Historians and political sciences have begun to discuss how and when postwar Germany overcame its authoritarian past and reestablished democracy and a tolerant civil society. This article argues that the national and regional Offices for Political Education have contributed significantly to the recivilizing process. The article provides the first preliminary academic attempt to outline the offices' historical background, their changing institutional structure, and their place in the civic education context since the mid 1950s. A series of case studies examine the historical literature disseminated by specific offices to illustrate the process of overcoming a problematic past and constructing new identities. In turn, the historical role models promoted by the offices, the manner in which federalism was presented, the timing of and fashion in which the Holocaust became a significant theme and the way in which regional identities were understood and fostered, are examined. These cases illustrate how historical information was employed, at first in fairly simple and propagandistic fashion, but always to inculcate democratic and civil norms. The question of the impact of the offices' work is left open, since research on reception has yet to be undertaken, but some evidence about their important contributions to reshaping German values is provided.
Konrad H. Jarausch
Perhaps two generations after the modest beginning, the FRG's successes and failures have become amenable to a more balanced evaluation. From the vantage point of the "Berlin Republic," the key question has shifted from whether the second German democracy would survive at all, to the reasons for its relatively positive course and to the extent of its lingering problems. This chapter first delves into the emergence of popular myths that characterized the Federal Republic's difficult search for identity. Secondly, it takes a look at some of the West's actual accomplishments in problem-solving, because such a comparison helps explain the eventual collapse of the East. Finally, it scrutinizes several of the competing explanations so as to reveal their political agendas and discuss their analytical limitations. Instead of presenting a simple success story, this reflection therefore strives for a critical appreciation. The paper concludes that at sixty, the FRG has entered a comfortable middle age, leaving be hind some of its earlier drama, but exuding a sense of competent normalcy. The mythical challenges of postwar reconstruction and recovery of international respectability have receded, followed instead by everyday concerns that are much less exhilarating. There are still plenty of problems, ranging from an aging population to a lack of full-day childcare, but they are shared by other advanced industrial societies. Moreover, after a century of first arrogant and then dejected difference, the German Sonderweg has finally come to an end. As a result of the meltdown of the Anglo-American version of unrestrained capitalism, the German model of a socially responsive market economy has even regained some of its prior luster. Hence, the postwar record of cautious incrementalism inspires some confidence that the Germans will also manage to meet the unforeseen political and economic challenges of the future.
Myra Marx Ferree, Hanno Balz, John Bendix, Meredith Heiser-Duron, Jeffrey Luppes, Stephen Milder, and Randall Newnham
democracy seem particular to what Konrad Jarausch has called the postwar “recivilization” of Germans. And yet, it is on account of this same specificity that Wüstenberg’s book makes an important contribution to debates about the role of civil society in