5.12.16 Germany, on the other hand, increasingly appears to be the strongest remaining bastion of liberal democracy. With the United Kingdom mired in the aftermath of Brexit, France facing a possible hard-right swerve, and Italy in disarray, the country that long stood as a synonym for nationalist insanity has so far resisted political and cultural regression. Tellingly, it has rejected the libertarian code of the big Silicon Valley companies, with their disdain for privacy, copyright, and limitations on hate speech. On the day after the American election, which happened to be the seventy-eighth anniversary of Kristallnacht, a neo-Nazi group posted a map of Jewish businesses in Berlin, titled “Jews Among Us.” Facebook initially refused to take down the post, but an outcry in the media and among lawmakers prompted its deletion. Such episodes suggest that Germans are less likely to acquiesce to the forces that have ravaged the American public sphere.
The defeat of the Freedom Party candidate in the Austrian Presidential election is a hopeful sign: perhaps the German-speaking countries can remind the rest of the world of the darkness of their former path. Still, the far right is creeping forward in Germany, as it is all over Europe. No coming political race will be as tensely watched as Angela Merkel’s run next year for reëlection as Chancellor. The ultimate fear isn’t of the second coming of Hitler: history never repeats itself so obviously, and a sense of shame over the Nazi past remains pervasive in all corners of German life. No, the fear is that the present antidemocratic wave may prove too strong even for Germany—the only country in the history of the world that ever learned from its mistakes.