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Frederick Kempe Discusses the "New Germany."

Editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, Frederick Kempe. As a journalist, he's covered Germany for over twenty years, and is also the son of German immigrants. His new book "Father/land: A Personal Search for the New Germany" (Putnam) is his exploration into his family's past in Germany, and an analysis of Germany today.


Other segments from the episode on June 9, 1999

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, June 9, 1999: Interview with Eve-Ann Prentice; Interview with Frederick Kempe; Commentary on the television show "The Sopranos."


Date: JUNE 09, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 060901np.217
Head: A Journalist's Close Call in Kosovo
Sect: News; International
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Today, NATO and Serb officials continue to work on terms for a peace agreement. NATO says it won't stop the bombing until Serb troops start pulling out of Kosovo. My guest Eve Ann Prentice was nearly killed by a NATO bomb 10 days ago.

She was traveling with five journalists and two drivers when they got caught on a road NATO planes were bombing. One of the drivers was killed. Prentice was in Kosovo reporting for "The Times of London" where she's a staff writer. She also reported on the war in Bosnia.

She's back in London now. She had been in Serbia for several weeks trying to get into Kosovo through official channels, applying through the Army-run press center. Each day she was told she was on the list and should come back tomorrow.

She says very few journalists were actually getting permission to get in this way. She gave up and contacted a man named Daniel Schiffer who she was told was well-connected and could get her into Kosovo.

EVE ANN PRENTICE, JOURNALIST, "THE TIMES OF LONDON": I heard that a Greek TV station had been to Kosovo with Daniel Schiffer. He is a Franco-Italian who is married to a Serb. I knew no more about him than that. I made a few inquiries with colleagues in Italy who had come across him.

He is, I suppose, what could be best described as a friend of Serbia. Nonetheless, he had had taken a couple of TV crews down to Kosovo. He goes and he makes contacts, he travels around within the constraints of the war. He meets mayors, local politicians, and he has the blessing of the Army press center.

I managed to track him down, asked him whether I could come with him. He eventually agreed. So although it probably isn't ideal by Western standards of journalism, it was the only way at that time, and indeed I'm sure to this day, of going there and having some freedom of movement. We could dictate our own schedule, which places we wanted to visit.

GROSS: Did he require that you pay in order to go on this journey with him?

PRENTICE: He himself was at great pains to say that he takes no money. Nonetheless, we did all pay money, which we were told was to pay for petrol, which is very short supply, for paperwork, for hotels and for food.

GROSS: How much did it come out to?

PRENTICE: I made two trips. The first trip was 4,000 Deutsche marks, and the price had risen a week later to 5,000 Deutsche marks.

GROSS: Which would be around $2,000, do you think?

PRENTICE: Fifteen hundred.

GROSS: Were their ground rules when you were traveling that either the Yugoslav Army had set or that Schiffer had set?

PRENTICE: Not at all. We were astonished, all of us, I think by the ease with which we moved through checkpoints. He was obviously exceedingly well known to Serbs -- Serbian authorities and Serbian politicians along the entire route.

I would say the one -- no guidelines or curves were set.

GROSS: Did you see signs of ethnic cleansing when you were there?

PRENTICE: Most definitely. What we saw were long stretches of country road with empty villages. The difference between what I had expected from what I had read, and what I found, was that the vast majority of these empty villages were standing and undamaged.

In each of the villages, one, two, maybe three homes had very obviously been set on fire. When I asked about these I was told that these were the homes of KLA. And I imagine that they were real or imagined KLA, but one can imagine that even though it was one or two homes and then the rest of the village left intact; one can imagine the terror that would have been caused in the raids on those houses.

But today there are just completely isolated, desolate, there's not an animal; very, very quiet, mile after mile after mile.

GROSS: How much bombing damage was there in the actual towns that you passed through?

PRENTICE: That was the other big surprise. It was much heavier than I had anticipated, and much heavier than in the rest of Serbia. Pristina, the heart of old Pristina, many of the Albanian homes are just matchwood. They look like something out of Vucuvar (ph) or Mustau (ph).

Every town has its center pretty well bombed completely flattened. This isn't the sort of damage you really see much in the rest of Serbia.

GROSS: Do you think that the bombing happened after the ethnic Albanians had been forced out, or do you think that they were trapped between the Yugoslav Army and the bombing?

