In the Ashes of a German Past, a Vision of Europe's Future

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There is renewed interest in redesigning Weimar, Germany, creating a 21st-century concept for an 18th-century city. When a fire swept through the rococo library in this fabled city of Goethe and Schiller last year, the loss of some 30,000 books, manuscripts and irreplaceable, handwritten musical scores from the 16th to the 18th centuries was clearly incalculable.

But it turns out, a commission appointed by the German government reports, that faulty wiring in the library, the assumed cause of the fire, was not the only problem for Weimar, which has more great cultural monuments per capita than just about any other city in Europe.

Weimar, in the former East Germany, decayed badly under the Communists, and after reunification in 1990 the new federal government didn't do much to make things better.

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