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Before the Fall

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what life was like in 1989 before the Wall came down. talks about immigration (of both Germans and non-Germans) and the impact of East Germans who chose to leave East Germany rather than stay put (which, previously, the author would have thought the nobler option)--for it was the former that caught the attention of the world

Schneider, P. (None). Before the Fall. In Schneider, P. The German Comedy: Scenes of Life After the Wall. , pp. 3-6

6

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 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 by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago
9

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 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 by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago
13

[...] 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 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 by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago
14

[...] 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 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 by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago