Actually, I get the sense that this 30th anniversary is more meaningful: I think we, as East Germans, are becoming who we are. I find it is noticeable, especially these days, and it feels healthy. Less victim of circumstances and world history, more confident.Wir sind der Osten is just one of the shapes this has taken.
Thirty years ago, I was one of those who for the first time in East German history were allowed to do Zivildienst, an alternative service instead of the compulsory military service. I received the letter around 15 March 1990, three days ahead of the national elections that were my first (I had turned 18 in January) – and due to to the victory of the CDU were known to be the last of an independent East Germany. Months later, in the night of 23 August 1990, the East German parliament decided to join the jurisdiction and political structure etc. of West Germany. They submitted (sic!) their decision to the West Germans after monetary union had already become effective by the end of June, and a decision for re-unification had been agreed on between the governments. At midnight 3 October 1990, East Germany a.k.a. GDR seized being an independent political unit, and until then we were her first and last Zivildientleistenden.
October and kingdoms rise And kingdoms fall But you go on And on. (U2 – October, 1982)
I have two beginnings for this blog post. I’m not sure I have a suitable ending.
Opening one: I’m just back from a discussion, with Naika Foroutan, about East-German migration analogies and prejudices against East-Germans, here at the local Literarisches Zentrum. “Here” means: Göttingen, West-Germany, for me, an East German by origin, my home of seven years now. Diaspora as well as home. “Here” also means: amongst an audience of, primarily, West-Germans. Naika Foroutan and host Robert Pausch are West Germans, too. They (“they”) speak about East Germans (“us”). Some of “us” are in the room. Their safeguard is the “objectivity” of the (social) sciences. “Objectivity” implies an object. An object implies a subject. Who’s who? I can feel I am one of the objects here, regardless whether I want to or not, and someone else assumes the role of the subject-agent. I observe.
30 years ago today, the “Wende”, the peaceful revolution in East Germany, truly started. After the brutal crack down of police on protesters and bystanders alike in Magdeburg two days earlier, everyone knew that something would happen. October 9 was a Monday, and hence I was at school (EOS Humbodt) in the morning hours. Directors and staff leaders in pretty much every institution and company approached their staff or students or even children at kindergarten, threatening that if they went out into the streets tonight their (or their parents’!) safety could not be guaranteed.
30 years ago today, the German Democratic Republic was meant to celebrate her 40th anniversary. There was little to celebrate, though. Thousands had fled the country in previous months, and illegal demonstrations happened in every major town, notably on Mondays. This though was a Saturday afternoon, and Sandow were playing in Magdeburg, by the banks of the river Elbe. Heavy rains delayed the soundcheck, and in the meantime lots of police trucks had pulled up and the police surrounded. Men that were much too old for punk music in groups of two or three infiltrated the crowd.
August 1989, and we were the “last legion” to be trained in one of East Germany’s paramilitary camps – one of the things that had become part and parcel of growing up in East Germany. Now we were there for a last time, though we didn’t know that yet.