Sunday, March 15, 2015

In defense of Germany (and Germans)

To be sure, I am Austrian, not German. Also to be sure, Austria has had its share of German aggression and humiliation over the centuries. In 1740, the Prussian Frederick the Great did not even wait 2 months after the death of the Habsburg Emperor to invade and occupy one the of Habsburgs' most prosperous provinces, Silesia. Particularly when considering that his Habsburg counterpart, Maria Teresa, was an inexperienced, if not a bit helpless young lady of 23 years' age at the time, that wasn't necessarily an act of honor. Over 100 years later, in 1871, Bismarck kicked out the Habsburgs from the German Nation which he had unified. Allegedly, Bismarck felt that the Austrians with their proximity to the Balkans had assumed traits which were not quite compatible with the noble German traits. When considering that the Habsburgs had been the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire (of the German Nation) for about 600 years, and particularly when considering that from the viewpoint of the millennia-old Habsburg dynasty the Prussians were regional upstarts at best, this was a classic addition of insult to injury. And then there was the year 1938 when Nazi-Germany invaded Austria, thereby turning Austria into the "first free country that should fall prey to the typical aggressive policy of Hitler" (Moscow Declaration).

And yet - I like Germany and the Germans and I am appalled by the Germany-bashing and the blasting of the national character of the Germans which is taking place in many corners of Europe these days, for the simple reason that I feel that it is totally unjustified and only reflects lack of knowledge of today's Germany and Germans.

I have spent 13 out of my 40 working years in Germany, 6 years during the 1970s and 7 years during the 2000s. I have lived in Munich and I was always responsible for the South German Market, that is the states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. These two states I know really well. The rest of Germany I know only from short trips, mostly business trips.

First of all, Germany is a beautiful country which seems to have everything from the Alps to the forests to the rivers to the plaines to the seas. The Germans take extremely good care of their country. Looking down from an airplane, the entire countryside seems manicured. On the ground, everything is indeed very well taken care of, public properties no less than private properties. That is always a key aspect for me because there are countries where the private properties are in excellent shape whereas the public properties are reminiscent of garbage disposals.

I have found the Germans to be a very friendly people with no fear of foreigners. My Austrian nationality was always a plus because the Germans have a soft spot for 'these charming people from that beautiful small country'. Most importantly, I have always found the Germans honest and frank in their communications. No sly maneuverings like in the more Alpine areas of Central Europe. Doing business with Germans was always rather pleasant: handshake quality, clear arrangements, no hidden agendas. I had only one major credit loss during my 13 years in German banking and that was with --- an Austrian forestry entrepreneur in Germany who had cheated us!

I was fascinated with German solidarity and the Germans' acceptance that solidarity carries a cost. After German re-unification, a temporary solidarity tax was implemented to finance the reconstruction of the former DDR. I believe 8% was added to every tax bill and it translated into about 100 BEUR per year, initially intended for 5 years. That solidarity tax is still in place today, 25 years later, which means that the have's of the West have contributed over 2.000 BEUR to the have-not's of the East so far! There is a domestic transfer union where for years now only 3 states (Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hesse) have been payers and the other 13 states have been receivers. And, not to forget: Germany has been the largest net payer to the EU since inception.

If the Greek have's would show a similar kind of solidarity with the Greek have-not's, Greece's humanitarian crisis would be over tomorrow!

In summary, not once during my 13 years in Germany have I come across that German stereotype which is currently being created in some corners of Europe and in some intellectual circles. On the contrary, if the rest of Europe were more like the Germans whom I have met, Europe might be a better place. I have my family roots in Austria but if that were not the case, I might prefer living in Bavaria or, particularly, in Baden-Württemberg.

