University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame

America - Europe

A Transatlantic Diary 1961 - 1989

Klaus Lanzinger


(The dates of entries for references to passages in the text that are relevant to the topics discussed are given in parentheses.)

The entries in this Diary begin in 1961, the year when the Berlin Wall was erected, and they end in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Events of the 1990s are also included in the following final reflections. It has been pointed out in the Foreword that the attention of what was written down was drawn to the following subjects: 1) The civil rights movement in the United States; 2) The European integration and questions of European security; 3) Space travel and exploration; and 4) The emerging common world civilization. Consciously, also my own immigration experience to the United States was recorded. Summing-up, a number of conclusions can be drawn from these observations.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, German reunification was approached immediately. In a series of negotiations, the domestic and foreign policy conditions for unification were laid down. In the so-called “Two-plus-Four” Talks (the two German States, plus the United States, the USSR, Great Britain, and France) the foreign policy issues of German unification were discussed. Decisive for reunification was the State Treaty on creating a common currency as well as a common economic and social order, on which the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic had agreed. The Treaty was signed in Bonn on May 18 and went into effect on July 1, 1990. Thereby, the German Democratic Republic accepted the free, democratic form of government under the “Grundgesetz,” the basic constitutional law of the Federal Republic. The German Democratic Republic was dissolved on October 3, 1990, and, at the same time, the German unification completed.

The Civil Rights Movement in the United States

To assume that the racial issue in America has been completely solved would mean to expect too much. The misery of the ghettos in the inner cities still persists and the evil spirit of racial prejudices has not been totally overcome. But on the other hand, it would mean to close one’s eyes if one would not acknowledge the great progress that has been made since the civil rights legislation of 1964. The Civil Rights Act of July 3, 1964 guaranteed the African American minority as well as minorities in general legal equality in American society. Racial discrimination as it was still practiced at the beginning of the 1960s belongs definitely to the past. Racial conflicts have decidedly been defused since the end of the 1970s. In the meantime, a considerable, well educated African American middle class has been formed, whose members can be seen in all professions and positions. The racial issue in America has not been solved completely but mastered to a large extent. I pointed out in 1964 that the America of the future can only be imagined as an integrated society (07-25-64). This holds true even more so at the beginning of the 21st century.

The European Integration

By my encounter with America, it had become clear to me early on that Europe would inevitably fall behind if it should not be possible to realize the European integration (06-23­-61). European integration has been a slow, step-by-step process that also had its setbacks.

The first impetus to European integration was given by Robert Schuman, who, as French foreign minister, established the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in 1951. The ECSC consisted of six member states: France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, and the three Benelux States - Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. German-French cooperation was essential for the further development of European integration. By the Treaties of Rome in March of 1957, the ECSC was changed into the European Economic Community (EEC), also called the Common Market, and by merging with the European Atomic Energy Community formed the European Community (EC). In July 1959, Great Britain, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, and the neutral countries Austria, Sweden, and Switzerland united to establish the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) with the headquarters in Geneva. As a result, next to the EEC, a separate free trade zone was created in Western Europe. But the center of gravity for the development of European integration lay in the EC. From 1973 to 1986 the number of member states in the EC increased from 6 to 12. Great Britain joining the EC in 1973 was of historic significance (01-­02-73). In the same year, Ireland and Denmark joined the EC; 1981 Greece became a member; Portugal and Spain followed in 1986. Thereby, the European Community reached the total number of 12 member states. At the beginning of the 1990s, two essential steps were taken for the realization of European integration. By the Treaty of Maastricht in 1991, the EC was changed into the European Union (EU). The Maastricht Treaty went into effect on November 1, 1993. It stipulated the European economic union and a common European currency. In 1995, Finland, Austria, and Sweden were admitted to the EU, whereby the number of its member states increased to 15. The Schengener Agreement abolished, starting in March 1996, border controls in most EU countries. Extraordinary political will of cooperation was shown in introducing the common European currency. The wish of many years of having a common currency (07 -beginning-77) was fulfilled by introducing the Euro on January 1, 2002.

