A book is appearing in England these days: “Why the Germans do it better.” The author finds many interesting reasons.
MSometimes you need an outside perspective: “Germany is an enviable country. It has developed a maturity that few other countries can compete with. ”What other nation could have taken in a poor cousin like the GDR with so little lasting trauma? What other nation could have given a home to over a million of the world’s poorest people in the refugee crisis?
These and many more words of praise to the Germans can be found in a book by the English publicist John Kampfner, which has just appeared and bears the provocative title: “Why the Germans do it better”.
You can read the title in two directions. The book is initially aimed at British readers, for whom the author sets Germany as a model. How must the collective state of mind in Great Britain be that its citizens now have to put up with such headlines, of all things in praise of the “Krauts”? As a German one reads the book primarily as an outside view, which with a distant gaze does not have to take into account our own traumas, nagging and self-mortification that have been rehearsed over many years. But also with the skeptical attitude: Now make it halfway!
The low point of 1999
We still remember: The low point was reached a good twenty years ago. Back then, in the summer of 1999, the British magazine “Economist” baptized Germany as the “sick man of Europe” or, no less disparagingly, as “the Japan of Europe”. For a while now there have been signs that the school grades from abroad are steadily improving: So now there is a “one plus”. Coping with the corona crisis is only the impressive final point: Germany has so far mourned almost 10,000 deaths in the pandemic, in Great Britain there are more than 40,000. The economic damage caused by the virus is also much less severe in this country than on the British Isles. “Corona was the ultimate test of Angela Merkel’s leadership quality,” writes Kampfner.
John Kampfner is the son of a Jew who fled from Hitler from Bratislava and an English Protestant (“solid Christian working class”). He studied history and Russian at Oxford and was a foreign correspondent for renowned newspapers in Moscow, Bonn and Berlin at the time of the fall of the wall. For his book on Germany he traveled through our country for a year, asked around – at Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin as well as in Mönchengladbach (“the German Manchester”: textile industry and football) or at Porsche in Stuttgart-Feuerbach. And he has read a lot, books by the German economic historian Werner Abelshauser, for example, but also the American philosopher Susan Neiman: “Learn from the Germans”, a book that hits the same line of praise and praises how seriously the Germans take their criminal history have dealt with.
The calm virtues of the Germans
So what is it that the British observer likes so much about us? It is the calm virtues of the Germans, above all their reliability, honesty and modesty, in which he recognizes the basis for success. And it is the anti-charismatic Chancellor, a counter-figure to the current British Prime Minister, who embodies these virtues as a matter of course. In fact, Kampfner succeeds in deriving the social market economy from this doctrine of virtues. The famous “middle class” with its roots in the provinces (the billionaires Reinhold Würth in Künzelsau or Ralph Dommermuth in Montabaur) are role models for Kampfner in contrast to the brutal capitalists he knows from the novels of Charles Dickens.