Berlin in Focus: Cultural Transformations in Germany

By Barbara Becker-Cantarino | Go to book overview

9
Berlin as Locus of Teffor: Gegenwartsbewältigung in Berlin Texts since the Wende

Anna K. Kuhn

The collapse of the GDR and the ensuing and ongoing revelations about the repression and corruption of the SED ( Socialist Unitary Party) regime have triggered a radical shift in discourse in the West with regard to the two Germanies. Willy Brandt Ostpolitik, a watershed in postwar East-West German relations, marked the first such discursive shift. Accentuating commonalities between the two German states, Ostpolitik engendered a rhetoric of reciprocity and (re)conciliation: thus notions of rapprochement informed the Federal Republic's politics of detente, while the concept of Konvergenz (convergence) became a leitmotif of its cultural politics in the late 1970s and 1980s. The Wende ("Turning Point" [of 1989]), however, has resuscitated the Cold War discourse of totalitarianism, 1 with the West claiming freedom, justice, and democracy for itself and stylizing the GDR as the proper heir of Hitler's Germany. In this reading of history, les extremes se touchent, the dictatorship of the right was simply superseded by the dictatorship of the left.

Ironically, the newly resurrected discourse of totalitarianism has resulted in West Germany's (inverted) appropriation of the official GDR stance on Vergangenheitsbewältigung. The GDR had "come to terms with the Nazi past" by disavowing it, by facilely dissociating itself from Hitler's Germany. The whole purpose of East Germany's tedious, self-legitimating Erbediskussion (legacy debate)2 was to construct a liberal democratic heritage for itself, one that culminated in the myth of wide-scale antifascistic resistance. By claiming to embody a qualitatively different political entity, the new state sought to exact liberator status for itself. Thus the GDR, created by the Soviet

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