Germania Tremens

"What wonders I have done, all Germany can witness. . . . "
—Christopher Marlowe

Anyone who has lived in Germany eventually realizes that Germany is a nation of hypochondriacs. Germans spend far more than Americans on nostrums, vitamins, tranquilizers, and elixers; Americans may watch "Dynasty," but the most popular TV show in the Federal Republic is "Black Forest Clinic." A similar obsession prevails in politics: Germans are always questioning the health of their society and their politics, just as they constantly question the health of their bodies. What they usually examine themselves for now, of course, is political instability and the antidemocratic disease. Given their history, this is hardly surprising. And the Germans' political hypochondria is catching: it soon affects outside observers of the German scene. This is hardly surprising, either. The Germans' political past, and their vital importance to the Western alliance, makes obsession with the political and social health of the country understandable. The problem, however, is to know when the hypochondriac is really sick: Luther, after all, terrified his audiences with the prediction that society was so iniquitous that the Day of Judgment would come before the end of summer 1541.

In Germany Today, Walter Laqueur gives the Federal Republic his own close examination....

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