Weekly roundup, Dec 10th
The great British historian AJP Taylor said that German history only knows extremes. Writing at the end of the Second World War, he said that Germans are extreme both in their passivity and in their brutality.
While history since then has proven Taylor wrong, there are times when that old radicalism bubbles up to the surface. So it was this week when police raided over a hundred properties and detained two dozen people they say were part of a sinister plot to storm the Reichstag and overthrown the republican system.
The plot was as barmy as it was disconcerting. While reporting on it this week, I was torn between wondering whether the film of the plot would be a slap stick comedy or a thriller.
On the one hand the conspirators seemingly seriously believed that the German public would accept having an obscure aristocrat imposed upon them as king. But they were also supported by former army officers and had access to weapons.
Here is my piece for members (paywall) on a busy week of reporting (warning: there are a lot of people called Prince Heinrich involved in this story).
If that story is too bizarre, I’ve got something to sober you up. A year ago on Thursday Olaf Scholz was sworn in as Chancellor, replacing the woman whom some people thought would never leave. In this week’s article for everyone I took a look at his first year in the job and asked whether was up to the task. What’s clear is that Scholz has one very big fan - Olaf Scholz.
And since I mentioned his illustrious predecessor, I also wrote an article (paywall) on why Germans have fallen out of love with her since she left office.
Lastly, for paying members I took a look at the diplomatic disaster that was Germany’s trip to the Qatar World Cup. The national team’s short stay at the tournament was followed by an extraordinary letter home from the German ambassador in which he pleaded with his political masters to change their tune.
By the way, this newsletter is entirely reliant on the contributions of its readers. A big thank you to all of you who pay to keep it going. For anyone who is thinking about it, for just €5 per month you get quite a bit more content. You can try it for a month and quit if it’s not your thing.
From the archive
Few architects have had as much impact on the face on modern Berlin as Meinhard von Gerkan, who passed away at the age of 87 at the beginning of the month.
In the words of President Frank-Walter Steinmeier:
Meinhard von Gerkan was a great architect whose architecture has left its mark on our country and many countries around the world. With the masterful Tegel Airport and the Central Station, he created unmistakable spaces of departure and arrival in Berlin. Millions of people from all over the world have not felt lost and here, but secure and well served.
The tributes that flowed in after his death were well deserved. Most though, left out a third “space of departure and arrival” that he gave to Berlin: the new international airport.
Read my article on von Gerkan’s vision for a sleek Bauhaus-inspired building that proved impossible to build… and cost quite a bit of money along the way.
Enjoy your weekend!