PRENTICE: I managed to speak to a couple of independent sources, aid workers and a couple of other people, who had been in the province from the beginning of the year continuously. They all tell the same story that the real fierce, intense fighting against the KLA and therefore also against civilians began in the two weeks before the bombing began.

That when the bombing began they used that as cover to continue this ferocious drive against the KLA. People had been leaving, beginning to leave, in a mass exodus in that two weeks. But it takes a very long time to walk from some of the interior parts of Kosovo.

When the bombing began my impression is it was used as a cover for some really extremist acts against Albanians. But the bombing itself also definitely contributed to the number of people who were leaving. I did manage to speak independently to a few Albanians who spoke English. I don't speak Albanian. Without any Serbs, no interpreters around, and they all were very keen to leave.

Those who were still there, very keen to leave the bombing. They would have liked to come back when the bombing ends. But they were very keen to get away. The bombing is heavy morning, noon and night.

GROSS: I'd like you to describe a situation you found yourself in when you were bombed. You were going back from Pristina to a car that you had to abandon because of rubble on the road. Would you pick up the story from there?

PRENTICE: Yes. We got back to this road tunnel. Our two cars had been -- there were two road tunnel's about 30 yards apart, and our cars were parked under one of them. And we were climbing over the rubble of the second tunnel to try to get back onto the roadway.

We heard -- the sound of jets is fairly constant, but we suddenly heard jets flying far, far lower. The sound was far louder, and we could clearly see the aircraft. We looked at one another -- I think we all instinctively knew that this was a bombing raid.

And having been crawling over rubble over tunnel, and they do -- NATO does tend go back and hit targets more than once to try to make sure they completely demolish whatever target they're attacking.

The first bomb hit, we all then ran. We were very panicky. I would say most of us were very panicky. We didn't know where to go. We didn't know if to go into the roof of one of the tunnels, was that inviting the whole tunnel to come down on top of us if that were hit.

If we stayed out in the open this mountain road was in a very steep ravine, very exposed. And we were trapped between the two tunnels. There were, I believe, five bombs in all. The second bomb killed our driver who had also been acting as our interpreter.

He was in a car under the second tunnel. He looked as if he had been in the safest of all, but he was the one person to perish. We -- there was about four minutes between each bomb, and each time the jets, I think there were two jets, they climbed away. There'd be about four minutes, then they'd come back down again.

At the time it was exceedingly frightening, and we just thought it would never end.

GROSS: So what did you decide was the safest place, comparatively, that you could hide in?

PRENTICE: At the time I honestly didn't think there was anywhere safe. A Portuguese colleague and I, we became separated from the others, we found a water culvert which was carrying water down from the mountain into a river about 20 feet down from the road that we were on.

This culvert was about six feet in diameter, and it wasn't crucial -- it wasn't being overhung by any major part of the mountain. So we thought if they did bomb near it pieces of the mountain wouldn't come crashing down on us.

And we hid in there for the last two bombs.

GROSS: What was the closest one of the bombs came to you?

PRENTICE: I would guess it was about 15 meters away, and it was the one that I thought had definitely, definitely got me. My colleagues, who had seen me -- because there was a lot of smoke and dust that's blown up by these bombs. That was the one -- I was thrown off my feet by this one, covered in thick black, couldn't breathe, felt the blast wave and was convinced that that blast wave was the last thing I would feel.

GROSS: Were you injured?

PRENTICE: Miraculously lightly. Cuts, grazes, really just a miracle.

GROSS: Could you hear afterwards?

PRENTICE: My ears were affected but not for very long. I was astonished that the power of the blast wave was amazing. I felt for a moment, you hear about people who tread on land mines or get severely injured in other ways, and you hear that they cannot feel anything for a while. And they try to stand up and then they find something ghastly.

I, after that particular bomb, hardly did look at myself because I really was convinced there would be some terrible injury, and was amazed when there wasn't. Then the planes started coming again, so all my faculties returned and I started running.

GROSS: What did you do when the bombing stopped?

PRENTICE: The instinct was to get out, but my colleague, and I knew myself, we both decided it would be best to stay there for at least half an hour to make absolutely certain that the jets weren't going to come back for another run. We were about 20 minutes into that when we heard a car pull up.

We thought it might miraculously be our -- the driver who had been killed. We thought maybe he had not, he got out of that car in the confusion and had managed to go and get help. But as it transpired it was two very large Yugoslav Army officers who came, peered over -- they had heard on their walkie-talkies what had happened.

