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The word "German" was being used by the Romans as early as the mid–first century B.C. to describe tribes in the eastern Rhine valley. Nearly two thousand years later, the richness and complexity of German history have faded beneath the long shadow of the country's darkest hour in World War II. Now, award-winning historian Steven Ozment, whom The New Yorker has hailed as "a The word "German" was being used by the Romans as early as the mid–first century B.C. to describe tribes in the eastern Rhine valley. Nearly two thousand years later, the richness and complexity of German history have faded beneath the long shadow of the country's darkest hour in World War II. Now, award-winning historian Steven Ozment, whom The New Yorker has hailed as "a splendidly readable scholar," gives us the fullest portrait possible in this sweeping, original, and provocative history of the German people, from antiquity to the present, holding a mirror up to an entire civilization -- one that has been alternately Western Europe's most successful and most perilous.


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The word "German" was being used by the Romans as early as the mid–first century B.C. to describe tribes in the eastern Rhine valley. Nearly two thousand years later, the richness and complexity of German history have faded beneath the long shadow of the country's darkest hour in World War II. Now, award-winning historian Steven Ozment, whom The New Yorker has hailed as "a The word "German" was being used by the Romans as early as the mid–first century B.C. to describe tribes in the eastern Rhine valley. Nearly two thousand years later, the richness and complexity of German history have faded beneath the long shadow of the country's darkest hour in World War II. Now, award-winning historian Steven Ozment, whom The New Yorker has hailed as "a splendidly readable scholar," gives us the fullest portrait possible in this sweeping, original, and provocative history of the German people, from antiquity to the present, holding a mirror up to an entire civilization -- one that has been alternately Western Europe's most successful and most perilous.

30 review for A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People

  1. 5 out of 5

    K.M. Weiland

    This is a rapid-fire historical overview that often reads like a fast-paced documentary. I would have enjoyed a little more depth in the exploration of personalities, but overall, this is an excellent big-picture view that offers some surprising insights.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    Presentation of many important events is bound to be cursory in such a short book about a long period of time. But Ozment does a good job covering the basics. He tries to show the roots of later events without trying to make them appear inevitable. “In comparing the French and German models of enlightenment, many historians have deemed the German to be education for self-realization rather than for self-government—an aesthetic, or spiritual, preparation rather than a proper training for modern po Presentation of many important events is bound to be cursory in such a short book about a long period of time. But Ozment does a good job covering the basics. He tries to show the roots of later events without trying to make them appear inevitable. “In comparing the French and German models of enlightenment, many historians have deemed the German to be education for self-realization rather than for self-government—an aesthetic, or spiritual, preparation rather than a proper training for modern political life. Embracing a more positive relationship between the individual and the state, Germans rejected political violence on the French scale and deferred more readily to king and country. In doing so they were expressing a greater collective fear of anarchy than any preference for despotism.” 152

