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freemanjud
Boston, US
Posts: 154

Today's post has been created by Mr. Markus Schirmer, teacher at the Reuchlin-Gymnasium in Ingolstadt, Germany.


We are very happy to share some of Germany’s recent history with the students of Boston Latin School and engage in a fruitful discussion about the current political situation in Germany.


Last weekend Germany commemorated 30 years of the unification between east and west. Politicians wanted to celebrate. But those plans were thwarted by the Covid-19 pandemic

There was a small get-together of about 200 guests, mainly politicians and public figures from the federal level and from the 16 states. They convened in a big hall in Potsdam (near Berlin) where 75 years ago the Allies against Nazi Germany met at the Potsdam Conference and laid down the postwar order, with Germany divided in four occupation zones: the Soviet/Russian zone (in the East) and the French, British, and American zones (in what would be described as the West).


The division of Germany grew stronger the more it became clear that the West and the East were no longer willing to cooperate. Eventually in the summer of 1961, the Berlin Wall was erected between the western sectors and the Soviet sector of Berlin, becoming a symbol of the Cold War.


German unification took place in 1990 as a result of peaceful protests in East Germany and the agreement among the former allied powers that Germans in east and west should be granted the right to make sovereign decisions about the future of Germany as a whole. This also marked the end of the Cold War.


To understand this history and to hear several voices on the current state of the country’s unification, watch this video (Germany, The Berlin Wall And 30 Years Of German Reunification | Meet the Germans; 6:00 min.):


Also, please take a look at the first two pages of the English translation of what our president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said in an October 3, 2020 speech. Toward the beginning of his remarks, he compared the different ways German unification was achieved in 1871 and 1990. After reading the first several passages, you should have a sense of the general tone.


Reuchlin-Gymnasium, our school, is located in Ingolstadt, the geographical center of Bavaria in the south of Germany. This area was part of the American Occupation Zone after WWII and became part of the Federal Republic of Germany (aka West Germany) in 1949. Today it takes about two and a half hours to drive to what used to be East Germany. The students from our school have taken school trips to Weimar (in Thuringia, about 3 ½ hours away) and to Berlin (about six hours away). Very few have traveled to former East Germany on their own. In this year’s class, there are four students with relatives linked to the area of East Germany that joined the West in 1990. One student told the class that his grandfather fled communism in East Germany and broke relations with his family who remained there.


[Note from Ms. Freeman: This is not all that different from students here in Boston. It’s somewhat unusual at Boston Latin School for a significant number of students to have spent any length of time in other parts of the United States, such as the southern states (Georgia/Alabama/ Mississippi/Tennessee) or the Midwest (Missouri/Kansas /Nebraska/IndianaIowa/the Dakotas). More often than not, we lack familiarity with how people from those parts of the United States see the nation and politics.]


Two of the Reuchlin students, Jonas and Jakob Hulin, shared their perspectives on German unification today:


After 30 years there are still some big disparities between the east and the west in Germany. The federal states in the east such as Thuringia or Saxony are not as developed as western federal states such as Bavaria. In these states the people are poorer, get lower wages and unemployment is up to 7.5% compared to 5.9% in the west. One reason for the financial disadvantages for the people living in the east is that none of Germany’s big companies (DAX-companies) are placed in the east. Also, the east is underrepresented in the German government. For example, in 2018 only one of 16 members of the cabinet had an East German background. Thus, it is not surprising that many East Germans feel like second class citizens.

Another big problem in the east is the stark contrast in political opinions of the people. Far right parties like the AfD or the NPD on the one hand and the extremist left parties such as the Left Party get more and more support, which leads to a division in the population. These points led to a migration movement from east to west. In the period between 1990 and 2017, roughly 1.7 million people migrated from east to west. To prevent this extent of migration, the German government introduced the solidarity tax (“Solidaritätsbeitrag”) to make an extra effort to support the east financially. Because of government support, the big cities in the east like Berlin, Leipzig, or Dresden are booming right now and more and more people move to these cities. But especially the rural areas in the east lag far behind West German standards.