They came down and they plucked us from the culvert and they managed to get us away from that area. And shortly afterwards the bombing did indeed begin again on that road.

GROSS: How did the members of the Serb Army treat you, and where did they take you?

PRENTICE: They took us initially to the closest village, a Turkish -- Gypsy, Romanese (ph) and Turkish people mostly lived in this village. They came swarming out of their houses, gave us sweet drinks, sat us down in chairs.

I then realized that we were sitting right next to, I mean inches away from, a bridge. I wasn't happy about that because I thought, well, if this is the road they're going for they're obviously going to be after the bridges.

The Army then said that they would take us up, they had a doctor in a village high in the mountain. So we were driven up there, given first aid. We were treated quite amazingly. It was a very peculiar feeling to have been bombed by NATO and to be given medical treatment, food and calming words by Serbian soldiers.

GROSS: Do you think you were treated so well by the Serbian soldiers because your trip was sponsored by Daniel Schiffer, who is a friend of the Serbs?

PRENTICE: It's very difficult to say. I have been traveling to the region for over 20 years. And that means all sides, Moslems, Croats, the whole of what was the former Yugoslavia. I personally have found individually people from all communities in the region personally to be very open and kind and generous.

There is of course an alter side to that, and they also can be exceedingly violent and unpredictable. It really is difficult to know. Daniel Schiffer certainly is popular among the Serbs, but just going by my own experiences I doubt it was entirely that.

GROSS: My guest is Eve Ann Prentice of "The Times of London," more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Eve Ann Prentice of "The Times of London." She was nearly killed by NATO bombs while reporting from Kosovo.

I'm wondering how this experience of being bombed by NATO, which your country, England, is a member of and then being rescued by Serb soldiers affected your view on the war.

PRENTICE: Not really. It is very difficult obviously to look at bombing dispassionately after one has been bombed, particularly since a man died that we had come to know. We had been eating, spending all our days with our driver and interpreter.

I had been questioning anyway the extent of the bombing, and it merely added to my questions. Why not bomb this particular road if it has to be bombed in the middle of the night. We were not the only civilians on that road. In fact, we didn't -- until the Army down from the mountain -- they were not using that road -- until they came down from the mountain I hadn't seen a soldier on that road.

GROSS: So you thought, and still think, that the bombing was excessive? Or more dangerous than it needed to be for the civilian population?

PRENTICE: I think that the number of civilians of all ethnic groups who have been made homeless or killed or injured, I think people -- when this area is finally opened up to the massive TV cameras, I think people will be shocked by the extent of the damage caused by NATO.

I just have the feeling that a little more might have been done to avoid civilian casualties. As for instance why not bomb that road at 3:30 in the morning and not 3:30 in the afternoon.

GROSS: While you were being rescued by Serb soldiers and then fed and having Serb doctors tend to the wounds that you got while you were being bombed, did you ask them any questions?

It might have seemed like a very inappropriate time to ask them questions about ethnic cleansing and other Serb actions, but I'm wondering if you did it anyway.

PRENTICE: We did speak to them. I didn't -- I don't think any of us spoke to them specifically about ethnic cleansing. We spoke to them about their lives. That all seemed to be conscripts. They were doctors, lawyers; they really were not very happy about being pulled in to a war.

Nonetheless, they felt they were doing a duty. They spoke very much as any civilian I have ever spoken to in Belgrade, anybody from the University. They spoke with great anger, of feeling that they were being punished for something they had not done.

But, no, we did not speak to them about the ethnic cleansing. I think all of us half expected to be arrested because we were taken to an army camp which they very much wanted to keep secret. Because undoubtedly NATO would have bombed it if they had known where it was.

GROSS: So you're surprised they let you go.

PRENTICE: There is a sometimes charming naivete about Serbs. So I was not surprised. I think some of my colleagues were surprised. In a very childlike way they just said, "please, please you won't tell anybody where we are, will you?"

It could've gone either way. That naivete could also have led them to arrest us or worse, who knows? I mean, they could have killed us and nobody would have been any the wiser. They could've killed us, put us under the rubble and said NATO had done it.

GROSS: Now you said that the conscripts who you met from the Serb Army, including the doctors, felt that they were being punished for something they hadn't done. And I'm not sure whether you mean that they don't believe there was ethnic cleansing or they feel like it's the government that should be punished and not the civilians.

PRENTICE: I think it's exactly the latter. I think they think it's the government that should be punished. I think that they feel that they -- that they personally were not involved in ethnic cleansing. That this was done by forces who were sent in right at the beginning.

