Two Armies and One Fatherland: The End of the Nationale Volksarmee

By Jörg Schönbohm; Peter Johnson et al. | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

We have now been united for five years and we still do not know enough about one another to understand each other. Unity came overnight and we West Germans have been pushed out of the spectator's box into the arena where events are taking place. Before unification we knew little about the daily life and living conditions of our countrymen, who also include our relatives; the GDR was a neighbouring country, cut off by the Wall and the barbed wire. We accepted that fact as normal, and repressed our knowledge of how inhumane the system was. Our media reported on Chile, Nicaragua and South Africa, about the difficult living conditions and the situation of youth in those countries, but rarely said anything critical or even descriptive about the reality of life and daily routine in the GDR, about the needs and worries of our countrymen, or about the destruction of nature and of minds and hearts.

Our countrymen in the East had only seen the West through their own eyes if they were over sixty-five or were officials who were allowed to travel. Most of them were able to picture the ' FRG' only from what others told them or from West German television. Naturally, this picture naturally did not show the reality of West German daily life with its emphasis on performance. These pictures could not reveal the need for efficiency, work directed towards success, decisions which were based on rationality and which were understandable, as well as the readiness and ability to make independent decisions and thus to take on responsibility. Indeed, scarcely anyone could have had any idea of these things.

The majority of the population of the GDR -- like their countrymen in the West -- had accepted the division of Germany and had accommodated themselves in the GDR. They were better off than the populations of all the other states in the Socialist camp, they had work, a roof over their heads and a livelihood; they conformed. A large section of the elite fled before the Wall was built, a smaller sec-

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