU army will have English as its default lingo.

tangosmurfen
tangosmurfen
3 years ago

The Rhineland was not given to Prussia by stupidity. It was done so out of fear. Fear for France. England had feared France for 800 years. After the Napoleonic war it more than anything feared that France would rice again and once more unite continental Europe against Britain. There was nothing or no one who could stop them if they tried. Western Germany was a set of rich but pacifist city states mostly with a background as church principalities. (Imagine Coventry as a city state ruled by the bishop and successfully competing with London in finance and insurance),

The solution was to give the the Rhineland to Prussia. If France would attack Prussia it would at least take some time and make some noise so that UK could organise some kind of alliance against France.

The idea that Prussia would conquer France was as alien to them in 1815 as Mexico conquering the USA is for us today

Edit Szegedi
Edit Szegedi
3 years ago
Reply to  tangosmurfen

The rich city states were mostly in the South and were Protestant or bi-confessional. Western Germany was confessionally very mixt. It was and still is, for instance, the stronghold of German Calvinism.

Stefan GoldlĂŒcke
Stefan GoldlĂŒcke
3 years ago
Reply to  Edit Szegedi

South is relative ! It depends on when and from where. I would certainly disagree to the “southern myth” looking to the Hanse (Hamburg, Bremen, LĂƒÂŒbeck…) or the highly developed western part of the country even in ancient times (Köln, Neuss, etc.). Protestantism has a string and positive on work ethics over quality of live which you can observe in Switzerland very well. Coming back to “when and from where” you can count todays Switzerland as part of the “empire” or in todays form.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago

Quite so. Despite loathing the damage wrought by Reformation in the British Isles, I find the author’s sentimental attachment to Catholicism – “medieval unity” – almost sinister in its simple mindedness.

Simon During
Simon During
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

And it is not as if Medieval Catholic Europw was unified. The Guelfs and the Gibillines anyone? Or Frederick II v. Pope Innocent?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon During

True, but the wars of religion did kill far more people.
Anyway it doesn’t matter anymore.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  tangosmurfen

Excellent point!

Although the piece above is a comprehensive review of the’ Course of German History’ – it somehow exonerates revanchist France from any responsibility for the militarisation of Europe into armed camps in 1914 – perhaps the author should take a look at the map of Europe after Jena and Tilsit and even the French latinisation of German city names during their occupation under the “Confederation of the Rhine” ( eg Aix la Chapelle, Cologne, Mayence)? French Imperialism was still a concern of Germans up until 1870 as any review of Napoleon III’s Second Empire ambitions will reveal.

Prussia had always mounted guard for the German East – without its military prowess ( and the famous death of the Tsarina) even Frederick the Great would have been overthrown by Russian armies and Berlin sacked. Russia, not France was what worried the German High Command most in 1914.

It is also unreasonable to avoid highlighting any Russian responsibility for the military stand-off in the East and in particular Russia’s secret War Aims up until August 1914, in particular plans for the demolition of both Austria and Prussia and the long dreamed of re-conquest of Constantinople. Germany rightly saw Russia as a rapidly expanding power and a growing threat in 1914.

It seems demonising Germany – especially Prussia- at the expense of demonstrable historical truths is still an easy pastime for historians of the last century and the total catastrophe of 1914 simply to avoid any revisiting of the well established dogmas of the ‘guiltless’ victor powers.
( Reading: “The Russian Origins of the First World War” Sean Mc Meekin)

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago

“One of the many tragedies of Brexit is that an EU Army would inevitably have had English as its language of command.”

Germany will never pay for this fantasy army and that’s who would have to pay for it. And Germany would never have let the UK lead anything even had Brexit not happened.

CL van Beek
CL van Beek
3 years ago

The EU never took the UK seriously, that is to say, the EU really is France+Germany. The rest are hand puppets.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  CL van Beek

Yes, that is one of the EU’s many flaws.

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Or Britain’s?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  CL van Beek

Yes, Dutch are too stupid to know that…

Arden Babbingbrook
Arden Babbingbrook
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

The Dutch are just a client lapdog of Berlin.

Stefan GoldlĂŒcke
Stefan GoldlĂŒcke
3 years ago

I really thought that’s a serious platform :-/

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

LOL, too many nutters here. And Germany makes them extra nutty.

Sarah Lambert
Sarah Lambert
3 years ago

They really are not.

Stefan GoldlĂŒcke
Stefan GoldlĂŒcke
3 years ago
Reply to  CL van Beek

The EU made exceptions over exceptions to have the UK part of us. Today I would question why we even did that, but if it would have avoided Brexit I would not care about all the gifts for the UK. It is absolut nonsense to say we did not care for the UK – get real about what the price for a community is. The future will show how much pain and losses the “leave” will generate. But again – I’d rather have a UK join EU even with all the gifts and exceptions than living without our friends in the UK !

jill8.gfl
jill8.gfl
3 years ago

We have left the EU, not Europe.

Chris Lambert
Chris Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  jill8.gfl

Can you elaborate?

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago

Ultimately, Stefan, you can’t have a situation where somebody pays to take your rules and to have a trade deficit with you. It should always have been the EU paying us. Now that the counter-revolution is in full swing, I think over the next few years that that’s the position we’ll move to.

Janusz Przeniczny
Janusz Przeniczny
3 years ago
Reply to  CL van Beek

Its the 4th Reich with Vichy France, and the rest just go along with it. Putin is shaking in his boots eh?

Jeff Bartlett
Jeff Bartlett
3 years ago

Surely the only way for Europe to properly defend itself is for all EU nations to fully embrace NATO, not try to set up a motley crew of only EU nations. To this end the wealthy German state should show leadership, step up to the plate and honour its 2% commitment to fund NATO. The fact that they studiously avoid so doing is a scandalous dereliction of duty.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Bartlett

studiously avoid so doing
The defense budget has gone up and up.
You can not just spend 2% of GDP every year if the military structure can not digest the spending. What is the point of buying tanks/planes if there are no crews to operate and take care of them.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

I know politicians love showing off fancy bits of hardware, but why not spend a but more training the personnel to operate it?

Recruit some of those out of work Ossies? I’m told Prussians make good fighters…

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Roger Inkpen

There is a shortage of personnel. It takes years to train a pilot.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Bartlett

Isn’t the primary aim of NATO to support the US Military-Industrial complex? Why would Germany want to pay for that?

