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The Sins of the FathersGermany, Memory, Method$
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Jeffrey K. Olick

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226386492

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226386522.001.0001

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West Germany’s Normal Problems

West Germany’s Normal Problems

(p.289) Chapter 13 West Germany’s Normal Problems
The Sins of the Fathers

Jeffrey K. Olick

University of Chicago Press

In this chapter, Olick describes the pragmatist politics of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, elected in 1974. He then introduces the figure of Walter Scheel, the new federal president elected in the same year whose ideology contained neoconservative elements. According to Olick, both politicians emphasized risk and the need for a positive historical consciousness to support German identity. Olick analyses speeches by Schmidt and Scheel commemorating the 1975 anniversary of Germany’s defeat in World War II and the 1978 anniversary of Kristallnacht to show how attitudes toward historical memory were changing. He discusses the rising popularity of institutional anniversaries in the Federal Republic that signalled a new turn toward patriotism and a new desire for normalcy as a state. In this chapter, Olick also provides a summary of Schmidt’s future-oriented politics and details West Germany’s deteriorating relationship with Israel during this period. The chapter concludes with a description of Karl Carstens, Scheel’s successor, and his attempts to normalize Federal Republic history.

Keywords:   Helmut Schmidt, Walter Scheel, West Germany, World War II, collective guilt, commemoration, Kristallnacht, WWII

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