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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.

razzledazzle8
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 15

Germany and America are similar in ways you may not have thought

The most interesting aspect of the last 30 years of German history is that people from Germany still identify people as being from the “East” or “West” even though they technically don’t exist. These labels create stereotypes I’ve learned and I find it very interesting that these stereotypes prevail today. People from the East are labeled “racist and penny-pinchers” and people from the West are labeled “distant and abrupt”. I can’t believe that even 30 years after reunification the East still is affected by it’s disparities. The East was turned upside down when the sudden change from socialism to capitalism happened and they still feel the effects from it.

That’s just what affects the cohesion of the nation. The East feel like they are “second-class citizens” to this day. The West didn’t feel the effects of unification as the East did, except for a large influx of east Germans moving to west Germany. Like President Steinmeier said, “When eastern Germans talk about themselves, this always includes the west – because the west always plays a dominant role in their lives. Yet many stories told by western Germans do not include a single mention of the east.” But the good thing about this is that the country is willing to talk about these injustices and want to strive toward equality. Another thing that could affect the cohesiveness of Germany is that there is a large wage gap between east and west Germans. This could hurt the country because a country cannot be unified if people cannot be equal in all aspects of life.

I learned that President Steinmeier is proud of the unification of Germany but still realized work needs to be done. He states that the peaceful protesters on the East side need to be praised because without them Germany wouldn’t be unified. But then he goes on to say that there is still a lot of work to be done and they won’t stop until the whole country is completely unified in all ways. Many of the points President Steinmeier made need to be said in America because people need to realize that there is still so much work to be done in order to achieve equality. But unfortunately not all people in office choose to believe that like President Steinmeier does. We need a lot more people in America like him because we need people to face problems in this country head on like police brutality and racism. Only if Trump had the same mindset as Steinmeier.

I definitely understand regional identities because I get that people don’t want to be mistaken for being from somewhere else. This happens constantly in America. Even in Massachusetts, kids from Boston make sure to say they are from Boston so people don’t think they are from the suburbs. I feel like people definitely identify more with their region instead of their country as a whole because different regions have different ideals and cultures and people might not think of themselves as being part of that culture. For example, people from New England talk differently and have different sayings than people from the South. So I feel like saying your from America is a very broad statement because that could mean so many different things.


Regina_Phalange
Boston, Massachussetts
Posts: 11

Germany reunification and US racism

An aspect of the last 30 years of German history that interested me was the inequalities in Germany based on being from the East or the West. I went into this knowing that Germany was split i, but I never actually differentiated both sides. Hearing that the west was dominating sports teams, and even politics, was very shocking. I also did not realize that completely adopting democracy would still have issues. Living in the US, one believes that democracy is like a saving grace, and means that everyone’s voice can be heard. However, that is not the case in Germany, and honesty not in the US either. In Germany, adopting democracy still left people in the east having a different mentality, and also not being equally heard in the government. Also, switching to democracy was drastically changing the east, while the west stayed the same, and stayed dominant, even with wages and the economy. In addition, I agree with razzledazzle8 that continuing to verbally separate each other and identifying people with being from the east or west, is contributing to the problem, because they are constantly pointing out each other’s differences rather than trying to come together.

A nation can be cohesive if there is equal representation in the government, and each person has an opportunity to succeed in that nation. In germany, while everyone has opportunities, there is a clear divide between the east and west that is preventing the east from catching up to the west. It is very difficult to go through such a huge change, like changing the government. That change is something the east has to deal with, while the west does not.this is probably preventing cohesion.

I agree with razzledazzle8 that the German president seemed very proud of the strides that his country made since the reunification of Germany. He realizes that while they still have challenges to face, they have made great improvements. The prescient was not just praising Germany, but was acknowledging both sides of the coin. A question that i still had at the end, was what are his plans in terms of representation of the east in government, etc. This speech can also be applied to america. Just like there is inequality in Germany, the US is also facing inequality. It is really important that our government recognize how little things have changed since the civil rights movement. Real steps must be taken, but our current president does not even acknowledge racism in America.