The European integration is still facing big tasks ahead. It is about interior consolidation and at the same time exterior expansion. In regard to interior consolidation, the European Parliament as legislative body and the European Court of Justice should be strengthened so that their transnational, federal authority becomes more effective. In regard to exterior expansion, a number of associated countries in Central and Eastern Europe are waiting to be admitted to the EU. Among them are the three Baltic States - Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia - , Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovania, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. How large and effective will this new, united Europe be?

European Security - Breakup of the Soviet Union

During the decades of the Cold War, Western Europe was exposed to a dual danger: On the one hand, there was the danger from outside of being overrun by the Communist East; and on the other hand, the danger from inside of being undermined by Eurocommunism. The helplessness and powerlessness of the free Europe were painfully felt when the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961, and when Czechoslovakia was invaded in August, 1968 (08-­21-68). The Warsaw Pact States were far superior to the West in conventional weapons. The defense of Western Europe depended to a large extent, within the framework of NATO, on the nuclear protection by the United States.

The social upheavals, wild demonstrations and strikes in Western Europe in the 1960s and ‘70s destabilized the Western democratic governments. Especially alarming were the Italian parliamentary elections of June 1976, for Communism was standing at the door (06-15 and 23-76). A Communist government in Italy could have been a great worry to the Atlantic Alliance. The East had intended to dissolve NATO and to disconnect Western Europe from America. Following that, Moscow would have had an easy going in getting the whole of Europe under its sphere of influence. It did not happen. As a collective defense alliance, NATO proved to be very steadfast.

Having her SS-20 intermediate-range missiles targeted at Western Europe, the Soviet Union could have put Western Europe under pressure. The Council of NATO Ministers demonstrated, above all upon insistence by Margaret Thatcher, strength of purpose, when it decided on December 12, 1979 to go ahead to upgrade nuclear armament in Western Europe (12-22-79). Moscow was obviously convinced that the Western democracies would not be able to endure the resistance of the peace movement against the deployment of the Pershing II missiles (10-11 and 25-81). A gigantic struggle for the soul of Europe ensued, which finally ended in favor of the West.

The Berlin Wall was not only the horrifying reality of the divided city but also the symbol of the divided Germany and the divided Europe. Until late into the 1980s, it had not been possible to imagine when and how the tragedy of the divided Europe would one day end. During the decades of the Cold War, one continuously lived in the not unfounded fear that a nuclear war could break out. The great historic turning point came toward the end of the 1980s and at the beginning of the ‘90s, when the liberation movements in Eastern Europe tore down the Iron Curtain and brought the Cold War to an end.

The monumental sculpture “Breakthrough,” which Edwina Sandys created from large slabs of the dismantled Berlin Wall, stands on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri (12-beginning-89). It has many-sided meanings. The breakthrough in bringing down the Berlin Wall and ending the Cold War took place on several levels over a number of years. The human rights catalogue of the final accords of the Helsinki Agreement of 1975 proved to be a time fuse (03-beginning-77). The voices demanding more freedom could not be silenced anymore. Lech Walesa and the independent Solidarity Trade Union gave the impetus to overcome Communism in Poland. The historic first pastoral pilgrimage of John Paul II to his homeland Poland in June of 1979 had its effect throughout the entire East (06-10-79). The meeting of Ronald Reagan with Mikhail Gorbachev in Geneva in November, 1985, was the great historic moment for ending the Cold War. From Geneva, a direct way led, despite the misunderstandings in Reykjavik in October of 1986, to the summit meeting in Washington at the beginning of December, 1987, when the INF Treaty was signed (12-08-87). That was a milestone in nuclear disarmament, for an entire class of nuclear weapons was eliminated by the two superpowers. Intermediate-range missiles were dismantled on both sides of the Iron Curtain, whereby the danger of a nuclear war was substantially reduced.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was the bursting of the dam that could not be stopped anymore. In 1990-91, the democracy movement took hold of all the countries in the East Bloc from the Baltic to the Black Sea; it also spilled over into the Soviet Union. With “Perestroika” and “Glasnost,” Gorbachev had encouraged restructuring and the liberation movement, but he could not control anymore the forces he had unleashed. In the second half of 1991, the events that led to the break-up of the Soviet Union followed in rapid succession. In the first free election on June 13, 1991, Boris Yeltsin was elected with a vast majority president of the Russian Republic, by far the largest Republic of the Soviet Union. On August 19, 1991, hard-core Communists carried out a coup. When Gorbachev was put under house arrest on the Crimea by the insurgents, the world held its breath. It was feared that the Soviet Union could fall back to the dark age of Stalinism. At that moment, Boris Yeltsin stood up in front of the Duma Building in Moscow, rallied the resistance to the insurgents, confronted the advancing tanks, and persuaded the troops to withdraw. The coup collapsed as fast as it had en instigated.

