“People ran away from the Warsaw Pact states” – that way it’s always described from the side of many historians.
The Hungarian border – the GDR embassy at Prague – the exodus out of the bonds of the Soviet Communist system in decline starting from the periphery is proceeding irresistibly.
The “iron curtain”, defining the system frontiers between the power blocs of the cold war World order of system enemies, that has been installed after World War II ended in 1945 – it receives more and more loop holes.
When the author of these lines arrives in October 1989 after a long return trip from China by train through the Soviet Union in decay at the East Berlin side of Checkpoint Charly - they refuse to let him in. Somewhere in the midst of Siberia on the train ride he and a woman from Leipzig had heard from the demonstrations of GDR’s 40th anniversary via German Worldwide Broadcasting- and BBC-World service. Someone has purchased a bottle of vodka during their 15 minutes stay at the station of Novosibirsk. The woman from Leipzig – a Half-Chinese has visited her Mom’s family in China together with her Dad. The woman from Leipzig celebrates for the first time an anniversary of GDR there in the Transsiberian Railroad – together with a Dutch guy with a Hungarian father, a young man from Boston/MA, a Texas guy from Austin, who has worked at a Christian US-radio station in China, an English guy from London, who has been travelling for two years and who had celebrated his wildest Saint Patrick’s Day ever at Alice Springs in the Australian Outback with the Irish community there, a young French man from Paris, a man from San Francisco/CA, sharing the name with the filmmaker John Huston, a man from Kiev - these days still the Soviet Republic of Ukraine, who before has donated Gorbi-stickers and buttons to his new West German friend Stepantschik – or Stjopushka, or just simply Stjopa – they are having a lot of fun with Russian diminutive forms – a man from Uzbekistan and some Chinese students, who want to leave the country after the crackdown of the students’ movements there in China and who particularly after having passed the Chinese-Mongolian border feel like needing to report a lot about the events, that had happened in their town, at their university at that time. They have received foreign exchange scholarships – in particular for Germany – notably at Hamburg-Harburg, the technical university there. There’s also a Chinese mine engineer, who has studied in the Soviet Union and who is fluent in Russian and English and – this West German, who has traveled for three months through the homeland of the GDR-citizen – through China and, who before that starting from Thailand has travelled for three more months through Indonesia, the World’s biggest Muslim country – that country, where all World religions have been settled upon the deeply rooted „Adat“, the animist belief in gnomes, nymphs and sylphs and then have integrated that belief into their view of the world. Which belief then in such a structural fabric is the “new” one or the “old” one – that soon doesn’t really matter any more in the “eternal presence” of an in such a way deeply rooted integration and then even assimilation process. Basic requirement for that is the unconditional grant of freedom of religion, which in the first place does enable the peaceful coexistence of people of different beliefs – and the tolerance claimed accordingly from the people themselves – the tolerance, which is based upon the common denominator – the common roots.
The Half-Chinese woman from GDR celebrates the last anniversary of GDR with all these people. Soon the bottle of vodka is emptied – the man from Uzbekistan falls into a deep melancholy and hugs with tears in his eyes his brothers (and maybe also the sister – the one writing here doesn’t know that that exactly any more) from East and West. Soon the Chinese brandy, some Western brothers still had in their luggage is emptied as well.
Next day then the West-German author of these lines, who on Bali had just celebrated his quarter of a century and the slightly older woman from Leipzig are standing in the gangway of the sleeper train produced in GDR. The Siberian steppe – birch tree forests and single villages, consisting of wooden cottages – dachas are passing by. Iwan, the Russian waiter of the dining car has always less work – almost all stocks are consumed. Soon John Huston, the Californian sunshine joins them. All of a sudden the bearded, slightly older and more experienced man from San Francisco asks the two Germans from East and West: “What would you say, if Germany was reunited tomorrow ?”
The Siberian late summer sun shines through the huge train windows into the gangway. Baffled and deranged the two humans, who both were born in the midst of the 1960s look at the man from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean - who actually even comes from the Pacific Ocean side of that huge country over there. Then they look at each other.
After some short moments of hesitation both Germans are answering unanimously – as one – in one breath: ”No – that’s impossible. Those are two much too different systems. – Those are two societies, which have grown into two completely different directions.”
This way or similar the two are speaking almost simultaneously and they are nodding at the other one for searching some confirmation – trying to hide their total uncertainty caused by that question.
When next day then they want to celebrate the as it were-reunion on a very personal level in the train Iwan, the Russian waiter of the now emptied diner assures the return path – the retraction distance.
The West German guy then gets off the train in East-Berlin. After a several days stay at Moscow and a short trip to Leningrad, which is nowadays again St. Petersburg – Glasnost renders things possible – and after another short stay at Warsaw, where he visits the Old Town and the memorial of the destroyed Ghetto he’s almost back. His last companions are the Texas guy from Austin and the guy from London, who both urgently want to see Checkpoint Charly.
Heavily loaded from their long journey they walk through the autumnal greyish, dismal foggy East-Berlin.
The members of the People’s police point out to the West-German, that this was an allied forces and citizens’ checkpoint and that he can’t get through here as a West-German citizen.
Thus he explains that to his companions and – the three grumbly move over to the checkpoint Friedrichstraße, where some tense and even more grumpy members of the People’s police let them pass through a seemingly provisional foot tunnel to West-Berlin.