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

The primary aim of NATO is to ‘Keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down’. Nothing has changed.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

You are mistaken. Nothing has changed in your head. As they say “you can not teach an old dogs new tricks”

andrewrhayden
andrewrhayden
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Sounds reasonable.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Because they don’t want to be invaded by the Russians again.

Starry Gordon
Starry Gordon
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

On the other hand, NATO ties Europe to the increasingly wacky US and the weird military adventures its rulers embark upon.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Starry Gordon

Doesn’t make any difference to Germany’s defence requirements.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Because it’s that or host the Russian military-industrial complex, I guess; and have nobody to stop Serbian genocide when the EU proves too pitifully week to stop it, as it did in 1990s.

Britain’s the only country that comes anywhere meeting its foreign aid commitments as well. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that a lot of countries are backsliding tightwads snivelling after other people’s money. Many such are in the EU.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Bartlett

Totally agree but the Germans don’t like to spend money on defense. Not when others will provide it. They have a sort of adolescent attitude towards the whole thing. And the quite a few European countries aren’t even EU members.

Janusz Przeniczny
Janusz Przeniczny
3 years ago

Europeans just cherish their hard fought freedom, and will fight to keep it until the last American soldier and Dollar.

William meadows
William meadows
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Bartlett

Why pay when you can get some one to do it for you, and then sell them over priced cars.

Derek McBride
Derek McBride
3 years ago

Oh William, what a cynic you are, but correct.
The British Empire was largely a successful commercial business based on precisely your principles.

Victor Newman
Victor Newman
3 years ago

Presumably this is the EU army that the remainers said would never happen, that was declared a Brexiteer delusion or a “lie”?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Victor Newman

Is there an EU Army?

Patrick Heren
Patrick Heren
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

no

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Victor Newman

That’s the one. Remainers continued to insist on this position even when Macron tactlessly called in 2018 for a European army.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

People have been calling for a EU army ever since the 50s – when Germany was permitted to have an army. And here we are!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

With all due respect, Jeremy, this is exactly how the EU always proceeded. Some removal of sovereignty would be floated and we’d be told that it was just an idea and would never happen. Next we’d be told it was happening, that the discussion was over, and that we had in fact voted for it (eg by electing Labour or the Conservatives or a coalition).

So eventually we voted against…well…everything.

This has made sure that all the other things that were just ideas and weren’t going to happen, like Britain’s permanent seat on the UN Security council being given up to the EU, will indeed never happen.

Remainers and Corbynites are alike in not understanding that their own past behaviour had a bearing on how the votes were cast.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Excellent few paragraphs…spot on….

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Victor Newman

Many Remainer arguments I have faced seem to be that whatever I am saying triggered some of the re-assessment that occurred in me and many others…so, e.g. a European Army, were always in early documents, policy statements, press reports and whatever, and while I was seeing off that group, another lot would jump in accussing me of being delusional as such things were not only not wanted, or ever had been wanted, but were utterly impossible because of some magic bit of binding sorcery in…yep…early documents, policy statements , press reports etc.

To comment on the article directly: The *real Germany* Good..Nasty *fake (Prussian) Germany* Bad is just too simplistic for me.

andrewrhayden
andrewrhayden
3 years ago
Reply to  Victor Newman

Yep.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago

On observation of the current Lockdowns, it seem far more likely that any ‘European Army’ would be used on the streets of Europe than in any other part of the world.
In which case having a language and origin different from those you are” Locking down” is always an advantage.

Janusz Przeniczny
Janusz Przeniczny
3 years ago

What surprises me is that the German armed forces are in such a bad state. Von der Leyen, when Defence Minister, left the Forces in a very poor state. Half of its planes cannot fly, none of the subs can sale, and when on war games with NATO they had to use broom sticks as they had no weapons. This is not made up story, GOOGLE it.

Sidney Falco
Sidney Falco
3 years ago

“One of the many tragedies of Brexit is that an EU Army would inevitably have had English as its language of command.”

Took him a while to show his hand as a remaniac but it was worth waiting for, in all its delusional glory.

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Sidney Falco

Yeah, and English as language of command actually means USA-ish as language of NATO command.

Sarah Lambert
Sarah Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Jane Jones

The English language in this world represents the US.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

“One of the many tragedies of Brexit”

Why exactly shouldn’t the UK be an independent sovereign nation?

Jonathan Marshall
Jonathan Marshall
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

Because people like Mr Hawes detest the very idea.

Peter de Barra
Peter de Barra
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

… because the Anglosphere awaits and the the Berlin/Paris Axis is not too keen on the success which it’s cooperative action might bring .

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter de Barra

Anglosphere

Hilarious…

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago

This account is full of caricatural simplicities, not least those of “historical inevitability”. It gives an extremely broad brush picture of western Germany, wears its heart on its sleeve and reveals blatant prejudice in the account of Charlemagne’s realm – canonised as the precursor of the sainted EU. What sentimental piffle! As for the picture of Prussia – well, talk about a black legend! Was it not Prussian officers who risked everything to topple Old Toothbrush? And is the author really suggesting that the speculations of 1887 and the purely economic plans of 1917/18 were somehow equivalent to the horrors of 1941/42? And whilst we’re at it – why is “MittleEuropa” so wicked, but Napoleon’s exploitative “continental system” so marvellous? Has the author forgotten, meanwhile, that Old Toothbrush himself was of southern and Catholic origin? That his fellow Austrians were among the most venomous of persecutors? That the streets of Vienna rejoiced at the Anschluss? His references to current east German suspicion of Merkel’s policy as “dark phantoms” is the final hitch of the micro-skirt – leaving him revealed in all nakedness as an entitled, modern “liberal”, who reads history backwards and praises the allegedly Catholic character of lands whose populations are literally under process of replacement. How “Catholic” does he imagine these places will be in a century’s time? They are far more likely to echo to the “call to prayer” five times a day – and no, sir; opposing this is not a reversion to “Prussian” type – it is an increasingly desperate objection on the part of a frightened European populace to the machinations of an anti-democratic elite, not just in Germany or north Germany but across the continent. Then there will be dark phantoms, all too solid and eager for battle; and it might take the courage of a Stauffenberg to withstand them.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

What a great post! Point after point made with a wonderful concision. As you say, Germany and the rest of western Europe will be Islamic within 100 years. The rest is noise.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Thank you, Mr Bailey. I read your own contributions with more enthusiasm than I take to many of the official articles. I just wonder whether or not my references to this demographic catastrophe will be allowed to stand.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Fortunately you didn’t use the dreaded N word!