broskiii
Charlestown, MA, US
Posts: 6

Germany’s Cultural Division

I want to start off by saying that before reading the articles and watching the video, I did not know that Germany was still culturally divided to this day. They are technically reunited politically, but some East Germans still feel as though the West are foreigners to them, vice versa. So I thought that this cultural divide was really interesting because even after 30 years, not much has changed. These cultural labels, Ossi and Wessi, create a stigma towards their people and society still treats them as if they were still part of the stereotype, just as razzledazzle8 mentioned before. For example, in the US, when someone says that they are for New York, we probably perceive them as someone who always needs to live life at a really fast pace. When someone says that they are from Los Angeles, we imagine them to have this “valley-girl” personality where everyone eats kale or is vegan. These stigmas stress the importance of cultural division. I understand that many people are proud of the region that they came from because they do not want to be mistaken for another region in their state. For example, as razzledazzle8 mentioned before, a lot of suburbian kids tend to say that they are from Boston even if they live in Dedham. While Bostonians tend to correct others when they mention that they are from a neighborhood that isn’t Boston. We also make sure to say that we are from Boston because we don’t want to be grouped with people from the suburbs.

In Germany, the Ossi are referred to as “penny-pinchers” because of their economic catastrophe at the time which led to many Ossis moving to the West. The Ossi still think of themselves as second-class citizens because of their history of transitioning from being a socialist country to a capitalist country. Their wages are significantly lower than the West and the unemployment rates drastically higher. This leads me to comment on President Steinmeier’s speech on the unification of Germany. He compares the unification in 1871, which was brought by force and was due to Prussian dominance, to the unification in 1990. I think that President Steinmeier is really pleased of how his country managed to peacefully negotiate a unification between the East and the West. I am also quite impressed at how they managed to reunite Germany with peace rather than brute force like before. He also mentions how although they are currently one country, they still have a long way to go for both parties to feel equal. I like how their President acknowledges that there is clearly an unspoken cultural difference between the East and the West, unlike our President who denies that racism happens in the US. We can definitely apply this sense of acknowledgement into our own affairs, but our President chooses to ignore it and chooses not to denounce white supremist groups in the presidential debate.

BOT Yuri
Ingolstadt, Bavaria, DE
Posts: 1

Originally posted by razzledazzle8 on October 07, 2020 18:48

The most interesting aspect of the last 30 years of German history is that people from Germany still identify people as being from the “East” or “West” even though they technically don’t exist. These labels create stereotypes I’ve learned and I find it very interesting that these stereotypes prevail today. People from the East are labeled “racist and penny-pinchers” and people from the West are labeled “distant and abrupt”. I can’t believe that even 30 years after reunification the East still is affected by it’s disparities. The East was turned upside down when the sudden change from socialism to capitalism happened and they still feel the effects from it.

That’s just what affects the cohesion of the nation. The East feel like they are “second-class citizens” to this day. The West didn’t feel the effects of unification as the East did, except for a large influx of east Germans moving to west Germany. Like President Steinmeier said, “When eastern Germans talk about themselves, this always includes the west – because the west always plays a dominant role in their lives. Yet many stories told by western Germans do not include a single mention of the east.” But the good thing about this is that the country is willing to talk about these injustices and want to strive toward equality. Another thing that could affect the cohesiveness of Germany is that there is a large wage gap between east and west Germans. This could hurt the country because a country cannot be unified if people cannot be equal in all aspects of life.

I learned that President Steinmeier is proud of the unification of Germany but still realized work needs to be done. He states that the peaceful protesters on the East side need to be praised because without them Germany wouldn’t be unified. But then he goes on to say that there is still a lot of work to be done and they won’t stop until the whole country is completely unified in all ways. Many of the points President Steinmeier made need to be said in America because people need to realize that there is still so much work to be done in order to achieve equality. But unfortunately not all people in office choose to believe that like President Steinmeier does. We need a lot more people in America like him because we need people to face problems in this country head on like police brutality and racism. Only if Trump had the same mindset as Steinmeier.

I definitely understand regional identities because I get that people don’t want to be mistaken for being from somewhere else. This happens constantly in America. Even in Massachusetts, kids from Boston make sure to say they are from Boston so people don’t think they are from the suburbs. I feel like people definitely identify more with their region instead of their country as a whole because different regions have different ideals and cultures and people might not think of themselves as being part of that culture. For example, people from New England talk differently and have different sayings than people from the South. So I feel like saying your from America is a very broad statement because that could mean so many different things.


