Englischsprachige Literatur

Kampfner John

Why the Germans do it better

Atlantic, London 2020


The British author with the German name and Jewish relatives that were killed in a concentration camp by the NAZIS, has strong ties to post-war Germany, having worked there as a journalist. He witnessed the GDR, the Fall of the Wall and has followed the development in reunified Germany closely.

It is always interesting to learn about one´s own country through the eyes of somebody from the outside. What is special about Kampfner is his sympathy for Germany and the struggles the Germans went through. When he talks about a “grown-up country”, he wants to stress, that the Germans accepted their responsibility for their NAZI past and have tried to learn from that.

Kampfner tells the story of German history and politics since 1945. He quotes all the catch phrases of the time in German and then translates them into English, by this way showing how clumsy German nouns can be, how elegant they can be phrased in English.

That he ascribes “the blue flower”, a romantic emblem to v. Eichendorff, when it was actually coined by Novalis, is only interesting for those familiar with German literature.

Otherwise this is a really interesting read, somehow consoling for a German who is all but happy with German politics.