After the coup, Gorbachev remained isolated in the Kremlin, while power shifted more and more to Boris Yeltsin. Tendencies to separate from the Soviet Union were let to take their course. After the referendum of December 2, 1991, in which 92% of the Ukrainian electorate had voted for independence, the Ukraine separated from the Soviet Union. At the conference on December 21, 1991, in Alma-Ata, the capital of Kazakhstan, the Soviet Union under the leadership of Boris Yeltsin was, after 75 years in existence, dissolved. On December 25, Gorbachev resigned as president of a state that actually did not exist anymore. The Soviet Union had imploded, collapsing under its own weight. The former republics of the Soviet Union joined Russia in forming the loosely binding Commonwealth of Independent States.

With the end of Communism in Eastern Europe and in Russia, a new world situation has emerged which has also profoundly changed the question of security in Europe. When Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary were admitted to NATO in 1999, the three most important countries in Eastern Central Europe, committed to the principles of democracy, were integrated into the Western Defense Alliance. There was no danger anymore that Western Europe would be overrun from the East. But different questions of security have arisen. Nonetheless, as before, the North Atlantic Defense Alliance remains the best guarantee for European security. However, the European Union should do more for its own protection and speak with one voice more effectively in foreign politics.

Space Travel and Exploration

The development of manned and unmanned space travel and exploration was the exciting, fascinating event of the second half of the 20th century. Manned space travel began with Yuri Gagarin, who, as the first human, orbited Earth on April 12, 1961. John Glenn, Jr., followed, when he, as the first American astronaut, orbited Earth on February 20, 1962 (04-15-61). The goal of NASA’s Apollo Program in the 1960s was to land on the Moon. Exciting and full of suspense was the moment when on December 24, 1968, Apollo 8 entered the far side of the Moon, losing radio contact with Earth, and then reappeared on the television screen (12-24-68). Fascinating was the image of the rising Earth in space seen from the Moon. The climax of the Apollo Program was reached when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969 (07-20-69). When Neil Armstrong, as the first human, set his foot on the surface of the Moon, the entire human race identified itself with him. One had the feeling of experiencing the beginning of a new age. There was jubilation and a whirl of excitement broke loose. The lunar landing was the most significant exploratory enterprise of the 20th century. The door was flung wide open for future manned space travels. The series of manned lunar landings was concluded with the flight of Apollo 17 at the beginning of December, 1972.

After completion of the Apollo Program, NASA was at first preoccupied with building the first American space station Skylab, which, however, was soon discontinued at the beginning of February 1974. Thereafter, NASA devoted its efforts to the Space Shuttle Program. Space shuttles provided carriers for space flights, which landed like an airplane on a runway and could be reused several times. On April 14, 1981, the first space shuttle Columbia made a picture book landing, gliding down on the runway of the Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert in Southern California (04-14-81). After landing, the Columbia was mounted on a Boeing 747 and flown back to Cape Canaveral, where it was prepared in the Kennedy Space Center for its next flight into space. The space shuttle proved to be an outstanding vehicle for supply delivery to the space station and other missions in space. The repair work by the space shuttle Endeavour of the space telescope Hubble at the beginning of December 1993 was a spectacular feat.

