Friday, June 26, 2009

Why Merkel is cool on Obama

Despite the president's claim at a joint appearance this afternoon that "I like Chancellor Merkel a lot," President Barack Obama and Germany's Angela Merkel are widely believed to have a somewhat frosty relationship. The biggest perceived rift between the two? How best to respond to the global financial crisis...

...One reason for the two leaders' different philosophies is ideological: Merkel is a center-right politician who has argued against bank bailouts in Europe. But German history is also a factor. Under the German parliamentary governmental system known as the Weimar Republic, Germans faced hyperinflation in the 1920s that destroyed savings and drove many people into poverty...

...The Weimar Republic stayed in power in Germany for another decade, but the period of hyperinflation is considered a significant factor in the emergence of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party – the Nazis.

Germans are thus particularly attuned to the dangers of inflation – and particularly wary of fiscal policy that they fear could bring it about.

"We learned from the worldwide economic crisis of the 1920s that an economic crisis can result in an incredible threat for all of society," Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Der Spiegel magazine, as the Washington Post reported last year. "The consequences of that depression was Adolf Hitler and, indirectly, World War II and Auschwitz."



Father Dean A Einerson said...

"The consequences of that depression was Adolf Hitler and, indirectly, World War II and Auschwitz."

Hitler was the consequence of the decisions made by millions of Germans; Auschwitz was the direct consequence of those same Germans making choices.

John said...

Fr. Dean,
Of course broadly speaking you are correct. But the Germans did not act in a vacuum. I don't think the comments quoted were an attempt at evasion of responsibility. I think it was an observation that historic (and economic) events can have long term effects and consequences.

Germans supported the Nazis for a variety of reasons. But the collapse of the economy and currency in the wake of their defeat in the First World War deeply scarred the psyche of the nation and made possible the rise of extremist political parties including the Nazis and the Communists (who were also quite powerful in Germany). It is not possible for me to conceive of the rise of the Nazis absent some great catalyst which convinced a desperate people to place their trust in a sociopathic monster who promised to restore order and return Germany to greatness.