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November 12, 2009 7:50 AM   Subscribe

"In hindsight, it’s often seen as inevitable that the two Germanys would reunite. But this, too, is a somewhat revisionist view. " Tim Mohr writes about the "awkward twist" about the fall of the wall, many of the protestors did not seek unification.
posted by The Whelk (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, when Tim Mohr says something in a wholly conclusory fashion without citing any sources, and throws in a few potshots at his ideological foes besides, I'm inclined to trust in it absolutely.

DOUBLE BACON CHEESEBURGER.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:57 AM on November 12, 2009


Yeah, I have to say that Mr. Mohr's version of events doesn't really match the version I've heard, and in the absence of any documentation of evidence or any level of detail at all I'm not inclined to believe him. My uncle was in the opposition party and he never mentioned being disappointed at reunification. I've spoken to a lot of former Easterners, one of them a political prisoner who had been bought out of jail by the West, and none of them mentioned any desire for an independent Eastern Germany. I know a couple of other people who had been forging passports for Easterners in the 60s and they were all pretty happy with reunification. According to the German Historical Museum, a lot of the opposition in the East expected reunification on equal terms -- i.e. that East and West convene a constitutional congress and create a new Germany together. Instead East Germany was merely disbanded into its separate states and the states absorbed individually into West Germany, so in that regard some of the opposition were disappointed. But I've never heard of anyone who wanted "an independent, free, idealistic socialist East Germany". Who is Tim Mohr -- has he studied German history?
posted by creasy boy at 8:30 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


In Mohr's defence ... a lot of Easterners were very disappointed with Western capitalism once they saw what it was like. But that's a little different.
posted by creasy boy at 8:36 AM on November 12, 2009


Related and an interesting read, if you can navigate the lacanian jargon:
At the end of 1989 social relations broke down completely; and what presented itself in this break was not a pluralist ‘open society', which is properly administered by the state - or by philanthropists such as Soros (2000), who is also a fan of Popper's well-ordered ‘open society'. No, what took place was a breakdown of everything ordered; the state ceased to function. It was in that moment when a real openness emerged. Anything could have taken place. It is this openness which enables real change to take place. A different world was possible then.

But, of course, the social closed again - relatively quickly - when in December 1989 the big man - Helmut Kohl, the then West German chancellor - moved in to present a ten-point plan that would lead to reunification of the two Germanies. This was the start of the end - the start of the new ideological veil that would soon be put over the head of the social, and the end of the real opening of society. The ‘open society' moved into East Germany, in order to displace and even destruct the real opening of society that presented itself in the autumn of 1989. The new statues were finally erected on 3 October 1990 when the two Germanies reunited. What we have seen since then is the process of ‘Ossis' - as East Germans are often called by West Germans - getting used to their new ideology. What they had lived through is remarkable. Living through the time when an ideological veil comes off, when mass utopia suddenly collapses, when the mass psychological control of the people suddenly shows cracks and eventually breaks down completely, is an experience of jouissance.
posted by Abiezer at 8:37 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, way to take an incredibly complicated topic and boil it down to a rant with no explanation of his sweeping generalizations. I swear, reading about East and West Germany and reunification is fascinating but ridiculously tiring, because I constantly have to be on my toes for the author's prejudices. At least this guy put it out there and made it easy to brush off with his completel lack of citation.
posted by piratebowling at 8:43 AM on November 12, 2009


My understanding, having lived in Germany for a year in 1986-87, is that the West Germans had never seen the GDR as a separate country and were determined to reunify the country in order to have their "lost brethren" once again as part of the family. Meanwhile, the GDR was working hard to create a sense within its borders that East Germany was, indeed, a separate country with an independent destiny. This was largely a manufactured worldview, created by the socialist government to keep its citizenry from feeling like they had been cut-off from anything.

Basically, both sides had their propaganda machines running full-bore in order to try to create the reality they desired. It sounds like what Mohr is writing about is the result of this within East Germany, where there was a strong desire to be free of USSR affiliations and yet to strike out as an independent state.

A lot of this was fueled, I'm sure, by Reagan's foreign policies, which involved charming things like putting US nuclear missiles in Europe, which the citizens there saw as increasing their chances of being targets during any actual nuclear exchange. Reagan, and by extension the US, was pretty much hated by most Germans that I met during my year there. I could certainly see GDR citizens wanting to be free of the Soviet connection in order to feel they were not going to be the battleground when the cold war turned hot, which was often the scenario painted by everyone -- tanks along the inner german border, special weak spots built into the Berlin Wall so Eastern tanks could roll through unimpeded, etc.
posted by hippybear at 8:46 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hmm. This is definitely one of those baby-bathwater moments for me. The extent and the factual support of the claim is questionable to say the least, but I'm glad it's there as a kind of intervention: at least it raises the question of the inevitability of the reunification and interrupts the historical, "natural" flow from the fall of the wall to the decision to merge with West Germany. I don't doubt that there were some people in East Germany at the time that believed that what they needed was a more perfect socialism, rather than a return to capitalism—so I imagine that there were some interesting political debates during that period of interregnum—but I doubt that all those agents of resistance were dreaming of a new socialist utopia.

