The Germans are masters when it comes to fairy tales. Not just have the Grimm brothers provided generations with reading material to nurture their fantasy, they have also created a dictionary for the German language. Their contribution to the German language, philology as well as the study of German literature and language is immense; so much so that they are considered the fathers of any intellectual occupation with German.
Political and Economical Fairy Tales
Besides this famous pair of brothers however, there were also Wilhelm Hauff and the Danish author Hans-Christian Andersen whose fairy tales and sagas are still highly popular with German children. In architecture we find the fairy tale Chateau of Ludwig II in Bavaria, Neuschwanstein and certainly there is more about fairy tales to write about; however, this post is not about literary tales or any other variation thereof. Rather, the focus will be on those “fairy tales” in inverted commas which are mostly to be found in politics and economics in modern Germany.
Historical Fairy Tales
Historically there have been a few developments in Germany which initially were described as fairy tales, particularly the periods between 1933-1945 and 1949 until 1989. The story of the Third Reich ended in disaster and in not so fairy tale like fashion when Germany was defeated in 1945 after twelve years of collective brainwashing.
This however was followed by the tale of socialism in East Germany and the whole of Eastern Europe between 1949 and 1989. That this was not working too well became obvious in 1953 when East German workers protested against new, tougher productivity demands by the SED (Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschland); in 1956 when the Hungarian protest was brutally beaten by the Soviet Union; in 1968 when the Prague Spring demanded a Socialism with a human face and subsequently was quashed, too. The latest violent uprising were the dock workers of Gdańsk in Poland, led by Lech Walesa which unsettled the nomenklatura and laid the seed for the velvet revolution in East Germany and thus the fall of the socialist regimes in Eastern Europe.
In Germany, fortunately this story did not end in a bloodshed as it did in Romania in late 1989 and the Balkan peninsula during the 1990s or the Baltic States in 1991. People in the GDR were made to believe that Socialism was the path to freedom and that it was superior to Capitalism. In school hundreds of thousands of students were taught that one day humanity will overcome this historical burden and there will be a classless society. Again, it failed and it came to an end; first on the streets of Leipzig and increasingly throughout the country and culminated when the Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg were opened on 9 November 1989.
In 1991 the chancellor Helmut Kohl promised “blühende Landschaften” or blooming landscapes in East Germany to secure votes and to go down into the history books as the first chancellor of a united Germany. He was successful but his promise turned out to be another fairy tale and the newly Germany faced a gargantuan task of uniting a country where both parts have grown estranged but more importantly where the east lacked hopelessly behind the west. The region appears to be stabilized yet still experiences a brain drain just like in the early days of the GDR, which then eventually led to the construction of the Berlin Wall and thus manifested the separation of Germany.
Deutschland geht es gut.
The most recent fairy tale in German history has been told to millions of television spectators on New Years Day 2012 when Angela Merkel, the first female chancellor in German history claimed “Deutschland geht es gut” or Germany does well. True, Germany has not experienced a recession as Britain has since late 2008 and even looked more positive into the future than most other European countries.
She could not have been more wrong. In the first decade in the new millenium German employees have on average lost on real income compared to its competitors in Europe and worldwide. This in return has made labour extremely cheap in Germany, thus leading to an increase in exports. As it turns out, these exports have created massive debt not just in Greece but practically all over Europe.
Banana Republic Germany
The political class in Germany has discredited itself immensely in the last two years. Particular after it became known that politicians had their PhD ghost written for them or have submitted heavily plagiarized theses but nonetheless refused to step down. Not even after their title has been taken from them by the universities. The image of Germany has become increasingly become that of banana republic in some circles. It is therefore correct when the German writer Ingo Schulze wrote in an article for the liberal paper Süddeutsche Zeitung that German politicians do no longer reach the population, that their language is no longer capable to grasp reality.
Fairy Tales have always been popular in Germany and in German history. However, tales do not reflect reality, rather portray a distorted image of the real world. A small minority has understood this and turned away from those telling tales, it is time they reach the others who have not waken up yet.