  3. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Despite its name, A Mighty Fortress: A new history of the German People is largely a very traditional political/diplomatic/military/great people (great male) history, albeit one with fascinating views and insights. The author, Steven Ozment, sought to write a balanced history of Germany, one which would not devote its focus to 'how the Germans became Nazis', as many other Historians have done. He has largely succeeded. He adopts a proper general historian stance -- distant, and relatively neutra Despite its name, A Mighty Fortress: A new history of the German People is largely a very traditional political/diplomatic/military/great people (great male) history, albeit one with fascinating views and insights. The author, Steven Ozment, sought to write a balanced history of Germany, one which would not devote its focus to 'how the Germans became Nazis', as many other Historians have done. He has largely succeeded. He adopts a proper general historian stance -- distant, and relatively neutral. I would argue he is somewhat of a German apologist, but that's OK with me. Some of the general themes and arguments Ozment puts forth include: - Germans have generally defaulted to discipline and order over anarchy, given negative experiences with anarchic experiences in the past (pages 13-14) - Both democracy and totalitarianism are new to German national political history, with the former only really being evident during the Weimar Republic of 1919-1933, post-WWII West Germany, and contemporary Germany; and the latter during the rule of Hitler and the Nazis, from 1933 to 1945 (pages 13-14) - A sense that, before the early 1900s, Germans were no more, and often much less anti-Semitic than other European peoples (Pg 277) Coverage-wise, A Mighty Fortress provides a good look at German history, though there are some significant time gaps, and some time periods are covered in significantly more detail than others. Particular emphasis is put on great figures who Ozment feels were very important to German history. The people he focuses on, while generally fascinating and well-explained in a concise (versus reading their biography) manner, may or may not be deserving of the amount of space they take up in the book. As an example, Ozment devotes 2.5 pages of this 325 page book to the Merovingians (Germanic Franks, people/culture/empire/rulers, around 300 years of history, pages 36-39) and about 11 pages (131-142) to Frederick the Great of Prussia. 4.1 Stars Chapter Highlights and Commentary 1) 'The Barbarian Complex: Roman-German Relations in Antiquity' This includes a fascinating section on how the Romans dealt with early threatening Germanic tribes. Basically, Ozment explains, the Romans fought them fiercely with their military, and sought to divide and coopt them by pitting them against one another and exposing them to Roman culture (directly and indirectly). For example, the Romans would sometimes exclusively communicate with Germanic warriors who sought additional glory and booty beyond the dictates of their tribal leaders, thus bypassing the chain of command and creating allies and chaos in the process. They would also take German hostages who they raised as Romans and who often became Roman allies, and Roman culture spread on its own through trade, religion, inter-marriage and so forth (pages 18-20). He proceeds to quickly summarize how the Germanic tribes eventually took over many operations in the Roman empire. 2) 'From Merovingians to Hohenstaufens: Germanic rule in the Middle Ages' This chapter covers a lot of history in 30 pages, from the post-Roman situation, to the Merovingians, to the Carolingians, to the Saxons, to Frederick Barbarossa and the Hohenstaufens. Much is left out, skipped over or ignored, most of the chapter is a series of dynastic power struggles and struggles with the Roman Church, and I wish he had covered more about when 'French' culture started to develop and become separate from 'German' culture, but it does suffice as a nice outline of the time period. 3) 'Man and God: Germany in the Renaissance and Reformation' There is a lot going on in this period of German history, but very little of it is covered in this chapter. Ozment focuses almost exclusively on Frederick 'the Wise' Elector of Saxony, Martin Luther, and the events and forces around them. So, again, while it is fascinating, and while we learn important things about German people through these figures, much is left out. The situation around the time of Luther was, as Ozment puts it, as follows: most German peoples were in the Holy Roman Empire. The Empire consisted of 65 cities owing direct allegiance to the emperor, but there were also various regional princes, states, and independent cities which acted somewhat akin to Ancient Greek city states. At the same time, the Emperor, empire and peoples owed lesser or greater allegiance to the Pope in Rome, and the Catholic Church, and then Luther popped up and went around challenging Roman authority and doctrine. Crazy times. From page 69 on, we learn all about Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, a ruler involved in intrigue after intrigue. Frederick sheltered Martin Luther, determined who the Hapsburg (Holy Roman) Emperor would be, was a well-read art patron, was very pious, dealt with surrounding states and brokered deals, and did not react to the 1525 peasant revolt of Thomas Muntzer, believing that if God chose the revolt to succeed, that was the way it was supposed to be. Page 86 -- Lutheran theology "allowed for neither self-contentment or despair", and functioned as a motivational Christianity for Germans. A philosophy of betterment and productivity... Pages 91-92 -- Lutheran theology shifted the onus from church to state for care of the poor. Alms-giving became more a civic duty rather than a religious one, and the church taught that charitable acts no longer guaranteed a place in heaven. Page 92 -- Marriage was also re-cast as more a civic than religious domain, in part to allow Protestant priests to marry, and the Protestant ideal helped lead to the formation of modern marriage. The reasons for divorce were greatly expanded, and many 'common' people began to marry. Pages 94 - 100 -- all about Jews, Martin Luther, and the Reformation. Essentially, for complicated reasons, just as Luther had preached good things about peasants early in his career and then turned on them later in life, he initially preached good things about Jews, and later turned on them, blaming them for why the regular (Catholic) church was so bad, and as a heretical group along the lines of other heretical groups. 4) 'Europe's Stomping Ground: Germany during the Thirty Years' War' I didn't know that much about the Thirty Years' War, but now I know a lot more about the political side of things, and how it relates to Germany at least. This chapter is pretty much all complex political manoeuvring, with a look at the convoluted mish-mash of revolving alliances that basically came down to Protestant versus Catholic, and basically ended with more independence for German states, a newly-dominant France, and a weakened Holy Roman Empire. The major focus of the chapter is on the protestant Germans, Danes, and Swedes versus the Catholic, Hapsburg, Holy Roman Empire (of which most Germans were technically a part). I would have fallen asleep reading this in university, but now I find it fairly interesting. Ozment attempts to establish the Thirty Years' War as a great trauma the Germans never forgot, one where a divided German people were batted around, stomped on, and fought over by various stronger external powers, for... 30 years (or more). 5) 'Enemy Mine: Absolutism and the Rise of Prussia' In chapter five, Ozment jumps into the 1700s and the rise of Prussia as the dominant Germanic force in Europe, soon to displace Vienna and the Holy Roman Empire. Speaking on the general German situation in the 1700s, on page 125 Ozment states: "...German sovereign states, newly empowered by the Peace of Westphalia, spun still farther away from their historically unifying Hapsburg imperial hub...Austria, Bavaria, Brandenburg-Prussia, Saxony, and Wurttemberg became internally centralized powers with their own professional armies, state bureaucracies, foreign alliances, international courts, baroque palaces, and pretensions to be -- and even to speak -- French." Here some is said about the interesting Prussian religious reform movement -- Pietism (pages 129-131), and much more is said about the Philosopher King and warrior, Frederick the Great, including a lengthy, and a bit sidetracked rambling about his turbulent relationship with Voltaire and love of French culture. A variety of wars to capture the province of Silesia highlight the chapter (pages 137 on), including the Third Silesian War / aka The Seven Years' War (1756-63). This world-spanning war, which has incredible significance for North America, and especially Canada (the British took it all from the French), was actually centred on the Hapsburgs trying to get the small province of Silesia back from the Prussians, and involved 16 giant battles just around Silesia alone. According to Ozment, the Prussians, while eventually holding Silesia, defeating Vienna and their mega coalition (at one point including France, Russia, Spain and Sweden), and coming out a dominant European force; suffered incredible casualties including 1/10th of their pre-war population (page 140). All this was news to me, as, being Canadian, what I knew of the war was that England came out on top globally, replacing France as the dominant European power (possible Napoleonic period aside), and setting the stage for the British Empire. 6) 'Trojan Horses: From the French to the German Revolution' This chapter focuses on the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and its impact (or lack thereof) on Germany. Basically, Ozment talks about how the French Revolution and its ideas differed from those of German ideas, being generally far too radical and dispossessing of state power for German taste, despite similarities in thinking regarding "equality at law, the abolition of clerical and noble privilege, and the hiring and promotion of workers on the basis of ability and skill rather than social class" (page 151). Napoleon's romp through Prussia (and Europe) is covered for much of the chapter, including an interesting bit on how he divided the conquered and destroyed Holy Roman Empire, and various European states, based on seemingly arbitrary lines (pages 158-159). This reminded me very much of the coming European division of Africa, and seems to show that the African division, silly and horrible as it was, was based on practices the Europeans used on their own people, and really all plays into the great game of elites trouncing on citizens and doing as they please. Also interesting, (page 159), I learned that Napoleon all but destroyed Prussia, and if the Russian Czar had felt like taking the little that was left, world history would have been quite a bit different (in one of many interesting, if futile 'what ifs'). On page 163 we learn that the post-Napoleonic division of Europe, instituted by Metternich of Austria, was in part meant to keep Germans divided, following an age-old policy of preventing a German super state (what about the Holy Roman Empire though, Ozment?). Ozment claims this division would help set the stage for 20th century conflicts on page 164. On page 166, Ozment posits that the German middle class were ready recruits in the coming mid-19th century German revolutionary actions, which the chapter also covers in a fair amount of detail, with the failed Frankfurt Assembly being one of the first historical German attempts at democracy. 7) 'Absolute Spirit and Absolute People: The intellectual torrents of the nineteenth century' This is an interesting chapter on Philosophy and religion in the 1800s and the German Enlightenment. On page 182, Ozment notes that Kant and German Enlightenment philosophers secularized religious morality. The 'Golden Rule' became the 'Categorical Imperative.' Johann Fichte, page 183, gave man's ego the power of reality creation. As Ozment notes, "Fichte endowed reason with the absolute creative power medieval philosophers had attributed only to God... man posited and supremely knew the world around him." Meanwhile, Friedrich Nietzsche gave us the concept of a superman, someone with incredible creative powers, and possibly representative of modern 'Creatives' and the 'Creative Movement' (page 183). Nietzsche's Dionysus-inspired 'New Man' would "survive modern nihilism by life-affirming, orgiastic ecstasy. Nietzsche compared the experience to the power of music, at once elevating and tragic, as it momentarily reconciled antithetical forces meant to be kept 'eternally apart'." (Page 192) Simply, yet incredibly powerfully, in a way that is somehow still provocative today, David Strauss argued that Christianity is no different than other creation myths and mythologies (page 187). On page 194, Ozment points out Chauvinistic trends of the 19th century, including some Nazi roots in the 'volkisch' movement and the views of Friedrich Jahn (German ethnic purity and allegiance to the fatherland) and William Riehl (who created a pool of 'favoured Germans', which did not include 'chronically restless people' such as the poor, migrant workers, Jews or journalists) -- all groups seen as impeding nationalistic unity, not as anything quite like the Nazi vision. At the time of course, these views represented a push toward nationalism and a united Germany, but they were later corrupted and used by Nazis. On page 195, other expressions of German nationalism were presented by Eugen Diederichs, who professed a romantic and worldly notion of Germanness, and was not specifically anti-semitic, but was into Social Darwinism and racial profiling (both being popular in Europe at the time). On page 196, Ozment talks about Richard Wagner's English/German son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Chamberlain was a racist Social Darwinist who blamed Jews for lapses in 'Aryan purity', and who noted that Jews' were more loyal to their religious law than any national ones, thus making them a threat to the state. He was deeply admired by Hitler, who visited him on his deathbed, and who readily extended and twisted his ideas. Fun Fact: The words of Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy' come from an old German student drinking song (page 198) On page 199, Ozment puts forth an interesting anti-Utopian statement, which shows us that, while a Utopian ideal can be beautiful, such as an Enviro-Utopia, it can also be a nightmare, such as the striving for Utopia via Soviet Communism and the Third Reich: "The belief that momentary feelings of unity or visions of perfection [such as those in music] can survive permanently into everyday life this side of eternity is the ante-room of nihilism and fascism. Such beliefs give rise to ahistorical fantasies, which can never materialize beyond the notion. To the extent that they are relentlessly pursued, they progressively crush the solace that precious moments of grace can in fact convey. Historically such fantasies have spawned generations of cynics, misanthropes, and failed revolutionaries who, having glimpsed resolution, cannot forgive the grinding years of imperfect life that still must be lived." On pages 200-202, Ozment gives a bonus -- an excellent explanation of Goethe's Faust! In short, Faust sought to forever capture 'the fleeting moment/Utopia' through knowledge, power, and individualism, and to become a 'Superman' perhaps. Instead, in the end, Faust emerged a flawed, normal man, but a man wiser and truer due to his failures and learned ability to sometimes put others before himself. Putting others before himself through anonymous good works gave him a less grandiose, but satisfying satisfaction indeed. - This got me thinking: Is it abhorrent to be rich or set it as the ideal? To put wealth, power and individual gain on such a pedestal? Why are so few people rich? Are THEY the weirdos? I also thought more about moments of 'perfection' -- of timelessness and/or oneness with the universe we'll say. Good music. Good sex. Good meals. Good conversation. "Lets make beautiful music together," through range of pitch, crescendo and climax... 8) 'Revolutionary Conservatism: The age of Bismarck' This chapter is pretty much all about the political reign and manoeuvring of Bismarck, which is interesting but a bit dry and super-politik. He is, arguably, the most famous statesman in history, so it's fitting, but it would have been nice to know more about the man and his life...outside politics, which probably was his life... 9) 'The Last Empire: From Wilhelmine to Weimar Germany' This chapter, like many others, covers a lot in little space. Ozment starts by focusing on Kaiser Wilhelm and posits that he unwisely chose to antagonize England, which had been the new nation of Germany (and Prussia before it)'s staunchest ally. A fair bit of time is spent on William; some interesting historical gaps for the period between Bismarck and WWI are filled in; the entirety of Word War I is covered in a couple pages (!), and the fallout is examined, including the treaty of Versailles; and the Weimar Republic and the lead-up to the Nazis are mentioned -- all in 28 pages! Post-WWI Germany saw 1/3 of German males dead, maimed or too sick to work; and the rest of the populace sick, poor, surviving bitterly-cold winters, and feeling betrayed by their government and unfairly-treated by the nations around them, particularly France (page 241). On page 243, Ozment notes that the German military establishment basically screwed Germany by secretly asking for immediate armistice (via Ludendorf) instead of negotiating for decent terms. Ludendorf et al helped make it so the civilian government would sign the armistice and take all the blame. Article 48 -- one of the articles in the Weimar Republic's constitution, gave the German president the right "to appoint his own chancellor and assume 'sovereign legislative executive authority' during a state of emergency, which he alone might proclaim." This article was later used by Hindenburg, to appoint chancellors, and the final chancellor he appointed was Adolf Hitler, who then used it with evil results. (Pages 244-245) Pages 246-247: Led by France, the Treaty of Versailles totally blamed and screwed-over Germany, which deeply angered Germany's elites, and, through them and the results of the treaty, the populace, and which was one of the main reasons World War Two, and, perhaps, Hitler happened. Why did the Nazis happen? Ozment puts forth his notion of 'the perfect storm' to explain why, in part. As he says on pages 252-253, a confluence of "million-to-one" events "in the 1920s made the unthinkable real." His reasons are the following: Economic collapse of incredible scale; the fact that the Weimar government could not secure a liberal democracy; and German philosophical and religious traditions and questioning creating doubt, confusion, and tools for those who saw their value. I would add to these three-plus more facets: Hitler himself, Article 48, and the Treaty of Versailles (etc.) 10) 'The Barbarian Prince: The rise and fall of National Socialism' Aka the Hitler chapter aka the Nazi chapter aka the World War II chapter. This chapter is short, but utterly fascinating, particularity in its look at Hitler, his rise to power, and his insanity. Perhaps refreshingly, it contains almost no description of WWII battles or strategy. 11) 'The Composite German: Germany since World War II' Remembering vs moving on, East and West, Page 311 (great quote), Page 321: "After a half century of continuing unprecedented reparations, responsive democratic government, and model service within the European and international communities, Germans still remain latent barbarians, anti-Semites, and fascists in the minds of many."

