Germans make great pianos—the finest, actually, in my opinion. The name Steinway has been synonymous with excellence in piano construction for over a century and a half, starting with a German-born piano maker living in New York. When his son opened a plant in Hamburg, Germany, it wasn’t long before many regarded the Hamburg instruments as superior to those manufactured in the original New York factory.
I witnessed Steinway’s standard of quality firsthand when a colleague of mine and I toured its Hamburg factory. That day we were to select from among six fine pianos a concert grand for Armstrong Auditorium in Edmond, Oklahoma.
German craftsmen have earned a reputation for excellence for more than just pianos. Whether it’s kitchen knives or convertibles, power tools or pistols, the “Made in Germany” mark is a testament to any product’s superiority. Olympic competitors seek German-made rowing shells; rock superstars look for German-made guitar amplifiers. Germany’s reputation in the auto industry is unmatched in both quantity and quality; the nation is the world’s third-largest car producer. German sports sedans outperform their peers; its luxury cars outclass their competition.
German workers have refined the ability to assimilate great innovations of other nations and improve upon them. Germany is also known for its creative geniuses—its composers, poets and scientists.
Little wonder, then, that Germany is the economic powerhouse of Europe and the most stable economy in the Western world.
Luigi Barzini commented on this national aptitude in his 1984 book The Europeans. Germany, he wrote, “has become once again the richest, strongest, most efficient, orderly, productive, scientifically and technologically advanced, as well as the most populous nation of Western Europe. In prosperous years, it is the first up, in lean years, the last down.”
Our 90-minute tour of the Steinway factory began in a huge lumber warehouse full of wood from all over Europe. Each piano is formed of 12,000 individual pieces. The tour ended in the “quality control” room—a sufficiently sized office through which every piano passes and where one man makes the final tweaks on the instrument, completing a three-year building process.
My friend and I were astounded not only at the superior craftsmanship and attention to detail, but also at the overarching philosophies behind the company’s piano-making process.
Who could compete with such pianos? The official giving us the tour told us, as we climbed a staircase in the factory: “Our biggest competitors are our older pianos.” With each rising step I took, I pondered that brilliant philosophy. So much modern industry tends to make a thing just well enough to sell, and then when it falls apart, the customer has to buy another one. Steinway’s thinking is, make an inferior product and people will prefer the long-lasting used ones. But keep improving, and they will always seek out your finest output.
At one point in the tour, the official explained in great detail the types of glue used to bind the pieces of the pianos together. She mentioned that, unlike other piano makers, Steinway would not use a certain synthetic glue. “Though we know it will stick well now, we don’t know how well it will hold together in 80 years.” Eighty years? I thought. None of the technicians who worked on the piano will be alive then. Neither will the original customer for the instrument. But the workers at the 158-year-old company want to ensure that the pianos they make today will still function well for their grandchildren.
These manufacturing ideals typify sterling characteristics that generally exist in the Germanic peoples.
The Character of the People
Germany’s history has had some dark periods. Generally these have resulted from maniacal leadership. As Barzini explained of Hitler’s reign during World War ii, “It was the Reich that foreigners had disliked and feared, Germans en masse and in uniform and their leaders, but not the individuals who, with some appalling exceptions, have always been rather affable human beings.”
About Bismarck’s united Germany in 1871, Barzini stated, “The people were tenderly sentimental, moral, God-fearing, in love with children, folk tales and music. … The country gave birth to great poets, great composers, savants, writers of tragedies, and sedulous collectors of legends. … It produced the greatest thinkers, beaverlike constructors of all-embracing philosophic systems, first-class theologians, philologists, archeologists, linguists, physicists and chemists galore.”
Anyone who visits Germany will generally note the pristine, orderly public spaces, the considerate drivers, the cooperative public servants, and the punctual, law-abiding citizens.
An Inspiring Future Ahead
In just a few years, the German nation will take its place as a prominent nation in a prosperous new world. Bible prophecy foretells of a time of world peace and harmony to come after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
The book of Isaiah prophesies: “In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance” (Isaiah 19:23-25).
As longtime readers of this magazine are aware, Assyria is the biblical term for the modern Germans.
