The German and European Question

A comparative study of the politics of Bismarck and Kohl at the 90th Birthday of Dr. Helmut Kohl

Ilya Zarrouk

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Minister of Defence of the Federal Republic of Germany, wrote in a guest article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of 18.6.18: “It became apparent at Helmut Kohl’s coffin for what kind of Europe he had literally burned: for a Europe of coexistence, for a Europe of unity, for a Europe in which the interests of our German fatherland are realized, for a Europe in which there is no German special path.” This statement is supposed to be the guiding principle of the local historical comparative analysis of the German question in the 19th and 20th centuries, which was also a European question. What are the continuities and discontinuities of the Germans as well as the European question? This essay on the occasion of Dr. Helmut Kohl’s 90th birthday is intended to question this.

The guidelines on the German question in both the 19th and 20th centuries are made clear in this article. They convey discontinuity as well as continuity. It remains unclear which possibilities the German Confederation would have had: However, it remains clear that it was the system - towards a modern German national entity. The assessment of the German Confederation should not be overstated, however, because it would have served the realities of the European equilibrium system at that time; it is true, but it misses the fact that it did not resolve the German question of the 19th century. It is therefore also doubtful that a structure of Germany other than the bourgeois society that is getting pluralist would have pacified, especially from the point of view of the European development of modern capitalist nation-states. Had it not been for the formation of a nation-state between 1848 and 1870/71, the collateral damage of an explosive mixture might have been very great. The order of 1815 had to feel like ballast for the emancipated German educational society, which it tried to get rid of. The German reunification, however, was initiated by Helmut Kohl’s fundamental idea of European unification. Europe should literally be the “house of a reunited German national entity”. The “unification chancellor” did not want to reunite Germany against the European powers and especially not against the international spectrum, but together with them and also in solidarity together. From this, a supportive peace order should be made possible and manifested. It is therefore not surprising why Helmut Kohl wrote in one of his books: “We Germans have always been very supportive of this process, including me personally. We knew that we were only at the beginning of a long road and that there were still some difficulties to overcome. [...] The rapprochement between Russia and the European Union, as well as Russia and NATO, has always been a concern for me, because Russia, for me, is also a part of Europe, both historically and culturally, in all the differences that exist.” In the end, the dimension of historical discontinuity in Bismarck’s and Kohl’s political aspirations with regard to the Germans and thus also to the European question becomes visible and manifest.