The topic of German Unification does not seem to be very relevant for young Germans (in Ingolstadt) today because they didn’t witness it. In conclusion, it can be said that there is still a lot to do on a political and economic level to bring the east “into line” with the west. Despite all the negative news, the East also has beautiful sights. For example, the town of Weimar in Thuringia with its literary giants Goethe and Schiller of the period of classicism and the modernist Bauhaus school of architecture: it is one of the culturally richest towns in Germany. Furthermore, there is the distinct Saxon dialect or the buzzing capital of Berlin.

Here are some questions to think about as you write and include your perspectives on our online discussion forum. You don’t have to cover all aspects in your post:

  • Which aspects of the last 30 years of German history are most interesting or surprising to you?
  • What affects the cohesion of a nation?
  • What did you learn about President Steinmeier’s general attitude? Is there anything in his speech that can be applied to or reinterpreted for the current situation in the US?
  • How can you understand regional identities that you have little contact with? Can you think of other examples (besides east and west) in Germany or the US?

If you still want to learn more about this year’s national holiday in Germany, you can click here.


PS: Other topics the Reuchlin students consider important in the context of recent developments in Germany are the following:


  • The rise of the far-right political party Alternative for Germany (AfD)
  • Right wing ideology among members of the German government's executive (counterintelligence service, police, military)
  • Dealing with Covid-19
  • Refugee policy
  • The poisoning of Russian political figure Alexei Navalny, his treatment in Berlin, and Russian-German relations
  • Possible successors to Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose tenure as Chancellor began in 2005 and whose fourth and final term concludes in 2021.

If any of those topics interest you, please let us know.


We from Reuchlin are looking forward to reading your thoughts from Boston Latin about our most recent history and the current situation in Germany.

T. LeFon
Ingolstadt, Bavaria, DE
Posts: 1

Surprised reaction

After watching the video about the unification of West and East Germany, I was suprised about the reactions of the interviewed people. Before watching it, I always thought that there wasn´t a mind-based separaration of the people in "Wessis" and "Ossis". Maybe my mindset is influenced by the fact that I´m not living near the former border dividing Eastern and Western Germany.

Maybe some of you might agree with me, if yes let me know.


yelloworchids
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 8

United Or Divided?

I was not aware of how recent the reunification of East and West Germany was. 30 years is rather short in comparison to the history of the world, yet Germany seems to do a good job at acknowledging and condemning past atrocities (something many Americans fail to do). After reading an excerpt from President Steinmeier’s speech, it was surprising to see so many parallels between Germany and the United States in terms of political climate and history. Something that specifically struck me was when President Steinmeier acknowledged the existence of marginalized groups. The mere act of recognizing these historically persecuted groups is something our current American president and his followers fail to do. A handful of Americans deem the acknowledgement of our historical imperfections and complaints towards our system as an act of unpatriotism. Whereas Germany sees it as patriotic to recognize these mistakes and take preventive measures in order to avoid further injustices.


In addition to this, I also found it extremely interesting when President Steinmeier mentioned that people should not look back at the past for answers to questions of the future. He also brought up the fact some individuals still wave the old flag of the German empire in this day and age. In this statement I was able to see the similarity to how some Americans today still choose to fly the Confederate flag as a proclamation of Southern heritage (whatever heritage that may be). In both cases, these individuals must be very ignorant of history to willingly raise a flag that stood for values we no longer adhere to. Like mentioned, it makes no sense to look in the past for answers in the 21st century. Acknowledging our blemished history is necessary, but applying traditional values to modern issues is not very sensible.


On a different note, hearing the differences between West and East Germany reminded me a lot of our own regional discrepancies here in the U.S. There seems to be a common disconnect between those of the North and those of the South. I feel as if there are looming stereotypes for both regions whether good or bad. Certain sides of the political spectrum are often associated with certain states in the north or certain states in the south. Even in a country with “United” in the name, it’s ironic to see that the citizens are so divided in other aspects.

goob
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 6

East vs West

Last weekend, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and 200 guests gathered for the celebration of the 30 years of unification between the east and west. Like @yelloworchids, I was surprised at how recent their unification was. I had never really thought about the Eastern and Western division in Germany, only to learn that they were unified merely 30 years ago. Now knowing that, it really puts the timeline of Germany into perspective.

