The Reich Returns

From the May 1999 Trumpet Print Edition

This spring has been a monumental time for Germany. Not only has the Luftwaffe gone to war for the first time since World War II, but the official opening of the Reichstag in Berlin has brought a visionary parliament together in a building 66 years after a fire there ushered in Hitler’s dictatorship and the Third Reich.

Addressing MPs for the first time in the new chamber, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder rallied all with optimistic words, seeking to appease any uncomfortable memories. “Equating Reichstag with ‘Reich’ makes no sense,” he said. “Our democracy and our parliament are strong and stable.”

But is a stable democracy in Germany’s future, or is a repetition of past militarism inevitable?

“Our approach was radical, based in the view that the history of the building should not be sanitized,” said the British architect of this $11 billion project, Sir Norman Foster.

And what an extraordinary history it has—including being a center for war propaganda during World War I and housing a Nazi exhibition in 1938 on “The Eternal Jew.”

The Reichstag is synonymous with a tumultuous national history. A history laid bare for the whole world to see in mid-April. But has anyone gasped at the sight?

The fact that “Reich”—meaning “empire”—is in the name of this historical monument is no coincidence. It is a label that one group of MPs is concerned about—demanding it should be replaced by a more neutral phrase—since Germany no longer has an empire.

But the Bible says a European empire is to revive one last time in Western and Central Europe. Germany will spearhead this revival. The Reichstag’s reopening is yet another indicator that “classic Europe,” as historians call it, is not a thing of the past.