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The Model Penitent? German Historical Memory and Foreign Policy and Historical Memory in Comparative Perspective

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Abstract:

Germany represents the model penitent in international affairs. Arguably more than any other nation, it has been willing to confront the dark sides of its history and apologize to its former victims. As a result, it is commonly maintained, the Federal Republic has been able to reap a wide variety of benefits. By reconciling itself with its neighbors, Germany has been able to put an end to the rivalries that historically have plagued central Europe while at the same time laying the foundations for Europe's unparalleled success in building a liberal regional order. Constructivists in particular have often held up German example as a model that others should emulate, including Japan, Russia, Austria and even the United States. Realist and other critics of this narrative have argued that in reality, German efforts to come clean about the past were far as clear cut as is often supposed. Moreover, there is a considerable body of evidence that suggests that German motives were far from pure. Calculations of national interest clearly influenced decisions to when and with whom Germany pursued reconciliation over the past. This paper will analyze the Federal Republic's efforts to deal with the past and compare it with other countries that have faced or face similar problems: Austria, France, Japan and Russia. Whereas once Germany was seen a more or less unique example of a country that has had to deal with the burdens of a troubled past, today there is a host of countries that are confronted with similar issues. This allows the application of the case study method to control for structural variables that may influence the decisions countries chose to take in dealing with the past including the nature of the crimes involved, the degree of regional integration, regime type and the balance of power. The paper will try to stake out a position between the naïve Constructivist and narrow Realist positions. While calculations of national interest undoubtedly influence countries' decisions to pursue historical justice issues, embedded historical narratives help or hinder such decisions, and the failure to harmonize historical narratives may have far reaching impact on a countries position in the international system.
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Name: International Studies Association
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http://www.isanet.org


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MLA Citation:

Berger, Thomas. "The Model Penitent? German Historical Memory and Foreign Policy and Historical Memory in Comparative Perspective" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Town & Country Resort and Convention Center, San Diego, California, USA, Mar 22, 2006 <Not Available>. 2013-12-17 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p99185_index.html>

APA Citation:

Berger, T. , 2006-03-22 "The Model Penitent? German Historical Memory and Foreign Policy and Historical Memory in Comparative Perspective" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Town & Country Resort and Convention Center, San Diego, California, USA <Not Available>. 2013-12-17 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p99185_index.html

Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: Germany represents the model penitent in international affairs. Arguably more than any other nation, it has been willing to confront the dark sides of its history and apologize to its former victims. As a result, it is commonly maintained, the Federal Republic has been able to reap a wide variety of benefits. By reconciling itself with its neighbors, Germany has been able to put an end to the rivalries that historically have plagued central Europe while at the same time laying the foundations for Europe's unparalleled success in building a liberal regional order. Constructivists in particular have often held up German example as a model that others should emulate, including Japan, Russia, Austria and even the United States. Realist and other critics of this narrative have argued that in reality, German efforts to come clean about the past were far as clear cut as is often supposed. Moreover, there is a considerable body of evidence that suggests that German motives were far from pure. Calculations of national interest clearly influenced decisions to when and with whom Germany pursued reconciliation over the past. This paper will analyze the Federal Republic's efforts to deal with the past and compare it with other countries that have faced or face similar problems: Austria, France, Japan and Russia. Whereas once Germany was seen a more or less unique example of a country that has had to deal with the burdens of a troubled past, today there is a host of countries that are confronted with similar issues. This allows the application of the case study method to control for structural variables that may influence the decisions countries chose to take in dealing with the past including the nature of the crimes involved, the degree of regional integration, regime type and the balance of power. The paper will try to stake out a position between the naïve Constructivist and narrow Realist positions. While calculations of national interest undoubtedly influence countries' decisions to pursue historical justice issues, embedded historical narratives help or hinder such decisions, and the failure to harmonize historical narratives may have far reaching impact on a countries position in the international system.

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