And they've been dragged into a situation that makes them feel hated on all sides, both by Western Europe but also -- you know, some of them have been very happily living among ethnic Albanians if they come from Kosovo. And they know that that, you know, that will probably never happen again.

GROSS: When you were getting bombed obviously it was a terrifying experience, but I'm wondering if you were thinking well, this is the price one pays for being a journalist who ventures into a territory that's being bombed. Or if you were particularly angry with NATO for bombing a place in which there were civilians.

PRENTICE: I think, inevitably, it made me much more empathetic towards those civilians who are being bombed. I did not feel personally angry or affronted. I felt very, very frighten. I truly did think I was going to die.

However, when after we got back to Pristina and after -- particularly after I crossed the border into Macedonia -- my first feeling was great distress and pity for the civilians. You know, Albanians, the Serbs, everybody who lives in Kosovo who cannot cross that border and to have to live with that fear all the time.

GROSS: Eve Ann Prentice is a staff writer for "The Times of London." She spoke to us from the NPR bureau in London.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: Eve Ann Prentice
High: Staff writer for The Times of London, Eve Ann Prentice. She's been visiting the Balkans regularly since her first assignment there in 1978. She's reported on wars in Bosnia and Croatia. She and other journalists recently made a trip into Kosovo, led by pro-Serbian French philosopher Daniel Schiffer. During the trip, in southwest Kosovo, their party was hit by NATO bombing. Their driver and interpreter was killed in the raid.
Spec: War; Europe; Lifestyle; Culture; Eve Ann Prentice

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: A Journalist's Close Call in Kosovo

Date: JUNE 09, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 060902NP.217
Head: Germany's New Role In World Affairs
Sect: News; International
Time: 12:30

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

The NATO missions in the Balkans are the first combat missions the German military has participated in since World War II. The controversy surrounding that participation says a lot about how the new Germany is re-interpreting its role in the world and the lessons of World War II.

My guest Frederick Kempe is the editor and associate publisher of "The Wall Street Journal Europe." He's also the author of the new book, "Father/ Land: A Personal Search for the New Germany."

He not only examines political and social changes in Germany since World War II, he investigates his own family's involvement in Hitler's Germany. His German parents emigrated to Utah before the war.

I asked him about the significance of Germany's participation in the NATO bombing campaign.

FREDERICK KEMPE, EDITOR, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE;" AUTHOR, "FATHER/LAND: A PERSONAL SEARCH FOR THE NEW GERMANY": Well, the world is understandably focusing on what this means to Kosovo, what this means to the alliance. But history is actually being made in Germany. Germany has really only been a sovereign unified country since 1990. This is the first time they've had to make decisions about life and death since World War II.

And what you're really seeing is Germany defining what are the lessons of German history. Up until this point, or up until a couple of years ago, it was that you stayed at home. You didn't participate in this kind of thing.

Now a Green Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, with a background in anti-Vietnam protests, has said the lesson of German history is we can never again let anything looking like genocide happen in Europe. We can't stand to the side and let another dictator do this kind of thing.

GROSS: So explain a little bit more about how the different German interpretations of participating in a military mission have changed.

KEMPE: Joschka Fischer woke up after the Srebeniza (ph) massacre about four years ago in Bosnia, and he looked himself in the mirror and he said there's not a German soldier anywhere near the place. We have not participated at all. Western Europe is standing to the side and watching this sort of thing happen.

He then says to himself, I'm a Green. I've always believed in pacifism. We thought pacifism was the lesson of the war, but it just can't be any longer. And a huge fight followed in his party. Just as a huge fight has taken place in his party over all of this.

And it's really quite remarkable that Fischer has stayed the course. Now I said to him when he was making these decisions, I said, well, this is really remarkable. You really seem to be lining up with the United States and pursuing an almost pro-American policy after being so anti-American during Vietnam.

And he said something quite interesting. He said, well, you know, I've never really been anti-American. I'm just against certain kinds of American policy. And in fact my left oriented politics have much more to do with Bob Dylan than they have to do with Karl Marx.

GROSS: Well, in your book you describe Bosnia as the "reverse Vietnam for Germany." Would you explain that?

KEMPE: It's a reverse Vietnam because the Americans really, after Vietnam, learned that they really shouldn't be intervening in other people's business; keep your hands off, it's too dangerous. Bosnia, after years of not being involved in any military action overseas, taught the Germans that you can actually send your military into a situation where you're serving the moral purposes that are demanded of you through your history.

