Marx talks about distorted awareness. Later, the SED did the same. Today, we (former) West Germans have to ask ourselves if we are, maybe, have a distorted historical awareness.
Shortly before the 20-year jubilee of the Berlin Wall demolition, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, along with BILD had an idea. They invited the “fathers of the re-unification” to come to Berlin. George Bush Senior, Michail Gorbatschow, Helmut Kohl.
The fathers of the re-unification?
I remember well what it was like in 1989. Enchanted by what I saw, I sat in my TV armchair and exchanged wise comments with my friends about the meaning of this historical event. It was the East Germans who did all the hard work. They risked a lot during their demonstrations and only found out afterwards that it had not been their lives that were at risk.
The wall was opened, then came the three “fathers” and signed the contracts for their “youngsters”. Now we benevolently celebrate the victory of the Western System and the unconditioned annexation of the GDR.
To be sure, it cost money. That was something we had more of. What I would like to emphasize at this point is that the East Germans made the re-unification happen, not the West. Neither is the popular judgement that we simply soaked the East Germans up anywhere near the truth.
Our female image was considerably influenced by East German women and a woman from East Germany is now the first female Federal Chancellor. I leave it to future documentations to analyse how far the East German influence reached above the commonly well-known green traffic light figure. Due to more time that will have gone by, future documentations will have an easier time of it.
While the East Germans, after their tour de force of re-unification, also got their curriculum vitae massively upset – what exactly did we in the West do? We sat through two more unifications. The one from bottom to top and the one from outside to inside.
On the issue of unification from bottom to top, Frau von der Leyen – in a lightweight approach – created a few thousand extra children for the middle class. In doing so, she also made it clear that, unfortunately, there is nothing she can do for the 1.7 million lower-class children. As to the unification from outside to inside, at least we have started wondering whether a common language might be helpful.
It is human that we easy-going Germans appreciate the comfortable historical view from the perspective of our armchairs. However, we should then at least refrain from calling ourselves the makers of history.
Soon, there will be another phenomenon we will view. The next two unifications are knocking at the door: the one from the bottom and the one from outside will happen without our active involvement.
(Translated by EG)