The German Question:
May 28, 2010
[Melvin Rhodes, senior writer for the Church’s publications and new chairman of the Council of Elders beginning July 1, filed this report on important developments in Europe.]
For a century and a half Europe has constantly been faced with “the German Question.”
In the 1860s, Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck asserted his country’s growing military might by forcing wars with the Austrian Empire and, a few years later, the French Empire. Prussia won both wars and consequently annexed the 39 independent states of the German Confederation under its own leader, Kaiser Wilhelm I.
At the time, some people could still remember when Germany was actually 360 independent countries prior to the Napoleonic Wars. Now, suddenly, it was united and the dominant power in Europe. Continuing its economic rise, by 1914 it was in a strong enough position to go to war with the British Empire—then the biggest and most powerful empire in the world—while at the same time fighting France and Russia on two fronts. Germany, together with its German speaking ally, Austria, lost.
The German Question continued to dominate Europe in the years following the war as the new Weimar Republic struggled with internal problems and uncertainties.
Twenty years after World War I, Germany was able to provoke another conflict, pursuing Adolf Hitler’s dream of a revived 1,000 year Reich, a successor to the Holy Roman Empire that had lasted for a millennium. Following that defeat, the German Question was still to dominate Europe as Germany was divided between East and West, with the Soviet Union controlling the East and the Allies the West.
In 1957 five other European countries tried to resolve the German Question by forming the EEC (European Economic Community), now the 27 nation EU (European Union). This was an attempt to control Germany, also a member, to ensure that never again would Europe go to war. In 1991, with the end of the Cold War, Germany was united again and once again the dominant European power. Some, including Britain’s Margaret Thatcher, opposed German reunification, remembering the lessons of history.
The German Question is back again. The Greek financial crisis, which has spread to other countries in the eurozone, could not be solved without a major contribution from Germany, the chief financier of the EU. Germany’s finances are in a better state than any other member nations’, the result of decades of fear of a return of hyperinflation that contributed to the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Hitler. As a result, the German constitution requires the country to balance its books, to live within its means. The result is that the nation is solvent, whereas many others, including the U.S. and the U.K., are really not.
So once again Germany is emerging as the dominant country in Europe. What will it do now?
Another way to ask that question is: How do we get from the 27 nation EU to the biblical “10 kings” that constitute the final revival of the Roman Empire (Rev 17:12-14)?
There has been a great deal of talk about the need for greater centralization in Europe—for all the countries to share one common fiscal policy—which would ensure nations like Greece cannot drag the others down again. If that happens, it cannot happen without Germany. Some other countries may pull out rather than lose their financial independence. What remains will be a solid hard core of countries (ten?) closely tied to Germany.
It’s a time of change in Europe. Even if the EU manages to resolve its current crisis, without a common fiscal policy there will be another crisis. The only solution is for the most committed members of the eurozone to commit to a tight fiscal union that would not allow over-spending, effectively embracing current German fiscal policy.
Inevitably, Germany would be the leader….