Several prophecies inform us that just before Christ’s Second Coming, Assyria will conquer the modern nations of Israel (the major English-speaking nations, as explained in our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy). We should note, however, that the gruesome retribution their military is about to unleash on the Western world is God’s doing. He calls them “the rod of mine anger,” and says “the staff in their hand is mine indignation” (Isaiah 10:5). God declares, “I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge …” (verse 6).
Also remember that the Assyrians were the only people in biblical record to repent en masse at a prophet of God’s warning (Jonah 3:5-10).
Continuing in Isaiah 10, God foretells how Israel will be freed from the Assyrian captivity. After this brief dark period in Germany’s history, God says He will “punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria …” (verse 12). Then, as Isaiah 19 shows us, Assyria will take its place in the new world under the Messiah’s loving reign as one of three strong nations. Herbert W. Armstrong stated in The Wonderful World Tomorrow, “Egypt and Germany are pictured in loving, respectful, serving cooperation with the very peoples they contended with in the past. That’s real progress!”
The Hebrew word Assyria literally means “step,” implying success or progress. This will be a more fitting name for the “German” (man of war) in a time when people will no longer “learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). The Assyrians will continue to be industry leaders in the fields of manufacturing and creative endeavors, using those skills, not to build tools of destruction, but to turn weapons into instruments of development and cultivation (verse 4).
God praises Assyria’s alliance with Israel and Egypt and reveals that the Assyrians will “serve” and cooperate with other nations (Isaiah 19:23-25). Their cleanliness and orderliness will be a fitting contribution to the beauty of this utopian society. They will take even greater pride in what they do, knowing that doing so brings honor and glory to God’s rule on Earth.
The Assyrians will assuredly bring their excellence and farsighted thinking in industry to help provide the large construction equipment needed in the new world for major topographical overhaul (Isaiah 41:15-16). They will use their famed musical prowess to compose and perform music that worships and praises the true God (Psalm 68:32).
God will also use their national characteristic and tendency to be strict keepers of the letter of the law—and will also teach them to exalt and to keep the spirit of His law. This new world will be governed by the Ten Commandments, and what a world that will be—absent all religious confusion, infidelity, cheating, murder, theft and so on! Germany will be among the “many nations” that want to go to Jerusalem to learn the law from Zion (Micah 4:2).
One of the abounding traits of the German people that Barzini illustrates in his book is that they are mutable, changeable and malleable. They follow strong leadership and adapt to situations easily. How helpful that quality will be when they are led to unprecedented greatness by Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.
The repentant nation of Israel will assume its place as model nation and physical superpower of the world, ruling over the nations that once held it captive (Isaiah 14:1-2). The Assyrians, as they have done in type today, will follow diligently and—also in alliance with Israel—will refine the production of Israel’s industries, ideas and inventions, undoubtedly exceeding them in certain areas as they do today.
Selecting From the Best
After our tour of the factory, my colleague and I entered the selection room, where we were introduced to the pianos we would choose from. For two hours we played, hopping from bench to bench and making furious comparisons and critiques. At last we were convinced we had found the perfect piano: the finest instrument in action, response, dynamic variety and sound that we had ever played. For the next hour and a half, we played every style of musical piece imaginable, to be sure that this indeed was the right instrument for our new hall.
It is the finest piano I have ever played, and we are pleased to present it to every pianist who comes to perform at Armstrong Auditorium and to every piano enthusiast who comes for a tour. Inon Barnatan came toward the beginning of our auditorium’s inaugural season and predicted it would be the best piano he played all year. The conductor/pianist for the Vienna Boys Choir had one complaint about it: that he couldn’t take it with him back to Austria.
Our Steinway not only bespeaks the greatest piano craftsmanship in the world, it also embodies the incredible potential of the people who handmade it.
What promise lies in this great nation!
Otto von Bismarck believed what one German poet wrote: that “the German spirit will heal the world.” Though that is not what will heal the world, Assyria is called the “work of God’s hands” (Isaiah 19:25); and, in many ways, these people manifest qualities that God wants to develop in all of us.
God wants law-abiding followers of His family government who serve with a willing, courteous attitude of proper pride and diligence. He wants people who are malleable and yielding to His efforts—qualities that will lead us to the spiritual greatness God wants us all to achieve.