The Soviet Space agency put the space station MIR into orbit in 1986. In its 15 years of operation, MIR was a considerable success. In August 1999 MIR was put out of operation. When its orbit was finally lowered in March 2001, it burned out entering the atmosphere, while some smoldering parts splashed into the South Pacific. MIR was replaced by the International Space Station (ISS). The United States and Russia have cooperated in operating MIR as well as in building the new ISS. On October 31, 2000, a Soyuz spacecraft was launched from the Russian Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying two Russian cosmonauts and one American astronaut to the International Space Station. From then on, the ISS has been permanently occupied, orbiting Earth every 90 minutes. 16 nations are participating in the construction of the International Space Station.

Unmanned space exploration has been no less fascinating. When on October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union put the satellite Sputnik into orbit around Earth, it started a fierce competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in space exploration and for the control of space technology. While Russia landed probes on Venus, America remained focused on the exploration of the planet Mars. After a year long journey through space, the American space probe Viking 1 had a soft landing on Mars on July 20, 1976. The pictures sent back to Earth showed for the first time a landscape similar to that on Earth (07-20-76). This impression got even stronger when on July 4, 1997, the space probe Pathfinder landed on Mars. At that Mars landing, it was possible to set a robot in motion from Earth on another planet. The robot carried out mineral tests on rock samples. The wider panoramic view of the Martian landscape showed sand dunes, boulders, large rocks, hills and mountain ranges, as they can be seen on Earth. Time and again, the precision by which the team of scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, had planned and carried out this Mars mission, was astonishing. At the same time, space probes traveled for many years through the outer solar system, flying by and exploring the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. When after a 12 year journey through space, the end of August, 1989, the space probe Voyager 2 was approaching the planet Neptune, a veritable Neptune fever broke out (08-26-89). It was an exciting moment to experience how Voyager 2 reached the outer fringe of the solar system and was still capable of transmitting clear pictures back to Earth. Flying closely by Neptune, new moons and rings were discovered.

Space exploration did not only increase our knowledge of the solar system by leaps and bounds but it has also essentially changed the image of our planet Earth.

A Common World Civilization

After World War II great efforts were made, following a strong inner need, to promote understanding among peoples and to work for peace. It was a deep-felt need to reach out beyond one’s own borders to get to know and understand other countries and different civilizations. Much good will has been spent on this endeavor. The many foreign studies programs of colleges and universities have been a significant part of this endeavor; also the many city partnerships across Europe and across the Atlantic have contributed to it. Private foundations and government programs made the exchange of students, teachers, scholars and artists possible. Especially intensive have been the efforts toward promoting better mutual understanding between America and Europe. The Fulbright Program has made an essential contribution to the transatlantic exchange of persons.

After having spent six months on research in the United States in 1961, moving from the East coast to California and back, I became keenly aware of a new international development - people from countries around the world, of different races and cultures coming together engaged in a dialogue. As I noted about these newly established international ties: “This is not just a fashion or ephemeral phase of our time, but is more akin to a tidal wave that will mold and shape mankind into a new form and way of existence” (09-­17-61). I saw great hope for the future in that development. Actually, international interaction has come about to an extent that would have been unimaginable at the beginning of the 1960s. Technology moved ahead of this development and has profoundly changed the modern way of living. Air travel, television and the Internet have brought the world closer together. Most effective were the revolutionary innovations in digital information technologies, initiated in Silicon Valley (12-24-86). Also, space exploration has created a new feeling of mankind belonging together as a whole.

