Shirer Asks: `Have the Germans Changed?'

THE recent whirlwind in Europe has ``been a tremendous surprise to me,'' says William Shirer, author of ``The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.'' Although he shared the view that communism would collapse eventually, Mr. Shirer says he's been amazed - and troubled - by the speed of events.

The reunification of East and West Germany, he said in a recent telephone interview, ``causes me a great deal of concern.'' In his memoirs (see review above) he questions whether the German people really learned anything from their defeat in World War II. ``The question everybody's asking,'' he says, ``is `Have the Germans changed?''' He worries that they have not, but allows that ``I'm probably prejudiced, having worked in Nazi Germany all those years.''

``I'm hoping there'll be a new federation in Europe that can hold Germany in check,'' he says. ``The Warsaw Pact is dead. It's silly to talk about NATO - it was set up to counter the Soviet Union, which has plenty of problems of its own right now.''

``I like the idea of [Czech President Vaclav] Havel - a federation or security organization.... If you're going to reassure Germany's neighbors - not just the Poles; I think the Dutch, the Belgians, the Czechs are scared to death, even though they're not saying so - you've got to get Germany into a federation or association [of European countries] where it can't break out on its own, where the other members could keep it in check.

``But you can't set these things up overnight. That's why I hope events are slowing down.

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