I totally agree with razzledazzle8. Many Germans have the feeling that in the USA they prefer to be kept quiet or even more incited than to solve the problems. This feeling is reinforced especially by Trump. I can remember a scene when Trump posed with a Bible in hand in front of a church during a BLM demonstration, although as president he should rather solve the problems in the country neutrally. But there are also problems with racism in Germany, where the government prefers to look the other way than to act. Because there have been rumors for a long time that there are right-wing networks in the German police. As a result, many politicians have requested an investigation into this case. The Minister of the Interior of Germany Horst Seehofer rejected this request. But now to come to the topic of regional identities. In Germany there is not only a difference between East and West, but also between North and South. However, this is more due to the mentality of the regions. While Bavarian citizens are mostly open and rather extroverted, things are different in the north. People in the north are more likely to be cautious, suspicious and introverted.

239bid0073
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 9

German Unification

From the outside looking in (with the information from the sources provided) there still seems to be a lot of division. This is represented in the sports teams, politics, and the everyday life of citizens. Unification is one thing, and that is what has been done, but after years separation separate cultures started to form. And to actually be one again cultural immersion is going to have to take place. In which the end result is a blend of both Eastern and Western culture.

One of the most interesting things to me is the fact that the daily lives of the people in the East and West differ greatly, even after 30 years. Hearing about this only a couple of times I thought that there would be no difficulties in unification and that those of East Germany would find themselves living much better than they did without any complications. And while they say they are more comfortable now, there are still many complications. One of the biggest changes as mentioned by razzledazzle8 was the change from a socialist to capitalist nation. While this provided many positives the people from the East were still met with many obstacles such as unemployment. The fact that 30 years later East Germans are still feeling the impact daily of unification, shows just how profound this was.

I think the biggest thing that affects the cohesion of a nation is the leadership. While there was an East German in a powerful position of chancellor there still is a lack of representation. Without equal representation you are not going to hear the sides of all people. I think more representation could benefit all. As broskiii said, an important thing to note about President Steinmeier’s speech is his positive outlook. While he knows he still has a lot to do he seems very pleased with the steps that have already been taken. It is so important to have someone leading with optimism and hope.

I think the United States could learn a lot from the German unification and especially President Steinmeier. The biggest thing that the leadership in the US could learn from Steinmeier is that it is important to acknowledge. Acknowledge and state the problems that are present. Instead of denying or avoiding them. I think another thing that is important is for the US to realize that other countries are struggling internally as well. And while the US may be struggling more it is encouraging to know that others are in the same situation as you. The Cold War lasted about 45 years. This means 45 years of tensions, division, and suppression. And Germany seems to be on their way to recovering well. The US has not experienced any major internal wars since the civil war which only lasted 4 years and was 150 years ago. Looking at this the US should be way more unified than it is today.

Germany, you are a beacon of hope right now. I am going to read more about this topic and stay up to date on it because I am anxious to see the progress that willed be made in unification.

razzledazzle8
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 15

Originally posted by 239bid0073 on October 08, 2020 14:02

From the outside looking in (with the information from the sources provided) there still seems to be a lot of division. This is represented in the sports teams, politics, and the everyday life of citizens. Unification is one thing, and that is what has been done, but after years separation separate cultures started to form. And to actually be one again cultural immersion is going to have to take place. In which the end result is a blend of both Eastern and Western culture.

One of the most interesting things to me is the fact that the daily lives of the people in the East and West differ greatly, even after 30 years. Hearing about this only a couple of times I thought that there would be no difficulties in unification and that those of East Germany would find themselves living much better than they did without any complications. And while they say they are more comfortable now, there are still many complications. One of the biggest changes as mentioned by razzledazzle8 was the change from a socialist to capitalist nation. While this provided many positives the people from the East were still met with many obstacles such as unemployment. The fact that 30 years later East Germans are still feeling the impact daily of unification, shows just how profound this was.