During Steinmeier’s speech at the gathering, the President maintained a hopeful tone, claiming that they are living “in the best Germany that has ever existed”. He was extremely proud of how far Germany has come as a whole, seeing as how their unification 30 years ago starkly contrasted Germany’s forceful and dominant beginnings as a nation in 1871. Despite the many positives, the President also took time to address the growing economic and cultural divide between the East and West, such as the growing pay gap and the lack of big companies in the East. In response to the problem, the President proposed that the people of Germany not adopt an attitude of ignorance, but rather understand their difference and work hard as a whole to further their country, which seems like an excellent way of thinking that some Americans should also adopt. Steinmeier’s way of pointing out their modern problems but also the hope for the future was an inspiring way to incite the people of Germany. Thus, President Steinmeier has a generally positive attitude, since he believes that although Germany has accomplished much already, they can achieve total cohesiveness as a country if everyone just remains brave and listens to each other.


After reading President Steinmeier’s speech and watching the video, I believe that the difference of opportunity within a country and strong social bonds affect the cohesion of a nation. Looking at Eastern and Western Germany as an example, the East still appears to be lacking in the presence of major companies and the positions at a management and political level compared to the West. Such handicaps may breed resentment among the East, causing the rise of extremist political parties, like the NPD. If the same educational and social opportunities are not going to be available to all groups, many people will clash and fail to come together as a nation. In addition, strong social bonds are a factor in a nation’s cohesion as well. Unlike the West, the East was hit much harder during the reunification of Germany 30 years ago with many Eastern families being directly impacted. Since the West continues to play a dominant role in the lives of Eastern Germans, it is difficult to create strong social bonds as a result of the many differences of their experiences. A majority of Western Germans remain indifferent to the East and perceive the West as the face of Germany. Therefore, because of such contrasting opinions and views, the absence of strong social bonds would also make maintaining the cohesion of a nation difficult.


In response to @T. LeFon, I wasn’t as surprised about the reactions of the interviewed people. This was my first time extensively learning about the Eastern and Western divide in Germany, so I was under the impression that many “Wessis” and “Ossis” felt very strongly about their many differences, since those were the ideas that the President’s speech and the video conveyed. However, it’s probably because I am not as familiar with the regional identities of Germany.

muumihalit
Boston , MA, US
Posts: 6

East Germany and West Germany: 30 Years After Reunification

Unfortunately I didn’t know a lot about German politics or the history of unification before, probably because generally Americans only pay attention to American politics and are ignorant or oblivious to situations around the world (which is not a good thing). One aspect of German history that I found interesting was that the Soviet section of Germany, East Germany, was so disparate from the western side, in environment, culture, economic state, and political freedoms. I see a parallel of West Berlin being totally surrounded by East Germany, to maybe the situation in Israel and Palestine - kind of how East Jerusalem used to be (maybe this is an inaccurate comparison).


I was also surprised at the remaining division, despite reunification 30 years ago, and the inequalities expressed by the President Steinmeier: “There still is a significant pay gap between eastern and western Germany. Still too few companies have set up for business to the east of the river Elbe. And eastern Germans at management level in companies, universities and Ministries, in the judiciary, the media and also the Bundeswehr, are still few and far between.”

I had never really thought of Germany before as being divided, rather than one nation, so the remaining division between the East and the West was new to me. The disparities are similar to maybe the inequalities in the US for women, people of color, low income families, etc. However, oftentimes disparities in the US are seen in pockets around the country, versus one whole western side or a whole eastern side.


To understand regional identities that you have little contact with, you have to learn more about them and keep an open mind. I think the cohesion of a nation is affected by people’s willingness to accept others. You cannot treat one group of people better than another group of people, and all laws must apply to all citizens and not just some.


To me, President Steinmeier’s general attitude seemed very positive, hopeful and acknowledging reunification has benefitted Germany, but also recognizing things that still need to be done, and that they have not come far enough. This is in contrast to the government administration in the US right now, who seem to always be talking about what they claim to have accomplished, rather than what needs to be done, and what they are planning on doing.


I agree with @yelloworchids “Germany seems to do a good job at acknowledging and condemning past atrocities (something many Americans fail to do)”. This is a difference between Germany and the US where I think the US could learn from Germany. For example you cannot deny the Holocaust or use Nazi symbols I believe in Germany. Here in the US, we have no such laws, and like @yelloworchids said, some people claim to use the Confederate Flag because it is part of their “Southern heritage”. However I think using this symbol is offensive because it represents the Confederacy, which fought to uphold white supremacy and slavery in America. I am curious as to what people in Germany think about such laws?


