A Personal Search for the New Germany
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Author: Frederick Kempe
Publisher: Indiana University Press
"A joy to read, in fact, a book so good one doesn't want it to end…. Kempe has written a piece of contemporary history as it should be written, in clear, engaging prose, and with judicious and sensible arguments. He has expertly handled the history of modern Germany, and given us insights into the German soul, including his own, that are crucial for an understanding of our modern world." -Kirkus Reviews "While Kempe does not sugarcoat Germany's current problems-its dyspeptic tolerance of immigrants, its pervasive bureaucracy and pedantry, the viciousness of the neo-Nazis-he argues that young Germans are right to no longer feel guilt for the Holocaust, as long as they learn its lessons." -Newsday "This is a fascinating and important book for anyone interested in the New and Old Germany. Fred Kempe, a distinguished foreign correspondent who has reported from many countries, turns in Father/Land to a different land-the mysteries and dark secrets of his German family that lay shrouded since the Third Reich. As painful as it is, this is a search that Kempe could no longer refuse if he was to bring some sense to his American character and German roots. As he interweaves his family's history with that of the German nation, his personal quest becomes a window not only into the German past but also into Germany's future." -Daniel Yergin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Prize and coauthor of The Commanding Heights "Father/Land takes us on a spellbinding journey into Germany's past and present that begins with a musty olive trunk of old papers Fred Kempe inherited from his father. Inside that trunk lies the enduring mystery of the German people. Kempe's lively writing makes us see the paradox of modern Germany in small things-such as the trashcans at the Frankfurt airport or the personal quirks of Kempe's teammates on an amateur basketball team in Berlin. When Kempe finally discovers the horrific story that lies buried in his own family's history, the reader has the shock of experiencing the nightmare of Nazism from the inside." -David Ignatius, columnist, The Washington Post, and author of A Firing Offense "From a skilled American reporter's search for his German ancestry emerges a rich and rewarding portrait of a nation moving toward a promising future even as it remains tied to an inescapable past." -Ronald Steel, author of Walter Lippmann and the American Century "No foreign correspondent knows Germany as well as Frederick Kempe. He understands us sometimes better than we understand ourselves. His book is a refreshing, human look at where Germany is going, and it shows deep understanding for where it has been." -Volker RÃ1⁄4he, former defense minister of Germany Father/Land is a brilliant, unorthodox work of observation, insight, and commentary, a provocative book that will become required reading for anyone seeking to understand modern Germany. And it is something more. For in researching the past, Kempe discovered that the ghosts of Germany's past were not limited to others, that the contradictory threads of good and evil wove through his own family as well. After years of denying his own Germanness, he would have to confront it at last. During a pilgrimage to Germany with his father, Fred Kempe promised him he would write about modern Germany. Twelve years later, as a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal Europe, Kempe began a long journey of exploration in an attempt to answer questions that haunted him about his father's land: "How could such an apparently good people with such a rich cultural history have done such evil things? What causes evil, and what breeds good? After only half a century of reeducation and reconstruction, could the strength of German democracy and liberalism be as great as it seemed?" In this book, Fred Kempe delves into Germany's demographic change, its modern military, its youth, and America's role in the remaking of Germany after the war. He also looks at German pre-war history and how that history plays into shaping the future of the newly intact Germany. While searching modern Germany for the answers to his philosophical questions, Kempe finds himself in a parallel search for the roots of his own German heritage. Through seeking out relatives and searching documents that might enlighten him about the unspoken mysteries of his family's past, he discovers more than he bargained for, and at the same time learns a great deal about himself. The journey that began as the fulfillment of a promise to his father, led him as he had hoped, to a greater understanding his father's Heimat. In the last chapter of his book, Kempe calls modern Germany "America's Stepchild." He theorizes that Germans, because of their past atrocities, feel a great responsibility to their European neighbors as well as to the world. In their process of atonement, they have become a kinder and gentler people, while their strength remains. Their role as a world leader beckons them to heights to which they no longer aspire. Reaching great heights makes the world seem conquerable. This is the mistake they must avoid. Reaching out makes the world more united. This is the direction they know they must go.