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I first met Peter Bender in early February 1988, several months before his retirement from the Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR). I had received an invitation to his home in Berlin because of my interest in German-French relations, and one of Bender’s guests that evening was Rudolf von Thadden, who would later receive the Federal Republic’s Order of Merit for being a “pioneer of Franco- German understanding”. Reinhard Bendix, the German émigré who had taught sociology at Berkeley since 1947, was also there--a stroke of luck for me personally: I did not understand a word of German at the time, and his American wife, Jane Bendix, kindly translated the gist of the conversation for me. This was the first of many intellectually invigorating evenings I would spend over the next two decades in Peter Bender’s living room, surrounded by the pensive woodcut figures and other naive artwork that he and his wife Eva had collected over the years during their many visits to Poland. After all of the other guests had left, I stayed around until well after midnight, plying Bender with what were, in retrospect, extremely naive questions--I was still an undergraduate!--about the significance of the newly created Franco- German military brigade. He patiently answered all of my queries and listened respectfully to my own artless observations, and I could have stayed all night-- had not Eva discreetly suggested that this was a conversation that could perhaps be continued another time... Upon arriving that mild winter evening more than twenty years ago, I had had no idea who Peter Bender was--or, for that matter, Rudolf von Thadden or Reinhard Bendix. I subsequently learned that Bender had been born in June 1923 and grown up in a conservative middle-class milieu in the Spandau section of Berlin: His grandfather had run unsuccessfully in a Reichstag election against the German Social Democrat Wilhelm Liebknecht, and his father had been a U-Boot officer during the First World War--perhaps a surprising pedigree for a publicist who would later expound such politically progressive positions. Then again, perhaps not: His father, a conservative who argued that one could not sit at the same table with the National Socialists, forbade Peter from participating in the Hitler Jugend. As a result, he was only one of two boys at his school who remained indoors during HJ exercises: The other was his close childhood friend, Egon Bahr, who was excluded because of his Jewish background. Both of them nevertheless became soldiers during the Second World War. Bender fought and was seriously injured in North Africa, but never spoke to me about his wartime experiences--and I never asked about them, sensing that this was a difficult subject for him. In one exchange, however, he did tell me how much encouragement news of the July 20 conspiracy had given him and many of his comrades on the front. After the end of the war, he studied ancient history at the University of Hamburg, where he wrote a dissertation on Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in 218 BC. Though a talented historian, he decided not to remain in a university setting, opting instead for a career in journalism. As he later told me, he found the possibility of just writing “from his chest” and not having to worry about adding a footnote to every sentence to be incredibly liberating. But as those familiar with his later work can attest, he always maintained a rigorous standard for his own scholarship--even in the most polemical of his essays. After working for more than half a decade as a political editor at the Sender Freies Berlin, Bender joined the WDR in 1961 and remained there until his retirement, serving as Berlin correspondent from 1970 to 1988. But it was not just his work in radio that made him one of the Federal Republic’s best known and most respected journalists: His first book, _Offensive Entspannung: Möglichkeit fuer Deutschland_, appeared in 1964, and was followed four years later by _Zehn Gruende fuer die Anerkennung der DDR_. Both books established his reputation as a “Vordenker” of West German _Ostpolitik_. Along with Egon Bahr and other intellectuals who had gathered around Willy Brandt and who, in Berlin, witnessed every day the human dimension of German division in its most concrete form, Bender advocated a dramatic break with the Federal Republic’s policy under Konrad Adenauer of stubbornly refusing to recognize or have any official dealings with the German Democratic Republic. He did this not because of any sympathy with the communist regime itself, but rather because of a genuine and heartfelt desire to improve the lives of others, namely those ordinary East Germans who had paid, and were continuing to pay-- because of a _Geburtsfehler_--a much higher price than their luckier brethren in the West for Germany’s barbaric behavior under the Nazis. Scholars will continue to debate whether or not the demise of state socialism was ultimately the result of the hardline policies advocated by the likes of Adenauer and Ronald Reagan, or the efforts of those like Bender and Brandt who hoped to poke holes in the Iron Curtain and bring about a liberalization beyond the Wall by establishing contact with the socialist