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Introduction

The Thirtieth Anniversary of The Fall of the Berlin Wall and Unification

Eric Langenbacher

It sometimes seems that Germany is a country perpetually caught in the past. There are so many anniversaries that some sort of tracker is necessary to remember them all. Commemorations in 2019 included the seventieth anniversaries of the foundation of the Federal Republic and the formation of the NATO alliance, the eightieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, the 100th anniversaries of the Treaty of Versailles, the foundation of the Weimar Republic, and German women achieving the right to vote. In 2020, important commemorations include the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the 250th anniversaries of Beethoven’s and Hegel’s birth, as well as the 100th anniversary of the HARIBO company that invented gummi bears.

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Introduction

Merkeldämmerung

Eric Langenbacher

Abstract

The elections for the German Bundestag on 24 September 2017 saw heavy losses for the two governing parties—the Christian Democratic Union (cdu) and the Social Democratic Party (spd)—and the rise of the right-populist Alternative for Germany (AfD). It took almost six months for a new grand coalition to be formed in light of the extremely fragmented parliament. Despite the good economic situation and relative calm domestically and internationally, much change is occurring under the surface. Most importantly, the country is preparing for the end of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s long tenure. Who and what will come next? Can the surging AfD be contained? Will Germany step up into the leadership role for which so many have called?

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Eric Langenbacher

Not once during the campaign—or actually over the whole course of the

seventeenth Bundestag (2009-2013)—was it ever really in doubt that Angela

Merkel would continue as chancellor after the 22 September 2013 parliamentary

election. Despite the vicissitudes of governing for eight years, most

in the midst of the financial and Euro crisis, she has achieved and sustained

some of the highest approval ratings of any postwar German politician. Voters

trust Merkel as a good manager of the economy and an honest steward

and defender of German interests in Europe. Her carefully cultivated image

as a steady, reassuring, and incorruptible leader, coupled with her political

acumen, ideological flexibility and, at times, ruthlessness—captured in the

dueling monikers of Mutti Merkel and Merkelavelli1—are the keys to her

profound success.

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Introduction

Politics and Power After the 2017 Bundestag Election

Eric Langenbacher

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Eric Langenbacher

I recall a conversation from a while back with a colleague. He was

disdainful of German politics, stating that they are ponderous, lackluster,

even boring. He prefers to follow Italian politics because of

the intrigue, emotion, and, most of all, the drama. Although forced

to agree at the time that the contrast between the two countries

could not be greater, I was also immediately reminded of the old

(apocryphal) Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times.”

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Eric Langenbacher and Friederike Eigler

Is "memory fatigue" setting in? One often hears this question in regards to Germans whenever another Holocaust-centered or Nazi era memory event erupts. But, one also increasingly hears this question about intellectuals and scholars in the humanities. Political scientists, lamentably, never really got into the study of memory in the first place. As an overly qualitative phenomenon the study of collective memory was impervious to dominant quantitative or rationalist methodologies in the discipline. Like culture more generally, it was considered either a default category or an irrelevant factor for the core of political analysis—interests and institutions—and was best left to the humanities or sociology. Others have argued that memory never really mattered at all for the vast majority of Germans who are interested in the consumerist present or for a proper understanding of the political system. At the most, it concerned only a small circle of the German elite and media such as the feuilleton section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Der Spiegel, and, certain German studies centers and journals in the USA.

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Eric Langenbacher, Bill Niven, and Ruth Wittlinger

As the inestimable Harold Wilson once put it, “a week is a long

time in politics.” Certainly, the evolution of collective memory and

scholarship devoted to it is much slower than the pace of day-to-day

politics. Yet, there are periods of rapid change—of paradigm shifts

even—where the landscape shifts rapidly over a relatively short

period of time. This special issue, we think, captures one of these

periods of rapid change. Compared to the last special thematic issue

of German Politics and Society from 20051 and even compared to

many books published in the last few years, the state of collective

memory in Germany appears very different today. Most prominently,

Holocaust-centered memory is foregrounded to a much

lesser extent than previously.