Interestingly, after googling the subject a bit I found that I am not alone with my opinion of Germany and the Germans:

May 2013: BBC announced that Germany is the most positively viewed nation in the world in this year's annual Country Ratings Poll for the BBC World Service.
November 2013: Germany was ranked 2nd after the USA in the annual Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index which measures the image of 50 countries.
November 2014: Germany was ranked 1st in the Anhold-GfK Nation Brands Index and surpassed the USA for the first time.
January 2015: Even in Israel, Germany is ranked as the most popular European country.
July 21, 2013: Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, writes in The Telegraph: "Forget about trying to contain Germany - we should copy it!" His article is one long love declaration to Germany.

Finally, the greatest surprise. I came across an article in The Telegraph by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard titled "Germany is the ultimate victim of the EMU". AER starts out by saying: "Enough is enough. Please stop defaming Germany out there in the blogosphere. The Germans are not engaged in a mercantilist conspiracy to subjugate and milk southern Europe. They are not conducting 'warfare by other means', or heaven forbid, trying to establish a Fourth Reich".

I think many Germans would feel very good after reading this article. They would feel understood why it is that they are so reluctant Eurozone members nowadays. They didn't really want the Euro; the 'strong Deutsche Mark' was their symbol of national self-confidence. But they were promised by their elites that the Euro would be just as strong as the DM. In national advertisement campaigns they were promised that it was 'absolutely impossible for a EZ member state to become over-indebted' because it was 'absolutely impossible for a EZ member state to run budget deficits in excess of 3%' (the Germans and the French were the firsts ones to exceed the 3%...). The Germans were cheated by their elites just like the Greeks were cheated by their elites.

I am glad that I am not German because I would feel terrible in today's Europe. On one hand, I would think that my country had really become a 'Musterschüler' after the Nazi-disaster; that we would always have done what we thought was objectively right and morally defensible. Not without self-interest, of course. And on the other hand, I would read and hear all the time that we are modern-day Nazis who employ financial waterboarding to achieve what our predecessors had not achieved with arms - the complete subjugation and Germanization of Europe. And I would cry to myself: "What kind of an idiot thinks that we have only the slightest intention to subjugate Europe?!? Don't they understand that we have learned from our past?!? Have they not troubled to find out what Germany and Germans are about today?!?"

Will today's Germany and the Germans ever get a fair trial in the judgment of their national character? I am afraid, not. That's the price which the grandchildren are paying for the sins of their grandparents.


  1. Defense, defence, defence...

  2. Austrians (German: Österreicher) are a Germanic ethnic group,[21] consisting of the population of the Republic of Austria, who share a common Austrian culture and Austrian descent and history.[22]

    Historically, Austrians were regarded as Germans and viewed themselves as such. Austria had been a part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and was a member of the German Confederation, but after the Austro-Prussian war of 1866, Austria was effectively expelled from the Confederation by Prussia. Thus, when the German Empire was founded in 1871, Austria was not a part of it. Austria was annexed in 1938 to the Third Reich, but since the events of World War II, Austrians have developed their own distinct national identity and do not consider themselves to be ethnic Germans.[24]

    Frankfurt National Assembly

    Are borders so important? Isn't a Jordanian as much an Arab just as a Syrian?

    1. If you had read my article in detail, you would undoubtedly have noticed that Austria had not only been part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation but, much more so, for roughly 600 out of roughly 800 years of the Empire's existence (depending when one starts counting), the Habsburgs WERE THE RULERS of that Empire "by the grace of God", as they defined themselves. I personally agree that Austrians were/are a Germanic ethnic group with a common culture but since you are obviously familiar with history, you will know why Austrians after WW2 took pains to start a socalled 'Austrian Nation' and every association with Germans is since deemed a falsification of history. Austrians do no longer consider themselves to be ethnic Germans not because they have developed their own distinct national identy but it was the other way around: one had to manufacture a distinct Austrian national identify in order to credibly argue that Austria had nothing to do with Nazi Germany. It is true, however, that since the opening towards the East, Austrians have indeed developed something like a natural national identy as they could return to the role of a 'bridge between East and West', something which Austria had been for centuries under the Habsburgs.

