Cultural Polarities? Grass, Walser, Wolf: Reflections on the Process of Unification

  • Michael Butler
Part of the New Perspectives in German Studies book series (NPG)


Any comparison of the two German unifications at first sight throws up more striking differences than similarities. Most obviously, Bismarck’s Reich was founded on ruthless and calculated violence, prepared over a number of years, whereas the events leading up to the second unification were in no way anticipated and the peaceful conclusion was unique in German history. The first unification created a country with disputed borders within which were to be found Danes and Poles, not to mention the population of Alsace and Lorraine. This presents a sharp contrast with the settled borders of the new Germany with its (relatively speaking) ethnically more homogeneous population. In 1871 a resurgent Germany was surrounded by suspicious and hostile neighbours. After 1990, on the other hand — despite some initial misgivings particularly in London and Paris, and despite the international uncertainties precipitated by the collapse of Soviet power — the new Germany, firmly integrated within the European Union, was broadly welcomed in terms of human rights and the Germans’ right to self-determination.1


Popu Lation German State German Unification Constitutional Patriotism Seismic Upheaval 
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  1. 1.
    Helmut Kohl’s initial prevarication over the Oder-Neisse Line caused momentary concern, but the widely accepted position was best summed up by Willy Brandt in 1970 when he presented to the FRG the Moscow Treaty in which existing European borders were recognised: ‘In this Treaty nothing is lost that has not long since been gambled away.’ Quoted in Christa Wolf, Essays/Gesprache/Reden/Briefe 1982–200, Werke, edited by Sonja Hilzinger, vol. 12 (München 2001), p. 741. References to this volume hereafter: W12, followed by page number.Google Scholar
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    The commitment is anchored in the new Artide 23 of the Basic Law that specifically calls on a united Germany to work for the achievement of a united Europe. The re-written Artide has been called ‘a symbolic act of profound significance; see Timothy Garton Ash, In Europe’s Name. Germany and the Divided Continent (London 1993), p. 385.Google Scholar
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Michael Butler

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