prussia revised?


Sixty years ago, on February 25, 1947, the Allied Control Council in Berlin decreed: “The state of Prussia, which from its earliest days has been a bearer of militarism and reaction in Germany, has de facto ceased to exist.” Behind this decision stood the conviction that the origins of National Socialism were located in the Prussian tradition and the extinction of one should accompany that of the other.

“The Iron Kingdom” by Christopher Clark, which came out in Germany this year (and in England in 2006), shows how drastically this image has altered. There is no hint here of blanket Prussia-bashing; instead the book is permeated by an almost strained attempt to do justice to the Hohenzollern state. Naturally – as the British historian of Australian origin emphasizes in his introduction – one must ask how exactly Prussia was implicated in the catastrophes of German 20th century history. Yet the focus should not be restricted to 1933 or 1871. “The truth is that Prussia was a European state long before it became a German one. Germany was not Prussia’s fulfilment, but its undoing.”

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