What Remains? The Political Culture of an Unlucky Birth

in German Politics and Society
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The future political culture of eastern Germany and, with it, the relationship

between unified Germany’s once divided populations will

depend heavily upon how all Germans respond to a distinctive fact

about the east. The region experienced not one but, counting the

German Democratic Republic (GDR), two separate eras of dictatorship.

This fact can be, and has been, understood in two different

ways, with significantly different implications in each case. The first

is the perspective of the victim. According to this view, the citizens of

the GDR uniquely had to shoulder the burden of having been born,

in effect, “in the wrong place.” Not only did they endure greater

hardships than their western counterparts, such as the rebuilding of

Germany after World War II, but they suffered by themselves

through the debilitating consequences of Soviet occupation and their

inability, until 1990, to act upon the right to “free self-determination”

(to quote the original preamble of the Basic Law). As a result, according

to this argument, easterners were owed special treatment after

unification because of their distinctive misfortunes.