Is it possible to garner a bad review for the opening of something so innocuous-sounding as the German-American Heritage Museum? If the reviewer is the Washington Post's Marc Fisher, anything is possible. (Fisher was the former German correspondent for the Post, before foreign correspondents became an endangered species. And as a few Germans have acknowledged—and as Fisher himself once told me—the reviewer's relationship with Germany has never been an entirely happy one.)
The problem, as Fisher sees it, is that "the Balkanizers are in control."
This hyphenated approach to presenting U.S. history stems from the fashion in American academia to pull away from explaining the remarkable and difficult story of how so many different peoples came together in a new kind of nation, focusing instead on deconstructing history into ethnically separate stories that can hardly make sense when each is told in its own building.... [Th]e German-American Heritage Museum presents a version of the past that is at times useful and at times disturbingly incomplete—demolishing the myth that Congress in 1794 came within a single vote of declaring German to be the official language of the United States, but also offering an account of World War II with no mention of the German American Bund, which held large rallies and parades in support of the Nazis in the years before America entered the war.
Oh no he didn't!
John Rosenthal, meanwhile, hits much harder in this week's issue of The Weekly Standard, wondering why it's okay for the German government to seize private bank records to chase down tax evaders but it isn't okay to share that information with U.S. authorities who are monitoring terrorist activities.
On a much lighter note, Ian Brunskill reviews the Simon Winder book, Germania, in the Wall Street Journal: "'Germany,' [Winder] observes, 'is a sort of Dead Zone today.' English-speaking travelers visit on business trips, shuttling from airport to city-center hotel with barely a glance at the land around them and no thought at all for the country's culture or history." And there is indeed a lot to see:
[Winder] celebrates the idiosyncracies of such backwaters as "the doll's handkerchief state of Schaumburg-Lippe," where "almost nothing ever happened." Visiting the courtly town of Wolfenbüttel—with its baroque castle, pink-painted armory and splendid ducal library, all "abandoned by the Dukes of Brunswick in 1742 and since then left substantially just to pickle"—he observes that such places are "simply unimprovable."
And lastly Wolfgang Wagner, grandson of the composer, has died at the age of 90. Und das ist alles...