I think the biggest thing that affects the cohesion of a nation is the leadership. While there was an East German in a powerful position of chancellor there still is a lack of representation. Without equal representation you are not going to hear the sides of all people. I think more representation could benefit all. As broskiii said, an important thing to note about President Steinmeier’s speech is his positive outlook. While he knows he still has a lot to do he seems very pleased with the steps that have already been taken. It is so important to have someone leading with optimism and hope.

I think the United States could learn a lot from the German unification and especially President Steinmeier. The biggest thing that the leadership in the US could learn from Steinmeier is that it is important to acknowledge. Acknowledge and state the problems that are present. Instead of denying or avoiding them. I think another thing that is important is for the US to realize that other countries are struggling internally as well. And while the US may be struggling more it is encouraging to know that others are in the same situation as you. The Cold War lasted about 45 years. This means 45 years of tensions, division, and suppression. And Germany seems to be on their way to recovering well. The US has not experienced any major internal wars since the civil war which only lasted 4 years and was 150 years ago. Looking at this the US should be way more unified than it is today.

Germany, you are a beacon of hope right now. I am going to read more about this topic and stay up to date on it because I am anxious to see the progress that willed be made in unification.

I totally agree with what 239bid0073 said when they said that America should be a lot more unified since our last major internal conflict was 150 years ago. I feel like in America, especially these days, people are defined as being a Democrat or a Republican and sometimes I feel like that divides the country. I understand each party has different ideals and plans for the future but in the end we are all Americans and why can’t we just come together for the wellbeing of our country. There are also many stereotypes that come along with being a Democrat or Republican. For example, people think that Republicans are pro-gun, pro-life, and believe in traditional gender norms, that is what we tend to see but it’s not always true, and for Democrats people say they are too emotional, hippies (environmentalists), and control the media, which isn’t true all the time. I personally don’t see a problem with being an environmentalist but some do. So I believe these stereotypes only divide our country. We’ve had 150 years to be unified and still haven’t achieved it.

coral27
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 8

Similarities, Differences, and Working Together

I was surprised that the separation has had such lasting impacts on Germany. Now that I’ve learned more about the history, it makes sense, but I think the narrative I’d heard was that the Berlin Wall fell and then Germany was unified, the end. It wasn’t that simple.

It was especially interesting to learn about how the different economic/social/political systems affected people. The historian in the video, Clemens Villinger, brought up an interesting point: under socialism, people lacked freedoms, but unemployment wasn’t a thing. Then, after reunification, their lives changed dramatically.

While learning about what East and West Germany are like today, I was reminded of the American South (it’s really the Southeast, but we call that region the South) versus the Northeast. Before the Civil War, the South’s economy was based on plantations worked by slaves. Then, when slavery was abolished, it underwent a lot of change, although discriminatory laws continued and former slaves were still economically trapped.

Our history, like Germany’s, has had lasting impacts on the economy and people. Although there are some big cities in the South, it’s generally still poorer and less industrial/urbanized than the Northeast. There are certain stereotypes about people from each region. Southerners are seen as country bumpkins, slow, and unsophisticated. The South is still very Christian and conservative/farther right. Northeasterners are seen as stuck-up and rude. We tend to be more liberal/farther left, especially in the cities.

As President Steinmeier said in his speech, the use of a flag is being debated in Germany. I saw a similarity to the US, where the Confederate flag (represents the southern Confederacy that fought (and lost to) the northern Union in the Civil War) is a hot topic of debate. Some argue that it is a symbol of Southern heritage. Others, including myself, see it as a symbol of hate and racism.

I think that for a country to have a feeling of unity, it needs to share some core values, while recognizing and valuing the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of its people. President Steinmeier made an excellent point in the speech when he said, “Today, we live in a reunited country, and we do not expect everyone to be the same...our country has become more varied and diverse over the past 30 years. The task we face now is finding out, time and again, how the many different people in our country can live together peacefully. It is a task that we all know is not always easy. But it is, after all, an expression of the freedom that is the hallmark of this country, for which so many before us have fought, and without which we do not want to live!” I agree with @razzledazzle8; I think we could use a perspective like his in the US. The country feels very divided right now. We are in desperate need of unity and a reminder of what makes us similar, and we need to learn to work together despite our differences.

PineappleMan30
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 5

German Unification

Not having lived in Germany, I would say that the Unification was the most interesting thing that has happened in the last 30 years. After watching the 6-minute video, I thought it was very surprising to see only 1 Ossi on the German 2014 World Cup team.


