In Germans to the Front
, David Large charts the path from
Germany's total demilitarization immediately after World War II to
the appearance of the Bundeswehr, the West German army, in 1956.
The book is the first comprehensive study in English of West German
rearmament during this critical period. Large's analysis of the
complex interplay between the diplomatic and domestic facets of the
rearmament debate illuminates key elements in the development of
the Cold War and in Germany's ongoing difficulty in formulating a
role for itself on the international scene.
Rearmament severely tested West Germany's new parliamentary
institutions, dramatically defined emerging power relationships in
German politics, and posed a crucial challenge for the NATO
alliance. Although the establishment of the Bundeswehr ultimately
helped stabilize the nation, the acrimony surrounding its formation
generated deep divisions in German society that persisted long
after the army took the field. According to Large, the conflict was
so bitter because rearmament forced a confrontation with
fundamental questions of national identity and demanded a painful
reckoning with the past.