      And yes, the exclusion from the German Confederation took place before German unification and I can see that I could have been understood there.

  3. Since you like polls, apparently, there is a poll for everything.

    "On the contrary, if the rest of Europe were more like the Germans whom I have met, Europe might be a better place. "

    This is typical german thinking. A few weeks ago, greek former minister (ND) Antonaros, was speaking in tv about the german mania of "having everyone doing things their way". He said that while he was living in Italy, he has a german secretary. In one discussion, his secretary told him: "Italy is a beautiful country, the atmosphere in the streets, the food, but how much better it would be, if it was ran by Germans". Antonaros, astonished told her "but, Italy is what it is and the atmosphere is what it is, because it is ran by Italians!".

    Everyone complains in this bankers' ruled Europe. Germans want a fair judgement. Greeks want their fair judgment.

    Polls...1 week before the greek elections, 61% of Germans wanted Greeks out of the euro. Then 1 week after, in the euro. Now later, out of the euro. Either people's mood changed like the wind every week or there is something rotten in the kingdom of poll makers.

  4. Goodmorning Mr. Kastner,

    Nice article. Although i do not agree with your comment on the "haves" giving to the "have nots," i know just as many cases of German elite miling their own people. And there are Germans and Greeks elite who do give.

    Personally i believe most Greeks have no problems with the everyday Germans. (I believe greeks love austrians and belgiuns in general) Personally for my everyday contacts with Germans i have quite good relationships. Ofcourse we both avoid the underlying feelings that may be expressed by medias because ther is foul play on both sides.

    Unfortunately, it is the media and a large part of politics that creates a problem which creates a nasty underlying. It is really frustrating especially when i meet german hikers, hiking through our moutains and inviting them in our house for a coffee and meze and some rest, in the end having a nasty media making greek hate germans and germans hate greeks. I know that freedom of speech threw print is necessary but sometimes they are mostly out of line. And this stems from politicians and elites on both sides.

    I must say there is one thing that underlies in greeks for germans and it is the ww2 issue. This has been avoided directly. But this is a different subject. If this was addressed properly things would change drastically between the 2 peoples. Although even though i would like reperations, i find it wrong that Germans of today having to pay for their grandfathers mistakes. Just like greeks of today having to pay for their fathers mistakes.



  5. Part 1.
    As usual when a wonderful film or documentary ends, there is silence. Here also. Thank you.
    I am Dutch, but "German" in my way of thinking, in organizing, the house, the wallet, administration, my head, all. It is efficient.

    The Germans.
    Lately I heard (don't remember his name, sorry) a German politician saying very important words. He said that not only the world had been liberated from the nazis, also Germany was liberated from them, and when saying Germany of course he also meant "The Germans". A group within a people cannot be named with the name of the total. The Nazis are not The Germans. Nazism is proved to be an illness in minds of people of all over the world. It exists even in Greece, and with a too high percentage. Are "The Greeks": "The golden Dawn"? No. Are members of "The Golden Dawn" "The Greeks"? No, they are Greeks but not "The Greeks".

    "The Greeks" do not exist either, not meant in the way of: thinking and being all the same. There are Greeks in Greece who are not agreeing with what their government decides. They are oppressed in fact by Greeks, fellow Greeks, a group, a movement. But not "The Greeks".

    The Greeks, or at least too many Greeks, hate "the Germans", generally, because of those where they had to deal with in the past. Not only nazis, but also with for instance King Otto, son of a Bavarian king, and yes, Bavaria, as is written in the post here, is a kind of a province in Germany.

    I read about him, and in the meantime I know that this Otto met the same problems in Greece as Germany now.
    There, with Otto, the hatred started.

    Today I am going to send some important information that I collected during the last days about this never ending hatred, to Juncker.
    I am in a hurry, and therefore riting to the top.

