Loading ...

Who is Germany?
—a 3 part radio series

Produced & presented by Michael Shirrefs


First broadcast on ABC RN’s Creative Instinct program, November/December 2012.
In a world of global ambitions and amorphous regions, Europe has become emblematic of the struggle between the need for collective cooperation and the fear of becoming lost in a vast, culturally homogenous mass. And in the current crisis of confidence about the future of the European ‘project’, one country sits as a symbol of all the tension and all the uncertainty.


Germany is once again right at the heart of global events and its role in the unfolding drama is being examined from all the obvious political and economic angles. But to understand what the future might hold for Europe, it helps to understand something of the identity of the main player.


So who is Germany? This series of three programs aims to provide some useful vignettes of how Germany sees itself, and how the country is perceived from the outside.

Who is Germany? Part 1

This week, Creative Instinct begins a 3-part series that will look at aspects of a country that, once again, finds itself at a pivot point of history—Germany.


Germany is a relatively modern construct, but a lot has happened in its 140+ years. The 20th Century saw Germany play a central role in some of the most seismic global events. In recovery from both WWII and the Cold War, Germany somehow managed to reinvent itself as an economic powerhouse. And yet, once again, events have conspired to give Germany a decisive part in a global drama.


Economic commentators and political pundits tie themselves in knots trying to figure out the future of European economies, but understanding some of the underlying elements of German modern identity may help us to better interpret how events in Europe will unfold.


In this program we hear from some keen socio-political observers, who have thought much about the question of ‘Who is Germany?’


First broadcast on Creative Instinct, ABC RN, on 17-11-2012

Creative InstinctWho is Germany? Part 1

Who is Germany? Part 2

In the second of our series where we’re piecing together a picture of modern Germany, we step away from the political sphere for a street-level view.


The cultural identity of modern Germany has many facets, some historical and others very contemporary. The tricky issues of migrant Germany are as crucial to understanding the German psyche as is the rich tradition of romantic literature and enlightenment thinking.


From Weimar to Kreuzberg, this episode finds a human view of Germany today.


First broadcast on Creative Instinct, ABC RN, on 24-11-2012

Creative InstinctWho Is Germany? (Part 2)

Who is Germany? Part 3

In our final exploration of German identity, a look at this European country’s remarkable capacity of collaboration and innovation—in industry, in music and in healing the rifts of history.


It’s the land that applied its national quality of focus and discipline to manufacturing and turned it into an economic art-form. But it takes much more than discipline to continually reinvent and adapt to industrial and social change.


Germany has maintained a premium edge in cars and technology as it adjusts to a global marketplace, but it’s also required some very nuanced social agility to cope with the divisions and upheavals of the Cold War and the subsequent unification.


First broadcast on Creative Instinct, ABC RN, on 1-12-2012

Creative InstinctWho Is Germany? (Part 3)
Guests in Part 1

Gesine Schwan

Richard Meng

Pierre Thibaudat

Michel-Eric Dufeil

Martin Grabert

Lars Klein

Kenan Kolat



Guests in Part 2

Hasan Togrulca

Nele Togrulca

Ute Philipp

Christian Philipp

Nele Hertling

Karl Beucke

Elke Richter

Manfred Koltes

Breandáin O’Shea

Gabriele Landwehr

Ariane Pauls



Guests in Part 3

Mate Galic

Daniel Haver

Thomas Esch

Bob Carr

Manuel Sattig

Petra Prieß

Tim Florence

Manfred Fischer




Producer & Presenter—Michael Shirrefs

Sound Engineer—John Jacobs

More Information


This project was made possible through the German Grant for Journalism, awarded to Michael Shirrefs by the German Embassy in Canberra and the National Press Club of Australia, as well as the generous support of the Goethe-Institut and the German Foreign Office in Berlin.


Many thanks to the Goethe-Institut’s Visitors Program and, in particular, organisers Nisha Anders and Friederike von Saß, and guides Ariane Pauls, Annette Diepenbrock and Katharina Daun.

© 2012, Michael Shirrefs & ABC RN

Filed under: radio features, works