“Where I am, there is Germany”

In this time of resurgent nationalism, the life and death of Thomas Mann provides a cautionary tale into the nature of that oft-troubling sentiment.

Generally considered the greatest German writer of the 20th Century, you would expect Mann to be enshrined in the Valhalla of Germany’s heroes. Instead, he lies in a secluded cemetery on a hillside in Switzerland. The story of how this most representative of Germans became a permanent exile from his homeland illustrates the dangers of a rampant nationalism.

Born in 1875 into a once wealthy German trading family, at the age of 26 he published his…

Over many of the darkest, bloodiest and most portentous events of the 20th Century looms the presence of one man: Erich Ludendorff. His influence is with us still.

Erich Ludendorff as portrayed in the 2017 movie Wonder Woman

Born in 1865, near what is now the Polish city of Poznań, Ludendorff was the son of minor Prussian nobility when that part of the world was still German territory. Entering the German military at an early age, he soon made a name for himself as a strict, humorless, but gifted officer.

Especially capable in the area of detailed logistical planning, he was promoted to the High Command Staff of the German…

Russia and Poland rekindle an ancient rivalry.


In 1984 I took a long and solitary train ride across Europe. Leaving from Victoria Station in London, I traveled eastward for the better part of two days, crossing into communist East Germany, passing over the wall in a divided Berlin, before reaching the Oder River on the Polish Border. My destination was Warsaw, the capital of Poland.

In 1984 communist Poland was in a sorry state. Still under the remnants of martial law following the Soviet ordered crackdown on the Solidarity Movement, its economy was in shambles and its people demoralized. Alcoholism and suicide were at all time highs…

Like Germany’s myth of a “stab-in-the-back” following World War I, the lie about this year’s “stolen election” has the potential to poison our politics for decades to come.

Following Germany’s defeat in World War I, Erich Ludendorff, one of the Supreme Warlords who had been responsible for Germany’s loss of the War, began to propagate the myth that Germany was defeated not on the battlefield, but by what he called a “stab-in-the-back.” This act of betrayal, he alleged, was delivered by some of Germany’s own citizens.

Erich Ludendorff: Chief Promulgator of the myth that Germany was “stabbed-in-the-back” at the end of World War I

This was a gigantic lie. Ludendorff himself had gone to the Kaiser in late…

Modernity catches up with the centuries old Swiss tradition of private banking.

(Originally published August 10, 2012)

On February 3 of this year, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Wegelin & Co., Switzerland’s oldest private bank, for assisting U.S. citizens to evade taxes. Only days before the bank, in an effort to limit the damage of the coming indictment, sold its non-U.S. business to Raiffeisen, a larger Austrian-based bank. Thus ended 280 years of continuous operation for a bank that had counted among its clients a Napoleon Emperor.

For several centuries, Switzerland has been synonymous with private banking. And while…

German Protestors storm the German Reichstag. August 29, 2020. (Reuters/C. Mang)

Protestors in Germany are waving the German Imperial Flag. It’s a direct assault on German democracy.

During recent demostrations in Berlin, protesters have been waving Germany’s old black, white and red Imperial flag. Because of Germany’s history, this is not just an expression of nostalgia or quaint, old-fashion monarchism. It is a direct assault on Germany’s tradition of post-war democratic rule.

First, A Little History.

In the past 150 years, the German nation has had four flags.

John Hunter

Writing at the intersection of European history, culture and current events.

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