@T. LeFon I think the stereotypes people might still have for Ossis and Wessis in Germany are similar to how Americans have stereotypes about people from New England (northeast), versus people from the Southern states, or the Midwest, or the West Coast (California, etc.).


Last year I remember hearing about the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party gaining more seats in government, and wonder what Germans think about that. I see parallels between that and our current US government administration, for example in climate change skepticism, Islamophobia, and homophobia. I was also wondering what is the general consensus in Germany or in Ingolstadt about the current government?


Danke!
anonymouse
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 7

Differences in Germany

It was interesting to finally learn about the German unification. I have heard about the Berlin Wall being taken down, but there is so much history behind it and effects that it has on today that I did not know about. Even though 30 years is not a long time in the grand scheme, it is still interesting to learn about all the differences and divides that exist between former East and West Germany.


The East is still behind in terms of economic development and does not have much power in terms of politics. There is still discrimination against East Germans, who feel like they are treated as second class citizens; many are still moving to West Germany because of unemployment. There are not many politicians that are from East Germany so East Germans may feel that they are not represented in the country.


I agree with @yelloworcids that Germans seem to acknowledge the discriminations and divide in Germany, whereas Americans seem to have a mindset that they are better than others. In President Steinmeier’s speech, he recognized not only the benefits that unification had brought but also the flaws that need to be addressed. He is hopeful for the future of Germany.


In terms of what affects the cohesion of a nation, @muumihalit made a good point that we need to be open to learning about others and accepting them. There are certain stereotypes that remain for different groups of people, whether that is between East and West Germans, people from different regions of the U.S., or elsewhere. We normally form our opinions on people we have never met based on these stereotypes. Not truly understanding others leads to a political divide in a country. Living in the same country does not mean that everyone has to have the same mindset and ideas, but we need to learn from each other and accept those differences.

BOT Bob
Ingolstadt, Bavaria, DE
Posts: 1

Answers on @muumihalit questions

Originally posted by muumihalit on October 08, 2020 15:12

Unfortunately I didn’t know a lot about German politics or the history of unification before, probably because generally Americans only pay attention to American politics and are ignorant or oblivious to situations around the world (which is not a good thing). One aspect of German history that I found interesting was that the Soviet section of Germany, East Germany, was so disparate from the western side, in environment, culture, economic state, and political freedoms. I see a parallel of West Berlin being totally surrounded by East Germany, to maybe the situation in Israel and Palestine - kind of how East Jerusalem used to be (maybe this is an inaccurate comparison).


I was also surprised at the remaining division, despite reunification 30 years ago, and the inequalities expressed by the President Steinmeier: “There still is a significant pay gap between eastern and western Germany. Still too few companies have set up for business to the east of the river Elbe. And eastern Germans at management level in companies, universities and Ministries, in the judiciary, the media and also the Bundeswehr, are still few and far between.”

I had never really thought of Germany before as being divided, rather than one nation, so the remaining division between the East and the West was new to me. The disparities are similar to maybe the inequalities in the US for women, people of color, low income families, etc. However, oftentimes disparities in the US are seen in pockets around the country, versus one whole western side or a whole eastern side.


To understand regional identities that you have little contact with, you have to learn more about them and keep an open mind. I think the cohesion of a nation is affected by people’s willingness to accept others. You cannot treat one group of people better than another group of people, and all laws must apply to all citizens and not just some.


To me, President Steinmeier’s general attitude seemed very positive, hopeful and acknowledging reunification has benefitted Germany, but also recognizing things that still need to be done, and that they have not come far enough. This is in contrast to the government administration in the US right now, who seem to always be talking about what they claim to have accomplished, rather than what needs to be done, and what they are planning on doing.


