do not mention the war

Posts Tagged ‘East Germany’

Shock to the System

In Germany on September 26, 2017 at 09:00

This is the impression observers must have about the German general election last Sunday. Surely, that a radical party like AfD would move into the Bundestag was expected. Yet, that this right-wing radical party would do so with almost 13% of the vote is a shock. That is more than any of the ‘established opposition parties’ like Die Linke, the Greens have achieved in the last elections for Germany’s parliament.

Many would have expected that the populist move to the right would have been halted with the success of Emmanuel Macron in the French presidential elections earlier this year. This has not been successful as AfD duly demonstrates. Their success is the failure of the big parties to listen to the common people in their constituencies. The biggest factor in the television debate was the issue of immigration. The AfD played that card well, very well. The candidates forced the issue to be discussed exclusively, leaving out more pressing issues such as Dieselgate, the state of German schools and universities to name just two out of many. Moreover, it prevented a thorough discussion of the AfD’s party programme which is nothing but a step backward. It would strip women of many rights, for example.

The result of the election is the latest development of disenchantment of the people. And that is the main reason why the East of Germany has cast their vote the way they have: almost a quarter voted for AfD. It is too simple however, to blame it on East Germans voting in protest. But that is the reality. They feel disenchanted, left behind.

The minister for integration in Saxony, Petra Köpping has toured the federal state tirelessly over the last months and has heard that most people feel bitter about the treatment they have received from politicians after 1990. This feeling of being overruled, overheard and ignored has for a long time been subdued or repressed. However, the arrival of migrants in the summer of 2015 has changed all that. It is here that the AfD have found their topic and with it access to the people.

The democratic revolution of 1989 is now almost 30 years in the past but still there is a sense of being citizens of secondary importance among many East Germans. A lot has to do with the fact that their lives have turned upside down within a matter of weeks. No security network was in place to help soften the hard landing. Many have not come to terms with the new situation. Additionally, economic insecurity adds fuel to the fire and nourishes that feeling of being not important enough.

Köpping however has come to the conclusion that it is far more important that the local people have to be content before they are okay with people from different countries and cultures. This is what she is trying to do now: listening to the many, predominantly male population of Saxony and trying to offer help and optimism. It is a hard job, she admits and it is only a small contribution she can make but it is a start.

The lives and achievements of those living in East Germany need to be accepted and more importantly respected. This is not an easy task. And big politics has failed to listen and to react. Merkel’s mantra ‘Yes we can’ has backfired spectacularly. Of course, it is no problem for people to engage and help others in need. And this many did, in East and West Germany. Their efforts however, have never been acknowledged publicly. Instead it looked more and more as though helping people fleeing from Syria and other countries in the Middle East was a mistake. It was one of the key arguments of the right-wing actors such as Pegida and AfD. The latter argued that immigrants are taking the jobs from the locals and are a threat to the fabric of society. That is nonsense. It was not the first time that people engaged and had to recognition of their efforts. After all, they shed their communist past and adapted to new reality of capitalism with all its downsides. Of these there were a lot, mostly unemployment, and lately insecure jobs on barely minimum wages. At the same time people have seen that millions if not billions have been made available to bail out banks and car manufacturers in the wake of the crises from 2007 onwards. Back then it was declared to be without alternative to dispel any doubts. As a result there were cuts to social welfare and cultural programs. It is a dangerous void that opened up and that needed filling.

East Germans again adapted but so had West Germans when the Hartz IV regulations were put in force in 2002. These demanded that benefits would be cut if people without a job did not accept offers from the job agency. Moreover, it created an employment sector that allowed companies to hire employees for €450/month. This excludes social security or any insurance against accidents or unemployment. It created a low wage market but was feted as the German economic miracle of the 21 century. It affected the East more than the West.

Into this climate the ‘refugee crisis’ happened and caused more insecurity or at least it was what the mainstream press made of it. A lot of this reverberated and was amplified in media outlets that are on the right wing of the political spectrum.

Therefore, to blame the East for a lack of democratic understanding and of democratic values is too easy an argument yet it is what most people will say about the election of 2017. People have been patient for a long time and have swallowed a lot, especially after 1990 in the East of Germany. The result of this election is an indirect consequence of the unification and all its false promises. Most notably by ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl who has promised ‘blossoming landscapes’ for the East. Blossoming they are but not with industry but weeds.

In order for the people of Saxony and the other federal states in Germany’s east to feel better and integrated it is imperative that their stories are heard and their biographies accepted as they are. For now they feel they are second class citizens being left out deliberately.

