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Peter Pulzer: In East Berlin, 19 April 1990

... The man in the S-Bahn was disappointed by the way the election campaign was going. He had hoped that for the first time in his life he would be offered a rational debate on the issues of the day; that the different parties and politicians would declare their principles and their policies, as in a well-ordered marketplace. Instead they merely slanged and denounced each other ...

After the Wall

Peter Pulzer, 23 May 1991

Die Mauer: Monument of the Century 
by Wolfgang Georg Fischer and Fritz von der Schulenburg.
Ernst and Sohn, 208 pp., £22.50, November 1990, 3 433 02327 1
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... The other wall, the mote famous and aesthetically more distinguished one, the one designed to protect China from the barbarians, inspired Kafka to one of his most profound reflections: ‘Try with all your might to comprehend the decrees of the high command, but only up to a certain point; then avoid further meditation.’ I do not suppose the rulers of the German Democratic Republic studied Kafka ...

From Old Adam to New Eve

Peter Pulzer, 6 June 1985

The Conservative Party from Peel to Thatcher 
by Robert Blake.
Methuen/Fontana, 401 pp., £19.95, May 1985, 0 413 58140 3
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Westminster Blues 
by Julian Critchley.
Hamish Hamilton, 134 pp., £7.95, May 1985, 0 241 11387 3
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... The history of modern Britain is to a considerable degree the history of the Tory Party, Europe’s – and perhaps the world’s – oldest political party. Or at least the equal oldest party, since it is unusual for the supporters of the status quo to initiate partisan politics. Conservative politics are reactive, a poor second best to the conservative’s preferred condition, one of no politics at all ...

Do we need a constitution?

Peter Pulzer, 5 December 1991

The Constitution of the United Kingdom 
Institute for Public Policy Research, 128 pp., £20, September 1991, 1 872452 42 6Show More
A People’s Charter 
Liberty, 118 pp., £7.99, October 1991, 9780946088393Show More
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... That the influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.’ Motion by John Dunning, passed by the House of Commons, 6 April 1780. A constitution is a device for limiting the power of the executive. That ought to answer the question whether Britain needs one. For most of the 20th century, indeed ever since the Parliament Act of 1911 curtailed the power of the House of Lords, constitutional tinkering has been the province of eccentrics ...

Head over heart for Europe

Peter Pulzer, 21 March 1991

Ever Closer Union: Britain’s Destiny in Europe 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hutchinson, 96 pp., £7.99, January 1991, 0 09 174908 5
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The Challenge of Europe: Can Britain win? 
by Michael Heseltine.
Pan, 226 pp., £5.99, February 1991, 9780330314367
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... We should have to contend with the ordinary Englishman’s almost innate dislike and suspicion of “Europeans” ... Intensive re-education would be needed to bring this section of the public to realise that in the modern world even the United Kingdom cannot stand alone.’ The words are those of a committee of civil servants convened to advise the Macmillan Government in 1960 on the pros and cons of joining the ‘Six ...


Peter Pulzer, 4 September 1986

Little Germany: Exile and Asylum in Victorian England 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Oxford, 304 pp., £17.50, July 1986, 0 19 212239 8
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... The Reading Room of the British Museum is now completed, and if London had nothing but this hall of the blessed, scholars would make it well worth their while to make a pilgrimage here. All the sorrows of the outside would disappear in the mighty rotunda, and it is so quiet in this region of the eternal spirits that one can follow a thought into one’s inmost recesses ...


Peter Pulzer, 9 January 1992

The Singing Revolution: A Political Journey through the Baltic States 
by Clare Thomson.
Joseph, 273 pp., £14.99, October 1991, 0 7181 3459 1
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Berlin Journal 1989-90 
by Robert Darnton.
Norton, 352 pp., £15.95, October 1991, 0 393 02970 0
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AnEstonian Childhood: A Memoir 
by Tania Alexander.
Heinemann, 168 pp., £6.95, October 1991, 0 434 01824 4
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... After the intoxication of liberation comes the hangover. East Germans are less happy than of the day the Berlin Wall was opened. The cost of basic needs – rent, fuel, food – has gone up, jobs are being decimated. Their Western brothers and sisters, who embraced them on 10 November 1989, seem intent on telling them how to run their lives and reluctant to share their affluence with them ...

Mrs Thatcher’s Universities

Peter Pulzer, 22 June 1989

... For most of this year some of my colleagues have been taking ‘industrial action’, either refusing to mark scripts and examine theses, or to disclose the marks they have awarded. They have now abandoned this, but that does not invalidate the question: what on earth is going on? What are academics doing, taking industrial action? We live in revolutionary times, and much that would have seemed unimaginable ten years ago has come to pass ...