If anything, the point that we can salvage from this is that Freiheit wasn't necessarily the same thing as Kapitalismus for those who were taking down the wall.
posted by LMGM at 8:54 AM on November 12, 2009


Interesting. I happenned to pick up an old issue of Granta the other day --- man, I sound like a wanker --- but I did. It's Granta 35, Spring 1991, "The Unbearable Peace," and it has an essay by the German writer Peter Suskind recounting his own near-contemporay reaction to the events of the previous year and a half (previous year, to when he was writing, likely, given Granta's long lead time. It doesn't seem to be online anywhere, but in sum,

Suskind, who was 40 at the time and living in Paris, describes himself as flabberghasted by the events. Upon hearing news of the protests at the wall that evening, his first thought was, "ah, good for them to have gotten travel rights". Though West Germany's official position always favored reunfication and the absorption of the East into the west --- Suskind describes being prompted to light a candle in one's window during Advent to symbolize this desire --- he and his generation regarded these mostly as empty symbols, considered that the Europe's divided status quo would be likely to last for many decades more, and looked only to small amendments and improvements of relations between the two nations. They were also wary of nationalism as a concept, he says, not surprising given Germany's history.

Thus when he found himself tuning in later on the night of November 9, 1989, and hearing the phelgmatic Mayor of Berlin, Walter Momper, say "tonight the people of Germany are the happiest people in the world" Suskind says, "I couldn't understand it. Was the man off his head?....Good God, Walter Momper, how could you have made such a gaffe?" and yet, as he studies the newspaper the very next day, he finds Momper "the hero of the hour." Within a few days, Wily Brant of the mainstream social democrats is advocating reunification, saying "Let that which belongs together grow together." Suskind again assumes Brant will be shouted down by the media, but finds instead that the sentence is voted Quote of the Year. By February, the Chacellor was toasting the birth of a new, unified Germany.

Suskind is still bewhildered a year and half later --- but I think his essay provided evidence that whatever ends the protest organizers on one side of the wall hoped to turn people's energy towards, a natural desire for reunification burst forth immediately on the wall going down, at least on the western side --- that very night, if the Mayor's comment is any indication. Regarding Morh's sour grapes, it seems less a case of a movement hijacked and more a case of "we thought we had succeeded in getting people all riled up about what we cared about, and it turned out they were all riled up about what they cared about."
posted by Diablevert at 9:05 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


IIRC the majority of the West German people embraced the concept of reunification, but were very wary of the reality of it. The East had nearly 40 years of broken systems, obsolete factories, and workers who were used to under producing. They feared that the East would become one huge welfare case, and feared the implications on the West's economy. Not to mention the blow to Bonn, and its suburbs when they decided to move the government back to Berlin.
posted by Gungho at 9:57 AM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The territories that made up East and West Germany had previously been properly united for only a relatively brief period..."

...roughly equivalent to the time between the end of the American Revolution and the start of the American Civil War. Virtually overnight!

"When Canada gained independence from Britain in 1931..."

Huh? That's Westminister, idiot. Hell, if he's getting that technical I'm surprised he didn't say 1982.

"...nobody thought it inevitable that the US and Canada... would unite."

Yes, because the 44 years that Germany was split apart by outside forces is equivalent to the 150+ years the former British North American colonies were split apart by choice.
And that's overlooking much of the very serious discussion in the Maritimes in the 1850s and 1860s about the possibility of uniting that part of what would become Canada with the United States.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:59 AM on November 12, 2009


Hang on, so these people brought down the wall so that Egon Krenz - the people's choice - could take over? Strange objective, but an even stranger strategy - if they wanted Krenz they only had to wait.

Odd too that these protesters were apparently powerful enough to bring down the wall through their own 'legwork' but not powerful enough to make their views about reunification register at all afterwards. Were they tired? Shy?

It's not too late, either - plenty of split-ups in recent history. Why no East German Independence Party, why no referendum campaign?
posted by Phanx at 10:18 AM on November 12, 2009


I recently came across this youtube video about a 1949 Pact. I wonder what effect this pact, if in existence, has on the former East Germany.
posted by millardsarpy at 1:44 PM on November 12, 2009


Quickly searching for polls on opinions on re-unification gives this pdf chapter from german history docs which has a poll from the anniversary of re-unification that says on page 2 that 8 percent of Easteners said that unification was 'not the right thing'. Today, about 1 in 10 Germans think this is the case and never has support for re-unification been under 80%. Unless there was a massive change in attitude in the first year of reunification in the first year after the wall came down Tim Mohr's view is demonstrably incorrect.
posted by sien at 3:55 PM on November 12, 2009


I recently came across this youtube video about a 1949 Pact. I wonder what effect this pact, if in existence, has on the former East Germany.

The author, Gerd-Helmut Komossa, appears to have connections to right-wing groups and his book was put out by an extremist publisher, Leopold Stocker Verlag, that seems to have other books in a "New Order" vein, and whose founder was accused of being a neo-Nazi. I'm not so sure I'd take what he says at face value.
posted by dhartung at 10:32 PM on November 12, 2009


an essay by the German writer Peter Suskind

I believe you are referring to Patrick Süskind.

He's pretty famous in certain circles.
posted by Wolof at 5:56 AM on November 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


The author, Gerd-Helmut Komossa, appears to have connections to right-wing groups and his book was put out by an extremist publisher, Leopold Stocker Verlag, that seems to have other books in a "New Order" vein, and whose founder was accused of being a neo-Nazi. I'm not so sure I'd take what he says at face value.

Good point. I haven't been too successful in finding information about Gerd-Helmut Komossa on the web. The video puts an interesting light on German-American affairs. I wonder about the behind-the-scenes dynamics between countries and reading something like this sparks my interest.
posted by millardsarpy at 9:47 PM on November 13, 2009


I believe you are referring to Patrick Süskind

You are correct; I apologize for the error.
posted by Diablevert at 6:57 AM on November 14, 2009


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