I agree with @yelloworchids “Germany seems to do a good job at acknowledging and condemning past atrocities (something many Americans fail to do)”. This is a difference between Germany and the US where I think the US could learn from Germany. For example you cannot deny the Holocaust or use Nazi symbols I believe in Germany. Here in the US, we have no such laws, and like @yelloworchids said, some people claim to use the Confederate Flag because it is part of their “Southern heritage”. However I think using this symbol is offensive because it represents the Confederacy, which fought to uphold white supremacy and slavery in America. I am curious as to what people in Germany think about such laws?


@T. LeFon I think the stereotypes people might still have for Ossis and Wessis in Germany are similar to how Americans have stereotypes about people from New England (northeast), versus people from the Southern states, or the Midwest, or the West Coast (California, etc.).


Last year I remember hearing about the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party gaining more seats in government, and wonder what Germans think about that. I see parallels between that and our current US government administration, for example in climate change skepticism, Islamophobia, and homophobia. I was also wondering what is the general consensus in Germany or in Ingolstadt about the current government?


Danke!

Regarding your first question: I can only give my personal opinion on this point. I think it's good that there are laws that prohibit certain Nazi symbols or that make the denial of the Holocaust a criminal offense. Two reasons I like this are: First, these laws greatly restrict today's Nazis in their freedom of action. Because they can very easily make themselves punishable. In addition, we Germans owe it to the millions of dead from World War II and the Holocaust, and we as Germans must pledge that nothing like this can ever happen in Germany again. The laws help a lot with that. In my opinion, such laws would make sense for Nazis and other radical groups in the US, too.

Regarding your second question: Germany is very divided about the fact that the AfD is getting

more and more support from the population.

Many are afraid of the AfD and its right-wing supporters and are afraid that the events of 1933 could repeat. On the other hand, there are of course the AfD supporters who think the AfD's growing popularity is great. From my environment I hear only negative things about the growing interest of many Germans for the AfD.


Regarding your third question: Germany is also divided on this issue. This can be seen well by

watching how the corona crisis is handled. 60% of Germans are pleased with the work of the government, 40% are not. That looks very different in Bavaria and Ingolstadt. Almost 90% of all people here are pleased with how the corona crisis was handled. You see, people's contentment is very dependent on the state in which you live.

madagascar
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 9

30 years: Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear

To start off, I wanted to say hello again! It’s so exciting to get to hear more about Germany and your opinions on world issues.

Some aspects of the last 30 years of German history that were most interesting to me were that the effects of the division are still prominent even today. The fact that so many German citizens had never been to East Germany and that there was quite a lot of distinction between the cultures was very interesting as well. It’s also very surprising to me how close in history this event took place. Thirty years seems like a lot on a small scale, however it really only happened a short time ago.

The cohesion of a nation is quite difficult because of the fact that each individual is so different and will have very differing opinions. However, like President Steinmeier mentioned, remembering the past and looking into the future is very important when it comes to unification. I absolutely agree with @muumihalit when they said “I think the cohesion of a nation is affected by people’s willingness to accept others.” If the people of a nation refuse to integrate and learn about each other's cultures and accept them, it’s far more likely that cohesion will occur.

In all honesty I really loved President Steinmeier’s speech. I do not know much about German politics, however he seems to be a powerful and charming leader. His attitude was very positive, yet honest at the same time. Steinmeier did not try to hide the fact that after 30 years there is still a lot of work to be done, he was not afraid to admit the truth. I really liked his sense of unity, and emphasis on being one country, together. It was also quite interesting and admirable that he talked about keeping landmarks from the past to learn from those mistakes, as well as setting up new ones to commemorate achievements since then. @yelloworchids put this point perfectly saying, “yet Germany seems to do a good job at acknowledging and condemning past atrocities (something many Americans fail to do).” I think that the emphasis on history, and embracing the diversity of a country really should be applied to the US. As well as a sense of unification, seeing as the US is quite divided at the moment.

Understanding regional identities that you have little contact with is a challenge. It’s hard to learn about other cultures when you don’t have a lot of interaction with them. I think some ways to educate or immerse yourself could be through accurate representation in literature, media such as movies and tv shows, documentaries, and even just the local news.

Some examples in the US that I can think of when it comes to a different regional identity is as basic as the South, the Midwest and the West Coast. I feel as though even jokingly, there are many stereotypes about different regional identities, especially in the South. In all honesty I have never looked into, or met people from the South enough to understand the culture or to debunk/verify those stereotypes. I also think that on the smaller scale here in Massachusetts, with different towns having such distinct identities (Western Mass vs. Central Mass.) And on an even smaller scale, Boston. The culture and identities of people from the different neighborhoods can be quite different (for example South Boston vs. Roxbury).