The Oxford Vote

Peter Pulzer, 7 March 1985

... published source. Their brief career ended on 6 February, when the Under-Secretary of State, Mr Peter Brooke, agreed in a Written Answer that, even when expressed in real terms, these figures are not comparable from year to year. What one does about all this is a different question. The universities have in the past been lazy about defending ...
Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust 
by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen.
Little, Brown, 622 pp., £20, March 1996, 0 316 87942 8
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... I was only obeying orders.’ It is difficult to pronounce these words in English, except with a comic German accent. They symbolise for most people an unquestioning subordination to authority that is peculiarly German and that seems to offer a simple explanation for the horrors of the 20th century. There is a German word for this, Kadavergehorsam, which the dictionary translates as ‘blind obedience’, but which literally means ‘obedience unto death ...

Vienna discovers its past

Peter Pulzer, 1 August 1985

Refugee Scholars in America: Their Impact and their Experiences 
by Lewis Coser.
Yale, 351 pp., £25, October 1984, 0 300 03193 9
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The Viennese Enlightenment 
by Mark Francis.
Croom Helm, 176 pp., £15.95, May 1985, 0 7099 1065 7
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The Jews of Vienna, 1867-1914: Assimilation and Identity 
by Marsha Rozenblit.
SUNY, 368 pp., $39.50, July 1984, 0 87395 844 6
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... A city without a past is a city without a future. It may exist as a set of buildings, but not as a culture. But not every city with a past has a future, except as a set of buildings. The springs of innovation may dry up, the crossroads that first gave it its importance may no longer lead anywhere. It is then that a city that still has a present most needs its past, but that is also the moment when it has most reason to fear that past ...


Peter Pulzer, 20 February 1986

The Redefinition of Conservatism: Politics and Doctrine 
by Charles Covell.
Macmillan, 267 pp., £27.50, January 1986, 0 333 38463 6
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Thinkers of the New Left 
by Roger Scruton.
Longman, 227 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 582 90273 8
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The Idea of Liberalism: Studies for a New Map of Politics 
by George Watson.
Macmillan, 172 pp., £22.50, November 1985, 0 333 38754 6
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Socialism and Freedom 
by Bryan Gould.
Macmillan, 109 pp., £25, November 1985, 0 333 40580 3
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... We have at the moment a Conservative government. It is in some disarray over clashes of personality and questions of political style, but also on matters of political principle. There is a genuine dilemma for an administration dedicated both to the strengthening of national defence and to leaving the future of manufacturing capacity to the sovereignty of the shareholder and the logic of the market ...

City of Blood

Peter Pulzer, 9 November 1989

The Jews of Vienna in the Age of Franz Joseph 
by Robert Wistrich.
Oxford, 696 pp., £45, June 1989, 0 19 710070 8
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Vienna and the Jews, 1867-1938: A Cultural History 
by Steven Beller.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £27.50, August 1989, 0 521 35180 4
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The German-Jewish Economic Elite 1820-1935: A Socio-Cultural Profile 
by W.E. Mosse.
Oxford, 369 pp., £35, October 1989, 0 19 822990 9
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Decadence and Innovation: Austro-Hungarian Life and Art at the Turn of the Century 
edited by Robert Pynsent.
Weidenfeld, 258 pp., £25, June 1989, 0 297 79559 7
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The Torch in My Ear 
by Elias Canetti, translated by Joachim Neugroschel.
Deutsch, 372 pp., £13.95, August 1989, 0 233 98434 8
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From Vienna to Managua: Journey of a Psychoanalyst 
by Marie Langer, translated by Margaret Hooks.
Free Association, 261 pp., £27.50, July 1989, 1 85343 057 9
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... non-Jewish middle class. Nor did all Jews fit the rational-liberal stereotype. Some, like the poet Peter Altenberg, would have been more at home in the Place Pigalle. Others, like Friedrich Eckstein – typically, the university-educated son of an industrialist – moved from vegetarian Wagnerism through theosophy to the occultism that in Vienna became the ...

Finding a role

Peter Pulzer, 5 September 1985

The Decline of Power: 1915-1964 
by Robert Blake.
Granada, 462 pp., £18, June 1985, 0 246 10753 7
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... May 1915 saw the end of the last purely Liberal government in Britain. October 1964 saw the defeat of the last aristocrat to head a Conservative government by a Labour Party dedicated to regenerating the country through the ‘white heat of technology’. Each event marked, in its way, a decline of power. The first saw the disappearance of a liberal individualist state, governed by a caste of liberal individualist gentlemen ...


Eric Hobsbawm, 8 April 1993

Jews and the German State: The Political History of a Minority, 1848-1933 
by Peter Pulzer.
Blackwell, 370 pp., £35, March 1992, 0 631 17282 3
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The Jews of Germany: A Historical Portrait 
by Ruth Gay.
Yale, 336 pp., £19.95, September 1992, 0 300 05155 7
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... on the impact of the outside world on their people rather than the other way round. Even Peter Pulzer’s excellent ‘political history of a minority’ does not quite escape from such introversion. The two Jews whose impact on German politics was the greatest, the founders of the German labour movement, Marx and Lassalle, barely appear (there ...

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