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3. Normality and Identity
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Overview   |   1. From Separation to Unity   |   2. The Crisis of Unification   |   3. Normality and Identity   |   4. Germany and the World   |   5. Overcoming Reform Gridlock   |   6. Politics in a Unified Germany   |   7. Transitions: From the Bonn to the Berlin Republic

The Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic adopted different approaches to the struggle for normality after 1949, but the process was a defining one for both. For a long time, however, it was precisely this dual statehood that called the notion of normality as much into question as the burden of the Nazi past. The shadow of the past remains, but unification has offered an opportunity to come closer to the goal of a presumed sense of national “normality.” As before, the answer to the question of whether Germany has finally become a normal state depends on the perspective of the respondent, but there is indeed growing evidence that Germans' relationship to their state, and that of the world to the Germans, has become less complicated than it once was (20). But the changes have been gradual and not absolute. The perception of such changes is necessarily subjective and is made more difficult by the vagueness of the concept of “normality.”

Germany's turbulent history has resulted in frequent changes to flags and national holidays, and today there are relatively few remaining memorials of national significance (21). National Socialist propaganda engaged in excessive abuses of nationalism and patriotism for the benefit of the Hitler regime. Consequently, the display of national symbols was long regarded with suspicion in postwar Germany, and pride in the Fatherland could hardly be justified politically. Today, Germany's political system stands as a source of pride along with its science, culture, and economy, as well as certain national characteristics, and the government’s social welfare legislation. Right-wing attempts by a radical minority to usurp the theme of national pride are increasingly rejected by the mainstream public. The transition to a different kind of patriotism, with new substance and form, has also been facilitated by the rise of a new generation. A decade ago, nearly a third of the members of parliament belonged to the war generation. In the 16th legislative term (2005-2009), this was true of only 15 of 614 members.

(20) Steve Crawshaw, Easier Fatherland. Germany and the Twenty-First Century (London and New York, 2004); Volker Kronenberg, Patriotismus in Deutschland. Perspektiven für eine weltoffene Nation (Wiesbaden, 2005).
(21) Peter Reichel, Schwarz-Rot-Gold. Kleine Geschichte deutscher Nationalsymbole nach 1945 (Munich, 2005); Etienne François and Hagen Schulze, eds., Deutsche Erinnerungsorte (Munich, 2001).

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