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jim Coughenour

    Last month I picked up a massive book – Germany: Memories of a Nation – just because the illustrations were so fine. MacGregor's book (as yet unfinished) is well-written but episodic, so I hunted down Ozment's history which had been stuck on my shelves for the last decade. This time I read it straight through. Ozment is a straightforward stylist; he's easy to read, he's obviously mastered a wide range of material, and his judgments and emphases are original. In a little more than 300 pages he ta Last month I picked up a massive book – Germany: Memories of a Nation – just because the illustrations were so fine. MacGregor's book (as yet unfinished) is well-written but episodic, so I hunted down Ozment's history which had been stuck on my shelves for the last decade. This time I read it straight through. Ozment is a straightforward stylist; he's easy to read, he's obviously mastered a wide range of material, and his judgments and emphases are original. In a little more than 300 pages he takes us from the Germanic tribes of Tacitus to the 21st century nation (still) at the center of European politics. Readers who expect "the gloomy moralizing of post-World War II historiography" will be disappointed. I was amused to see that Ozment dismisses the (voluminously-documented) battles of World War II in a couple pages, focusing more profitably on the question "Why Hitler?" His answers were surprising – not in that he produces a new point of view, but that he shows how Hitler "made sense" in the context of the time. Very few Germans were signing on for "the barbarian prince" and the unimaginable horrors he entailed. This excuses nothing, of course, but does make the average German less demonic. (Few Americans, whatever their political preference, will feel that we have been represented by our own government; more likely that our core values have been contravened.) A Mighty Fortress was published in 2004. Ozment concludes his survey with the remark thatThere are clear signs that the foundations of the postwar welfare state, exceedingly generous to natives and foreigners alike, are shaking under the accumulated weight of what has been called egalitarianism… The good Germans today are being undone not by war crimes and war guilt but by their own postwar generosity and pursuit of a just society.This is prescient, as Germany is currently absorbing the majority of refugees from the Middle East, people fleeing the malignant, predictable effects of the US/UK invasions. There's plenty of guilt to go around.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

