Sunday 23 October 2016

German engineering at its best

Published 06/09/2015 | 02:30

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Sudden redemption after years and years of the rest of the world taking vague pleasure in feeling morally superior to you, is probably something the Germans have a very long word for. But right now they have a short word for it: Merkel, the angel of Germany.

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This tough old bird from East Germany has potentially done in one week what her whole nation couldn't do in 70 years. Germans themselves can barely speak of what their nation did back then, never mind atone or be allowed to forget it. And in one great act of humanity, Merkel has possibly done it. She felt the hand of history on her, and felt the opportunity to finally put things right.

And she did. She opened the doors and, in the process, reversed the most firmly etched images of the 20th century. Poor bedraggled people getting on trains with their few meagre belongings, believing they were going to a better place. And this time they really were. They were going into the welcoming arms of Frau Merkel.

All has changed. Hungary, once the oppressed, now the oppressors. And when is the last time the Germans had the moral high ground on us? Yet there was Merkel, upbraiding us for our unwillingness to compromise our racial purity.

In the eyes of Europe, Germany's sins aren't all buried back in the rubble of 1945 either. Germany has been the whipping boy during the financial crisis too, the ones who forced us all into austere management of our economies, the protestants who poured cold water over our hot Catholic, latin fever. We were the ones with heart, while Germany was cold and rational. We saw the victims of the crash as human beings, while the Germans only saw numbers, and balance sheets.

But who has the heart now? Who is offering 800,000 welcomes next to our rather weak hundred thousand welcomes? Who put the light in the window for the huddled masses? Germany. And it is to Germany they flock, full of hope of a new life.

The history of the 20th century has been written and rewritten but only the maddest of revisionists have tried to in any way excuse Germany. Whenever we think of the horror that characterised the first half of that century, Germany is there as the bad guy. And the jokes still go on, albeit behind their backs.

But we need to change the jokes, because when the history of this century is written, it will be a very different narrative. When they look back on who provided leadership at critical moments, the heir to the Churchillian throne won't be Cameron, or Obama. There's a strong chance it will be the Angel of Germany, who finally put the sins of her forefathers to bed, while simultaneously solving her country's demographic problems.

It was the most audacious piece of German rebranding since Vorsprung Durch Technik.

Sometimes, you see, ruthless logic and a big heart can go together quite well.

Sunday Independent

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