JUDGING THE PAST IN UNIFIED GERMANY

John Frank, Author, Tom Pohrt, Illustrator, Tracey Campbell Pearson, Illustrator JUDGING THE PAST IN UNIFIED GERMANY

Whether in South Africa, Bosnia or Rwanda, the idea of using legal means to rectify a country's wrongs has gained currency in the past decade. This timely, balanced case study examines that process in Germany, just over a decade after it began with the end of the Cold War. McAdams focuses on four issues: the prosecution of former high-ranking East German officials; the search for East Germans who collaborated with the Stasi, the secret East German police; the culpability of the East German regime; and the attempt to return private property to those who lost it in East Germany, under either the Nazi or the Communist regime. Chair of government and international studies at Notre Dame, McAdams (East Germany and Détente; Germany Divided: From the Wall to Reunification) finds Germany's method to be as ethical and legal as possible under the circumstances. He admits that the search for justice was imperfect, but that most of the problems facing Germany's courts were unavoidable. Property restitution was "bound to be a tense and tumultuous enterprise," he writes, and "may have done more to set eastern and western Germans against each other" than "any other matter relating to its handling of the communist period." But even with this tricky problem, McAdams finds Germany's dealing with its painful past to be a model of determination and thoroughness. Some may question whether the administration of "retrospective justice" will work as well in countries with more heated problems, such as Rwanda, but advocates looking for ammunition for war-crimes trials, whether nationally or internationally managed, will find it in this clear and well-argued study. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/26/2001
Release date: 04/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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