Regarding the PS: The topics of the AfD, dealing with Covid-19, and the refugee policy in Germany quite interest me and I would love to learn more about them.

Murs1214
West Roxbury, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 8

Last 30 years of German History

To be completely honest, I was not up to date on German history to this point so I am finding this very fascinating. From reading the article and from watching the video, I can understand how serious the last 30 years were in Germany as the East and the West were united. However, I was very sad to find out how far behind the East was economically after splitting off, and I was very interested to read that people in the east were way deeper into poverty than the east with unemployment rates up to 7.5% compared to the West's 5.9%. I also found it interesting that there were nicknames as well such as the ossi or the wessi, and that the reason why the west's economy is so much better is due to the Wirtschaftswunder and the opposite for the east with bad socialists decisions.

Moving onto the cohesion of a nation, there are many variables that come into play to keep a nation united. To keep the cohesion of a nation, you must agree as a whole on what decisions must be made for a country. In this case, the West wanted to united three zones and the east with the Soviet Union didn't like that because the combined West would have more power. This led to the Berlin wall being built and the downfall of East Germany's economy.

As for President Steinmier's attitude in his speech, he seemed very enthusiastic in united the two Germanies together. He also spoke very seriously in keeping the cohesion of the nation and the trust of one another to act as proper citizens. I believe he is doing the right thing as a leader versus what is going on in the U.S, as right now we seem to be going in the opposite direction of Germany. Now the U.S seems almost primed in separation because always seems like it's Black Lives Matter vs Blue Lives Matter, Liberals vs Republicans, whites vs all the other races - maybe it's just 2020 - but if only Donald Trump in his presidency could go in the direction of President Steinmier.

Lastly, the division of a country is hard to deal with, but in some cases it can be very understood especially if the division has become so normal to the citizens. For example, North and South Korea and they have been separated for many years now, but this is because North Korea is a dangerous dictatorship and the southerners don't want to get involved with dangerous weaponry or be forced to join a Korean military. Overall, many countries are still divided in our world, but it seems that Germany has come a long way and improved within the past 30 years.


greenflowers58
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 6

German unification

Similarly to what some of my classmates have said, I wasn’t particularly informed about recent German history and politics, but I enjoyed learning more about the German unification with these articles and videos.

It surprised me how recent this unification really was, being only 30 years ago it is still within the lifetime of many people today,it is generally surprising to see how relatively recent many things are that we learn about in history. I was also quite shocked at the amount of parallels between Germany and the US. For example, the disparities between East and West Germany feels familiar when it comes to the US with the southern states.

I think the cohesion of a nation is due to the willingness of the people to listen and work with each other respectfully. I also believe that acknowledging and addressing past problems as well as the belief that you can grow from them if key to cohesion and from what I read, president Steinmeier has successfully done so. Parts of his speech that I thought could be applied to the US were when he mentioned discussing mistakes and injustices in order to continue transformation after unification.

20469154661
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 7

The Importance of Cohesion

On October 3rd, a small celebration was held for the 30th anniversary of East and West Germany. It was surprising and interesting to hear that Germany had only recently been unified.

The cohesion of a nation is affected by the willingness of all parties involved to put aside differences and come together. With that being said, that does not mean they should ignore their differences. They should embrace them and be able to feel comfortable and accepted. During the celebration, Frank-Walter Steinmeier said “‘For if people feel they are always ignored, if their views are never reflected in political discourse, if they lose their belief in their own ability to shape their future – this is, simply put, not something we can respond to with indifference...then our cohesion starts to erode, people lose their trust in politics, and the breeding ground for populism and extremist parties grows and grows.”’ President Steinmeier has a very hopeful attitude. He talks about how far Germany has come, but he is also realistic and recognizes that they still have some way to go. Like @goob said, he addresses current issues relating to economics and cultural differences. He also says that the economy is not the only issue that needs to be addressed or the only one with importance. He believes that “‘Growing together is not measured merely in terms of employment statistics and economic data. The feeling of being fully part of society, of being seen and taken seriously as an equal, is determined not only by the size of one’s paycheque...as well as respect, others’ lifestyles and worldviews.”’ His attitude is very different from many of the politicians in the U.S.. In the U.S., we tend to stress the importance of the economy and numbers. Many U.S. politicians also don’t have the hopeful and reflecting attitude of Frank-Walter Steinmeier. In the U.S., not everyone’s views are accepted or listened to. Many people feel like they do not have a say in the future and feel like they are being ignored.