A number of factors can affect the cohesion of a nation. This mainly includes political views, past conflicts, current global events, etc. In America, the country attempted to split due to views on slavery, as well as a number of other factors. Political parties have to be able to work with each other civilly, and not tear the country down.


People can understand regional identities through their own experiences. You don’t have to be in a particular place to know what’s going on there, to understand someone's views. Granted, we will never know what it feels like, we will never know everything people thought or felt in those moments. But we can understand them, especially now with the existence of media.

SlothsPoopOnceAWeek
Chestnuthill, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 8

Germany and the Inequality that is Still Present

In the past, I thought of Germany as just one country. I didn't know much of the impact of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Eastern and Western Germany. Reading the article and watching the videos, I discovered it was more than just a unification of two separated states, but rather pulling people out of a less appealing life and bringing them to join the West. While they have unified, it seems as though they have great disadvantages compared to the West. Something I learned was that in the East, poverty and unemployment were more common. They received lower wages. Despite the suffering, I discovered that the President has been trying to make life easier for those in the East. This was very nice to hear, as usually some people say they will do something but then never do. I was shocked to hear, though, that those outside of the main cities were still suffering. They also felt like "second class citizens." I was shocked to hear this, and to hear about how there were many negative stereotypes against them. They were seen as, "racist and penny-pinchers." They are seen in this way because people from the East began to move to the West because of all of the disadvantages that made them less wealthy and have a lower quality of life. There are actually also negative stereotypes against the West, with them being called "distant and abrupt." I was shocked to learn about such a different between two groups in the same country. This reminds me of the United States in some ways, where each region has their own stereotypes. Some examples are people in Florida are seen as dumber and crazy, and people in the South are seen as racist, or at least from what I have heard.


The West didn't really receive any effects from the cohersion of the two sides of Germany. All they felt was the large amount of Eastern Germans moving into Western Germany. This could cause the West to ignore the problems that those in the East are facing. It is amazing how the President has been trying to help, which I may have already mentioned before but is still something very shocking to me. He is trying to pull Eastern Germany out of the poverty that they are living in. I learned from the speech that the President is very optomistic, and is trying to solve issues prevalent in his country. He is also trying to raise more awareness to the issues, rather than ignoring it and hiding the issues. Our president on the other hand, is denying the racism and issues prevalent in our society and country, which doesn't help one bit. Instead, he could be trying, like the President of Germany, to invest into poorer cities and areas. In comparision, it seems as thought the German president is acting more for the people, unlike Mr. Donald Trump.

coral27
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 8

Originally posted by BOT Yuri on October 08, 2020 12:41

Originally posted by razzledazzle8 on October 07, 2020 18:48

The most interesting aspect of the last 30 years of German history is that people from Germany still identify people as being from the “East” or “West” even though they technically don’t exist. These labels create stereotypes I’ve learned and I find it very interesting that these stereotypes prevail today. People from the East are labeled “racist and penny-pinchers” and people from the West are labeled “distant and abrupt”. I can’t believe that even 30 years after reunification the East still is affected by it’s disparities. The East was turned upside down when the sudden change from socialism to capitalism happened and they still feel the effects from it.

That’s just what affects the cohesion of the nation. The East feel like they are “second-class citizens” to this day. The West didn’t feel the effects of unification as the East did, except for a large influx of east Germans moving to west Germany. Like President Steinmeier said, “When eastern Germans talk about themselves, this always includes the west – because the west always plays a dominant role in their lives. Yet many stories told by western Germans do not include a single mention of the east.” But the good thing about this is that the country is willing to talk about these injustices and want to strive toward equality. Another thing that could affect the cohesiveness of Germany is that there is a large wage gap between east and west Germans. This could hurt the country because a country cannot be unified if people cannot be equal in all aspects of life.

I learned that President Steinmeier is proud of the unification of Germany but still realized work needs to be done. He states that the peaceful protesters on the East side need to be praised because without them Germany wouldn’t be unified. But then he goes on to say that there is still a lot of work to be done and they won’t stop until the whole country is completely unified in all ways. Many of the points President Steinmeier made need to be said in America because people need to realize that there is still so much work to be done in order to achieve equality. But unfortunately not all people in office choose to believe that like President Steinmeier does. We need a lot more people in America like him because we need people to face problems in this country head on like police brutality and racism. Only if Trump had the same mindset as Steinmeier.