National security – the “Stasi” had taken advantage of many very – one is tempted to say - “thoroughly archetypal German characteristics” within its complete self-spying and its underground erosion of any private life until the most intimate detail. Features, “the German of his own” in his addiction to perfection just completely inhales – the obedience - almost bondage – thus – Heinrich Mann’s “subservience” – the accomplished German perfection and thoroughness – “German Gruendlichkeit” – the love for any kind of detail – and – the loss of any field of vision for the big picture then resulting from that pretty often – but also – the culture of denunciation.
The “self-blockade” – thwarting any progresses – erasing all potentials was perfect.
The comparison – not to mention – the act, in which the Nazi-dictatorship and the more “petit bourgeois” or “little man’s” spying apparatus in GDR is put on the same level as “second German dictatorship of the 20th century” by some historians though is lacking any commensurability. Of course – in its entirety the Stasi spying apparatus of GDR was definitely a totalitarian system – but – the mountainous machinery (of war and destruction), that began with the instrumentalized and exploited Reichstag fire 9 and ended in the concentration camps from Dachau to Auschwitz and the total capitulation after a resounding evisceration crusade on the fields of Stalingrad and other places rests incomparable.
(Nevertheless – this should be emphasized here one more time – both systems were cruel dictatorships and have destroyed many people in their physical and psychic existence. To all these people, who resisted to those villainous systems in an upright way – who often had to pay with their lives – to all these victims of the two dictatorships of the past – and to those of the third - the present dictatorship in 100 years on German - on European soil – we owe our deepest respect – and – this time – we might even talk of a global dictatorship – thus – these words are also written with the hope, that one day they should also reach out to other people, who have lost their beloved ones in recent wars – who fought and still fight against barbarianism - on which side – wherever they are – inshallah – so God will – soon - one day they might be able to laugh again – with us – whether we’re there any more or not – who cares? – there will be others to party for us – August, 31st , 2011).
On the material – and the ideal side the Warsaw Pact states have been bled white. There was nothing to change any more. The administration of deprivation of all needs, coming to light always grosser - that way ruled from above – and – the more and more decreasing general buying power - together with a decreasing range of items to buy for those at the bottom emerged in a more and more impressive way the complete inefficiency of the system – a system, that needed to pinch and scrape – a complete economy of scarcity – lacking any plan for the future. But - at least from the GDR people could directly run into the arms of the that way propagated “class enemy” – they couldn`t only see “the white of the enemy’s eye” just on TV but they could directly identify the enemy’s movements as rather friendly gestures.
The most simple desires were quickly satisfied. The images of all-German newcomers, waving bills of 100 Deutschmarks, the “banana pipeline” - raising the profits of the United Fruit Company in Central Europe, which at that time was still predominantly acting in a monopolistic way enormously – who doesn’t know these images here ?
Soon the “surface lamination” of the East German elites by West Germans started – linked with the increasing exclusion of East German executive management staff. “That means, in the five former GDR federal lands seventy per cent of all executive management positions are getting occupied by West German cadres – the way they were called in state socialism.” 10 “Whom nobody knows, … who neither shares regional or local origins, studies nor former seniors and mentors with those to select you cannot know, how confidential and efficient he or herself is. ‘He doesn’t have the biographical, communicative and habitual type of background -he’s not from the same smelly stable of power.’ No bad intention… is linked with that bizarre disproportion, but an automatism, which only results from the fact, that elites tend to reproduce themselves’, particularly in Germany. In GDR, one might add to that, this happened following a plan, in the new Germany, we know, everything is happening of its own volition.” 11
And – soon many ugly images joined these and – the nice images of people partying in ecstasy the Fall of the Wall should get overdrawn especially beyond the new German borders by photos from burning houses and citizens killed therein – predominantly neighbors of Turkish origin, but soon also others – different – simply different fellow citizens - images from Solingen, Mölln, Rostock-Lichtenhagen and Hoyerswerda and many other places, where victims of the revitalized German feeling of belonging to a strong nation just for some flaring moments were given a name in the jungle of media overkill. And – in case of the burning home for asylum seekers at Rostock-Lichtenhagen with police forces confronting the raising mob pretty uninvolved and abulic soon the right for seeking asylum got cancelled from the Basic Constitutional Law.
Who’s still able to say, who has thrown the first rocks – “violent-prone kids with an immigration background”, as it would be said in new German Political Correctness’ speech or those, who these days are ruling by bypassing any management levels and that way erode the German Basic Law to a hollow façade and permanently annul the sovereign – the people?
10 Great experiment Unity – Stapling instead of Growing together– About the Deficiency of the whole Thing; Friedrich Diekmann talking with Adalbert Reif – (only German) Lettre International 90, Berlin 2010, P. 9
11 Lettre International 90, Berlin 2010, P. 9 – further from: Magazine of Süddeutsche Zeitung – Raj Kollmorgen – East-Germany, Wiesbaden 2005, VS-Verlag - and - Discursive Subalternity, in M. Brunn a.o. (ed.) – Transformation and Europeanization, Münster 2010, LIT – and – Raj Kollmorgen a.o. (ed.) – Discourses on the German Unity – Wiesbaden 2011, VS-Verlag (only German)