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

Do you mean the word ‘Nigel’? There we are, I’ve used it. Let them take my post down.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

No not Nigel on this occasion, but the German political party founded by the homicidal Austrian pygmy, otherwise known as Adolph Hitler.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

At last, someone who is prepared to tarnish Austria with the same brush as its Bavarian neighbours, and ” you know who”.
Thank you.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

Thank you. But I’m less concerned to tarnish Austria than to query Hawes’ tedious variation on the authorised version of history, in which Prussia is the leading exponent of a wicked “Whig” nationalism, abetted by heartless, free market Britain, until the medieval glories of Charlemagne were restored by Saint Jean Monnet. Frankly, I’m interested in removing the tarnish, which merely abets the establishment in its policy of imposing the penance of an open-borders EU on a collection of ancient states.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Actually Hawe’s ‘History’ was all over the place, even ignoring a number of stupid errors.
No mention of the ‘Drang nach Osten’ and Otto the Great &Co
or the quite understandable fear of Mongoloid hordes from the East, Magyars in the 10th century and Mongols in the 13th. Even the Austrians haven’t forgotten or forgiven the two Ottoman Turkish visits to Vienna in 1529 & 1683.

As to his ‘romantic’ view of the Holy Roman Empire, wasn’t it Voltaire who described it as “neither Holy nor Roman nor an Empire”?

Dennis Wheeler
Dennis Wheeler
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Those Prussian officers like Stauffenberg, whom you lionize in the last line, waited awfully late in the game (July 1944) to attempt a coup whose main aim was to save their own skins in hopes that the allies would go easy on them for having gotten rid of H and negotiate and end to the war that would basically leave those office in charge instead of demanding unconditional surrender.

And while Hitler may have been born nominally Catholic, there is no evidence he was ever really a practicing or believing Catholic, and he was almost as fanatical in his hatred for the Church as he was for Jews (and it’s probably not insignificant in that respect that in 1914 he
rushed off to join the army of Prussian and Protestant dominated Germany rather than the army of the Catholic Habsburg Empire into which he was born).

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Wheeler

Stauffenberg, irritatingly, was not a Prussian but a Bavarian and a Roman Catholic.

Adolph joined a Bavarian Regiment not a Prussian one.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Wheeler

The entire Prussian officer class did very little to stop Hitler. General Beck before the War, through secret channels, kept saying to the French and the British should you be doing something to stop Hitler, while they kept saying you do something and we will see what we can do to assist you. But he did nothing until it was far too late.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Wheeler

Oh dear – are you really so ill informed as to think July 44 was it? The rifle plot? Heard of that? And as for all this business of nominal Catholicism – first, it ignores the whole thrust of Hawes article and of my refutation: that wicked Protestant Prussia was the source of future German evil. The vigorous anti-Semitism of post 1919 Austria shows this was not so – a point you simply dodge by confining your remarks to the one man. As for leaving things late in the day, hardly anyone had the bravery to confront the regime – not the natives, not the local elite, not the occupied peoples, nor their elites – and why? Fear – understandable fear. Think of what befell Heydrich’s assassins – tortured to death, along with their families and two whole villages. Easy to sit here and point the finger at people in situations of unbelievable danger. Easy, but wrong.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I was taught that the Thirty Years War, 1618-48 was the most traumatic event in modern German History, but Herr Hawes omits any mention of it, why?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

..

Peter de Barra
Peter de Barra
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

… the Siege of Vienna 1683 AD rid the Continent of the Ottoman threat for centuries – Red Merkel has reversed this success and her one million incomers are nearing two million. The cultic sword lovers have been welcomed fawningly… the dripping sword has come. She seems unphased by the rape and violence which is increasing and the EU has imposed the same on poor little Ireland – EU Province 15 – which signals virtue with soaring murder, rape, desecration rates, dismembered bodies in suitcases etcetera… a long game us being played and the outcome is not yet entirely clear …

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

It may have been “Prussian officers who risked everything to topple Old Toothbrush”, Simon, but let’s not kid ourselves those people were high-minded democrats appalled at the immorality of Nazism. The clue’s in the name: they were Prussian officers. And what they hoped for was to replace “Old Toothbrush” with someone who’d make peace – and ideally a military alliance – with the western allies so the German army could get back to implementing Barbarossa – or, if you prefer, von Buelow’s 1887 proposal outlined in the article.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
3 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

Does one have to be a democrat to be better than Old Toothbrush? By that standard Churchill and de Gaulle, unabashed imperialists; Roosevelt, leader of a segregationist party, were unworthy of their roles. A reversion to Wilhelmine policy would have been an immeasurable step up from the barbarity of thirties and forties Germany. And attempting to effect such a reversion took the courage of a Cranmer or a Campion – martyr’s courage.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Where’s the evidence the army objected to the barbarity? What the army objected to was losing the war, which is why army resistance to Hitler dates from when his decisions were clearly losing it.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

Ironically, Don’t discount the fact that the EU may actually be more happy to use English in future, now that doing so won’t be seen as favouring the U.K.member of the club.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Yes, although I think English is used because of the overpowering domination of American culture in the world today. Millions of Chinese people are learning English but not because the UK is so great. About 10 years ago I visited Paris and went for a coffee in Champs Elysees with my wife. I asked for two coffees and the waiter said, “Monsieur, je ne parle pas Anglais.”
I went at the end of 2019 and you could not see the buildings for Chinese tourists taking photographs and the waiters all wanted to show off their English.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Yes …the Chinese speak English…..but Americans and Europeans don’t speak Chinese.

Any thoughts?

Chris Hopwood
Chris Hopwood
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

10 years ago you must have found the only non English speaking French person in France! For the last thirty years any French person I have spoken to in their country has always spoken to me in English despite my speaking French to them

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

So you’re telling us the French waiters didn’t bother to learn English for the numerous American tourists in Paris – but they do for Chinese?

Andre Lower
Andre Lower
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Yeah, the language (and some of the art) is one of the last UK products for which the world has appetite. But it hurts British pride that the language bit is because of their ex-colony…

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
3 years ago
Reply to  Andre Lower

Not entirely. They don’t speak English in India, Malaysia, Singapore, or South Africa because of America. If they did they’d no doubt all drive on the right.

D3 SH
D3 SH
3 years ago

This article does a pretty big disservice to Prussia. The country wasn’t without its issues ““ but then which country has ever been perfect?

The paradox of Prussia was that for all the talk of its great armies, as the article mentions but does not linger on, Prussia was almost wiped out more than once. It was on the verge of destruction after Kunersdorf in the Seven Years War, and was trounced by Napoleon nearly 50 years after that.

Prussia actually led a very precarious existence and it was this insecurity (whatever its strengths) that led to such bullying tactics.

Remember, even at Imperial Germany’s zenith, prior to WW1, its leaders were constantly on edge being sandwiched between France and Russia and having to fight a war on two fronts. Just Russia itself caused them constant sleepless nights as they (correctly) assumed that in the long run Russia would, with enough economic development, eventually have the arms and resources to become an invincible foe. Hence, the leadership’s push for a war sooner rather than later in 1914.

My point being that Prussia wasn’t bloodthirsty for the sake of it. They had their reasons. Italian unification wasn’t achieved with bayonets and wars, either. Prussia simple needed more men like Bismarck who saw that “Germany’s” interests were actually served better through diplomacy than further war.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
3 years ago
Reply to  D3 SH

“Italian unification wasn’t achieved with bayonets and wars, either.” Huh?

From a quick look at Wikipedia:

Italian Wars of Unification
The Risorgimento movement emerged to unite Italy in the 19th century. Piedmont-Sardinia took the lead in a series of wars to liberate Italy from foreign control. Following three Wars of Italian Independence against the Habsburg Austrians in the north, the Expedition of the Thousand against the Spanish Bourbons in the south, and the Capture of Rome, the unification of the country was completed in 1871 when Rome was declared capital of Italy.

Edit Szegedi
Edit Szegedi
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

The Italian Wars of Unification were very brutal, mostly in the South.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

“Wikipedia” ?- say no more!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Harvey

I think from the sense Andrey Harvey meant ‘wasn’t achieved without bayonets and wars…..’

In both cases there were wars, negotiations and politics.

The Italian unification tends to get a better press than the German but in actual fact represented almost a colonial- style takeover of the South, with its very different history, by Piedmont, which was essentially the Italian Prussia. The idealistic Garibaldi was entirely sidelined.

stephen f.
stephen f.
3 years ago
Reply to  D3 SH

Italian unification? Italy has 1400 political parties.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  D3 SH

Exactly!
The author’s history is the pop version of it.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  D3 SH

Agree with every word!

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago

What a shame that any European Army is likely to speak English, German would be far better.

German is the language of orders, think of: Verboten! Schnell! Raus! Or that fabulous scene from ‘Das Boot’…….torpedo…LOS!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

true!

Peter de Barra
Peter de Barra
3 years ago
Reply to  George Lake

… but most of all : ACHTUNG !

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter de Barra

Exactly!

Bob Sleigh
Bob Sleigh
3 years ago

Sorry to disappoint you but here in Germany there is hardly any discussion about the 150th anniversary. I would venture the say that relatively few people here are aware of it, sadly in my opinion. Newspaper coverage is also very minimal.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
3 years ago
Reply to  Bob Sleigh

While of course here there was wall to wall coverage of the 300 year anniversary of the Act of Union celebrations!

tom j
tom j
3 years ago

“1871-1945 was the great aberration in German history”

Ah yes, the 74 year aberration.

rbh
rbh
3 years ago

RE: ‘lucky survivor of the Seven Years War (when it was saved from destruction only by the death of Catherine the Great)’
I think the author means Tsarina Elizabeth (r.1741-1762). Catherine died in 1796.

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  rbh

Ha ha!
And, for the record, Catherine was a German princess.

Ben
Ben
3 years ago

“Queen Angela asked David Cameron why on earth he would even consider putting 800 years of unique parliamentary tradition aside in favour of his utterly needless referendum.”

Because if we hadn’t that’s exactly what the EU would have done.

Viv Evans
Viv Evans
3 years ago

The author of this essay might have profited from reading Christopher Clark’s “The Iron Kingdom – The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600-1947”.
That’s all.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
3 years ago

English is taking over as the language of the world because of American culture. If you listen carefully to Chinese or Japanese people they speak with an American accent.

Kathryn Richards
Kathryn Richards
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

English is taking over because it is the language of Aviation. I don’t think it would be easy to alter that now.

Bob Sleigh
Bob Sleigh
3 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Another reason English taking over is because it has a relatively simple grammar with no genders (le, la, der, das) or declinations (as in German or the Slavic languages), for example.
OK, I must admit that English spelling is utterly atrocious.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago

You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t ‘celebrate’ the birth of Germany. Why would I ? One only has to go to Flanders and visit those vast cemeteries, many laid out by Lutyens, to realise the folly of German unification. The crimes of Germany during the Second World War means that the very name of Germany should have been wiped off the face of the earth and the old patchwork of Kingdoms and Principalities pre 1871 restored to dissipate German power and arrogance. Germany was born on the anvil of War and should have perished on that same anvil for the sake of peace in Europe.

opn
opn
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Why stop at 1871 ? How about 1806.

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Andy Yorks: Yes, how dare those upstart Krauts think that they might have an empire to challenge British hegemony!! We sure showed ’em!

Of course the saintly hegemon had nothing to do with WW1 (let’s just forget about disasters like Gallipoli) and putting its own jackboot on Germany’s neck at and after Versailles, inlcuidng a ravaging blockade that killed thousands AFTER the Armistice. Oh, no, Britain is Good and Germany is Bad. And (tiny, haughty, class-ridden) Britain can still order Germany around and tell it what its destiny is and where its limits lie. Yeah.

Andy Yorks
Andy Yorks
3 years ago
Reply to  Jane Jones

Arrant nonsense.

The British, whom you seem to hate, had NO PART in the War Council convened by the Kaiser in December 1912 where a blue print for War was laid out. That war could not start till after the Kiel canal had been finished in May 1914.

The British, whom you seem to hate, had NO PART in developing the ‘final solution’ murdering six million Jews on an industrial scale. The Germans – Germans, not Nazis – developed this policy all by themselves. For this heinous crime the very name Germany should have been wiped off the face of the earth and it never again permitted to be united. There has been nothing but trouble in Europe since German unification in 1871, and there will never be peace in Europe until un-unification.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Pointing out historical facts (boer war) is not “hate the British”.

and there will never be peace in Europe until un-unification.