    It is an unknown fact that Greek schoolbooks about history contain (and educate) one sided information, negative colored information. To mention one point: it is written in history books that "once, Greece will get back Istanbul". Istanbul is in Turkey. Children learn in fact that this city is Greek, and that "Turkey" stole it. When we start to find back what was ours (because we stole it) and what we lost, as countries, a new world war will start. For Greeks who read this: Crete should be offered back to the Cretans. Crete does not belong to Greece. In fact Greece belongs to Crete. The entire Greek civilization and culture has grown out of the Minoan culture, a Cretan culture.
    Crete is not by coincidence completely different from Greece: other music, other dances, other traditions, other character, all is different!
    To mention another source of hatred, and what children learn on schools: the story about Zalongo: women took their children, and choose to drown in the sea, all together, before "The Turkish" were arriving and raping them.
    It should be forbidden to tell these stories to children. I know a person who has been so much in this story experience, that there is a constant fear for Turkey. A deep fear. Created by a story. Nobody can fade it out in his mind. And nerve system.

    The stories around Otto are, when they are not written by acknowledged and therefore well informed historians, like Heinz Richter, or Emanuel Turczynski ("Social and Cultural History of Greece in the 19th century"), one sided, not complete, creating a view on Greeks as the pityful ones, the victims of suppressors, from abroad, while "certain" Greeks and the Balkan politics and mentality suppresses them in a vicious circle, still, via still existing tax farming, tax evading, rousfetia, even via schoolbooks and the media.

  6. Part 2.
    A very cynical article in Ekathimerini, last week, about "this German king" did not even add one positive sentence about what is still visible, and what is Otto's legacy: hospitals, schools, the university of Athens, the national library in Athens, the national gardens in Athens, the what is now Greek parliament (former palace), and the old parliament.
    There is too much to be told here in a comment. Obvious is that Greeks see him as a person who deserves it to be hated, and never to stop hating him. Closing eyes and ears for the truth, the full truth. Because then they have to stop their palying the victim, and to stop using fingers to point or to humiliate.
    Greek schools contribute to the continuing of that hatred. Children become new parents in the future, and they brainwash their children already from the beginning with not right information. Nobody takes the time to change the wrong written past into a better version, into a complete story, with all facets.

    Greeks will never do this, and therefore I am going to ask the European Commission for research about this cancer spot in the Greek schools and schoolbooks. It has to be cured. Otherwise we, Europe, never have any chance to do something good. Subversive elements in Greece's society and culture will avoid that. Money from abroad that flows into Greece will never ever be used well, because of a never ending tax farming system, and it is exactly this system where all Greek schools fail to talk about. It is a taboo in Greece. This is also the reason that there HAS to be control from EU in Greece, about where the EU money goes to, to avoid that it disappears again in the wrong wallets.

    For those who can read Greek, here a link to a blog about Greece's history, and in this case about Otto. Read, and tell me where you can find something that goes into deeper details like rousfetia, tax farming, clientelism, Balkan politics.
    You can find more posts about Greece's history there.

    Link to my google+ post about Otto:

  7. Part 3
    It would be good for all to start to rethink also the acts of Great Alexander.
    How many have been killed by him? Why should we hail and praise his acts, while he was going everywhere? As if the world was his?
    Isn't it the same as what Napoleon had in his mind? Are those who have been killed lesser dead than those who have been killed by nazis?
    Do we know all the details of Napoleon? Is he in the books as a tyrant?
    Do we blame "the French" for it? Brought Hitler only disaster? No!
    Social care systems by the way: are an invention of this Hitler.
    This does not make Hitler's other acts lesser evil, but we are not writing the truth when leaving out the good things.

    The same counts for also Alexander.
    Greeks are not better, not lesser, we are all human beings, and we are not holy, not even popes were holy, not even priests. Nothing is holy, and playing the victim does not make holy.
    The only solution to go on is to forgive, and when we cannot forgive we are inhuman, behave uncivilized.
    That is what children need to learn.
    And for all this lecture by Carl Gustav Jung, Swiss psychiatrist, is highly important:
    "Accepting the Darkness of Self and Others."

