The author ponders over the identity of the last self-identifying East German and wonders what he or she will say before leaving memories of the region behind. He distinguishes among three possible candidates for this honor: the ordinary citizen with little aspiration to political or social notoriety; the enthusiast with an interest in perpetuating the old regime's values; and the dissident activist dedicated to transforming that order. After identifying the likely last East German, the author speculates about the message our protagonist will have to share with the leaders of unified Germany. Finally, he provides reasons for why the Federal Republic can benefit from this advice.
The Federal Republic of Germany—both before and after 1989—has been influenced deeply by collective memories of the Nazi period and the Holocaust, a seemingly "unmasterable past." In a first phase after unification, memory trends, which had their origin in the mid 1980s, continued, but a second period, beginning around the 1999 move of the capital back to Berlin, however, witnessed the erosion of this older trend and the delayed rise of new memory dynamics. Substantively, there have been three vectors of memory concerning Nazi crimes, German suffering, and the period of division, especially regarding the German Democratic Republic. In this article, I outline the major collective memory dynamics and debates, first from a qualitative and then from a more quantitative perspective where I analyze the holdings of the German National Library. I conclude that an intense period of memory work characterized the postunification years, but the peak of concern was reached several years ago and the German future will be much less beholden to the past. Given inevitable normalizing trends and the unintended consequences of the hegemony of Holocaust memory, Germany's difficult historical legacy increasingly appears to be disappearing or even mastered.
Germans are inordinately preoccupied with the question of national integration. From the Kulturkampf to the Weimar Republic to the separation of East and West, social fractiousness is deeply ingrained in German history, giving rise to a desire to unify the "incomplete nation." Yet, the impulse to integrate German society has long been ambivalent. Between Bismarck and the Nazi interregnum, top-down efforts to force Germans to integrate threatened to erase valued differences. The twentieth anniversary of German reunification is the occasion to assess the reality of and ambivalence towards social integration in contemporary Germany. A review of economic and social measures of East-West, immigrant, and Muslim integration provides many indications of progress. Nevertheless, social cleavages persist despite political integration. Indeed, in some aspects, including in the party system, fragmentation is greater now than it was two decades ago. Yet successful social integration is a two-way street, requiring newcomers and oldtimers to interact. Integration of the European Union to some extent has followed this German path, with subsidiarity ensuring a decentralized social model and limited cohesion. German ambivalence about social integration is a major reason for the continuing social fragmentation of the society.
The building of the Berlin Wall on 13 August 1961 had repercussions not only on the international scene, but also for the power relationship between state and society in the German Democratic Republic. This article considers the short-, medium- and long-term reactions of the East German population to the border closure from a personal and political perspective, examining key groups such as educated elites, workers, and young people. The closed society elicited a new deference in the short term, but the author argues for considerable continuities of low-level disruptive behavior before and after 13 August. In the longer term, there was a generation born behind the Wall which by simple habituation rather than a conscious decision was forced to accept the new contours of the geopolitical landscape created by the Wall.
Jochen Maurer and Gerhard Sälter
The border guards were what made the Berlin Wall both function and lethal. Without them, people could escape nearly without any hindrance. Thus, it is crucial to understand the role of the border guards, who they were, and how they were prepared for their duty. They had a double task: preventing citizens, in most cases respectable and unarmed, from fleeing; and serving as an initial front-line defense in case of war. The military aspect of their mission, however, remained hypothetical, whereas preventing escapes became their daily duty. The duplicity of their task, with the military aspect determining armament, training, and structure no doubt increased the number of fatalities at the border.
The Berlin Wall was a key site of contestation between the Federal Republic and the German Democratic Republic in their Cold War struggle over political legitimacy. On both sides, the Wall became a tool in intense publicity battles aimed at building legitimacy and collective identity at home, and undermining them in the other Germany. The public perceptions and politicized uses of the barrier evolved through stages that reflected the relative fortunes of the two German states, moving gradually from extensive East-West parallels in the early 1960s toward a growing divergence by the 1970s and 1980s, which became increasingly indicative of East Germany's weakness.
