by Colette Hartwich – Soreau

When the Berlin Wall collapsed, I told my German husband, who, understandably, was enthusiastic, that a time would come when Germans, on both sides of the Wall, would realize it was an illusion and many, on each side of the “Mauer”, would start rebuilding it. Alas, In the German city of Chemnitz just last week I was proven right. The howling, violent rightist mobs were set out to kill or at least heavily harm anyone and everyone who didn’t fit into an idea of being German – possibly even not knowing the language could have gotten a person killed. It is they, who have not really accepted and interiorized the crash and fall of the Soviet Empire or the fact that Communism was a lie and a disaster from the very beginning.

What came as a surprise to me when listening to the interviews with those East-Berliners, who had literally just walked over into the West after the Wall fell, was that whatever their age, their chosen destination in life or otherwise or their idea of freedom – they didn’t want to hear Mstislav Rostropovitch, a soviet Russian cellist, considered to be one the greatest cellist of the last century play, seeing their long-estranged family members was also not their first priority. What they wanted to visit first was the Western Supermarkets, overloaded with never-ending goods, a McDonald’s or in the best case: both.

The end of Communism, for most, was the beginning of consumerism. Thus, Marxism in spite of its creator’s Jewish origins (Karl Marx’s grandfather was the Chief Rabbi in Trier, then and now the richest town of Germany) denied existence to all religions and spiritual movements in the Soviet Union and the annexed states like the German Democratic Republic, creating robots. Robots who, to this day, do not want to share the precious consumer goods and western privileges they acquired when Germany was whole again. People far poorer and far more oppressed than these East-Berliners I am talking about are a threat to Democracy and its values. Behind the Iron Curtain the culture may have been more community-based, if we compare it to today, but also more rigid, white and conformist. Strangers, especially different looking than an average white person were rarely spotted and rarely welcome. Those East-Germans, in their minds still slaves of the Soviet system, were offered no re-education, no de-sovietization in spite of the fact that Nuremberg trials offered denazification to the whole of Germany. Sadly, the East-Germans were bought. Both sides thought it was a good bargain. We can see today – it wasn’t.

Under the combined pressure of Globalization, the post 2007-2008 financial crisis recovery, still to this day felt all over the world, especially in the poorer parts of the world, the refugee exodus in Europe, the majority of German states’ unemployment rates in the former east skyrocketing to unseen numbers and many of freshly-arrived refugees being middle-class and highly qualified, the bitterness of the Ossis[1] became explosive. Ossis and Wessis[2] have forgotten that Germany welcomed over 12 Millions of refugees chased away from their homes by terrorists’ organizations and authoritarian regimes, just like Germans running away from the iron fist of the Soviet Union by any means possible into the arms of the careless life of the West.

It would have been wise politically, and maybe even more so economically, to think of a Marshall Plan both for when the Eastern European countries like Hungary, Poland and Romania joined the EU and when the East Germany became a prominent part of Germany. Hungary, Poland and Romania knew nothing of Democracy for maybe more than three generations and they are now turning to the simplest and most adapted for our times form of Fascism: Populism. Using their rhetoric against the so-called elite, pleasing the simple, average citizens with nothing more than empty promises. The Ancient Romans, constantly aggrandized their Empire by swallowing often barbaric tribes, offered the simple people “food and games”, but were very demanding as to who could fulfill their idea of the Roman citizen.

It is entirely possible that the average Iranian, Syrian or Iraqi refugee in Germany would surpass the simple working-class Saxon in their achievements. And, as citizens, we should all strive for Diversity of all kinds: cultural, ethnic and religious. As a matter of fact that’s what made the Roman Empire so powerful for so long. The USA, divided into various political and religious tribes as it is in the present time, will also need to accept this truth eventually. For the sake of all of us, citizens of the Global World, hopefully sooner than later.

[1] Ossi – German, a person coming from the “new federal states in the former GDR”.

[2] Wessi – German, a person coming from the former West-Germany.

All rights reserved © Colette Hartwich – Soreau / Berlin, 2018