GROSS: Now Germany has been the site where NATO ministers have met planning the look of a peace agreement. What is the significance of Germany being the place for the NATO meetings?

KEMPE: I think what we're seeing, and not only with Kosovo, but you're seeing Germany move back to the center of European history. After being really on ice for 50 years, divided, not totally sovereign, Germany becomes unified overnight -- third-largest economy in the world, most influential political force in Europe.

And the two main goals of Europe, both East European expansion of NATO in the European Union and also Western integration -- Germany leads those missions. And so that puts Germany right in the middle of everything. And I think it's remarkable how quickly it's happened, and how it's happened without its neighbors or the United States or anyone else really getting terribly upset about it.

GROSS: Frederick Kempe is my guest. He's the editor and associate publisher of "The Wall Street Journal Europe." And the author of the new book, "Father/Land: A Personal Search for the New Germany."

Now in your book you write about how you flew with Germans on missions to Bosnia a few years ago, and these were the first German military missions after World War II. What was the attitude of the German soldiers who you were flying with about these combat missions?

KEMPE: They were almost like kids in a candy shop. We are now on the world stage again. We are now being trusted again. We're allowed to go out into the world and be a real country and real people and without the shadow of history hanging over us every second.

One of the more interesting things was talking to their French commander, because they had a French commander down there, and he actually felt that they had grown a little bit soft. That first of all, the German military is a lot more democratic than the French military. There's much more of a hierarchy.

And the French, when they go into a new area in Bosnia, or when they went into a new area, they would set up tents; they'd live rough; it might take weeks or months before they got any housing. The Germans are a very organized people, very efficient people, went down there; they brought in the containers; everybody gets so much -- so many square meters per person; so many toilets per unit. And it was all set before the Germans even showed up.

And the commander was actually complaining about this because it was creating some demands from his own French soldiers who wanted to be treated as well as the Germans.

GROSS: Well, the French trained the German soldiers for the mission in Bosnia, which is a kind of interesting development considering Germany occupied France during World War II. How did the two groups of soldiers get along?

KEMPE: It's a very ambivalent feeling the French have toward the Germans. They realize that Europe can't take its place on the world stage without Germany being fully there. And they really almost resented the fact that they had to go on all these missions and the Germans just sat at home and once in a while paid some of the bills.

So on the one hand they like it, but on the other hand the French like being in charge of Europe. And I think it's very difficult for them to accept this.

But, Terry, going back to Kosovo for just a minute. I think one thing is very important about this whole Kosovo story and about the German participation as well. No one knows better than the Germans that what made them democratic, what made them the country that they are now, had nothing to do with -- well, it didn't have nothing to do, but it didn't only have to do with Normandy. It didn't only have to do with the fire bombing of Dresden.

It had to do with the Marshal Plan, it had to do with 50 years of cooperation -- the alliance, NATO. It had to do with a lot of patience, and I think the Germans realize that to make the Balkans work we're all going to have to be there for a lot longer than these few weeks.

GROSS: Well, in your book, for instance, you say Germany is Hitler's offspring and America's stepchild. So you think that the look of Germany today has a lot to do with how America reshaped Germany after the war?

KEMPE: I think there's no doubt about that. The America's stepchild part of it actually came from the author, Peter Schneider, who wrote "The Wall Jumper." And he said that after the war the Germans could no longer accept their parents. They could no longer accept their traditions. It had all lost credibility.

In came the Americans with James Dean and Bill Haley and the Comets and "Gone with" -- American culture was going all over the world, but in Germany there was a vacuum to be filled. So it had a much more powerful impact in Germany. To the point that even German nostalgia now is American, it's the drive-in movie.

And so you had Germany not only accepting a more federalized system, not only accepting a bundesbank (ph); a lot of these came from ideas that came from the Americans. But on top of that you have a culture that had a more American part.

The one thing that's important about this stepchild comparison is the Vietnam War. When the stepfather does something wrong then the child wants to believe so strongly that his father wasn't so bad after all that he's going to get twice as angry. And that's what happens in Germany, you have a much stronger, almost virulent, anti-Americanism that comes out once in a while partly because the country is so close to America.

And because people like Joshkca Fischer's generation, the foreign minister, were just so disappointed by America during the Vietnam War.