    I was really looking for “small” history. What life was like, the day to day. You know - a history of the German people There were some interesting people who popped up, but Ozment seemed much more interested in war, politics, religion, and philosophy than in social history. For example, Bismark’s biography was largely unexplored in favour of his political movements.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Tim Linder

    If I had the choice I would most likely give this book a 3.5. I enjoyed it as a comprehensive surface study of German history and state structure, but I was not in love with it. I feel like Professor Ozment wanted to straddle two worlds here. It's not quite as in-depth as I would like for an academic study of the subject, but it also suffers from a lack of easy readability for a broader audience. I ended up getting bogged down in a few spots, particularly in the section concerning Luther and the If I had the choice I would most likely give this book a 3.5. I enjoyed it as a comprehensive surface study of German history and state structure, but I was not in love with it. I feel like Professor Ozment wanted to straddle two worlds here. It's not quite as in-depth as I would like for an academic study of the subject, but it also suffers from a lack of easy readability for a broader audience. I ended up getting bogged down in a few spots, particularly in the section concerning Luther and the Reformation. I would have liked more info on the 30 Year War and the 1848 Revolution, but I understand that you can't have it all in a concise volume covering so much history. I thought Prof. Ozment dealt with Hitler and the rise of Nazism in a balanced manner that doesn't act as if 1933-1945 is the end-all or be-all of Germany history. He deftly illustrated how lucky Hitler was to even achieve political power so quickly--the Weimar Republic was really up against it. Overall, I thought this was a great intro to some bigger ideas in German history and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a basic survey of Germany.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nate

    Dr. Steven Ozmet's A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the Germna People is an excellent survey of German history from the end of the Roman era to the coming of Euro. In the 325 pages of text, it would be impossible to deal in detail with battles and wars. However, Dr. Ozmet gives the social, political, economic, and artistic currents that lead up to and through those events, leaving other books to cover the details. Over all, it is an enjoiable and informative read. Dr. Steven Ozmet's A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the Germna People is an excellent survey of German history from the end of the Roman era to the coming of Euro. In the 325 pages of text, it would be impossible to deal in detail with battles and wars. However, Dr. Ozmet gives the social, political, economic, and artistic currents that lead up to and through those events, leaving other books to cover the details. Over all, it is an enjoiable and informative read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brett C

    See how it has all played out through the centuries for the German people. It was a pretty good book full of information.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marc Jentzsch

    I spent a lot of time moving around as a kid. More than some, less than others. But it wasn't until I got older that I could put down any roots. For a long time, I didn't think it mattered, but at some point I realized that I was pining to find a line that extended back to my history, a way to find my feet. I was raised Mormon, so genealogical investigation is a cultural mandate for me and mine, but even with that, I often still find myself looking back through a lack of clarity, a dark chasm whe I spent a lot of time moving around as a kid. More than some, less than others. But it wasn't until I got older that I could put down any roots. For a long time, I didn't think it mattered, but at some point I realized that I was pining to find a line that extended back to my history, a way to find my feet. I was raised Mormon, so genealogical investigation is a cultural mandate for me and mine, but even with that, I often still find myself looking back through a lack of clarity, a dark chasm where the connective tissue wasn't clear. More and more I've been finding a home in the cultural roots of the German and Dutch side of my family. As with almost all Americans, things get muddled fast (no clue if it's different for many Europeans, honestly) and I can trace the family across a large swath of northern Europe, my father the first of our line born in the USA. Finding a measured, unbiased history is not easy in any case, regardless of subject, but becomes maddeningly difficult with a subject as fraught as the history of a nation that was once and remains a historical villain to many people. But any nation, any group, any culture is more than a single period of its history, and A Mighty Fortress presents in an eminently readable way, a direct and history that is compassionate but clear-eyed. What sentiment it has is tempered with a willingness to really look at the ugly parts of a country and a people provide sorely needed context. Accompanied by a hefty bibliography, there is a wealth of information to glean here and to dig into later. I loved this book. I only wish there'd been more about reunification and Austria. I'll have to find something to scratch that itch.

  10. 5 out of 5

    astried

    I give up. I got muddled so much reading this. I wonder if it's because I don't know much about European history, least of all those that happened during Roman time. Goth, Visigoth, Saxon all are a muddle... I usually very good at catching the big concept and filtering out the details; this book should be easy peasy since it dealt with the history so broadly, no beating the details out of the sack, time was vaguely reffered as the 300s, 500s and when I pick it up after taking a break from readin I give up. I got muddled so much reading this. I wonder if it's because I don't know much about European history, least of all those that happened during Roman time. Goth, Visigoth, Saxon all are a muddle... I usually very good at catching the big concept and filtering out the details; this book should be easy peasy since it dealt with the history so broadly, no beating the details out of the sack, time was vaguely reffered as the 300s, 500s and when I pick it up after taking a break from reading at a chapter end, the new chapter is about 1500s and Martin Luther, and the princes (who are they at this point of time? there were princes, emperor and church since the dawn of german time and they refused to get along, that much I think I do get) I wonder if this is the mistake I've made. I was rather preoccupied with German's WWII history and part of WWI, starting to get interested with DDR time as well. I was just browsing around at my local library trying to get something to read about WWI when I saw this book. I thought, great, instead of jumping around the timeline and filling the holes randomly, I'll give myself an even general knowledge of their full history then focus on the time I'm interested in. so far so good. The thing is, I suspect this book is not the right book fo that purpose. It's not to give general knowledge but to make you see german history with a new perspective. For those who has seen almost none, it's rather like walking in the dark. So, yes, I give up. Perhaps I'll try it again in the future, perhaps not.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andi

