From The Telegraph:
German history has been shaped by one central trauma: the rise of the Nazis culminating in the horror of the concentration camps. There has been an understandable tendency for scholars to interpret everything that went before as a prelude to the emergence of fascism. Just as the Whig school notoriously interpreted the path of British history as an inexorable process leading to the triumph of parliamentary democracy in the 19th century, so the rise of Hitler has haunted German historians.
One major victim of this tendency has been the Holy Roman Empire, a sprawling confederation of German-speaking states that embraced Italy, Germany and much of France at one point in the high Middle Ages. Contemporary historians have tended to lose interest in the Holy Roman Empire after the death in 1250 of Frederick II, the powerful and charismatic emperor who challenged the authority of the Pope. Thereafter they have assumed that the empire fell into decline, part of a pattern of neglect and institutional collapse that sowed the seeds for the failure of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis. Indeed, in the words of one historian, the Holy Roman Empire had “no history at all” after the mid-17th century, though “it continued for a while longer to lead a miserable, meaningless existence because its patient, slow-moving subjects lacked the initiative and in many cases the intelligence to effect its actual dissolution”.