For the East: Freedom to Drive Their Trabants 'Over There'

Article excerpt

Richard Schroeder, a consultant and officer in German civic organizations, was an East German Protestant pastor, theologian, and professor in his mid-40s when the wall fell. He detoured briefly into politics, cofounding the East German Social Democratic Party, then getting elected to both East Germany's first freely elected parliament and united Germany's maiden parliament. This is an excerpt from his interview with Berlin correspondent Elizabeth Pond. The Politburo proposed giving everyone a passport and letting everyone apply for an exit visa [for travel outside East Germany, with the expectation that its citizens would then not desert the country]. For, let's say, the normal population [young workers voting with their feet to pursue the color, zest, and freedom they saw on West German TV] it was the most unbelievable experience just once in their lifetime to be able to drive their Trabants "over there." It was also an incredible discovery to see how people in the West actually lived. For intellectuals who were active in the grass- roots movements [that sprang up in East Germany in 1989] it was different. The only citizens' movement that welcomed the opening of the wall was the eastern Social Democratic Party. …