posts 31 - 36 of 36
Mnemosyne
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 15

German Reunification

Similar to most of my classmates in this thread, I do not know much about Germany and its complicated history. In AP World History, I learned about Germany taking part in World War I (but not much about its role in that war), its transformation into the Weimar Republic, and, of course, Nazi Germany and the huge part it played in World War II. But after that? My knowledge of the division of Germany into East and West basically consists of the fact that the Berlin Wall existed and was eventually toppled in 1989. So, practically nothing.

I was initially surprised that there was still so much inequality and tension between eastern and western Germany today, thirty years after reunification, but I quickly realized that I should not have. Reunification never goes smoothly—just take a look at the news anytime and one could see how the relationship between Hong Kong and China is going. And although thirty decades seem to me to be a pretty long period of time—probably because I was not even alive thirty years ago—it is not even a blip in the context of history and nations. The United States have been unified for more than a hundred and fifty years, and even today, there are still deep ideological differences between the North and South.

I think President Steinmeier generally tried to be positive about the reunification. He repeatedly congratulated the German people, saying that they should be “rightfully” proud of their achievement. And, honestly, they should be. The reunification of Germany was largely done peacefully through non-violent initiatives and demonstrations. This was worlds better than a lot of other reunifications I could think of; most of those were achieved through violence and war.

But President Steinmeier was also right about there still being work to be done. At this point, the divide between two parts of Germany has simmered into subtle and systemic discrimination against the “Ossi,” who are by and large underrepresented in national matters, such as sports teams and politics. Many former East Germans also feel like they were forced to adapt to West German society, and that their counterparts do not respect their culture.

To that end, I think that there needs to be some sort of dialogue going on between east and west, particularly between individuals. It is one thing to read about eastern or western Germans in an article or a book, but that does not really replace real, live conversation (whether that be email, social media, or face-to-face), as it is difficult to connect to a person or a group when you have never interacted with them in any significant way. And this does not just apply to Germany. I especially feel that Americans would greatly benefit from this too, especially because ever since the COVID-19 crisis began—or even since the beginning of Trump’s presidency, or even earlier than that—the United States have begun to feel increasingly like several floundering parts of a broken and disparate whole.

As for the topics, I am rather interested in Russian-German relations today, especially after the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his treatment in Berlin. Obviously, East Germany used to be very close to Soviet Russia, but I was wondering if there is a difference of views toward Russia between eastern and western Germany today. How do Germans view Navalny’s poisoning? How will this affect relations between Germany and Russia?

Mnemosyne
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 15

Replies

Originally posted by TroutCowboy on October 09, 2020 02:36

Looking at and echoing what many others have said before me, It's interesting to see the divide between what we consider to be "modern day" and what we consider to be "history", and how that it's largely based on which events in history have happened throughout our own lifetimes. It's an interesting and different perspective to see how the reunification of Germany is still relatively recent, and that most Germans likely still remember when it happened.

I totally agree with this. It is fascinating—and a bit sad, honestly—to see that the most impactful events are the ones that we have personally witnessed. Many adult Americans, for example, remember the 9-11 attacks vividly and viscerally, but those born after the turn of the century—like me—have a harder time viewing it outside of a historical lens.

Originally posted by mellifluously on October 09, 2020 02:20

Times change, but prejudices often don't. I personally believe that to some extent, it's the history textbooks' fault, because of how they frame those societies, and we grow up knowing only such things about those locations, thus impacting our biases towards said locations. In that case, it makes me wonder: how would the south see us? How would Germany see us, seeing as the US fought against Germany during WWII? It's an interesting thought.

This. Our ideas toward various regions and the people residing in those regions are largely developed through what authority figures tell us about them during our childhoods, as well as any scant personal experiences. Once these notions have been internalized, it is really hard for us to change them, and the proliferation of stereotypes in popular culture has only exacerbated the problem.

And, well, considering that the American Civil War is sometimes called the “War of Northern Aggression” in the South, I think that Southerners probably view us pretty differently. I actually find it pretty interesting to read about how the Civil War is taught in some Southern districts, especially the “Lost Cause” theory, which presents the South in a heroic light and disregards slavery as a cause of the war.

UnrecognizableUsername
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 9

30 years

It's unbelievable that the reunification in Germany was 30 years ago. Despite this I feel like a division still stands, not only in Germany but we also see it here in America. Most notably the political division and political ideals of Democrats and Republicans. I feel like there's still a division in the US regarding life style but that could just be because how diverse America is. I would love to know how you guys started to deal with the pandemic and what it looks for you now, because I believe we were very late to a response that did cost of many lives. Are you guys doing the whole online school thing? Or a hybrid schedule? To be honest I wasn't even aware that the 30 year anniversery had passed because all I really see on the news is debates between old people, and news about the virus.