Following the Western, American-European model, a common world civilization has originated, for which English has become the common language of communication. Besides the advantages of this new development, also drawbacks have shown up from early on. After flying from New York to Paris early June 1974, it came to my attention that the newly ­built Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris was surprisingly similar to the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. Air travel is only one example of an increasingly spreading conformity, which can be seen on highways, in the entertainment industry, and in supermarkets. Department stores in malls and shopping centers offer the same brand name articles worldwide. Globalization in its many fold structures is irreversible, a development that cannot be stopped anymore. Great efforts are needed to ease the tensions that have arisen and to create a common world in a humane spirit.

The Immigration Experience

Immigration is an elemental American experience shared by the vast majority of the American population. Although each immigration is an individual matter, it also includes elements of a collective experience. Thus, my own immigration experience has passed through stages which are also typical for the immigration to the United States in general. The decision to immigrate to America caused an immediate split of misunderstandings with family and friends in the home country (07-beginning-69). How could you leave such a beautiful place like Innsbruck and go to America? There were many answers to that question. First of all, my wife and I liked Notre Dame and felt attracted to America. When the University of Notre Dame offered me a professorship with tenure, we seized the opportunity to move here for good. Distancing or alienation from our home country has increased over the years. Not that we lost our love of our home country Austria, but we got out of touch with reality, while an idealized image of our old homeland took hold of our imagination. This has been a common experience of immigration from Europe to America. A further consequence of immigration is the loss of one’s native language. The ability to use one’s own native language diminishes in the course of several years. In the inevitable pull of English, we noticed already after the first year living in America that our ability of expression or finding the right word in German was slowing down. Although we spoke German at home, our children who learned English fast in school conversed in English with each other (06-26-68). As a matter of fact, use of the native language diminishes in the second generation after immigration and disappears completely in the third generation. The decisive reorientation to American reality came at the moment of naturalization as U.S. citizen (06-29-82). However, complete adaptation to the American way of life may take years if not decades.

The stream of people from Europe has historically been the largest and culturally forming immigration to North America. According to a tabulation compiled for the Bicentennial in 1976, 46.7 million people immigrated to the United States from 1820-1974. Of these, 35.8 million came from Europe (01-18-76). To what extent are Americans aware of their European origin? The U.S. census 1980 not only registered foreign-born citizens and residents, but for the first time also ancestry awareness that may go back for several generations. Out of a total U.S. population of 226 million, about 215 million indicated that they were of European origin. That included single and multiple ancestry groups, meaning that a person could identify with one or more ethnic groups. There were nearly 50 European ethnic groups to choose from. The large ancestry groups with 900,000 or more persons showed the following data:

English (49.5 million); German (49.2 m); Irish (40.2 m); French (12.8 m); Italian (12.1 m); Scottish (10.0 m); Polish (8.2 m); Dutch (6.3 m); Swedish (4.3 m); Norwegian (3.4 m); Russian (2.7 m); Czech (1.8 m); Hungarian (1.7 m); Welsh (1.6 m); Danish (1.5 m); Portuguese (1.0 m); Swiss ( 981 thousand); Greek ( 959 thousand); Austrian ( 948 thousand).

[These data on foreign ancestry were provided to me by courtesy of the Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C., in 1986.] The records of the Ellis Island Immigration Museum indicate that the ties of Americans to families in Europe are of a more recent date. About 40% of the American population can trace their origin to ancestors who had immigrated through Ellis Island (07-04-86). Newly updated records show that from 1892 to 1954 nearly 23 million people were processed at Ellis Island, most of whom had come from Europe.

The above quoted figures demonstrate that the awareness of European ancestry is astonishingly widespread among the American population. But the cultural ties with Europe go deeper than the immigration statistics would show. Americans consider it as a matter of course that they partake of the European cultural heritage. It is assumed quite naturally that it is also their heritage. Several entries in the diary refer to this natural attitude and desire for European culture (02-25-79 and 11-28-87). Works of the visual arts from Europe as well as literary manuscripts, first editions, and valuable collections, which were primarily acquired by private foundations, are being preserved in America with great care and touching dedication. At the many music schools of colleges and universities classical music is being cultivated more than one would generally expect. Liberal Arts colleges, whose tradition goes back to colonial times, have made the most essential contribution to the understanding of European art and literature in America.