    The importance of accepting both dark and light first in the self to be able to accept the dark and light in others.
    There is not one human being free from darkness and has to work at it, to bring it into the consciousness, not to be ashamed of it, not to deny it, but to face it, to be able to transform it.

  8. Dearest Antoinette,

    I really do not understand your 3 page comment and what is the relativity of it to the article. Unfortunately, i disagree with everything up to your last two paragraphs.

    Having idle sources left and right as to what greeks think does not mean the majority of greeks think or don't think a certain way. Peoples opinions on things are completely subjective.

    And in reply to your first point on the silence of a good article. read my reply.



    1. Dear V.

      I can try to make you understand, and I did, had an answer, and noticed that I just repeat what I wrote already. so, I removed everything.
      It is possible that you are in a kind of a denial. That is okay. But then it is meaningless to try to explain it again, even in another way.

      Something else that fits here also is Netherlands. I flew over Netherlands today, and was thinking about Herr Kastner's post that I read in an hotel in Oslo. The comments (1,2,3,) were sent from Oslo, this one from Netherlands, somewhere in the south, not far from Germany.

      If you, or anybody who reads this, will fly over Netherlands into the direction on Schiphol, once, it is worth it to take a seat at the window, to watch down, when the airplane is going to land. Then you can see how it is possible to live together in an overcrowded country of more than 16.000.000 people. So excellent organized. Also Schiphol is excellent organized, but Munich and Frankfurt are the top of the top. It must be an overwhelming experience, I heard, to land there, to change airplanes, to walk for 20 minutes to find another gate. and yes, what a difference with a Greek airport. Heraklion is dirty, and needs cleaning, maintenance. It feels spooky in the evening and night. Germans could create a much better environment.

      Back to Netherlands: There is even much space left for huge meadows with cows, huge areas with corn, much water areas, enormous lakes, and even national parks because the houses and streets of villages and cities, metropolises, are excellent organized around a center. Roads, superhighways, canals, rivers, railroads, all is there, because of a genious infrastructure. Each day a huge mass is on the way to job and schools. And back home. Incredible. That is, maybe, because we are neighbors of "the" Germans. Even our language sounds similar. People who live near to the border speak the same dialect.....

    2. Dear Antoinette,

      Your still losing me. And i don't think you undertsood my point. Maybe our politicians are not the only ones that can not bridge communications.

      Your 2nd reply, what is your point? That Greece is not organized? Ok accepted as your opinion. To a greek maybe a chaos is organization? Did you ever think of that?

      Yes, hollands and germany's coutryside is very beuatiful. Yes i like how things are organized in your country. I have the same view for just about every place in europe.



  9. Oh man, we've been talking about these issues since forever.

    That is the biggest problem for me. That this existential crisis of the Eurozone doesn't resolve in any way. It just drags on, and on, and on, and on.

    In the end the Eurozone feels more like a fixed-exchange-rate regime and less like a true monetary union.

    I don't think there's ever gonna be, on a European level, the solidarity that intra-Germany has, or intra-Greece has, so probably at some point the Eurozone will break up.

    But when is this point gonna come? Like I said, the crisis drags on, and on, and on, and on.

    We do know from Japan that the crisis could last an awfully long time, but wasting time like that is, well, bad.

  10. Dear Mr. Kastner,

    there is one sentence in your text that sticks out I think:

    "If the Greek have's would show a similar kind of solidarity with the Greek have-not's, Greece's humanitarian crisis would be over tomorrow!"

    I believe that's true. It has been very astonishing during the crisis years, that the Greek domestic actors (government, unions ...) did so little to make the (inevitable) austerity as equitable as possible.

    1. Sorry you are wrong Anonymous 6:58

      Mayne "Have's" have given in many ways to the "Have not's" it is always easier though to point the finger and make generalizations. People have the impression that the super rich are obligated to pay out everything for the mistakes of a whole country. This is wrong.




