Germany’s crooked path over the past century is a tale of depravity followed by penance and redemption. When I was growing up, Germany’s division seemed like just punishment for the crimes of Nazism.
When I arrived in Germany as an exchange student in 1990, nobody could fully grasp the implications of the country’s sudden reunification. Today we know the European Union’s extraordinary expansion eastward would have been unthinkable without it.
Even though I know it better than any other European country, Germany still amazes me with its conservatism. An emphasis on tradition translates into attention to quality and a healthy skepticism toward technology. But it also means inflexibility and a reluctance to change.
For decades, the principals at a boxy, two-story kindergarten in downtown Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, unwittingly pored over their lesson plans just a few feet above one of the city’s most sacred sites.
Based in Berlin and Moscow, I’ve reported from the former Soviet empire since 1996. I started working as National Public Radio’s Moscow correspondent in December 2016. Before that I contributed to Reuters, Slate, Bloomberg and The Moscow Times, among others.