The tales and novels of Henry James clearly show that Europe or the Old World has an illusory effect on the American psyche. The many Americans who go to Europe every year follow for the most part their ideal of the Old World. They are driven by the desire to see the great works of art in museums, they look for the idyllic, fairy tale landscape, stroll through the picturesque old cities and are guided through castles and palaces. The Jason figure of Thomas Wolfe pursues this journey through the historic cities and museums of the Old World - Bonn, Frankfurt, the Alte Pinakothek in Munich and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna - with a passion that cannot be explained by a tourist’s interest alone. Wolfe saw the passionate desire of the traveling American in Europe related to the Jason myth and called it “blazoned with the Jason fire.”

But will these strong bonds with Europe persist? In recent decades, a remarkable turning point in American immigration history has occurred. The predominant European immigration has been replaced by the immigration from Asia and Latin America. The U.S. census 2000 shows a considerable demographic shift in the ethnic-racial composition of the American population. The results of the census 2000 were made public on March 12, 2001. According to the tabulation of The New York Times of March 13, 2001, of a total U.S. population of 281.4 million 69.1% (194 m) were white, 12.1% (34 m) black, 12.5% (35 m) Hispanic, and 3.6% (10 m) Asian. While the portion of the white population decreased by 5% since the census 1990, that of the Hispanic increased by 3% and of the Asian by 0.8%. The portion of the African-American population remained the same. Surprising is the increase of the Hispanic population from 22.4 million in 1990 to 35 million in 2000. The American Population will soon reach the 300 million mark. Demographic calculations predict that in the coming decades the white and the non-white population in America will more and more balance each other. To a certain extent, the attitude toward Europe will inevitably change. But in my opinion, this change will not be far-reaching. American history is too closely connected with Europe that a fundamental change could take place.

The Atlantic Community

During World War II and in the following conflict with Communism, America and Europe have grown together to a “Schicksalsgemeinschaft,” a community of fate. The reconstruction of the war-ravaged Europe was started by the European Recovery Program or Marshall Plan (06-05-87), which created the prerequisites for the closely interwoven economic cooperation across the Atlantic. As collective defense organization, NATO strengthened the Atlantic Alliance (05-29-89). The gigantic confrontation with Communism in the second half of the 20th century ended in favor of the West.

The Atlantic Community has been a new historical development after World War II. For nearly 200 years, since the Declaration of Independence in 1776, America and Europe held politically opposite views. It was the struggle of democracy and freedom against monarchy, tyranny and dictatorship. Before an Atlantic partnership could be formed, the idea of democracy had to be accepted in Europe and America had to overcome 150 years of isolation. The image of America in Europe has been highly ambivalent for centuries. It was more based on myth, utopia, and negative prejudices than reality. Only the extensive research in American history, literature, intellectual and social history in recent decades has led to a more accurate image of America in Europe. But the endeavors to overcome the deep-seated prejudices may still take some time.

As a number of passages in the diary point out, a far-reaching convergence or mutual adaptation in lifestyle, living standard and consumer goods has come about between America and Europe. This also holds true of the mutual understanding of liberal democracy. There will always be differences of opinion and tensions between America and Europe. But these differences should not obscure the fact that what unites America and Europe is stronger than what sets them apart. What unites America and Europe are a common history, the great European immigration to America, and a common cultural heritage. However, what binds America and Europe together even stronger are shared values: The respect for the dignity of the human person, the protection of civil liberties, and the prerogative of the parliamentary democratic form of government.

Has the puzzle America been solved? Not really, for one lifetime would not be enough for the task. But the many observations in this diary about America and transatlantic relations that span over four decades try to enlighten many of the puzzling questions. I hope that this volume will contribute to a better understanding of America and American-European relations.

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