IT is a question only a German would think to ask. "Our bank
accounts are stronger," said a young East German waiting in line to
withdraw his country's new hard currency, "but what about our
souls?" Similar doubts grip many East Germans as they take their
first steps toward a free market economy. But the breakneck pace of
unification with the West leaves them little time to reflect upon an
The race toward union this December threatens to obscure
philosophical cleavages between and within the two Germanys. Details
of monetary conversion and property ownership leave little time for
debate about social problems that could haunt the newly unified
Rifts are especially apparent in East Germany - a people that
thought it was one is discovering major differences. The rush toward
union has driven a wedge between the artists, writers, scientists,
and church people who led last November's revolution and the "Volk"
in whose name they acted. After brief unity, resentment and mistrust
are palpable on both sides.
Author Walther Petri spoke in nearly mystical terms of the mass
rally last Nov. 4 in East Berlin, when intellectuals and workers
experienced "the bliss of feeling at one." But his voice grew hard
when he recounted bitter experiences since then, culminating in "the
realization that it's not permissible to criticize the people."
Many who played a role in the revolution betray a sense of
resignation. Conductor Kurt Masur was asked whether he thought about
remaining in politics after his success as peacemaker in Leipzig
last October. "No," he said with a shrug, "when our parties were so
neatly devoured by their big brothers in the West, at that moment we
had nothing more to say."
A small group of revolutionaries remains active as members of the
opposition in East Germany's parliament. Their Alliance '90
coalition won just 3 percent of the vote in national elections in
March and made only a slightly better local showing in May. At
Alliance '90s headquarters in the building that once housed the
Communist Party Central Committee, Tatjana Bohm sighed when she
contemplated the changes since last fall. "The solidarity we felt
then is already disappearing. Now it's a Wild West atmosphere: Every
man for himself."
The mood was summed up by a mock street sign that West German
author Gunter Grass spotted in front of the Nicolai Church in
Leipzig, birthplace of East Germany's bloodless uprising. "Square of
the Deceived" it proclaimed, with a gentle reminder from the
"Children of October" that they are still around.
If the erstwhile revolutionaries are disillusioned with the
general public, the reverse is also true. Smeared in red paint
across the door of a new art gallery in a rundown East Berlin town
house, the slogan "Reds get out" testifies to the anger directed at
the intellectual elite. Neo-Nazis have desecrated the graves of
playwright Bertolt Brecht and his wife, symbols of that elite.
Artists and writers were a privileged caste in communist East
Germany, with access to hard currency, foreign travel, better cars
and houses. In the months since the revolution, East Germans report
increasingly frequent manifestations of "culture-hate," resentment
against a group disdained as having collaborated with the old
regime. Intellectuals have become scapegoats for pent-up anger.
Frustration, insecurity, and mistrust are aftereffects of what
some Germans have begun to call "dictatorship damage. …