The Collapse of East German Communism: The Year the Wall Came Down, 1989

The Collapse of East German Communism: The Year the Wall Came Down, 1989

The Collapse of East German Communism: The Year the Wall Came Down, 1989

The Collapse of East German Communism: The Year the Wall Came Down, 1989

Synopsis

This book focuses on a key aspect of the "German question"--the problem of German national identity and communist ideology in their historical perspective since 1945 and their immediate clash in the downfall of the GDR regime in 1989. The book's theme might be summarized as German identity recovered. In four decades of existence, the GDR did not succeed in fostering a separate social or political identity, and thus an underlying difficulty of the state was never resolved. This book in part an eyewitness account of one of Europe's most startling transformations.

Excerpt

Hate is a passion all tyrants are bound to arouse; but contempt is often the cause by which tyrannies are actually overthrown.

--Aristotle

On a warm July day of the very warm summer of 1989, I sat enjoying a picnic lunch on a small hill overlooking the Soviet air assault base at Nohra in Thuringia. In the wooded area behind me lay the Buchenwald concentration camp in whose torture sheds hundreds of thousands of people from over a dozen countries found pain and death. The jailers of that abominable place demonstrated to Germans what fate awaited those who opposed the führer. To my left, just several miles down the road, lay Weimar, home to much of Germany's rich cultural heritage and a symbol of humane achievement. In many ways the paradoxes before my eyes that day were the paradoxes of Germany. Transcendence, embodied in the splendid city of Weimar, a high point of human accomplishment, on the one hand, and utter degradation, made manifest by the grisly spectacle of the concentration camp on the other. This small corner of Germany, just off the main transit route through Thuringia, seemed to me a sort of Teutonic microcosm.

Here at one and the same time was the season of light and the season of darkness. In Weimar one discovered a spring of hope; in Buchenwald only the dead winter of despair. These triumphs and tragedies, these polar twins coexisting uneasily beside one another, were components of the modern German experience.

As I watched the Soviet assault helicopters take off and land at the rate of perhaps a few dozen an hour on that cloudless summer day, I found myself musing idly about Germany's future. Whither the Vateriand? Its recent past had been so very tragic. Defeat in two world wars; in the second, massive destruction . . .

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