GROSS: You write that your optimism about the new German military was a bit shattered by stories you subsequently heard about hatred within the military.

KEMPE: Yeah, you have a situation where neo-Nazism exists in Germany. And if you look in the military -- it is a voluntary military, but on the other hand there are ways to get out of it. You can do other sorts of public service -- hospitals, et cetera.

So the type of young German who goes in the military, who self-selects himself for the military, tends to probably be a little bit more right-wing than others. A little bit more nationalistic than others. So this kind of thing is certainly more prevalent in the military than it is elsewhere.

But the difference is -- between Germany and other countries -- is that Germans react immediately when this sort of thing happens. And it's now the Germans and German press that reveals this thing before the foreign press. It used to be the foreign press, but now it seems like the Germans are on watch for themselves even more than the world is at the moment.

GROSS: The European Union is planning on getting its own foreign policy and security czar, and that would allow the European Union to undertake military missions independent of the United States. What do you think that might mean for Germany?

KEMPE: Well, on the one hand it means that Germany is going to have to be out in front of decisions, and it's still much more comfortable on these sorts of decisions being behind other people for understandable reasons. But on the other hand, I think that we lead ourselves astray if we think this is the beginning of the new NATO. That NATO is going to go around and do this thing all the time.

I think, listening to people in Brussels, and listening to the Germans who participate in this, you hear more "never again." This has been a disaster. It was poorly planned. We didn't know we were getting into. This is not something we want to repeat.

They then say with aside, "but at least there's not another Milosevic." If we can deal with Milosevic we don't have to do it again, but I don't think you're going to see Europe or NATO jumping into this kind of thing very quickly again.

GROSS: A lot of people feel that the bombing went too far.

KEMPE: I think in Germany there's a particular feeling that it went too far. I talk on German talk shows now and then, a morning show on Sunday where journalists get together and chat, and universally in that group I think I was the only one that didn't have this opinion. And this was three or four weeks ago. Everyone wanted the bombing to stop.

It really was a government and a foreign minister that was being very true to the alliance. But I think that within the populace the feeling was very strong that they just wanted peace to come as quickly as possible. Not that they wanted Milosevic to go on, but this is the first time Germany is doing this kind of thing; it hurts, it's wrenching, it's in their guts.

In some ways it's a much more emotional experience not only because they're closer, not only because they'll take the refugees, but also because of their history.

GROSS: What do you think the larger significance is for European nations if the European Union does get its own foreign policy and securities czar and is able to undertake military missions as a European Union independent of the United States?

KEMPE: Well, first of all, let's talk about where we are. We're at a critical historic turning point for Europe. This is the first year of the single currency project, and it's feeling some strains. Now on top of this, I think most people realize that the single currency isn't going to work unless you move forward to more political union, or at least much closer foreign costing toward nation.

People, Europeans, are trying to see the results of this union. They don't just want a single currency, they want peace, they want job creation. We just printed a story today showing that the two highest priorities ahead of European parliamentary elections are, number one, job creation and number two, peace.

And this is at a time when the EU is trying to expand to the east. It's a time when it's trying to push forward a single currency. But all of these things are really quite secondary to European voters.

GROSS: If you're just joining us my guest is Frederick Kempe. He's the editor and associate publisher of "Wall Street Journal Europe." And author of the new book, "Father/Land: A Personal Search for the New Germany." Let's take a short break here and then we'll talk some more.

This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: Back with Frederick Kempe, editor and associate publisher of "Wall Street Journal Europe." And author of the new book, "Father/Land: A Personal Search for the New Germany."

You had a very personal reason for wanting to write this book about the new Germany. Tell us about your own German heritage and how that has affected your interest in understanding Germany and its changes.

KEMPE: Well, I begin the book by telling the reader that my father was a World War II hero on the American side fighting the Battle of the Bulge. And then I very quickly tell the reader that -- actually, that's what I told my friends when I was a child -- that it's a lie. And what that does is it sets up this ambivalent attitude that I think many German-Americans, or people of German blood in general, have about the relationship to their country.

When I grew up in America I wanted to be as little German as possible, and my parents conspired to help me be as little German as possible. I didn't learn the language until later in my life.

But what I really want to do is then take that ambivalence and look at this terrible period of German history as well as its impact on the country, and then answer the question of whether we watched one of the great miracles of history. That 50 years later Germany has become not only a good country, but really one of the better countries on the planet.