I definitely understand regional identities because I get that people don’t want to be mistaken for being from somewhere else. This happens constantly in America. Even in Massachusetts, kids from Boston make sure to say they are from Boston so people don’t think they are from the suburbs. I feel like people definitely identify more with their region instead of their country as a whole because different regions have different ideals and cultures and people might not think of themselves as being part of that culture. For example, people from New England talk differently and have different sayings than people from the South. So I feel like saying your from America is a very broad statement because that could mean so many different things.


I totally agree with razzledazzle8. Many Germans have the feeling that in the USA they prefer to be kept quiet or even more incited than to solve the problems. This feeling is reinforced especially by Trump. I can remember a scene when Trump posed with a Bible in hand in front of a church during a BLM demonstration, although as president he should rather solve the problems in the country neutrally. But there are also problems with racism in Germany, where the government prefers to look the other way than to act. Because there have been rumors for a long time that there are right-wing networks in the German police. As a result, many politicians have requested an investigation into this case. The Minister of the Interior of Germany Horst Seehofer rejected this request. But now to come to the topic of regional identities. In Germany there is not only a difference between East and West, but also between North and South. However, this is more due to the mentality of the regions. While Bavarian citizens are mostly open and rather extroverted, things are different in the north. People in the north are more likely to be cautious, suspicious and introverted.

I agree with you that Trump prefers to ignore the US’s important issues like racism. The topic of racism and far-right ideology in Germany is interesting to me because of the country’s history. One would think that Germans would be especially cautious about the growth of this type of ideology. I hadn’t heard about the right-wing networks in the German police. Do you think Minister Seehofer’s rejection of the request was because of his personal political beliefs?

As you know, the US police have been under a lot of scrutiny recently. Their connections to white supremacy are especially concerning. Here’s an interesting opinion piece I found about police connections to far-right ideology and white supremacy that features a photo taken at our State House: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/28/fbi-far-right-white-supremacists-police.

Here in Boston, the Police Union publishes a newsletter that has been described as “boldly bigoted,” and featuring racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic, etc. language. I’ve read it, and I agree with the descriptions. I think that far-right ideology is especially bad in the police, because they’re supposed to “protect and serve” us, but their racist beliefs affect the way they treat people, including minorities and protestors.

It’s concerning that this type of ideology has been found in the police of both countries. Hopefully there will be more government action against it in both countries, although I doubt Trump will do anything in this country during his months (or years, but I really hope it won’t be) left in office.

butterfly123
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 8

Division in Germany and the US

Learning about the divisions between East and West Germany was very interesting cause I hadn’t known much about it before. While I knew that Germany had been split up into two different countries post world war 2, when they were reunited, I thought that that was the end of it. While the United States was never divided the same way that Germany was, there are still many similarities between the US and Germany.

In the video, many of the people mentioned how even though the country had technically been reunited, they felt as though they were still divided. Differences between the East and West such as unemployment rates and political views, as well as underrepresentation of East Germans, cause East Germans to feel like ‘second class citizens.’ The first thing that this reminded me of was the abolition of slavery in the United States. While the separation of East and West Germany was very different than the institution of slavery, the lasting effects that East germans feel is somewhat similar to what African Americans have had to deal with in the US. While technically they have the same rights, black people in America have been discriminated against, are very underrepresented in politics, and are still fighting to be treated equally. Not only can the situation in Germany be compared to the struggles of black Americans, but it can also be compared with the differences between the Southeast and the Northeast in America. As coral27 mentioned, the civil war left the south as a less urbanized area, and the north more ‘developed.’

In the video, someone also brought up how even though the holiday celebrating the reunification of Germany is a good thing, people need to be thinking about it all the time not just on October 3rd. This comment stood out to me because I think that this mindset needs to be present in the US as well. Especially among people who are not minorities, thinking about the discrimination and injustices in our country all the time, not just when it is convenient is very important. When it is not you personally experiencing something, it is easier to not think about it, however we all have to take responsibility and be constantly aware of the injustices.