The different regions in Germany reminded me of the U.S. states. Somebody who lives in New England likely has different beliefs or values than somebody who lives in the Southern states. People that live in the Northeast and the Northwest also tend to be much wealthier than the people of Southern states. While the differences do not seem as extreme as the differences between regions of Germany, there are still some similarities.

leafinthewind
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 6

It seems so weird to me that German reunified only 30 years ago. That’s really not that long ago in the grand scheme of things. I’m not surprised that there is still a cultural divide between East and West Germany. Many people alive today remember when the Berlin wall was torn down and they still identify as east or west German. It takes multiple generations for two separate cultures to completely change and combine into one. I think the differences between the former east and west Germany is similar to North and South USA. There is a large political and cultural divide between the Southern and Northern states. Many people in the south vote for republican candidates as they are largely christian and support the second amendment. The Democratic party is generally secular and supports stricter gun control. These political differences cause a rift which leads to disagreements between the two parties and their supporters.

In Steinmeier’s speech, he remained very positive about the strides Germany has made in order to advance in peace and unity. He also understands and recognizes that there is still a lot to be done in order to have a fully united Germany. Steinmeier acknowledges the pay gap between former East and West Germany. He knows that western Germans don’t really care very much about eastern Germany’s problems but he still tries to explain that they are one country and their problems are shared. I wish the US had a leader who tried to unite the country, not divide it.

German people in general recognize the faults of their country’s history a lot more than the United States’ citizens. Many people(especially in the South) fly the Confederate flag because they claim it is part of their heritage. The reason people in Germany don’t fly Nazi symbols is because it is illegal and you can go to jail. I don’t think a similar law would work in the US. People in the US care more about their rights than anything else. Infringing on people’s rights in the United States would get you in big trouble and you would lose most supporters instantly.

penguinsintherain
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 6

East v. West Germany and Progress

I did not know much about the history of Germany and the reunification of the East and West, but it was very interesting to learn about! First of all, it was very interesting to learn about how division between people from the East and people from the West is so prominent, although it is unsurprising given that thirty years is very short. The differences in dialect and economically sort of resemble some of the regional differences in America, for example the North compared to the South or the North compared to the Midwest, but there is definitely a different dynamic, likely due to the very recent reunification in Germany.


I think it is important for the cohesion of a nation to have a balance of listening to everyone’s voices, while at the same time doing what is best for the nation. Part of this includes balancing the needs of certain regions of the nation, which can be difficult especially when the division is extreme. It is also important to be open to understanding other regional identities, which in part involves setting stereotypes of certain regions aside.


President Steinmeier seemed to generally have an attitude of progress in his speech, while also acknowledging the country’s faults in the past. Currently it seems like in the U.S. we tend to want to deny our history which has the potential to be very problematic. For example, in the vice presidential debate last night, our vice president denied the existence of systemic racism. In my opinion, denying the past of a nation only delays future progress, so I think it is very important to acknowledge the past to prevent history from repeating, as President Steinmeier did in his speech. While he did acknowledge the progress Germany has had, he also acknowledged the past and that there is still much progress to be made, which is an attitude we are struggling to see in the U.S. especially from leaders.

Earl Grey Tea
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 10

Tag der Deutschen Einheit -- 30 years later

Although I know a lot about German history, I still learned quite a bit from these resources, especially from President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s speech. First, one thing that surprised me was finding out how disadvantaged and underrepresented the people of East Germany are right now; I was not aware of this. I was surprised to find out that some of those East Germans vent their frustration by turning to the right, creating a large political divide in Germany, similar to over here I suppose. Something I found interesting was that Angela Merkl was actually one of the 20,000 people who crossed Bornholmer Straße from the East to the West unchecked the year before the official reunification of Germany. For people like Angela, the sudden switch from a socialist to a capitalist society must have completely altered the way they lived. I think the bravery that pushed the East German citizens to peacefully protest against a divided Germany, knowing they may have been risking their lives in doing so, is something that should be celebrated as long as we’re here.