    While you have to admire the goal Ozment set himself - explaining German history from its beginnings in Roman times to today in a little more than 300 pages - I'm not sure what kind of readership he had in mind. He is throwing around names, places and events that will be hard to make sense of for someone new to German history, so although the book is (respective to the topic) rather short, it's not for someone who wants to get an introductory overview. Ozment is qualifying many events, which is i While you have to admire the goal Ozment set himself - explaining German history from its beginnings in Roman times to today in a little more than 300 pages - I'm not sure what kind of readership he had in mind. He is throwing around names, places and events that will be hard to make sense of for someone new to German history, so although the book is (respective to the topic) rather short, it's not for someone who wants to get an introductory overview. Ozment is qualifying many events, which is interesting, but he rarely comes up with the promised "new" history of the German people. His main points are: The German people lived through several recurring traumas in their long history, and are shaped by being the biggest group of people on the continent, but subjected by its aggressive neighbours - be it the Romans or the French. Facing near total destruction and foreign control of their lands quite a few times in their history, anarchy became the thing Germans feared the most. While it is okay to come up with that conclusion, it is hardly new. 3 points for the huge knowledge and sometimes entertaining (but in parts hard to read) style of writing. If you just want an overview over German history, look elsewhere.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    A recent history of Germany, written by a German. It is very good, very through, and very interesting. Even though I have taken German history in college, I have never read a book that so skillfully combined theology, macroeconomics, art, philosophy, psychology,music and history to describe a culture. History books aren't usually that interesting. The book also throughly describes German history, all several thousand years of it, not just the short Nazi time.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Däv

    By far the best work on the history of the german people (a quarter of my heritage) and perhaps one of the least dry general histories I've ever read... I recommend it to everyone with ancestors in mainland western europe

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rom Mojica

    The initial enjoyment I had of this book was marred by one thought that kept popping up as I was going through it: Gee, this seems to be moving pretty fast. Far be it from me to expect a 300 page book really take the time to dig in deep on every single part of a country's history, but with "moving fast" came a problem with the book's organization, where it will sometimes just mention people doing things that you haven't heard about before like you're supposed to know who they are. Sometimes it'l The initial enjoyment I had of this book was marred by one thought that kept popping up as I was going through it: Gee, this seems to be moving pretty fast. Far be it from me to expect a 300 page book really take the time to dig in deep on every single part of a country's history, but with "moving fast" came a problem with the book's organization, where it will sometimes just mention people doing things that you haven't heard about before like you're supposed to know who they are. Sometimes it'll give you more on them later (which is already odd because you're having to then backtrack and go "oh right ok this guy") but sometimes it'll just move right along! For being called a "New History of the German People" it's also pretty unconcerned with what the general populace is doing. I know that theirs tends to be the history we know more of, but this book really tends to focus on the elites and what they're up to, only now and then going "oh right if you were just a regular person things were this way or that way." While still enlightening, answering questions like "well what is it about Germany that made it so Karl Marx came out of there?", it can also leave me with some other questions I was surprised I didn't get answered. Because of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" i'm familiar with the concept of a Burgher, and I was hoping to understand what they were, what power they really hold, but they just get mentioned a couple of times as "This made local Burghers feel X way"and I still just don't know like... what power do they hold so that they can use their power and their reactions to something and affect others? I dunno, but I do have extended metaphors about how German citizens are basically like Doctor Faustus. The book's greatest focus is to give a history of Germany that doesn't try to center it in relation to Nazi Germany - per the beginning of the book, and I just have to take the author's word at this, a lot of modern German history seems to want to look forward and go "and here you can see the roots of the totalitarianism that take root in the 20th century...." The book's point is to say that there's far too much to German history to really say it was "inevitable" in any way like that, and there's more to Germany than the time spent under Hitler's leadership. But it's also not naive enough to think that there aren't still ties. Talking about Martin Luther, for example, Ozment mentions his dislike of Jewish people and the many things he wrote about them. While the book points out that this isn't Antisemitism in the way we'd know it today and that it's pretty similar to what a lot of European countries at the time felt, it also mentions that this was still a strand that people like Hitler could grab onto and point to as reasoning for their hatred. It's a tough tightrope to walk, and still makes the Nazis a shadow over the rest of the book, perhaps despite the author's intent. Also there's like a billion Fredericks and Ferdinands and god help you with trying to keep them apart. It all perhaps spreads the book too thin, but that doesn't mean it doesn't have any worth. I did still ultimately learn a lot, and I enjoyed myself far more than I would have if I had read a more specialized history (one of the 5 billion WWII books, for example). It works fine as a crash course, and when it's not whizzing around and making your head spin with names and jumps through time, the author's style is very friendly and easy to parse. I also appreciated how the book was divided into parts, sections, and subsections - it make it easy to pick up and get through a few of the subsections, come away having learned something, and put it down when it felt like I'd done enough reading for the day. This is a very approachable book, and despite what I can say are real flaws to it, I can easily see recommending to someone who wants to get an understanding of what German history really is, starting back with the Barbarian tribes that existed alongside Rome. If any era then catches your attention, the rather sizeable notes section can likely lead you to more readings that will fit your interest, making this work best, perhaps, as a jumping off point to anyone looking to learn more in general about an important and storied nation.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    A very readable history of the people called "Germans" by the Romans in the 1st Century C.E., by Steven Ozment, history professor at Harvard. His introduction to the book is titled, "Looking for the Good German," the point being that there is a lot more to German history than the dark years of Nazi Germany. Of course, speaking for myself, I have read much more about the period of Hitler--the rise and fall of the Third Reich, 1933-1945 --than any other period of German history. There is a tendenc A very readable history of the people called "Germans" by the Romans in the 1st Century C.E., by Steven Ozment, history professor at Harvard. His introduction to the book is titled, "Looking for the Good German," the point being that there is a lot more to German history than the dark years of Nazi Germany. Of course, speaking for myself, I have read much more about the period of Hitler--the rise and fall of the Third Reich, 1933-1945 --than any other period of German history. There is a tendency indeed to see all German history as leading to Hitler and Nazism and even to see a unique "dark side" to German culture ( I say that being myself 1/4 German). Ozment would strongly disagree. While it is most important never to forget what occurred in the 30s and 40s, it is necessary to look at the overall picture of German history to get a fuller understanding of the German people. And it's a history covering 2000 years, from the time of the German "barbarian" tribes to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany. This book is epic in scope but I appreciate Ozment's highlighting of key individuals in German history. Certainly, Martin Luther is a central figure in German--and European--history (I would say the most important figure in German history). He not only challenged the Roman Church and ignited the Protestant Reformation, he was a strong supporter of German nationalism and civic reform. He denounced the tyranny of princes and lords and sympathized with the peasants. But, when the Peasant Revolt occurred and threatened to create a classless society, Luther exhorted the princes to kill the peasants pitilessly. The Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) was devastating to Germany, divided as it was between Catholics and Protestants. Germany was invaded by foreign armies, such as by the French and the Swedes. Prussia would rise as a strong German state that would unify "Germany" or at least most German-speakers in the late 19th Century. Ozment has one chapter about "the Age of Bismark," Otto von Bismark certainly being one of the most important figures in German history. After achieving the unification of Germany in 1871, he became one of the leading statesmen of Europe. Ozment sees Bismark as trying to keep the peace in Europe, but with William II as the emperor and Bismark's forced resignation, Germany took a turn toward war. The Kaiser's decision to build up the German Navy was simply foolish as it threatened Britain and helped to push Britain, France,and Russia together. The European powers would stumble into war in 1914, with Germany allied to the weak Austro-Hungarian Empire against the three major Powers of France, Britain, and Russia. With the US entry into the war on the Allied side, Germany would collapse in 1918. Ozment gives us one chapter on Hitler-"The Barbarian Prince." It's been 75 years since the defeat of Hitler and his Third Reich as I write this. Ozment's book was published in 2004, so the history of Germany is continued following WWII with the formation of two German states--West and East Germany--and their central role in the Cold War. The story ends with German reunification. Democracy has been strongly established in Germany, but there is the rise of fascist groups...If there is a conclusion, it is that democracy cannot be taken for granted and, I would add, not just in Germany.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Aliamad