Or was I missing something? Was there something disquieting about Germany that I just wasn't paying enough attention to? So the whole purpose of the book was to travel through the issues, the most important elements that I thought had changed Germany in the last 50 years.

And then as I did that I fell upon some quite disquieting information about my own family past, and as I think most people of German blood tend to do.

GROSS: Well, for example, you've tracked down information about your great uncle, Erik Kramer (ph), who I believe had been indicted for crimes against humanity although never convicted.

KEMPE: Well, you know, we always knew that we had an uncle Teo (ph). And uncle Teo, the legend went, hid Jews in the underground and in Berlin, and this is all the family ever talked about. And then as I started reporting this book I asked family members, older family members, you know, I can't believe we never had a bad guy in our family. There must have been a bad guy.

And, you know, and I was told there was. So I started researching this bad guy, and first I found out that he was one of the early members of the Brownshirts (ph). Basically neighborhood hoods who Hitler organized and who in the very early period, the late '20s, early '30s, were very much his people in the neighborhoods. He was a friend of one of the martyrs of that movement, Horst Vessal (ph).

Then I discovered that he had actually been arrested after the war for crimes against humanity. But his family had believed that he had been let off for lack of evidence. I quite innocently asked one of the family members -- interestingly enough, he had himself had spent 16 years in prison during his life, and that's another story.

And I asked him if I could have a power of attorney to look into my great uncle's past. And so I took the power of attorney, and this fellow thought I'd would find nothing. He thought this was curiously American that I had to go searching around for things.

And I discovered that not only had he committed these crimes against humanity, but that he had been of the most brutal thugs in a holding prison at the beginning of the Nazi period, before the war. When -- Hitler hadn't turned to the Jews yet, he was really arresting his political opponents -- the social Democrats and the Communists.

Bringing them into holding facilities, and in this holding facility my great uncle participated in some the worst examples of torture of political prisoners at the beginning of the Nazi period.

GROSS: Now that you've discovered a genuine bad guy in your family tree, does that make you empathize with Germans who are dealing with what responsibility they have for their parent's or grandparent's war crimes?

KEMPE: I had two responses when I found it out. My first response was, oh, this is terrific. I'm going to have to great narrative for the book. And my second response was I don't want to print this. I do not want to be connected with this.

I have so many friends who are Jewish, and I never thought of them as Jewish or non-Jewish; they were my friends. And there were people I didn't like, but it never had anything to do with their Jewishness. I don't know a single German, not one of my German friends has anything like a normal relationship with someone Jewish.

And I was very afraid of printing that because I was afraid I would become something different to my friends. But then on the other hand I thought I had an obligation to print it, because I think anyone who comes from any part of this history that finds out something like this in his history has an obligation to tell the story.

GROSS: It seems in a way that you would be in a very different position than had you been living in Germany. I mean, Germany was possessed by this kind of group madness, the whole country went mad. And you were so separated from that.

KEMPE: Well, Helmut Kohl talks about the mercy of a "late birth." And what he means by that is he was more too late to be tainted by the Holocaust. And I had the mercy of an American birth. But what I really discovered through this is that's all that separated me from these people.

And I say "these people," that's the way I always wanted to think of Germans as "these people." These odd people with this awful history, this cross that they had to bear. And I was American, I didn't have to bear this. And I think what I really learned from this book is not only do I have a connection with it, but I have a very close connection.

I have much more sympathy for their situation, but I also have much less tolerance for Germans who are not willing to deal with it and to accept that it does give their country a special responsibility.

GROSS: Well, Frederick Kempe, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

KEMPE: Thank you very much.

GROSS: Frederick Kempe is the editor and associate publisher of "The Wall Street Journal Europe." His new book is, "Father/Land: A Personal Search for the New Germany."

This is FRESH AIR.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: Frederick Kempe
High: Editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, Frederick Kempe. As a journalist, he's covered Germany for over twenty years, and is also the son of German immigrants. His new book "Father/land: A Personal Search for the New Germany" is his exploration into his family's past in Germany, and an analysis of Germany today.
Spec: War; Europe; Germany; Lifestyle; Culture; Frederick Kempe

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Germany's New Role In World Affairs

Date: JUNE 09, 1999
Time: 12:00
Tran: 060903NP.217
Head: "The Sopranos" Begin in Reruns
Sect: Entertainment
Time: 12:50

TERRY GROSS, HOST: Tonight on cable TV, HBO begins sequential weekly reruns of its hot new series "The Sopranos." TV critic David Bianculli says it's the biggest TV event of the week, and the regular broadcast networks ought to be very worried about that.