Image Credits

Letters Shock Disillusion Disillusionment Words via MaxPixels under Creative Commons Zero CC0


The Other Germany

In Anglo-German Relations on December 29, 2016 at 11:00

Towards the end of the 1980s a British film team was allowed to travel to East Germany and make a documentary in the GDR. They went to Rostock where they interviewed a group of dockers, male and female. A quarter of a century later, the team returned to speak with the same people and visit the same places. It makes for interesting viewing.

History is playing football at EURO 2012

In Anglo-German Relations, England, Football, Germany, History on June 6, 2012 at 10:27

It’s just about a few days until EURO 2012 will kick off in Poland and the Ukraine and for three weeks the footballing gravity centre will be between Warsaw and Kiew. What has this got to do with this blog? Initially not a lot and yet quite a lot. Germany has a special relationship to Poland and Thomas Urban has written a superb book about the football in the history of these two countries, titled White Eagles, Black Eagles published by Germany’s most prominent sports publishing house Werkstatt-Verlag. Read the rest of this entry »

Fairy Tales

In Germany, History, Identity, Literature on January 18, 2012 at 16:28

The Germans are masters when it comes to fairy tales. Not just have the Grimm brothers provided generations with reading material to nurture their fantasy, they have also created a dictionary for the German language. Their contribution to the German language, philology as well as the study of German literature and language is immense; so much so that they are considered the fathers of any intellectual occupation with German. Read the rest of this entry »

Goals to remember

In Cold War, England, Football, Germany, History, Identity on September 30, 2011 at 10:05

Jürgen Sparwasser, the scorer of East Germany’s most famous goal, against West Germany at the World Cup 1974 once said that there are only three goals that are being discussed by the Germans: Rahn‘s goal to make it 3-2 against Hungary in 1954, the third goal scored by Geoff Hurst in 1966 at Wembley and his from 1974 in Hamburg.

Another quote by Sparwasser went that everybody would know who was buried under the gravestone with the inscription reading like this: Hamburg, Volkspark, June 22, 1974. Of course it refers to him as his career was reduced to that moment when he scored his famous goal against West Germany in the group stage of the 1974 World Cup.

Read the rest of this entry »

Football Brothers

In England, Football, Germany, History, Identity on September 19, 2011 at 11:53

Back to football after some exploits on the press and TV. While Diego Forlan‘s family has a long and successful football history, this post will look at how two sets of brothers, one in England, one in East Germany did fare while they were playing football.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Royals

In Britain, England, History on December 21, 2010 at 16:07

Bedenkt man, dass die Rolle der Monarchie in Grossbritannien abseits der Rolle der Königin bei ihrer jährlichen Rede im Parlament eine eher untergeordnete einnimmt, so ist die Welle der Berichte über Williams Verlobung doch mit Verwunderung zu betrachten. Es ist wieder die Rede von einer Traumhochzeit. Und wie die letzte dieser Art im Hause Windsor endete, wissen wir. Nichtsdestotrotz wird lang und breit darüber geschrieben und berichtet. Auch in Deutschland, wo das Thema eher dem Boulevard und den entsprechenden Blättern zuzuschreiben ist. Umso erstaunlicher ist, dass die Süddeutsche Zeitung eine Meldung schaltet, dass Prince Harry vor laufenden Kameras während einer Wohltätigkeitsveranstaltung mit Sophia Thomalla geflirtet hätte, was den Autoren dazu verleitet zu behaupten, sie sei die bessere Wahl der Begleitung bei der Hochzeit seines Bruders im nächsten Jahr, woraus wiederum gewisse Schlüsse zu ziehen sind, wenn man gewissen Denktraditionen verpflichtet ist. Dass das die Medien in Britannien interessiert, ist wohl klar. Dennoch sind sämtliche Blätter, welche in dem Artikel zitiert werden, eher nicht zum sogenannten Qualitätsjournalismus zu orten. Am Ende stellte sich heraus, dass es ein kurzes Gespräch zwischen beiden war, dessen Inhalt man keine Bedeutung beimessen kann.

Ist es denn notwendig, dass eine angesehene Tageszeitung sich solchem Stoff nähert, der eindeutig dem Boulevard zuzuordnen ist und es somit besser geeignete Postillen gibt als die SZ? Die Royals aus Windsor und andere Königshäuser Europas haben sogar einen eigenen TV Kanal in Deutschland, das ZDF, um Hochzeiten und Verlobungen zu verkünden. Da muss die Süeddeutsche nun wirklich nicht noch als Trittbrettfahrer auftreten. Darüber berichten können andere und die können das sicher auch besser als die SZ aber darüber soll hier kein Urteil gefällt werden.

%d bloggers like this: