Land of the poets and thinkers. Goethe was German, as were Bach and Beethoven. And yet as a nation of culture Germany still has no national authority with overall responsibility for culture for the country as a whole. According to the Basic Law, culture is the responsibility of the individual federal states. Yet why are cultural affairs something that the nation itself as a whole cannot, or is not meant to, govern? Ever since the era of Kaiser Wilhelm II in the late 19th century, German culture as the expression of a single German nation was suspected of being the reflection of a craving for status. The disaster of National Socialism ultimately resulted in a re-alignment. Following the Second World War the opinion gradually gained sway that Germany would only be able to return to the world community if it avoided all semblance of exaggerated emotionalism as regards the national culture. This is one of the reasons why, when the Federal Republic was founded in 1949, one bore the federal tradition in mind and handed over cultural sovereignty to the federal states. Only since 1999 has a State Minister for Culture and Media been part of the Federal Chancellery. Since then Germany has once again seen this or that cultural matter as being something the entire country should be involved with. Federal film production was re-organized, and the German Federal Cultural Foundation founded. Berlin is increasingly turning into a magnet for the creative class, and has already become a cultural force, a melting pot of cultures, whose museums are a reflection of the history of humanity. The Holocaust Memorial is testimony hewn in stone to how Germany as a cultural nation is dealing with its history. It is impressive proof of a form of national cultural policy that has become necessary since the dawn of the 21st century. Cultural federalism, in turn, kindles the ambition of the federal states. Cultural policy is local policy. Over many years, the Ruhr district, for example, a former mining and steel-producing region in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, has re-invented itself as a cultural region.
© Young Germany