DAVID BIANCULLI, TV CRITIC: HBO executives must be loving the irony of all this. Just as their counterparts at CBS, NBC, ABC and the other broadcast networks must be hating it. For the 1998-99 TV season that ended last month, the best new drama series, and the one that generated the most buzz from viewers and the media, didn't belong to one of the big broadcast networks.

It wasn't "L.A. Docs" on CBS, or "Wind on Water" on NBC, or even "Cupid" on ABC. No, it was "The Sopranos," an HBO drama series, which also is very funny, starring James Gandolfini as a New Jersey mob lost.

When the show premiered in January it got rave reviews from critics and was an instant hit, in HBO terms anyway. And like the show itself, the buzz about "The Sopranos" just got better and better. But it wasn't enough for HBO to beat the networks at their own game and turn out the best new drama series of the season during the season.

Now that it's summer, and the broadcast networks are asleep, HBO is even turning out better reruns. Viewers who came late to "The Sopranos," or who only now are ready to hop aboard the bandwagon, can start watching this week and enjoy the whole thing from the beginning.

Meanwhile, fans who devoured the series from the start can enjoy a second helping. Either way, this second run of "The Sopranos" is the TV event of the week, the month, maybe even the summer.

Gandolfini is terrific as Tony Soprano, a mobster so conflicted at work and at home that he has a series of anxiety attacks and sees a therapist. She's played by Lorraine Bracco, who is also terrific. And the large cast of "The Sopranos" provides one treat after another, with the biggest treat of all being Nancy Marchand, formally Mrs. Pinchon on "Lou Grant," as Tony's mean-spirited mother Livia.

Here's the scene in which we first meet Livia, when her devoted son stops by bearing gifts.




MARCHAND: For who? For me?


MARCHAND: I don't want it.

GANDOLFINI: You don't -- you love music. All the old stuff's being reissued on CD, all your old favorites -- "Pajama Game," Connie Francis. Here.


Come on. Come on, move around a little bit. It's good for you.


GANDOLFINI: Come on. Come on.

MARCHAND: Stop that.

GANDOLFINI: Ma, you need something to occupy your mind. When dad died you were going to do all kinds of things.

MARCHAND: He was a saint.

GANDOLFINI: Yeah, I know he was. But he's gone. You were going to travel. You were going to get a volunteer job. You've done nothing.

MARCHAND: Stop telling me how to live my life. You just shut up.

GANDOLFINI: I just worry about you.

MARCHAND: And don't start with that nursing home business again.

GANDOLFINI: It's not a nursing home. How many times do I got to say this? It's a retirement community. You're with active seniors your own age. You go places. You do things.

MARCHAND: I've seen these women in these nursing homes, in these wheelchairs, babbling like idiots. Here, eat your eggplant.

GANDOLFINI: I told you I already ate lunch.

BIANCULLI: No new network drama series last season even came close to what producer David Chase and company accomplished on The Sopranos, and that's the real point. When cable TV began the broadcast networks had a monopoly on quality TV movies, miniseries, dramas and comedies.

Cable had uncensored stand up comedy and uncut and uninterrupted movies, but that was about it. The came Shelley Duvall's) "Fairy Tale Theater" on Showtime, which also picked up episodes of "The Paper Chase" after CBS and PBS dropped it.

Eventually movies and miniseries made by cable became more ambitious and serious than those on broadcast TV. Recently, HBO gave us "From the Earth to the Moon" an "Citizen X." And in comedy "The Larry Sanders Show," one of the most brilliant sitcoms of the '90s.

And now, with "The Sopranos" and with Tom Fontana's prison drama, "Oz," they've done drama as well. And not just as well, they've done it better. Yes, it's a different economic structure and delivery system, but viewers don't care about that.

All we care about is what we see on the small screen. And from our perspective, "The Sopranos" looks a lot more impressive than "Providence" or "Martial Law."

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for the "New York Daily News."

I'm Terry Gross.

This is a rush transcript. This copy may not
be in its final form and may be updated.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Washington, D.C.
Guest: David Bianculli
High: TV critic David Bianculli on the re-runs of "The Sopranos" which began tonight.
Spec: Entertainment; Television and Radio; Lifestyle; Culture; David Bianculli

Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1999 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1999 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: "The Sopranos" Begin in Reruns
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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