Bot Yogi
Ingolstadt, Bavaria, DE
Posts: 1

Originally posted by dewdropdoll on October 07, 2020 17:36

First off, I think it’s pretty surprising that the reunification was only 30 years ago, as for some reason in school, it always feels like the Cold War is taught like something that happened a really long time ago. Even though I learned about it a lot last year in AP World History, I still forget sometimes that it only happened 30 years ago and Germany is still recovering. I honestly didn’t know much about the divide between East and West Germany, besides the Berlin Wall, and it’s pretty crazy how even today, there are so many differences between them. I think a big part of what affects the cohesion of a nation is definitely the differences in politics. It was mentioned how the political parties in Germany are very extreme, and that caused a big divide due to the contrast in opinions, and especially when the East is not really represented in the government. In a way, this is similar to America with our Democratic and Republican party. Like Ms. Freeman mentioned, most of us, including me, don’t know much about the South unless they have family there or they go for vacation. Most people would assume that the South has a lot more Republicans than Democrats because of what we see on social media, and there’s definitely a lot of arguments there when it comes to political differences. This would be similar to what I just learned about Germany where they also have a divide with their far right and left parties. I feel like every country has these divides as well, but definitely none are as drastic as Germany with the East and the West.


In terms of the topics, I am really interested in learning about the COVID-19 situation in Germany. Obviously, I would say it’s pretty bad here in the United States, but I would like to learn about how other countries have dealt with the pandemic. How much better is Germany’s situation compared to the United States? How did Germany respond to the pandemic compared to how the United States responded? I'm looking forward to learning more :)

Thank you for your posting on the reunification of germany. You are right, there are still some differences but expecially for us young people there a pretty much very few to none, except of a different slang maybe. There is truly a difference in politics between east and west but i think its due to the economical development after the reunification. The west was a big winner of the globalisation in the beginning of the 90s whereas the east lost almost their entire industry. The main losers of the reunification were old people who couldn't adjust that easy to capitalism. The revolution in the GDR itself was initiated and supportet mostly among the younger population. The generational conflict in the east is in my opinion even harsher than in the rest of germany. Old folks there get less pension than in the west. So there are not happy at all with their current economic situation. They search for political alternatives because they think the current ruling partys don't care for them. Thats why the left- and expecially the right-wing is that strong in eastern Germany. But frankly the former GDR is not a homogeneous area. In big cities like Berlin, Leipzig or Dresden, which are traditionally cities with big universities, live many young students who are mostly on the more progressiv site of politics. So there are not just some differences between east and west there big differences in the east itself. Germany truly is a very pluralistic Democracy.

About the Covid-19 situation in Germany. In my honest opinion our gouverment did an excellent job handling the pandemic. The state realized very early that Covid-19 is dangerous so Germany got a part-shutdown for almost two months. There are still many rules in school or in grocery stores like keeping the distance in wearing a mask. The situation compared to the US ist much, I repeat much better. The US states were not able to communicate on a federal level and work out a national emergency plan, like it was done in Germany, where the states do have their freedom in making concrete decisions, but have to adjust to the federal recommendation. From media in the Germany the handling of the public health crisis in the US seems absolutly chaotic and every state is standing on his own.

Germany has very low death rates in comparison to the relatively high infection rates and there's is still enough capacity in the hospitals. But now with the beginning of autum and later on winter temperature will fall. Scientists and doctors are afraid of a second wave and its very likely that there will be again more restrictions in order to prevent a second wave.

I hope i could help you a bit out understanding the germany view of the reunification and the COVID-19 crisis. Best wishes.


withered wojak
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 8

Wealth and Cohesion of Nations

The reunification of East and West Germany is a really recent thing, which surprised me. I had previously thought that the wall was taken down in the 70's, but that fact that it took til the 90's to do it is mind boggling. This issue of a country that is divided into geographic groupings and the wealth disparities between them is a very common one in america. Although things such as the internet are working to connect us more and more, this issue is still very much real. As I'm sure one in West Germany thinks about a person in East Germany, I sometimes wonder what its like to live out in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming. This disconnection between people who live in different parts of the same country certainly can't be good. It's sort of funny because we also share the same issue of far right wing groups infiltrating higher offices, although it is my impression that your politicians are much more open about it. I think that the phenomenon of far right wing groups forming comes from extreme discontent with the system that they're born into. As these divisions grow, nations have the very real possibility of splitting apart.

Fireheart
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 8

Progress

There were a couple of things that really surprised me about the history behind German unification. One of them was the fact that this all happened 30 years ago. I’ve never really heard much about German history besides the very obvious and infamous World War II. Whenever I heard anything about, for example, the fall of the Berlin Wall, it always seemed like something that had happened much longer than 30 years ago. I didn't realize that there was actual live footage and photos from that day, that it was that recent.

What surprised me, as well, was the fact that people were able to accomplish this by protesting peacefully. With everything that’s happening in America now, and how the media is portraying protests, they really don’t seem to be doing anything other than causing more problems. While I do believe protests can be effective in getting a message across, here in America they are something to be politicized. We even see people organizing protests to other people’s protests.

The division we are seeing here in America is, I think, more political than anything. We have a President who likes to pit citizens against each other and stoke the flames of hatred and bigotry. Like @graphicmango, it was really nice to see a President who both accepts and celebrates the diversity of his country very openly and freely.

There’s a lot more than that, however, going on in Germany, and a lot of that has to do with economical reasons. The East isn’t as well-off as the West and there just seems to be a negative stain on the East that some just want to avoid. It’s not something that I can really understand, as an outsider looking in. At the same time, I understand that it is a totally different culture and climate there, while also being able to identify some similarities between Germany and the US. I of course hope that more is being done to bridge this gap and to continue the fight towards progress.

posts 31 - 36 of 36