Götz Aly (Berlin): Crazy about history. The Germans – A Nation Without A Centre

German history is characterized by the division into Carolingians and ‘Ostelbier’, Bavarians and Prussians, Protestants and Catholics, Social Democrats and ‘Bismarckjaner’, it is shaped by the divisions during the Thirty Years’ War, during the napoleonic occupation and finally during the Cold War. Since the beginning of the 19th Century, there have been repeated attempts to overcome internal divisions in democratic-nationalist, state-authoritarian and identitarian nationalsocialist ways.

These unification movements led in different degrees to wars and aggressions against alleged strangers. The collectivist goal of national unity followed the aim of internal harmony but led to contempt of liberal and cosmopolitan thinking. The beautiful word ‘Freisinn’ (‘liberal-mindedness‘) evolved into a german euphemism which is still common today. On these grounds German activists over the past 200 years developed vagabonding forms of excessive ‘historical madness’: a national disease, rich in mutants, whose infection rates have recently been growing. Götz Aly leads us through the gardens and abysses of our memory politics.

Götz Aly studied History and Political science at the Freie Universität Berlin and Journalism at the German School of Journalism in Munich. In 1978 he received his doctorate in economics and social sciences. His engagement in the student movement was followed by his work as an author and editor for several newspapers. Götz Aly has received numerous awards for his critically discussed contributions to the research of National Socialism in Germany. With his recently published book “Das Prachtboot. Wie Deutsche die Kunstschätze der Südsee raubten” (2021), he took part in the controversial debate about the handling of the exhibition pieces of colonial origin in the rebuilt Berlin Castle.