August 16, 2011

Do you like this?

Last Saturday was the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall. On Sunday, I had brunch with some friends and we ended up discussing the topic.

One member of the circle, an arty type from a Western European country with a substantial property investment in Prenzlauer Berg and a relative newcomer to Berlin (let’s call her “Clara”), began to lambaste triumphalist media "propaganda" about the Wall and socialist East Germany.

She said she was sickened by an interview with an Ossi man who said he shed tears of joy the day the Wall fell in 1989 – the happiest in his life. "Capitalist propaganda"...

She continued to defend the GDR with the likes of "190 people killed at the Wall in 28 years!... that is nothing compared to what Monsanto is doing with its TRANSGENIC POTATOES!" And more: "In East Germany, women were paid the same as men!" And, finally, "It's only thanks to East German culture that I can run naked through Mauerpark at night without getting raped!"

Wie Bitte???

East Germany had its good sides. Its relative gender equality (though all the bigwigs were men), its comprehensive (though militaristic) childcare, its lax attitude to nude sunbathing (left over from pre-war Germany). Oh, and a great sense of neighbourly solidarity, human warmth on a personal level that one seldom finds today amongst western, capitalist scum (you and I). Nothing brings people together like a dictatorship. And look: In the last 20 years the West has become more "eastern" - they're finally getting all-day kindergartens and schools. Angela Merkel, an Ossi woman, has managed to lasso the conservative western CDU and drag it closer to the centre.

And yet, the Wall was really shit. Any attempt to justify its construction or talk down the trauma it inflicted on Berliners and Germans (and what it represented for people in the other Soviet-sponsored totalitarian ‘democracies' further east) – is utterly ignorant and stupid.

Think: separated families, separated lovers, people murdered for trying to walk across the street, risking their lives for "freedom" – yes, "capitalist freedom", which any enlightened mind will agree might not equate real freedom, but political and geographic "freedom" nonetheless, in comparison to the repressive, oppressive grey, failed state of the GDR.

Not to mention the omnipresent Stasi (not all East-Germans were such warm, benevolent souls), extreme limitations on speech and expression, centralised thinking, rampant pollution, bad food, corruption, single-party hegemony and, scratchy, single-layer toilet paper. Who wants to return to any of that?

I can tell you for a fact: not the individualistic, freedom-loving, slow-food eating, yoga-practicing Clara. If she's really the enlightened rebel she makes herself out to be, back in the GDR she would have been the first one sitting in prison or shot dead on the border.


August 16, 2011

Comments (7)

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Berlin Wall

When I visited Berlin a couple of times, what shocked me was not the issue of the wall which had just come down. It was the evidence of the bombing and ensuing battle of Berlin. Evidence of the battle was everywhere, more than half a century after the war. But even more striking was a certain character that residents of Berlin had. They were very open to discussing issues of history and politics with this stranger from Ohio. I hope to return for another visit and see the physical change that must have taken place in the decade since my last visit. But I don't think any people in any other city on the globe have the character that Berliners do. I applaud them all. I would live to be able to be a teacher in Berlin. Any schools hiring?

James Michael more than 2 years ago


Change your brunch partners.

davina more than 2 years ago

What have you read to justify saying that the Berlin Wall prevented WWIII?

@ Context,

In terms of showing a basic grasp of 20th century history your statement is on a par with the apocryphal, "Why did Hitler build the wall" question, that tour guides say they are asked. God help us if you ever, ever get to make decisions for other people based on your understanding of how the world works!

Just read this for starters

And at least think about thinking before you make statements that you have no hope of defending.

Oi Gris!

Why did you allow that comment, anyway? Shouldn't stupidity bar some people from free comment?

dalry_scum more than 2 years ago


Are you the nephew of Honecker or something? Or just his spiritual heir?

Maurice T Frank more than 2 years ago

yeah, right

"It prevented a world war". Yeah, right.

Just like Pinochet prevented Allende to turn Chile into a Communist dictatorship. Just like Bush prevented Iraq from acquiring atomic bombs. Just like Enola Gay stopped the Second World War.

They arrested a whole country preemptively, not to acquire and keep total power over the population - of course - but to *protect them* from a Third World War. Oh thank you, Herr Ulbricht.

This is a common fallacy that politicians use to justify some shit they've done: they come up with a bigger threat, with a worse scenario, and then use propaganda to convince you that they are your heroes.

F.Bastiat more than 2 years ago


I have only heard this argument (on a serious level) in the past four months. How? I'm not trying to argue. I just don't understand how mauering in your own people stopped anybody from nuking anyone. I just literally don't understand, maybe I am dumb

Jacinta more than 2 years ago

The Berlin Wall was a good thing.

It prevented the Cold War from becoming a hot one. Better to live behind a wall than to be obliterated by nuclear bombs.

Context more than 2 years ago

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