leadership. As in most acerbic academic disputes of a political nature, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. But one thing is clear: For Peter Bender, who was a patriot but not a crude nationalist, it was always about the people. In a sense, Bender’s oeuvre can be divided into two phases: The first consisted of a series of books that dealt with (and promoted) détente, and that culminated in his extremely astute but controversial study from 1981, _Das Ende des ideologischen Zeitalters: Die Europäiserung Europas_, which described in a remarkably prescient way many of the developments that would lead to the dramatic dénoument of communism at the close of the decade. The second phase, which began around the time of his retirement, was an equally prolific one: Between 1989 and 2007, Bender published a half dozen books that attempted, with great success, to do what other scholars had largely been unable to accomplish: to treat the history of the two postwar Germanies as a single whole. Written in a clear and elegant style, and generously seasoned with memorable phrases that have frequently been quoted, Peter Bender’s books and the arguments that they advanced were often described as “unconventional” or “unorthodox”, which I always found surprising: To me, they were not only persuasive, but also infinitely _menschlich_ and _vernuenftig_. Some have also referred to his books somewhat dismissively as mere “essays” because they lacked the requisite scholarly apparatus of lengthy footnotes and archival citations, or noted with disapproval their somewhat old-fashioned focus on “high politics”. But like those of his close friend Sebastian Haffner, Bender’s publications usually contained more wisdom and insight, and did more to enlighten the lay public, than most of the weighty tomes produced by the occupants of German university _Lehrstuehle_ and their vast teams of _Hiwis_. His books were low on jargon and theory, but rich in “common sense”-- something no longer fashionable in our postmodern age. But Peter Bender was never a slave of fashion. A red thread ran through Bender’s first publication in the early 1960s to his last one, _Deutschlands Wiederkehr. Eine ungeteilte Nachkriegsgeschichte, 1945- 1990_, which appeared just a year and a half before his death: an untiring commitment to promote greater understanding in the West for those who lived in the East. And this was not just limited to the two Germanies: In hundreds of articles that appeared in leading journals like _Die Zeit_, _Monat_, and _Merkur_, Bender tirelessly attempted to increase awareness of and appreciation for those who lived beyond the Iron Curtain--above all the Poles, and especially since his stint as the ARD radio correspondent in Warsaw between 1973 and 1975. As an American, I was always curious to hear how he viewed my own country and its role in the world. Like many Germans of his generation, Peter Bender’s feelings about the United States were ambivalent: ones of admiration tempered by wariness. Henry Kissinger had invited him several times to Harvard University in the late 1960s, so--unlike many Germans who are critical of the US--he actually knew the country firsthand. He was put off by what he considered to be the arrogance of American rule in its conduct of foreign affairs, and blamed American influence--somewhat unfairly, I think--for many of the developments in his own country that he looked upon unfavorably. He was a fierce critic of the first Gulf War of the early 1990s, and an article that he wrote condemning it (and one that several of the mainstream German newspapers refused to publish) evoked images of soldiers suffering a horrible death in the desert sands of Iraq. Clearly the war had touched a nerve, one that apparently brought back memories of his own harrowing experiences as a young soldier in North Africa. His penultimate book was a return to his intellectual roots in antiquity, so to speak: a comparison of the American and Roman “empires” . This was, as he liked to joke, his first “bestseller”, and it represented a true departure from his earlier work. In it, Bender once again demonstrated his fairness, as well as his uncanny ability to empathize with his subjects. He was at great pains to explain the rationale behind America’s global actions, even those he was critical of, and refused to say, in the end, whether or not the United States had been a blessing or a curse for the world: One would only be able to tell, he wisely concluded, after it was no longer an empire. Peter Bender died in Berlin on October 11, 2008 of complications from a lung infection that he had contracted two weeks earlier--on the very day that he had submitted an extremely critical but refreshingly personal review in the _Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung_ of the fifth and final volume of Hans- Ulrich Wehler’s _Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte_. He is survived by his wife, Eva, whose unremitting love and support over a half century allowed her husband to be as productive as he was. He is also survived by his daughter Beate and son Wolfgang, as well as by his four grandchildren. Peter Bender was my lodestar for the past twenty years, and I--like many others--will miss him sorely. Andrew Port Wayne State University