ANOTHER KEY TO UNDERSTAND GERMAN INGENUITY

In Italy August 2010 saw a true surge in the esteem of the German ways to do things -in fact the industrial conflict in the Fiat plant in Melfi was simultaneous to the brilliant results of the German manufacturing recovery. Said results were ascribed by many to 59 years of Mitbestimmung, the workers’ equal participation in the management of the German corporations. Germany’s exports are highly competitive in the world markets while salaries in her automotive sector are more than double the Italian ones (in real terms).

Why Germans are able to invent systems that in the Anglo-Saxon world seems to find no appeal? Modern history assists us in answering the simple way: Germans are more cultivated and act faster.

Everybody knows that after WW2 the formerly powerful economy of victorious Britain found herself reduced to inferior rank, while Germany resurrected rapidly from the rubble of total destruction. Everybody knows that in just six years Adolf Hitler was able to transform the tiny Reichswehr, the 100,000 men army permitted in 1919 by the treaty of Versailles, into the immensely effective Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine of 1939-42.

Instead not many are familiar with a much earlier exploit of the German talent. Before 1871, when the Second Reich was born out of the prodigious victory on France, a German war fleet was non existant. In a minor war of 1848 one single Danish frigate was able to easily blockade the German traffic in the North Sea in front of the rivers Elbe and Weser. Such a humiliating accident spurred to action the Frankfurt National Assembly – a loose, infant institution that was trying, with little success, to unify several sovereign states of Germany. In a number of weeks a naval base was built in Bremerhaven.

The tiny Bundesmarine created in that emergency was dissolved four years later and the ships sold, but in 1853 Prussia alone created her own Navy from nothing, and in 1867 a North German Navy (of  Prussia and other States) was in the position to launch a program of 16 battleships (better: heavely armored vessels), 30 frigates or lesser units and a new base, Wilhelmshaven, on the river Jade.

When, in 1897, admiral von Tirpitz became commander in chief of the Kaiserliche Marine, Britain, with history’s largest fleet, immediately perceived the competitive menace of adolescent Navy of the Kaiser. That menace was in fact one of the few justifications of the British choice to fight the Great War. In the battle of Jutland (May 31,1916) the German High-Seas Fleet (20 battle class vessels) found itself incapable to really challenge the giant Royal Navy (38 battle-class vessels), but the British losses were almost double the German ones. Just 19 years had passed since the advent of Tirpitz. Then of course, toward the end of  WW1 the primitive German U-Boote came near to win the oceans.

In the decades since unification Germany not only built her war might: also Europe’s most important peace manufacturing structure, well more efficient of the one of Britain, which used to be the mother of modern industries. Today the economic primacy in Europe of the Bundesrepublik is beyond any doubt.

Facts are such that not only Italy should learn from the German record. America too.

Anthony Cobeinsey

THE LESSON OF GUTTENBERG

Suddenly the Western political society has acquired a new protagonist, an almost heroic dramatis persona, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. We non-Germans were allowed to ignore him- he only was a member of Angela Merkel’s cabinet. Since a few days he is the embodiment of courage, i.e. of a little honored concept on how a politician should behave (he or she usually doesn’t).. Admittedly, I am so impressed by Guttenberg’s choice to resign not only from the government, also from the Bundestag, because the Italian frame of mind is the very opposite to the German one. In Italy practically nobody resigns on ethical grounds. Italy seems perfectly unable to free herself of a grotesque head of government, nor of his arch-enemy, G.Fini, not a warrior for ideals. In a different country both would have had to retire several years ago.

From baron zu Guttenberg comes a lesson which applies to other contexts: including the United States, where president Clinton was able to escape almost unscathed from a rather unseemly situation. The German environment has been merciless with Guttenberg, a brilliant politician whose chances to became Europe’s top head of government were high. His sin was venial: he had used somebody’s else copy in his own doctoral thesis. In Italy or in France a minister as important as Guttenberg -he was in command of a military establishment whose heritage is the world’s most prestigious- would have resisted criticism. The Bundesrepublik is different. After the cataclysm of WW2 and the horrors of Hitlerism, Germany has reverted to her historical integrity. Martin Luther rebelled against Rome for the sake of integrity, and since his time Lutheran probity marked the German soul (up to the terrible Nazi devastations).

The Guttenberg episode is meaningful for an additional reason. It emphasizes the public role of the German upper nobility. Freiherr (baron) Guttenberg, a Bavarian, married a descendant of prince von Bismarck, the creator in 1870 of the German Reich and a top Junker (member of the landowning aristocracy of Prussia). In WW2 the daughter in law of the prince took her life a few hours before the victorious Red Army reached her country estate. The Junker class dominated the German society, especially as far the Army and the upper burocracy were concerned. However that Establishment fully met its moral obligations when the hard times arrived.

I today discovered a Karl-Ludwig Freiherr von Guttenberg among the l50 victims of the Fuehrer’s barbarous revenge after the failed plot on July 20, 1944 to kill him and stop the war. The relative, possibly a father, of our Guttenberg was executed on April 23, 1945, a couple of weeks before the surrender of Germany. The leaders of the conspiracy were among the most prominent exponents of the German officialdom: fieldmarshals Rommel and von Witzleben, four or five full generals (the German rank was Generaloberst), a well higher number of lesser generals, famous admiral Canaris, many top civil servants (a few ambassadors included), academicians and a descendant of field marshal Helmuth von Moltke, who defeated Napoleon III in 1870. Practically all participants of the conspiracy were upper class, with a very large percentage of aristocrats. The death list I am perusing while I write includes fathers, sons, brothers, also a few wives, mothers or daughters who met their end because of their relations with doomed Prominenzen.. In other words, the German elite, the aristocrats first of all, paid heavily because of their sense of responsibility and honor.

Freiherr Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg seems to follow the steps of the l50 ultimate foes of Adolf Hitler.

JJJ