German reunification, neutralism, nationalism: how deep the yearning?
Rainer Trampert, chairman of the ecologist Green Party, advocates West Germany's withdrawal from NATO. He would welcome neutralization of both East and West Germany.Skip to next paragraph
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Rainer Eppelmann, East Berlin pastor, advocates a common effort by the peace movements in both East and West Germany to pressure the two superpowers to pull their ''occupation'' soldiers and weapons out of German lands.
Is a longing for the purity of neutralism and the solidarity of reunification reappearing here? Is this the thin edge of a resurgent German nationalism?
''This worries me more than anything else,'' said Liberal Bundestag member Hildegard Hamm-Brucher at one point last year when she was still the West German co-chairman of the German-American committee to improve bilateral relations.
''If you begin to say that you see the two superpowers the same and you'll keep equidistant from both, this would mean in my historical opinion that we would repeat the same mistake Germany made two times in this century, in swinging (like a pendulum) between East and West.''
Dr. Hamm-Brucher detected this tendency only among ''a small sector out of the whole population.'' But she said, ''We all have to take this development seriously.''
House historian Karl-Heinz Janssen of the newspaper Die Zeit conceded the old national question is dormant rather than dead. It has, he said, the potential of being reawakened by some future international situation. But he couldn't visualize what that might be, since those in the counterculture movement who are fascinated by the German question are still only a small group, centered primarily in West Berlin.
Janssen specifically cautioned against an inclination by some Americans to ''throw everything into one pot'' and see pan-German neutralism behind every doubt about America's nuclear wisdom.
Concern about the possibility of just such pan-German neutralism in fact surfaced in the Carter administration at the time of differing reactions to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It gained popularity in the United States last year at the time of differing reactions to Polish martial law.
West Germans, it was feared in America, might once again be succumbing to that lure of a unified, dominant Germany that had so tragically defeated liberalism in the 19th century and humanity in the 20th.
Hadn't Germany always vacillated between East and West? Hadn't an earlier Germany that also called itself democratic once made a deal at Rapallo, Italy, to help the Soviet Union rearm secretly?
Wasn't Bonn flirting with ''self-Finlandization'' and again seeking to find its lost identity by submergence in the collective feeling of German belonging? Wouldn't West Germany pay any price of subservience to the Russians if Moscow but dangled before it the bait of reunification?
On the evidence, the simple answer to the last two questions should have been ''no.'' The real world's more complicated answer, however, was a tentative ''yes.''
As Americans recoiled from detente in the wake of Afghanistan, West Germans worried about the nuclear war rhetoric of the early Reagan administration. The then out-of-power West German conservatives magnified these differences - and historical memory placed on Germans the burden of proof of innocence.
The resulting American suspicion, though triggered by the neutralist yearnings of some West German peace activists, thus said rather more about the eye of the beholder than about the behavior of the beheld. For the first time since the postwar occupation of Germany ended, influential Americans came to share the chronic French fear of some primordial German urge for reunification.