Pretty peaceful since 1945. 76 years as of today.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

War weariness, NATO and allied armies kept the peace after 1945. Reunited Germany born of two appalling regimes is only 30 years old.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Yorks

Literally no one is expecting you to celebrate the birth of Germany.
Plenty of graves “out there” thanks to the British.
Give it a rest. No one is going to listen to you so – brace yourself – Germany will be there tomorrow.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Every country has been guilty of war: land, loot, women and slaves being common reasons.

What distinguishes Germany in WW2 is that the graves were dug for people killed on an industrial scale for no other reason than they existed. If no graves were dug in places, it was because ash floated into the air.

john.melbourne
john.melbourne
3 years ago

“How did it happen? We are the villains. In 1814, determined to exit troublesome Europe, Britain unilaterally gifted Prussia a vast chunk of the most developed territory in Western Europe. “

Hold on!

Following defeat by Napoleon, Prussia lost vast chunks of territory via the Treaty of Tilsit 1807 including all the territories in the Rhineland. Therefore it is truer to say that in 1814. Britain helped restore Prussian territories to the status quo ante.

Dennis Wheeler
Dennis Wheeler
3 years ago
Reply to  john.melbourne

Hawes probably also thinks Germany “stole” the “French” city of Strasbourg in 1871 as well.

Over the years, I’ve learned to simply not take Brits seriously on anything when it comes to their versions of central European, especially German, history (odd considering they’ve had a German royal family for over 300 years. Must be some sort of compensation going on).

Peter de Barra
Peter de Barra
3 years ago
Reply to  john.melbourne

… but Prussia/Germany occupied Paris – now the capital of EU Province 1 – in 1870/71 – or at least the photographs indicate that … the incident continued to rankle with de Gaulle up to and beyond the Fall of France … yet another humiliation in a long serial centuries long humiliation cycle for EU Province 1.
( the Germans’ celebratory music at the moment is chilling – as is the EU anthem, which is reminiscent of that scene in the film Cabaret when the camera pulls back from the standing, singing crowd to reveal” ).

Edit Szegedi
Edit Szegedi
3 years ago

The article has a fundamental error: Prussia was of Calvinist, not Lutheran observance. The ascension of Prussia began at Christmas 1613, when prince Johann Sigsimund converted to Calvinism. Even if Calvinism remained only at the level of the elites, Lutheranism never became really accepted and was considered subversiv.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Edit Szegedi

THe elite was (almost?) Calvinist while the population remained at large Lutheran.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Silesia?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  David Probert

Depending on the demographic study (and year) a sizeable segment of population was German and/or Polish. Quite a few (based on last names) were Germanized Poles.
Not as simple as saying Polish.

Vivek Rajkhowa
Vivek Rajkhowa
3 years ago

Prussia was saved by the miracles of the house of Brandenburg, empress Elizabeth dying was just one of them as it allowed Peter the iii, a known prussiphile to ascend thr throne, Frederick the great also one a few great victories,

Germany has lost its way without prussia, that’s a fact.

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
3 years ago

This article seems to have been started by Nigel Farage and completed by Basil Fawlty. when i think of the painful squealing in “Unherd” last summer when I and a few others stated that Britain as a nation should not keep a veil of silence on how we became rich in the 18th century one cannot but truly admire the German committment to historical honesty

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

” I and a few others stated that Britain as a nation should not keep a veil of silence on how we became rich in the 18th century”

Not sure what point you are making here—that is, whether this is a positive or a negative. As for me, having recently read William Dalrymple’s The Anarchy and another title on the Opium Wars, I should think it takes a big measure of chutzpah for Britons to feel sanctimonious about how the nation and empire came by its riches.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago

“It is fast becoming functionally bi-lingual in English, and is in some ways more like the real Britain than modern Britain: an eyewitness has twice told me how, how at the 2015 G7 at Schloss Elmau, Queen Angela asked David Cameron why on earth he would even consider putting 800 years of unique parliamentary tradition aside in favour of his utterly needless referendum.”

Non sequitur.

Peter de Barra
Peter de Barra
3 years ago
Reply to  Drahcir Nevarc

… and Dianne Feinstein, Senator, California, Democrat said : “” don’t fear China. You have got it all wrong “” or words to that effect ” then she was caught with an MSS driver and dogsbody of long-standing who was regularly zapping information back to Old Cathay … MSS : oddly, mentioned very little across all media …

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter de Barra

I’m afraid I don’t know who or what MSS is.

Martin Adams
Martin Adams
3 years ago

An excellent article that lays out its historical summaries well. One of the author’s cautions stands out:

Panglossian British liberals assumed (as their descendants in the 1990s assumed of China) that Prosperity and Reform must inevitably go hand-in-hand.

That was also one of the assumptions behind 1930s appeasement of the Nazi regime ” the authoritarian streak in many appeasers not withstanding. It also lies beneath many other contemporary issues of foreign policy, perhaps more under USA presidents of the Democratic Party than under British prime ministers. Treat them as we would like to be treated, and they will gradually come to behave like us. It is profoundly naive in its perspectives on human nature; and it merely postpones the inevitable reckoning.

People who understand these things most deeply tend to be those who see beyond the pragmatism of everyday political events and look for the spirit behind those events ” unflinchingly so, even if the search uncovers that which is ugly or disconcerting. As far as Germany is concerned, I am not aware of anything that quite matches the chilling prophetic insight of Heinrich Heine (1797″“1856) in his essay “Religion and Philosophy in Germany”, which was first published, in French, in 1835:

…Christianity”and this is its fairest service”has to a certain degree moderated that brutal lust of battle, such as we find it among the ancient Germanic races, who fought, not to destroy, not yet to conquer, but merely from a fierce, demoniac love of battle itself; but it could not altogether eradicate it. And when once that restraining talisman, the cross, is broken, then the smouldering ferocity of those ancient warriors will again blaze up; then will again be heard the deadly clang of that frantic Berserkir wrath, of which the Norse poets say and sing so much. The talisman is rotten with decay, and the day will surely come when it will crumble and fall. Then the ancient stone gods will arise from out the ashes of dismantled ruins, and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes; and finally Thor, with his colossal hammer, will leap up, and with it shatter into fragments the Gothic Cathedrals.

And when ye hear the rumbling and the crumbling, take heed, ye neighbours of France, and meddle not with what we do in Germany. It might bring harm on you. . . . . .

