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In the compact geography of central Berlin, there is hardly a block that does not bear a telling trace of one or another extreme of human possibility. Of all nations, Germany’s experience is distinctive, incorporating as it does not only what is commonly referred to as the "catastrophe" of Nazism and the eviscerating East-West schism that followed over the wintry course of the Cold War, but also the remarkable post-war and post-Wall renovation. Confidence, innovation, accomplishment and success are everywhere evident in the broad, rebuilt streets streaming with cyclists and traffic, no less than in the ubiquity of remembrance and the memorialisation of atrocity and error. Just how inescapable the perpetual shadow of history is, was brought home to me when I joined a group of fellow South Africans early in September on a visit to the German capital as a guest of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, a leading agent of the democratic consensus and the elaboration of freedom as...

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