Someone who proudly agrees with this in his speech is Federal President Frank Walter Steinmeier. Like many above me have already mentioned, Steinmeier takes on a positive and hopeful attitude, giving thanks where thanks is due and expressing appreciation for the diversity that makes Germany what it is today. There were a number of things he said that stuck with me and I think one can draw endless parallels between things and the current situation in the US; if not parallels, certainly reinterpretations.


He said at one point (but in German), “There are people, however, who always search for answers to questions of the future only by looking to the past.” I’m sure Germany has learned so many lessons from their rough history that they are careful not to limit their options to any extreme when it comes to important decisions. As for America, I can’t help but address what @yelloworchids addressed. Some people in America still wave confederate flags, not entirely similar to people in Germany waving the older German empire flag, but still an unwillingness to move forward. And then there’s MAGA, “Make America Great Again,” a dangerous statement suggesting that the past is our only option and our only way of moving forward.


Steinmeier later said, “we cannot tolerate injustice and adopt an attitude of ignorance.” As a person in power, that is the correct attitude to have. Unfortunately, America lacks that right now. I think injustices are especially detrimental to Germany since the country’s cohesion relies on its diversity. The reunification was a result of all sorts of different people coming together to protest peacefully, and that togetherness, along with the diversity that comes with it, is what keeps Germany united.


Steinmeier also talked about how, although he would treat COVID seriously, he would not let the virus interrupt or even redirect the path of German progress in the past 30 years. There were more pressing issues that German would dive into as soon as the virus is over, such as dealing with climate change. He said, “The melting polar ice caps and the raging fires in California are a grim reminder that the future will not wait.” I think this was a very appropriate attitude to have, recognizing the threat of the virus, but acknowledging that it is not the only threat Germany, or the whole world for that matter, is facing. Our president on the other hand doesn’t take climate change seriously, nor does he take COVID seriously.


As @muumihalit said, the key to understanding regional identities you have little contact with is learning more about them, but also keeping an open mind and realizing that not everything you do learn about them is true. There are clear regional identities within the US, for example the North and the South. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to understand people in the South, but at the same time I haven’t been there often and haven’t met anybody from there. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same country and are ordered to follow the same rules.



vintage.garfield
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 7

Unification and Connections

Hello again! Although much of this information about the Berlin wall and the reunification was unknown to me, learning about the German unification was very intriguing. I think that 30 years is pretty recent in terms of the history of the world so it makes sense to why there are still major effects on the entirety of Germany due to the separation. It still surprises me that these events have happened in such a recent timeline - a lot can change over a small period of time. Although I agree


I believe that there are many aspects that affect the cohesion of a nation. We as humans have very different ideas and opinions and from years and years of history lessons, I know that a utopian society will never be possible and there will always be conflict and discontent somewhere in that particular society. And with that, I think that there will always be something we can improve on; as humans evolve, so must our societies as well. I agree with @greenflowers58 that the cohesion of a nation really depends on the people of that society and their willingness to communicate and cooperate. In order to improve society, we can’t ignore or hide our problems, no matter how terrible they are, because that will only oppress minorities further and create a larger gap between those in power and their citizens.


Although I am not very familiar with President Steinmeier, but he seems like a very educated and eloquent speaker and in my opinion, seems fit for his position unlike some people in other countries (and yes, I’m referring to Mr. Trump). I totally agree with @madagascar that it was very admiring how the president didn’t try to hide that there is a lot of work to do. His hopeful attitude and honesty is a fresh breath of air compared to the politics and discourse happening here in the States. I think that my government should be more honest to its citizens and bring awareness to the oppression of minorities instead of promoting white supremacists. I also think we should follow Germany’s example of banning all Nazi symbols and educating their youth about the Holocaust and make the KKK illegal and stop whitewashing our own history books which glorify colonists and racists and demean POC. Even with different regional characteristics (like culture, language, politics, and etc), we have a lot in common and can use each other as examples for things we should or shouldn’t do.

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