    This is an excellent history book that takes a balanced apologist view of German history, fighting against the notion that the nature of German people and culture inevitably led to the rise of Nazism. Although this history starts from the arrival of Germanic tribes thousands of years ago, the entire book carries through lines concentrating on events of the 20th century, looking for patterns or lack thereof. This is a bit more of an academic and dense read than a typical history book meant for th This is an excellent history book that takes a balanced apologist view of German history, fighting against the notion that the nature of German people and culture inevitably led to the rise of Nazism. Although this history starts from the arrival of Germanic tribes thousands of years ago, the entire book carries through lines concentrating on events of the 20th century, looking for patterns or lack thereof. This is a bit more of an academic and dense read than a typical history book meant for the average reader, and I did have to resort to using a dictionary every now and then for some more obscure words, but anyone who's a history buff like me will find it an engaging easy enough to read book. It is a short book considering the breadth of history it covers, so it is a bit rushed and low on detail on certain eras, but I gained a great understanding of German culture, history and the socio-political and economic factors that made Germany what it is today, and the trauma it is still trying to recover from. I always thought that Germany was a belligerent power bullying its neighbours its entire history, but this couldn't be farther from the truth. I was clearly influenced by Germany's portrayal in Hollywood and pop culture in general. The truth is Germany has been fractured for most of its history, its central geographic location making it a natural trade and industry hub that meant every single major power in the continent wanted a piece. Germany was under the thumb of the Roman empire, then the Catholic church in Rome, and subsequently, other foreign powers like Spain, France and Sweden. It was a battleground for proxy wars for centuries. When you understand this, you see the rationale behind the defensive, aggressive nature of Germany, eternally trapped between all these powers, exposed on all sides. This book also explores a history of Germanic thought and its influences on German life. The ideas of Martin Luther, Hegel and Nietzsche are especially prominent, and you can see very clearly how they shaped German society. Unlike the French, whose entire society went into upheaval after the 1789 revolution, Germans, most likely due to past events like the Thirty Years Wars, favoured order over chaos, despite the sacrifices on individual freedom that order entailed. Life is a battle between the individual and the collective, between freedom and duty (very Hegelian ideas), after all. Germans resisted the changes that Napoleon's France tried to impose on it culturally and militarily, and these differences, in addition to Germany's constant vulnerability from the East and West, contributed to the destructive World Wars of the 20th century. This and much more is explored at depth in A Mighty Fortress. If you seek a better understanding of Germany, look no further.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Like many Americans, I first knew the Germans only as the villains of our world wars. It wasn't until college, when over-full Spanish classes thrust me into a German language course, that I began to discover the real nation in the heart of Europe. A Mighty Fortress recounts German history from their first encounters with Rome until Germany was re-united in the 1990s. Its object is to render an account which is free from the tiresome preoccupation with looking for Nazi forebears. We begin with th Like many Americans, I first knew the Germans only as the villains of our world wars. It wasn't until college, when over-full Spanish classes thrust me into a German language course, that I began to discover the real nation in the heart of Europe. A Mighty Fortress recounts German history from their first encounters with Rome until Germany was re-united in the 1990s. Its object is to render an account which is free from the tiresome preoccupation with looking for Nazi forebears. We begin with the partial Romanization of the German tribes, the rise of the Carolingian kingdom, the post-Charlemagne breakup, and the creation of that strange creature, the Holy Roman Empire. The Empire was not a unified state in the model of Rome, but a complex network of kingdoms, fiefdoms, and independent cities, in which a common aristocracy voted for an emperor whose authority varied over the years. (As with the other princes of Europe, the king constantly vied for power against the nobility and the Church.) Throughout the late middle and early industrial eras, central Europe was a common warzone between the powers, and Germans suffered the most --- especially during the Thirty Years war. This bloody primed Germans for social caution, so that attempts at imposing French-style revolutionary upsets were largely stymied. Napoleon's victories over the Empire still imposed a large measure of revolutionary reform, however, and a popular spirit would continue to strengthen from that point on -- resisted or managed by the authorities. The master at management -- of the mob, of the princes of Europe -- was Otto von Bismarck. He perfected the consolidation of German states begun by Napoleon by unifying Germany into an empire in 1871. Although this review of German history covers chiefly political affairs, occasionally an artistic or intellectual personality enjoys the spotlight. They include Martin Luther, Bach, Beethoven, Faust, Kant, Hegel, and Marx. There is also an obligatory "Why Hitler" chapter, in which the author attributes the "barbarian's" triumph more to the plight of Weimar Germany (crises and an ineffectual government) than to some chronic itch to take over Europe. Because A Mighty Fortress is such a general survey, it didn't build much on what I've retained from a German history course taken years ago, except in its coverage of the late 20th century. Those who know nothing of German history beyond Hitler may find it informative, but I'm certain there are more readable books out there for that purpose. 3.5 stars for content/delivery +.5 for cover and title.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ted Waterfall

