A decade ago even this simple question brought angst and discomfort to the German hearer. Germans were sort-of second class Americans, or a universal Euro hybrid, the same as the Spanish, Czechs and Maltese. Even the idea that a German could have a unique perspective, special gifts and talents, or a more successful method of application, brought pain and denial.
At times there was even the hint of a warning that this "kind" of talk was not welcome nor useful in post-war Germany. When faced with this one had to shake one's head in disbelief that this effort in infantile denial of the obvious could actually exist in Europe's most intelligent and prosperous people. The German head-in-the-sand mentality.
At one time this, and a far broader series of denials, made some sense; was possibly even prudent. Yet, for the last two decades it has been no longer prudent nor funny. It has become a sick excuse that fits nicely in with a pattern of avoidance of responsibility, a pretense that suits the modern German; leaving the rest of the world wanting: A form of robbery. Most recently, generally with a slightly comedic or cynical edge, Germany has allowed some discussion. Slowly the concept of unique German traits has begun to take place. A mosaic once clear, and then obscured, is being revealed anew.
These traits hadn't went anywhere, and have been an integral part of every German success; every German endeavor; from the smallest family unit to the largest corporation. They were simply too unique, too effective, and too close to the Nazi's early successes to be acknowledged out loud.
In the post-war period it was easy to tell a German how bad or how common they were and get little reaction. Yet to suggest that something good -- even very good -- was within them was normally the end of the conversation, or certainly a quick change of topic. One of the most absolute truths in Germany is that there is no greater sin than to like Germans.
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