German thunder is certainly German, and is rather awkward, and it comes rolling along tardily; but come it surely will, and when ye once hear a crash the like of which in the world’s history was never heard before, then know that the German thunderbolt has reached its mark. At this crash the eagles will fall dead in mid air, and the lions in Afric’s most distant deserts will cower and sneak into their royal dens. A drama will be enacted in Germany in comparison with which the French Revolution will appear a harmless idyl.

[From Heinrich Heine, Religion and Philosophy in Germany (1835). As in The Prose Writings of Heinrich Heine, edited by Havelock Ellis, London 1887. ebook by Apple Books 2011.]

I am a life-long Germanophile; but this makes me wonder ” not only at Heine’s spiritually inspired vision, but at its implications for our futures.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago

If the modern Germans are ‘excellent’ and not Prussian in tendency, why have they flouted their own EU rules and laws to enrol Greece and other inapt lands in the eurozone, and then behaved in such fashion as yet further to turn the European Union into a German empire?

Domination, domination, domination – at severe cost to the dominated. Has Prussia-Germany really not gone away? Was it not always deep-seated in ALL the German mentalities?

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

For money, led by bankers, as is the UK. Not national character or an inherent ‘German mentality’.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

I don’t know who you are but I would bet that you were born in the 50s and grew up reading WW2 comics? Am I right?

Jeff Bartlett
Jeff Bartlett
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

And you were born when and read what?!!

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Bartlett

Mid 70s…and I DID NOT read WW2 comics.

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

Actually I have been a keen reader of history lifelong.

The Germans have staggeringly impressive virtues and competences: e.g., in music, theoretical and applied science, local government organisation, discipline, commitment to a neat and tidy environment and tremendous hard work, just to name a few.

But they have never gone in for political sobriety and, while this was not a problem when they were a patchwork quilt of many independent states, they have been consistently a menace, Europe’s no. 1 troublemaker, since German nationalism reared its head throughout the 19th century and achieved unification of most of those jurisdictions in the 1860s.

What makes the Germans so suspect on this score is that centuries-long they have been HOPELESS at politics. At each fork in the historical road they have taken the wrong turn – ‘wrong’ here meaning the turn which led them away from political responsibility.

For a survey that goes over all the ground but is no more than 267 pages in extent, I recommend A J P Taylor’s book “The Course of German History” (particularly the 2nd edition of 1961, which has a very valuable preface, summing things up well).

If that seems, like me, a work of British prejudice and you have German or a friend who can translate for you as the film unrolls, let me commend <<der ganz=”” grosse=”” traum=””>>, a movie of 2011, made entirely by Germans and essentially for them. (That is why there are no English subtitles.)

This portrays the Germany of the 1870s: the culture of bullying, regimentation, conformism, ardent (and essentially pointless) militarism.

It is a poignant work, with an undercurrent of yearning: ‘Oh that we had become like the English!’

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

This portrays the Germany of the 1870s: the culture of bullying, regimentation, conformism, ardent (and essentially pointless) militarism.

You mean the Germany that by 1914:
– pioneered the 2nd stage of industrial revolution
– modern welfare state
– the best educated population in the world with the best education system in the world
-the largest workers party
-the largest peace movement
– a larger voter franchise than UK
-the world superpower in high culture and science
-2nd largest economy in the world, largest in Europe

That Germany….

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

In order to correct your hagiographic view of that Germany, I suggest you read the book by A J P Taylor which I recommended.

Oh, and by the way, if they were ‘the best educated population in the world with the best education system,… the largest workers’ party and the largest peace movement’ why did all these grand achievements fail to rein in the Military Industrial Complex in Berlin and its crazy determination to back (trigger-itching) Austria-Hungary’s 24 demands to Serbia; all but 4 of which the Serbs agreed to, and ALL of which were pretty outrageous terms for any sovereign state to have to digest in the first place?

A highwayman holds up a stagecoach demanding £100 from the passengers. These raise £95 between them and hand over that sum of money. The highwayman shoots the passengers and the guard anyway.

And this sort of behaviour the German authorities backed.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

if they were

They were all those things.
the same way that the civilized English/British middle class didn’t stop the crap that happened during the Boer War.
And the British political system didn’t stop the Irish rebellion or the almost Civil War in NI in summer of 1914.
You know there are OTHER historians than AJP Taylor…and they don’t agree with his interpretation of 1914.
And I have read AJP Taylor. There are better historians out there.
He is just the historian of your generation (boomers).

“a highwayman…”
utterly absurd analogy

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

The boomers were the ones who were gifted a wrecked country and parents who’d been through much suffering and deprivation.

Some of those children’s parents woke screaming in the night or cried or froze when the fire brigade set off the old air raid sirens to call in the volunteers.

They had to listen to family and neighbours talking about horrors and dilemmas of conscience they’d endured and witnessed. Not only of WW2 but the Great Depression. They had their grandparents too with their own accounts of enduring the Depression. And their anger and bitterness at what they’d suffered in WW1. All very different from watching scratchy b&w documentaries on the History Channel. Or reading about them in books.

Sometimes these boomers didn’t hear what their parents suffered until the the last weeks of their parents lives. And at last understood the silences and bits of stories that were started but suddenly shut down in their childhood and teenage years.

WW2 dominated boomers’ early lives. No one born after, say, 1951 has the right to criticise how those early boomers feel (n.b) about Germany.

Your long sight reflection may or may not be right. To help form your opinions, you’ve had countless books, and documentaries. But in coming to an understanding, you’ve not had to decide whether or not to forgive, to hate or forget because of your very personal involvement. (Edited)

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

It was the French who were desperate for the Euro. The Germans didn’t need a European currency, the Deutschmark did the job quite nicely. they agreed is as part of their commitment to the EU

Peter Scott
Peter Scott
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

How was it any kind of ‘commitment to the EU’, as a virtue, principle and concept, to saddle European states with all the stresses (from imbalance) inevitably consequent upon allowing countries to join the eurozone which had not remotely achieved the economic equivalence specified in the rules for membership of the single currency?

And why was a particular need on the part of France a valid excuse for distorting the EU economies (drastically)?

If X says to his friend Y, ‘I want you to help me rob this bank’, it really is no justification for Y, when apprehended, to argue that X needed the money.