    I began this book because I wanted to learn about German history. My knowledge of that subject prior to the Franco-Prussian War was very sketchy, superficial, and mostly missing, and this book seemed like a promising way to begin. Boy was I disappointed. I can't say it wasn't well researched and written. That it was. The author, Steven Ozment, is a history professor at Harvard. What better credentials can you get? But I question what audience he was writing for. Certainly not me. He presumes way I began this book because I wanted to learn about German history. My knowledge of that subject prior to the Franco-Prussian War was very sketchy, superficial, and mostly missing, and this book seemed like a promising way to begin. Boy was I disappointed. I can't say it wasn't well researched and written. That it was. The author, Steven Ozment, is a history professor at Harvard. What better credentials can you get? But I question what audience he was writing for. Certainly not me. He presumes way too much of his reader and the result is a cumbersome and academic read more designed with his professional colleagues in mind than the lay reader. For example, I quote the following paragraph found on page 192 of his text: "These early revolutionaries had also sought a final solution to the contradictions of history - Eckhart by a spiritual unity 'beyond all division,' Muntzer by a 'bloody cleansing' of sociopolitical establishment. Both projects, deemed Icarian by contemporaries, died aborning." "Icarian?" That was a reference to Icarus. In Greek mythology, he attempted to escape Crete by making wings out of feathers and wax, flew too close to the sun resulting in his wings melting, and with predictable results. It is sometimes used to mean too ambitious. I am 70 years old and have never heard it used before. "Aborning." New. The process of being born. Wikipedia says it started in the mid-20th Century. Again, I have never heard this word before. By no means is this passage unique within this text. If you are an Ivy League scholar or a well entrenched member of Mensa, then maybe try this book. Otherwise, may I suggest something else. And if you find one, let me know.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dan Keefer

    This book is a very good overview of German history from 1 B.C. to the 21st Century. Germany's history is unique in many ways as is it's legacy. The two World Wars tend to define German history for most people, understandably, but there are many fascinating individuals and events pre-20th century. You just have to go out of your way to find books dedicated to that period in German history. With a strong interest in German architecture and Weimar culture, I visited Germany last year. I came home w This book is a very good overview of German history from 1 B.C. to the 21st Century. Germany's history is unique in many ways as is it's legacy. The two World Wars tend to define German history for most people, understandably, but there are many fascinating individuals and events pre-20th century. You just have to go out of your way to find books dedicated to that period in German history. With a strong interest in German architecture and Weimar culture, I visited Germany last year. I came home with a lot of great photographs (too many castles to count), I saw nothing that indicated that the Weimar Republic ever existed. I'd ask about it, and the questions were largely brushed off. We did see the parking lot beneath which the Hitler bunker had been constructed, however. Approximately 3/4s of "A Mighty Fortress", by Steven Ozment, covers pre-20th century Germany. It's a story of tribes, independent principalities, and the ebb and flow of defining its borders. Amazingly, Germany as a country didn't exist until 1871 even though Germanic people lived in the "suburbs" of the Holy Roman Empire. For someone looking to begin their journey into German history, this book fills the bill.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Liam

    "The first transregional unification of the German people was linguistic and cultural, centered around Luther's vernacular sermons, pamphlets, Bible, hymns, and catechisms. ... Between 1520 and 1546 one-third of all German-language publications were original or reprint copies of Luther's works." (88) "In comparing the French and German models of enlightenment, many historians have deemed the German to be education for self-realization rather than for self-government -- an aesthetic, or spiritual, "The first transregional unification of the German people was linguistic and cultural, centered around Luther's vernacular sermons, pamphlets, Bible, hymns, and catechisms. ... Between 1520 and 1546 one-third of all German-language publications were original or reprint copies of Luther's works." (88) "In comparing the French and German models of enlightenment, many historians have deemed the German to be education for self-realization rather than for self-government -- an aesthetic, or spiritual, preparation rather than a proper training for modern political life." (152) "The sphere of true knowledge, while never more sure, was, by the rigor of pure reason, never so small." (of Kant, 181) "In the late seventeenth century, merchant barges navigating the Rhine to the North Sea paid tolls at some principality's boarder on average of every six miles." (326)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jimmacc

    I learned a lot from this book. It is well researched and the organization of material changes focus through the book. The book starts as most histories do. When getting to the 1800's, however, the author breaks out some groups and individuals for some discussion in a less linear fashion. The book then goes on to the 1900's, and the world wars. The author spends quite some time discussing the of the Versailles reparation payments and then the depression on Germany's economy and susceptibility to I learned a lot from this book. It is well researched and the organization of material changes focus through the book. The book starts as most histories do. When getting to the 1800's, however, the author breaks out some groups and individuals for some discussion in a less linear fashion. The book then goes on to the 1900's, and the world wars. The author spends quite some time discussing the of the Versailles reparation payments and then the depression on Germany's economy and susceptibility to political rhetoric that at least appeared to understand and address those issues. Last portion discusses the post war Germany(s) and how the chose to look at their history, as well as the challenges they faced in unification (internally and externally). Again, very interesting book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Evan Moore

    This book is a handy skeleton. You won't get the meaty detail and eddies that riddle German history, but you'll receive a nice overview of the country's humble beginnings as "barbarians" to the modern European democracy. It'll put other events in context and serve as a base of knowledge to delve deeper if you so desire. I would have liked more elucidation for a major gap in the timeline, but for the most part Dr. Ozment is a compelling writer and will pull you through the two thousand year story This book is a handy skeleton. You won't get the meaty detail and eddies that riddle German history, but you'll receive a nice overview of the country's humble beginnings as "barbarians" to the modern European democracy. It'll put other events in context and serve as a base of knowledge to delve deeper if you so desire. I would have liked more elucidation for a major gap in the timeline, but for the most part Dr. Ozment is a compelling writer and will pull you through the two thousand year story with ease. Recommended for those who will never decide on a tattoo, but always think about getting one.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Moses

    A straightforward and fast moving survey of German history from Roman times to 2004. With only 300 pages to work with, Ozment has to pick and choose what he can cover, and generally he does it well. He also manages to present a few interesting scholarly and political issues evenhandedly. He is sympathetic to the Germans as a whole, even to such polarizing figures as Bismarck, who gets almost a whole chapter. The prose is uninspired generally and Ozment references few primary sources, although the A straightforward and fast moving survey of German history from Roman times to 2004. With only 300 pages to work with, Ozment has to pick and choose what he can cover, and generally he does it well. He also manages to present a few interesting scholarly and political issues evenhandedly. He is sympathetic to the Germans as a whole, even to such polarizing figures as Bismarck, who gets almost a whole chapter. The prose is uninspired generally and Ozment references few primary sources, although they are well-chosen. I am glad I found this book as I begin independent studies in German history.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dave

    This book has some serious false advertising issues. Despite being called a history of "the German People" it mostly just talks about European nobility, and rather than show that there's more to German history than the holocaust it sort of just turns every discussion into "how did this lead to Hitler?" This is the type of thing that most people will probably like more than I did since most people seem to like focusing on world leaders and memorizing the dates of wars and other trivial crap. This This book has some serious false advertising issues. Despite being called a history of "the German People" it mostly just talks about European nobility, and rather than show that there's more to German history than the holocaust it sort of just turns every discussion into "how did this lead to Hitler?" This is the type of thing that most people will probably like more than I did since most people seem to like focusing on world leaders and memorizing the dates of wars and other trivial crap. This is definitely not what I was looking for though.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Cleveland

    A well written account of the historical development of the German nation. I enjoyed the first half of this book. In the second half, starting with the year 1848, the author tends to get "bogged down" in attempting to explain a complex time in Germany's past. Ozment, however, does an excellent job in explaining the 19th century seeds that were sown leading eventually to bear fruit in Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 30s. The writing style is quite smooth and easy to read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Horrell

    Disappointing. The book seemed always to be flying at 50,000 feet over Germany, too high to give any coherent picture. It came across as somewhat disjointed when it came closer to earth and gave more detail because it lacks sufficient unifying threads in the narrative. I can't say I really learned much of anything new about a complicated and fascinating country.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lily Zitko

    An adequate overview of the history of Germany; however, there are a few chunks of history missing that are crucial to understanding how and why the various states unified as a single country (i.e., the Black Death and the Crusades). Again good for an overview but not for an in-depth look/analysis of the history.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Grim

    This book took far too long to finish. I found the narrative hard to follow. It was an ambitious project to cover all of German history in just over 300 pages.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dr.J.G.