    Before their economic take-off in the mid-19th century, the Germans were typically described by the British as “a dull and heavy people”. “Indolence” was a word that was frequently associated with the Germanic nature. Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, wrote in exasperation after a particularly frustrating altercation with her German coach-driver; “the Germans never hurry”. It wasn’t just the British. A French manufacturer who employed German workers complained that they “work as and when they please”.

    The British considered the Germans also to be slow-witted. According to one John Russell, a travel-writer of the 1820s, the Germans were a “plodding, easily contented people ... endowed neither with great
    acuteness of perception nor quickness of feeling”. In particular, according to Russell, they were not open to new ideas; “it is long before [a German] can be brought to comprehend the bearings of what is new to him, and it is difficult to rouse him to ardour in its pursuit.” No wonder that they were
    “not distinguished by enterprise or activity”, as another mid-19th century
    British traveller remarked.

    Germans were also deemed to be too individualistic and unable to cooperate with each other. The Germans’ inability to cooperate was, in the
    view of the British, most strongly manifested in the poor quality and
    maintenance of their public infrastructure, which was so bad that John
    McPherson, a Viceroy of India (and therefore quite used to treacherous road conditions), wrote, “I found the roads so bad in Germany that I directed my course to Italy”. Once again, compare this with a comment by the African observer that I quoted above: “African societies are like a football team in which, as a result of personal rivalries and a lack of team spirit, one player will not pass the ball to another out of fear that the latter might score a goal”.

    British travellers in the early 19th century also found the Germans
    dishonest – “the tradesman and the shopkeeper take advantage of you
    wherever they can, and to the smallest imaginable amount rather than not
    take advantage of you at all ... This knavery is universal”, observed Sir
    Arthur Brooke Faulkner, a physician serving in the British army.

    Finally, the British thought the Germans to be overly emotional. Today many British seem to think that Germans have an almost genetic
    emotional deficiency. Yet talking about excessive German emotion, Sir
    Arthur observed that “some will laugh all sorrows away and others will
    always indulge in melancholy”. Sir Arthur was an Irishman; so his calling
    the Germans emotional would be akin to a Finn calling the Jamaicans a
    gloomy lot, according to the cultural stereotypes prevailing now.

    As you can see, Mr. Kastner, there were negative stereotypes of Germans even before the Nazi era. And surprise, surprise: Many of them were amazingly similar to the current negative stereotypes of Greeks. Do read the full article. It can teach those who believe in "eternal national characters" to be more careful in their judgements.

  12. Mrs. Antoinette Janssen, like you, I’m a fan of Greek music and often watch related videos on YouTube. So, occasionally, I happen to see comments written by you – old comments, of course (since you are not so “fond of Greek” anymore.) Here’s one I came across recently: “You, Greek, are children of Gods, you prove it every time again.”

    Now, I’m pretty sure that if the European Commission checked the Greek schoolbooks, they would fail to spot any such claims. And yet, you, a rational North European lady, used to say things about Greece that not even the most extreme Greek nationalists would say. It is not like you just had a positive opinion of the Greeks. You had a naive and unrealistic infatuation, like other European “philhellenes”. And, of course, you got disappointed eventually.

    Don’t think you know much about the real country even now. No, the Greek schoolbooks don’t urge the students to get back Istanbul. “Megali Idea” ended in 1922. Greece nowadays doesn’t even assert its legal rights (e.g. the extension of its territorial waters in the Aegean). No, we are not afraid of Turkey because we have been taught about… Zalongo, but because Turkey is an actual threat (Aegean, Thrace, Cyprus). History doesn’t play such a big role as you think. Current Greek-Bulgarian relations are excellent, despite the historical animosities between the two countries.

  13. I just found the below article. BILD must have decided to turn on a charme offensive on the occasion of Tsipras' visit to Berlin and they published "50 reasons why Greece is dear to us", some of them are really nice and charming.