David Probert
David Probert
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

An ‘Empire’ is usually conceived as being where the dominant country exploits and sucks in all the resources of subject peoples for its own benefit, not where the dominant country bails out everyone else’s debts, pays all the bills and takes in millions of the the poor and destitute . Strange kind of “Altruistic Empire” .

Also worth remembering that Germany did not even want the Euro – it was the French who forced it as a method of containing the all powerful DM. and a re-united Germany !

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter Scott

Be careful how you go, Peter — the English are Germans …

Dennis Wheeler
Dennis Wheeler
3 years ago

Stopped reading at “…then as the extremely lucky survivor of the Seven Years (sic) War (when it was saved from destruction only by the death of Catherine the Great)…”

Catherine the Great hadn’t yet even become Empress when Russia’s participation the Seven Years’ war ended in May 1762 with the Treaty of St. Petersburg (the war would drag on for nearly another year for other participants), which had been initiated by her husband, Czar Peter III, who idolized the Prussian King Frederick II and gave back nearly all Russia had gained against Prussia, upon the death of his aunt, Empress Elizabeth, 5 months before the Treaty. Catherine became Empress after a coup against her husband in July of 1762 and died in 1796.

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago

I notice the quality of the content on this website appears to have gone downhill recently. This unintentionally (I presume) piece is an example of this. Other than letting us know that the author doesn’t like Protestants and Brexit, doesn’t seem to understand much about history and yet claims to know the inner thoughts of Vladimir Putin, what is the point of this?

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Prussia came to be in (let’s say) 1648.
Who fought more wars of aggression:
Prussia/Germany
Russia
France
UK

Jonathan Marshall
Jonathan Marshall
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

And the answer is….?

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago

France.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago

Not Germany.

Peter de Barra
Peter de Barra
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Smith

… Wien 1683 was a notable success – Red Mutti has done her best reverse it with her one million (a lie) incomers whose number now approaches two million … and we know what they say about countries which tolerate the rape of their girls and women”

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Peter de Barra

Even before Mutti you had millions of Muslims in Europe – the guest workers and their children.

Arden Babbingbrook
Arden Babbingbrook
3 years ago

Hawes’ excellent little book illustrates how the cultural chasm that separates east Germans from west Germans long predates communism.

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
3 years ago

I think the real divide is between Bavaria and the rest of Germany.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  Jane Jones

Indeed, the incubator for the Nationalist Socialists German Workers’ Party, as even a brief trip to Munich will illustrate.
So the question is, Who did more damage to Germany’s international reputation, Prussia and the Hohenzollerns or Bavaria and ‘you know who’?

eugene power
eugene power
3 years ago

Er Prussia not saved by death of catherine..more like saved by her coup of 1762 . she shared in the dismemberment of Poland…. More significant than the creation of Belgium ??? Which had the same purpose as Prussians on the Rhine .
France had been the menace since 1660 , had to be contained .

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  eugene power

You are too generous. I would say that France has been a menace to Germany since at least since 1552 when Guise grabbed the fair city of Metz.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  eugene power

You are too generous. I would say that France has been a menace to Germany since at least since 1552 when Montmorency grabbed the fair city of Metz.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  eugene power

You are too generous.
I would say that France has been a menace to Germany since at least since 1552 when Montmorency grabbed the fair city of Metz.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  eugene power

I would say that France has been a major menace to Germany since at least since 1552 when Montmorency grabbed the beautiful city of Metz.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  eugene power

I would say that France has been a major menace to Germany since at least 1552 when Montmorency grabbed the beautiful city of Metz.

davidarmes1613
davidarmes1613
3 years ago

The post-Communism Reunification of Germany is celebrated as central to the continuation of the attempted Unification of Europe. We have seen historically in Spain, Great Britain, the USA, Italy and Germany that Unification Movements create internal divisions between those who identify the old regimes and those who identify with the new. The logical resolution of these conflicts is to unite internally via identification of outside Enemies and supposedly unpopulated dehumanised lands to be colonised. This makes the very necessary European Project a terrifyingly threatening one as well as our best Hope for long term Peace. I have always accepted the Brexit Referendum result and Good things may come from Brexit as the UK returns to our historic role of attempting to balance Power in Europe and promote Liberal Democracy? Nevertheless, I find it somewhat strange that the menace presented by European Unification is not something that is high on the political agenda within public discourse internally and externally.

Jacques René GiguÚre
Jacques René GiguÚre
3 years ago

“We, with the only major battle-hardened force in Europe”? Last time I looked, France had been at war for the last twenty years. Except not under US command unlike the British Army…
There is an old lawyer joke:”The judgment is from the Honorable Judge Smith. We also appeal on points of facts and law.” So this article is from Unherd…

Derek M
Derek M
3 years ago

On the other hand, apparently ‘The Guardian praised Hawes as a satirist for his novels’ so perhaps this really is just satire and I missed the point

Janusz Przeniczny
Janusz Przeniczny
3 years ago

Why have an EU Army, whats the rationale behind it? Isn’t NATO good enough? It must be the Europhiles just trying out European each other, I’m more European then you ‘cos I’ve invented the Euro. I’m more European then you ;cos I invented the flag. No, I’m more European then all of you ‘cos I invented the army!!!. So on , and so forth.
I mean who you gonna ring, when you see Russian tanks coming over the hill? No really who will you ring?

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago

Interesting analysis, and I certainly don’t think Germans are bound to be militaristic any more than I think Russians are bound to be ruled by autocrats. Just the same, it was surely alarming that a reunified Germany almost immediately started aggressively dismembering Yugoslavia, helping the Croats and later the Kosovar Albanians, and attacking the Serbs. In the Balkans it was almost like the Second World War all over again, which, it is good to remember, was started by an Austrian-born Chancellor of Catholic background, not a Prussian Protestant. I hope that James is right that the current Germany will not be belligerent towards other European countries, but this hasn’t been obvious from its behaviour since reunification.

David McKee
David McKee
3 years ago

Mr. Hawes’ excellent and highly thought-provoking article presents a view of German unification I had never before appreciated. Thank you. I knew that Bismarck was ruthless and unscrupulous, but I never imagined it was quite this violent.

The interesting thing is the lack of separatist tendencies in modern-day Germany, with the exception of Bavaria (where secessionism appears to be growing). It stands in stark contrast to Lombardy, Corsica, Catalonia and the Basque Country.