    I remember reading a statistic quoted by a British persona to the effect that the French had twenty million problems - this was before the second world war, French population was sixty million and Germans were eighty million in number, so the accounting was easy enough. ..................................................... Land of fairy tales, so much so there is a scenic route specially designated so. And the forest creatures, the fairy tale characters, all come out between November and February I remember reading a statistic quoted by a British persona to the effect that the French had twenty million problems - this was before the second world war, French population was sixty million and Germans were eighty million in number, so the accounting was easy enough. ..................................................... Land of fairy tales, so much so there is a scenic route specially designated so. And the forest creatures, the fairy tale characters, all come out between November and February, the time when theoretically Halloween is celebrated what with darkness of winter descending and spirits, creatures, demons coming out - official celebration is usually in February, a day variable through the country and fixed conveniently by every town independently. But through the four month dark period the creatures and spirits are visible in car toys, stickers, home decorations and various other manifestations. The fairy tales were probably ancient legends from history before recording, now designated a lower position of children's stories or myths, but such power as they hold does not belong to the realm of imagination alone. Mickey Mouse is much loved in US but foxes in German, Rapunzel and so on, have a different power. Pigs dominate the place with appearances as toys, stickers, candy or other fun food forms. Germany might have been told to forget her pre Roman Gods, but forgetting lesser creatures was not imposed on the land and if it was it did not succeed at all. .................................................. The language teacher assigned us in Germany explained, or at least attempted to explain, the fear of strangers Germans seemed to pathologically have at a very primitive level in various ways. This fear is experienced by various outsiders and quite a lot of born and brought up citizens who never lived anywhere else, too, when for example they are of Turkish ancestry. Commonly "no foreigners wanted" goes with half of advertisements openly enough in print along with houses or apartments for rent, roughly; the other half merely do not put it in print, but seldom are comfortable; and German friends are friends in US or other countries but not in Germany. And so forth. This language teacher tried to claim it was because Germany never had an empire like the French and the British, but she knew this was untrue, Germany did have a definite presence in Africa before wwi. Then she talked of African-American US soldiers molesting German girls post wwii, and this we refuted vigorously, we could not imagine US military allowing this to happen in any way. Fact is German women were kept for use of German military in facilities and only women of Bangladesh before independence used by Pakistan military were in worse condition than the German young women kept for use of German military and other paramilitary males. This was apart from the young women used to breed a superior race by keeping them in a facility and breeding them with select high level nazis. She of course knew all of this and could not be too certain we did not - we did, but did not think of throwing it back at her, it was far too unpleasant. So she came up with another reason. It went back to the ancient history of Mongolian hordes attacking with Attila the Hun, she said, who were successful in Europe until the Germans fought back (how far they came into Germany is a good question, since the British refer to German as the Huns, and whether it is related to some racial remnant or merely a set of traits, some definitive characteristics shared, is anybody's guess) - which remained in German subconscious, she said. "Germans had never seen horses before, and they were terrified" was her final explanation.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    All of us know about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Some of us know about Germany’s role in WWI. And fewer of us know about Germania’s role in the Roman Empire. But most of us don’t know about how Germany got from Roman to Nazi. This book is an EXCELLENT way to fill in that gap and should be read by anyone who is interested in/fuzzy about German history. Germany wasn’t really Germany until Otto von Bismark pretty much forced its unity in the late 19th century. The country was many smaller “count All of us know about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. Some of us know about Germany’s role in WWI. And fewer of us know about Germania’s role in the Roman Empire. But most of us don’t know about how Germany got from Roman to Nazi. This book is an EXCELLENT way to fill in that gap and should be read by anyone who is interested in/fuzzy about German history. Germany wasn’t really Germany until Otto von Bismark pretty much forced its unity in the late 19th century. The country was many smaller “countries” which all had their own rulers who got together to elect, yes actually elect, someone to be the First Among Equals, the German Emperor. Bismark got them to unite under one ruler and give up the idea of smaller countries under the rule of Prussia, the largest “country.” I knew about Bismark (according to family legend, we fled to Canada to avoid the universal draft under Bismark), but I had an entirely different view of him. After reading this, I feel like I know the man better; he was much more complicated and much more progressive than I had given him credit for. I also now know Germany’s place in history: its descent from Charlemagne, the development of the Holy Roman Empire (which was actually Austrian), the seemingly unending conflict between France and Germany, and the character of the country. Throughout its history, Germany was invaded (think Roman Empire first) and its boundaries constantly challenged by outside countries. The contested area of Alsace-Lorraine was a bone of contention with France from way back. So the Germany “personality” developed a suspicion of the rest of the world as a possible invader – not paranoia, but a realistic view of how things worked. They were also, from the tribes forward, more afraid of anarchy than authoritarianism, which led them to become an orderly people. This did not mean that they were orderly in a militaristic way; they were never a military country until Hitler – even in WWI they were not blood-thirsty militarists. However, they preferred to know who their rulers were. They were also one of the most tolerant countries as far as religion went until the late 19th and early 20th century. (Luther hung his complaints against the Catholic Church in Germany and several of the other religions – Anabaptists, Calvinist, Mennonites - were founded there.) Many of the most prominent men in the Enlightenment were German and Germany led the way in developing Enlightenment science and were quick to include it in its educational system. So Germany is much more complicated than most of us believe and this is a great book for clearing up those misconceptions. Ozment’s style is clear and easy to read; he avoids details unless absolutely necessary and does not shy from Germany’s unsavory past. He also takes Germany history up past the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reuniting of the two Germanys and how that has affected the country as a whole. Germany never had a democracy of its own; the one it has now was imposed upon it after WWII, and, like Japan, it appears to have taken and will last. But Ozment points out the problems with democracy in the country. As I said before, things are MUCH more complicated in Germany than most of us ever knew. I really enjoyed reading this. On my father’s side, we’ve been pure German down to my parent’s generation. But I never heard about the past from them. Now I know what I’ve been missing.

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