“German Angst”: Why end-time fears are fuelling German debates


A certain degree of annoyance was unüberlesbar. The American “Time Magazine” ran a headline on the 24. August 1981, “West Germany: the Moment of fear.” It was not the first to use this German word in English. Already since the 19th century. Century, the term appeared occasionally in translated works of the Danish philosopher Sören Kierkegaard. However, the “Time”title for something New: for the criticism of the new feeling of life, the moving, the former Federal Republic of Germany, the “German Angst”.

The house of the history of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn (HdG) is now in a new temporary exhibition with “fear” as a (or the?) “German feeling”. In fact, anxiety waves not dominate for at least four, perhaps five, or even six decades, time and again, the public debate in Germany – to an extent, as it is known from other Western countries. Why is this so? What are the consequences? And you should fight it? Or maybe you just don’t?

The HdG this question explores four examples of – you could have been three times select so many. However, the restriction seems reasonable, because the mechanisms of the selected situations understand. The starting point of the early 1970s. Because, according to the adults of the first Federal Republican Generation are piled up at once emotional Tsunamis.

To be broke in this time, the “fear of nuclear power” with the first mass protests against the construction of further nuclear power plants, for example, in Baden, Wyhl, or in Brokdorf on the river Elbe, on the “economic miracle” of society, which was itself unsettled by the downturn, Stagnation and the danger of the RAF-terror. It followed from 1979 to the Protest of a vocal minority against the Nato double-track decision and the associated fears of an all-destructive nuclear war. This went so far that in the early 1980s, some of the teachers went with their fifth-grade classes on anti-American demonstrations, and the apocalyptic book for young people, “The last children of Schewenborn” about the Survivors of a nuclear advanced shock, a best-seller.

Also, the misguided Reasoning, with Appeasement of the Soviet Empire could be a – in fact, in the face of the balance through the mutual destruction of opportunity, not the threat of nuclear war avoided, coined several age cohorts of young West German. Anyone who is born between 1955 and 1975, was characterized in one Form or another by these two publicly celebrated anxiety attacks.

remained, However, as the HdG further examples of shows: After the fear equally in front of the civilian as against the military use of the Atom, the fear of a supposedly General destruction of the environment. They culminated in the false message from the “dying forests”, i.e. the allegedly imminent extinction of almost all the trees in Central Europe. Also this term is a loanword in other languages, including French and English.

Known to the disaster. The “Forest dieback” was a collective mistake of a nearly complete discipline, Fort science, and as a media-GAU. The consequences were quite positive. All cars got catalytic converters, power stations, desulphurisation plants.

But the experience of the absence of Forests is not slowed by the willingness of many West German to wallow in exaggerated Fears. About after the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl in 1986: Nowhere is the disproportion between the public excitement and the reality of the threat of risks was greater than that in the Federal Republic of Germany.

there was a Similar situation in connection with the census, in a totally unsuspicious of statistical data collection. Against you for years, activists with its decision and arguments made in the entire 1980s-about a supposedly to omniscience and omnipotence-seeking state mobile. In 1987, it finally came to widespread boycotts of the now much-reduced household survey. Oddly enough, many Germans protested at the time, no problems, for discount cards, or social media much more and much brisantere personal data.

fear as a dominant way of life in Germany but is by no means limited to left-wing and liberal circles, as one might in the face of these examples of faith. Exactly the same mechanisms as in the case of the current Xenophobia, culminating in the absurd ideas of a planned or imminent “Umvolkung”. The Pitch caught in the most current discussions about Islam or the further development of the now unified Germany that correspond exactly to the Anti-nuclear movement of the 1970s and 1980s, only now politically on the right edge.

What does that mean? In other European countries there is a comparable fear of waves rarely, if ever. While in Germany around the turn of the Millennium the mad cow disease months for the duration of ascension, remained in the UK panic – in spite of a multiple of diseased animals, and a number of dead people.

so What is the reason for the particular inclination of the German to apocalyptic expectations? It is up to the experience of the bomb nights of the Second world war? Or in that of becoming, in 1945, Conquered? Both explanations are not convincing, because the bomb nights it is similar to that in London, and conquered by the Wehrmacht and the SS had Hitler’s war a dozen European countries – everywhere the occupiers lived far worse than the allied powers in West Germany, which were even loans for reconstruction.

Founded in the desire to feel fear, perhaps, in an ominous “national character” of the Germans? It is not racist, the differences between the various Nations of Europe – they are experienced of all places, when you travel abroad. Reprehensible, however, is to enjoy yourself on the (vast, but never exclusive) peculiarities of other peoples, or to raise.

A clear answer is not able to give the exhibition in Bonn. However, If there is such a thing as a typical German feature, then it is a tendency to Exaggeration. It characterizes Germany’s history in the 20th century. Century – of the greed for a “place in the sun” in the German Empire on racial hatred in Nazism, to the “German Angst”.

“fear. A German feeling?“, House of the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn; to 19. May 2019

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