The Solution Of The German Problem, by Wilhelm Ropke
What is the German problem? In the aftermath of World War II, there was a great deal of discussion of how to punish Germany for the sins of the Nazi regime. Among the various plans for how to deal with Germany included suggestions to remove from Germany her industrial strength and to make her an agricultural country subject to harsh rule by the victorious Allied powers. In the face of the uniform hostility to Nazi Germany, Ropke, an exile from Nazi rule who lived in Switzerland, proposed a solution to the issue of Nazism that allowed for Germany to remain a powerful economic and industrial nation and to be freed from domination by the Allied powers, and something very close to what he proposed was what ended up happening, at least in the American, British, and French zones of occupation which were eventually united into West Germany and set free of burdensome restrictions and allowed to be a force for at least something approaching the good in the decades that have followed World War II as Germany (and the rest of the world) has sought to examine the roots of World War II and how it was that Germany got out of hand and what it means for the rest of us.
This book is between 250 and 300 pages long and is divided into three parts and eight long chapters. The book begins with a foreword as well as an introduction that discusses World War II as the tragedy of a great nation. After that the author spends two chapters talking about the third Reich and its end (I), with a discussion of the Germans and National Socialism and where the blame for it lies in the world (1) as well as the German share of responsibility, especially within the intellectual and political class (2). The author examines the historical roots of the German problem (II), with a look at the German national character (3), the pathology of German history including intellectual history as well as the history of Prussia (4), and a look at the problems of Greater Prussia from Bismark to Hitler (5). Finally, the book ends with a discussion of the author’s view of the solution of the German problem (III), with chapters on what could have been done before the author wrote (6), what has been done with regards to the hard peace and the danger of the spread of Communism that the author was concerned about (7), and finally what can and must be done and what was eventually done with regards to economic and political reform (8), after which the book ends with an index.
While the author’s discussion of Germany and its historical problems is chilling, there are definitely some implications for other countries. The author notes that the German problem itself came out of a specific cultural and historical context that included a population that was submissive to government, rampant centralization that served highly militaristic aims going back to Prussia’s own troubled history, and contained economic roots of the domination of peasants in an imperialist zone of territory that had been conquered from various Slavic peoples and placed under the rule of an exploitative junker class. The anti-imperialistic tone of the author and the way that he connects problems in government to problems in social structure and economics that discourage free peasants and small artisans and merchants allows the reader to extrapolate the lessons here to other related concerns such as the Russian problem or the Southern problem that similarly deal with areas where a high degree of political and economic concentration of power have made it difficult to overcome centuries of political issues that have become embedded within the way that people think and operate. When one adds to this the author’s rather pointed discussion of the German national character this book is one that ought to give a great many readers pause.