George Lake
George Lake
3 years ago
Reply to  David McKee

Don’t forget Scotland.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  David McKee

The interesting thing is the lack of separatist tendencies in modern-day Germany, with the exception of Bavaria (where secessionism appears to be growing). It stands in stark contrast to Lombardy, Corsica, Catalonia and the Basque Country.

Catalonia aside – you have small numbers of nutters everywhere.
Somehow you missed Scotland?!

Angela Frith
Angela Frith
3 years ago

Germany was Catholic! I was taught that Martin Luther founded Protestantism and that the states of Germany were largely Lutheran.
It just goes to show. History really is bunk.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  Angela Frith

Large parts of southern Germany have always remained Catholic.

Arden Babbingbrook
Arden Babbingbrook
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It is somewhat ironic that by far the wealthiest parts of Germany are the Catholic parts — i.e. the west and the south.

Alan Sommerstein
Alan Sommerstein
3 years ago

The religious boundary is remarkably close to the Roman imperial boundary.

Colin Haller
Colin Haller
3 years ago

Also known as “the wine line”

jmarsden1961
jmarsden1961
3 years ago

Am I missing something here? Not a single mention of Bismark THE reason for a united [Prussian] Germany????

Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
3 years ago

So it would seem that Germany can “shrug off the challenge of populism”. Tell that to the AfD.

davidarmes1613
davidarmes1613
3 years ago

Unification of post-War Germany celebration is one

Paul Booth
Paul Booth
3 years ago

What a load of tosh! If the book is like this, it is one not to read. Opinionated and little else.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

I would say that France has been a major menace to Germany since at least since 1552 when Montmorency grabbed the beautiful city of Metz.

Hugh R
Hugh R
3 years ago

Hitler tooled up in under a decade to practicaly defeat the combined Northern Hemisphere.
I think such an army will rise again, and the Americans will ‘give’ them everything up to the Russian border, as we did before them.
The excellence of their industry, education system, and geo-political fractures will combine to make this inevitable. Its 50/50 whether it can remain benign, given how frictions like this historically unfold.

Although there is always the French Nuclear deterrent to muddy that scenario.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
3 years ago

Having read quite extensively on Prussia and German history, this represents an absurd travesty of the complex reality e.g. ‘……megalomaniac power bent on domination. That was Prussia.’

Frederick the Great did rather cynically invade Silesia, which strengthened his state and, over a hundred years later, Prussia did become the dominant power in Germany through a series of short wars that were provoked by it in some cases, and its enemies in others (such as France under Napoleon III). Piedmont did a rather similar thing in reuniting the Italian lands that have been previously occupied by Austria-Hungary or divided into separate states, such as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Kaiser William II was certainly a disastrous leader in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, it is not legitimate to hold up one power to certain standards and not others. There is no mention here of Russia’s far more predatory expansion on a huge scale in the 18th Century, which included their desire to destroy the Ottoman Empire and occupy Constantinople as well as being the dominant power in the destruction of Poland. And of course both Britain and France and later the US expanded militarily on a far greater scale than did Prussia, although mainly not in Europe, so that presumably doesn’t count.

[In addition of course ‘we are the villains’! Of course, Britain is responsible for almost everything bad that has happened!]

After the Second World War Prussian guilt was a comforting position held by many British and American historians; the allies in fact legally abolished Prussia. With its mention of the ‘Good Russians’ , the article even seems to be a nostalgic look back at the war’s entirely transactional alliance with the USSR, at least as brutal state as Hitler’s.

Any history can be written with the benefit of 20 -20 hindsight – it all seems so clear after it has happened, an inevitable run up to the 3rd Reich..

As for modern Germany, yes in many ways it is an admirable country. But many UK Remainer types, of which clearly the author is, are simply starry-eyed and in fact appear to know little about it. If you want to talk about the populism, rather a lot of Germans vote for the AfD. And wittering on about a EU army that the British would never – with rather good reason – have agreed to, seems to be an entire irrelevance. as we area strong supporter of NAT0.

james.simister
james.simister
3 years ago

Basic errors: the 7 Years’ War ended in 1763; Catherine the Great lived on for more than two decades after that.
Brandenburg was among the first big states of the Holy Roman Empire to become Lutheran, but not the first.
Britain’s focus in 1815 was to limit French power after its 180 years of dominance over continental Europe. Prussia already had territories in the west through dynastic inheritance: it could not have been foreseen that this state would grow from a bulwark against France to a military monster.
Opinions: Hawes can’t resist banging on about Brexit. You lost. Get over it. Or maybe you should go to live in the wonderland that you think Germany is. As for a European army, dream on. It would probably be as good as their vaccine roll-out with France insisting on its contingent only using French weapons, and the Germans making cosy deals with Russia as they do with energy supplies and vaccines.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
3 years ago

Queen Angela asked David Cameron why on earth he would even consider putting 800 years of unique parliamentary tradition aside in favour of his utterly needless referendum.’

Huh? Brexit was a restoration of parliamentary tradition, which had been summarily removed by Merkel and her EU cronies. No wonder she claimed, disingenuously, not to understand it.

Mickey John
Mickey John
3 years ago

Like he says , France should’ve consigned the place to the dustbin of history after crushing their ridiculous jackbooted nonsense at Jena and AuerstÀdt.

Jane Jones
Jane Jones
3 years ago

OK up until here:
“The first lesson is that Germany is not naturally some megalomaniac
power bent on domination. That was Prussia. Prussia is gone. If the
western Germans keep their nerve, they can safely ignore the last undead
hauntings from the East. Germany’s future is where it’s past always
truly was: in the West.”

From here the raison d’etre of Hawes’s effort is revealed as he presents a political, ideological argument as though it were the only conclusion that follows from his presentation (which has a few huge lacunae! E.g., “All the four other fully-fledged kingdoms of Germany backed Austria/” Wait? What? Did your editor delete a few grafs?).

Germany’s destiny is The West. Now comes the Putin bogeyman argument. Down with Nord Stream 2. Down with commercial links with Russia. Russia is Germany’s true enemy. Really? Don’t we all know by now that Rusisa is actually the USA’s enemy?
Now it appears that the whole point of Hawes’s essay is to bolster and arrive at this point, at this argument.
Hawes also conveniently for Britons glides over Britain’s overt and covert meddling and fomenting of both WW1 and WW2.
Frankly, who the h— is Hawes to tell Germans what their “real history” is?
Now the essay just looks like a fancy doily over an bowl of tendentiousness.

Down with Nord Stream 2! Down with that maniac Putin!” Wai