The Berlin Wall was built three times: in 1961, in the mid 1960s, and again from the mid 1970s onwards. This article attempts to interpret each manifestation as political architecture providing insights into the mindset and intentions of those who built it. Each phase of the Wall had a different rationale, beyond the straightforward purpose of stopping the citizens of East Germany from leaving their own country and forcing them to suffer under communist rule. The deliberately brutal-looking first Wall was a propaganda construct not originally intended to exist for more than a few months. The functional but dreary Wall of the mid 60s was calculated to have a longer lifespan, but within few years it, too, became an embarrassment for the East German rulers. Yearning for international recognition, they demanded a smoother-looking, better designed Wall—supporting their fiction that this was "a national border like any other."
Hope M. Harrison
Initially after the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 and its state-sponsored demolition over the following year, only a handful of sites remained with pieces of the Berlin Wall still standing. These were magnets for foreign tourists, but Germans themselves, including German officials, were far more interested in creating a united future than in preserving parts of the divided past. With the passage of time, however, the Germans have increasingly come to believe in the importance of explaining the history of the Wall, commemorating its victims, and preserving its few authentic remains in Berlin. This article examines several key moments and debates in the process of the Germans coming-to-terms with the history of the Wall. It charts the process whereby the public and political leaders have devoted greater attention to the Wall in recent years, particularly on the occasions of the fifteenth and twentieth anniversaries of the fall of the Wall in 2004 and 2009 and the fiftieth anniversary of the erection of the Wall in 2011. Finally, the article analyzes lessons German politicians are drawing from the history of the Berlin Wall.
Konrad H. Jarausch
Perhaps two generations after the modest beginning, the FRG's successes and failures have become amenable to a more balanced evaluation. From the vantage point of the "Berlin Republic," the key question has shifted from whether the second German democracy would survive at all, to the reasons for its relatively positive course and to the extent of its lingering problems. This chapter first delves into the emergence of popular myths that characterized the Federal Republic's difficult search for identity. Secondly, it takes a look at some of the West's actual accomplishments in problem-solving, because such a comparison helps explain the eventual collapse of the East. Finally, it scrutinizes several of the competing explanations so as to reveal their political agendas and discuss their analytical limitations. Instead of presenting a simple success story, this reflection therefore strives for a critical appreciation. The paper concludes that at sixty, the FRG has entered a comfortable middle age, leaving be hind some of its earlier drama, but exuding a sense of competent normalcy. The mythical challenges of postwar reconstruction and recovery of international respectability have receded, followed instead by everyday concerns that are much less exhilarating. There are still plenty of problems, ranging from an aging population to a lack of full-day childcare, but they are shared by other advanced industrial societies. Moreover, after a century of first arrogant and then dejected difference, the German Sonderweg has finally come to an end. As a result of the meltdown of the Anglo-American version of unrestrained capitalism, the German model of a socially responsive market economy has even regained some of its prior luster. Hence, the postwar record of cautious incrementalism inspires some confidence that the Germans will also manage to meet the unforeseen political and economic challenges of the future.
Jeffrey J. Anderson
Twenty years after all the excitement, Germans seem to be genuinely of two conflicting minds about unification. One is characterized by awe over the accomplishments of 1989-1990, the other by disappointment and even bitterness over unfulfilled ambitions and promises. These contrasting interpretations and assessments of unification are fluid, but surface repeatedly in the quality print media. This chapter examines the recurring themes, interpretations, and narratives about unification twenty years on, and seeks to trace the interconnections between the social, economic, and political dimensions of unification. As such, these contemporary printed narratives can tell us a great deal about how a people views its recent past, what its priorities are, and how it is facing the future. The analysis reveals that public discourse on unification twenty years after the fact resembles a blind spot—look straight at it, and it disappears, replaced by blank spot—a seemingly irreducible gap between East and West. Avert one's gaze, and the spot fills in, almost seamlessly.