._____________.
Boston, MA, US
Posts: 4

German Unity

The part of the unification between east and west Germany is how it affected the political landscape especially considering there is increasing migration between the two sides. I’m most interested in the fact that east Germany despite being very atheist when compared to its western counterparts is one of the biggest supporting groups of the CDU (the Christian Democratic Union). I think the main thing that affects the cohesion of a nation is generally how similar the people who live in it are, I think somewhere like Japan is very homogenous but also very stable however somewhere like the Congo is very diverse but also has no unifying government at all. I think Steinmeier is pretty satisfied with how unified Germany is at the current time, and I think he’s right to think that increased migration across the nation shows that people are willing to move to other places regardless of the people who live there which is a pretty good indicator for how unified a country is. I think the point about listening to one another is very important in the US because we honestly don’t do it enough, both sides especially during the Trump administration have generally created echo-chambers around their own beliefs and it’s only dividing us further because of that. I think the differences between east and west Germany is very similar to the confederate states vs the union states. Other than Texas and Florida all the other confederate states make way less money than the Union states as well as have worse infrastructure. This is due to the Union putting more money into infrastructure during the American Civil war while also destroying Confederate infrastructure in the process.

finn2510
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 11

What is Unity?

After reading the speech from Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the video about Germany’s reunification, it makes me wonder, is Germany truly unified? Obviously they have been unified as one country since October 1990, but 30 years later there are still obstacles that people in the east face much more than people in the west, for instance, the unemployment rate in the east is 7.5% whereas in the west it is 5.9%. Another problem is racial labels, such as “Ossis” (easterners) and “Wessis” (westerners). There has proven to be less opportunities for Ossis, not only in political positions, but in areas such as the German national football team, which had only one “Ossi” on the team out of 23 men. Like razzledazzle8 said, “a country cannot be unified if people cannot be equal in all aspects of life.” A separate pressing issue is the rise of political parties. As the far right parties proceed to argue with far left parties, the people of Germany continue to be further separated.

I saw several differences between the president’s speech and how America is today. First, a quote that stuck out to me was, “‘Today, we live in a reunited country, and we do not expect everyone to be the same. ‘We are the people!’ – which after all means: ‘We all are the people!’" This mirrors America's claim that "All men are created Equal." Another thing that I noticed was how Steinmeyer acknowledged the disparities between the people of the west and of the east, mentioning the wage gap and lack of companies in the east. I believe that we could use some of this integrity coming from a leader, especially considering the events of the debate last week.

ilikekiwis
Boston, Massachusetts, US
Posts: 9

The Slight Necessity of Political Divide

I don’t know about other students, but I know very little about the division of Germany and the Cold War, which is surprising for me because my parents grew up in the Soviet Union and probably know everything about both of those topics, yet I never thought to ask them. The most surprising thing to me about the past 30 years since the unification is the disparities in the economy between former East and West Germany. It’s really unfortunate how rural East German towns are facing poverty and unemployment at alarming rates. I would have thought that more funding would have gone into helping East Germany, rather than just relocation on both sides. Cohesion in America mostly exists in the American Dream. Everyone in America who is not a Native American, is an immigrant or descendant of immigrants. America doesn’t really have one culture yet the prospect of opportunity unites us all. Politically, the US is just as divided as Germany. Therefore, I think that cohesion in a country is not necessarily politics but more an identity that adapts with change. Yet, the fierce political divide certainly affects cohesion in a more literal sense, especially when people are still being oppressed or live in much lower standards than others. I still find that political divide is necessary to have a wide forum of ideas, but not to the extent that it is now in Germany and the US. Judging from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries, a one party system honestly doesn’t work. In the Northeast, we all have a strong opinion of the southern states and people, unless you have family there. Southern people are seen as much more racist, which is partially true because many right wing extremist groups are from the South as well as strong conservatives. (I’m not saying that all conservatives are racist, but rather describing the demographics.) Honestly, northern people aren’t much better than southerners if we don’t stand up against oppression. We ignore realities that don’t affect that. Luckily, now we are protesting more and trying to get Southerners to denounce their racist “heritage” which some hold on to quite emphatically.
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