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Showing results by Peter Schneider only

But who was behind it all? Mikhail Gorbachev? No one will disagree that, with perestroika and glasnost, and, most of all, with his explicit rejection of force, Gorbachev set off the avalanche of revolutionary change. But did he know what he was unleashing? I'm sure Gorbachev intended to free the European satellite countries--even East Germany--of Soviet hegemony, but did he mean for East Germany to simply disappear from the political map of the world and be absorbed into its West German brother state? [...]

—p.viii Preface (vii) by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

But Berliners complained the loudest. They felt threatened by the Wall's new porosity. The almost forgotten phrase "Polish housekeeping"--meaning chaos and disorder--resurfaced. A few people said outright what they didn't like about the Wall: it wasn't solid enough. Finally people saw, and admitted to seeing, how good they had it living in the western shadow of the Wall. It cost nothing to assail the oddity as a "Wall of Shame," so long as its builders in the East maintained it and made sure it had no holes. [...]

in the spring of 1989, right after the Polish regime made it easier for its citizens to travel to West Berlin and thousands of Poles arrived and set up a flea market near Potsdamer Platz, to the chagrin of many West Berliners

—p.6 Before the Fall (3) by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

A friend from Romania--she speak fluent German and had been arrested numerous times as a dissident in her home country--couldn't convince the German authorities of her German identity. Livid with rage, she asked whether she ought to mention that her father had been in the SS and that her uncle had died serving the same organization. They responded coolly that proof of that sort would help. Anywhere else in the world, you'd do better to hide your father's Nazi Party papers--but in Germany they still had their uses.


From the beginning, it should have been obvious that the Federal Republic's invitation to all Germans would remain heartfelt only so long as the East German authorities kept the masses of potential guests away. When the Wall became more porous with Gorbachev's glasnost, the West Germans' joy at reuniting declined visibly. They paled when they saw how many people they'd invited. Two hundred thousand ethnic German resettlers arrived in 1988, and about 350,000 in 1989, and that doesn't include the East German refugees. In 1990, between 400,000 and 450,000 ethnic Germans "came home," as the West Germans put it, and immigration authorities now fear that, as their native economies collapse, millions more ethnic Germans from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe may remember their German origins.

West Germany had, since its founding, offered citizenship and benefits to anyone who could prove German identity

—p.9 Before the Fall (3) by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

[...] the prognosis for the day the Wall came tumbling down was that the Germans would discover they differed more than they agreed. After forty years of living under such unequal conditions, it seemed likely that they would feel things other than tenderness for each other: lack of understanding, prejudice, envy, even hatred. Tearing down the Wall wouldn't remove it. For it was the Wall alone that preserved the illusion that the Wall was the only thing separating the Germans.

—p.13 Before the Fall (3) by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

[...] A new type of refugee, hitherto unknown on such a vast scale, had stepped onto the stage of history: the prosperous refugee. Because these were not the wretched of the earth, these people arriving with a child on one arm and a plastic bag on the other. Most of them left behind a job, a three-room apartment, a TV set, and a car. Now they were standing in line to move from what was supposedly the tenth-wealthiest economy in the world to the third-wealthiest. Were they economic refugees? Of course they were, but that doesn't fully describe the phenomenon. The more intangible things they hoped to gain by giving up so much and crossing the border struck West Germans as strangely romantic: freedom, dignity, the right to live your life as you pleased. Such declarations reminded Western leftists of right-wing propaganda, and rightists of campaign slogans that had been worn to death. What were these people talking about? Did they know no more about the West than the commercials on TV? And did they really take them seriously?

This revealed a cultural gap as wide as the Wall was high: people who lack basic freedoms don't have to think very hard to name them, while people who enjoy them usually find it hard to perceive their concrete value--from which it follows that when people claim they don't know what high-sounding notions like "human rights" really mean, you can be pretty certain they already have those rights.

—p.14 Before the Fall (3) by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

[...] Among the many grotesque miscalculations of East Germany's rulers, none was greater than the decision to protect the "Socialist Fatherland" by constructing an edifice that was bound to evoke a yearning for freedom in men and women everywhere. In building the Wall, they instantly generated worldwide sympathy for the Germans--not exactly everyone's darlings--and the German Question. Had they erected a structure less charged with symbolism, neither the Germans not their "problem" would have touched the hearts of makind in quite the same way.

he goes on to say that the Wall was doomed to start with--instead of a north-south line, they should have done an east-west line separating the Prussian North from the rest

—p.29 East-West Passages (20) by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

[...] By going through the Brandenburg Gate, which until recently marked the end of the Western world, you arrive at Berlin Center and Pariser Platz, and just beyond that is Unter den Linden. In Berlin, what people were calling the "wild," "crazy," "incredible," was in truth the most normal thing in the world: the ability to walk from one end of the street to the other. Having grown accustomed to an insane situation, we experienced normalization as crazy. [...]

—p.37 East-West Passages (20) by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

Instead of disbanding, instead of surrendering their ill-gotten gains and shutting their mouths, the Socialist Unity Party simply mounted the next-biggest pony with any life in it. This new horse is called democratic socialism, and has the advantage of never having run a race.

I don't agree with this view but thought it was notable--he describes a convention of the Socialist Unity Party right after the Wall came down, where the party line was "we were deceived by the people on top" (Honecker, Mielke, Hager)

—p.39 East-West Passages (20) by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

[...] The Germans now coming in from the East aren't used to anything non-German. Foreigners make up 12 percent of West Berlin's population, while in the whole of East Germany they consituted barely 1 percent.

—p.41 East-West Passages (20) by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

The Poles are pushed to such degrading convolutions as a result of the German immigration regulations [...] the Pole who presents his father's or his grandfather's National Socialist German Worker's Party card acquires all the privileges of a German citizen, while a compatriot whose father or grandfather died in the Warsaw Uprising against the Nazi barbarians has no case for asylum.

It is scandalous that even today the authorities allow themselves to be guided by the Nazis' passion for Germanity. Such an immigration policy is simply another form of Aryanism--how else can one understand the ranking of petitioners according to their degree of "Germanness"? [...]

based on the People's Register, established by the Nazis in 1939 primarily for conscripting Poles into the German army

—p.45 Sentimental Germany (42) by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

Showing results by Peter Schneider only