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137

The Deep-Freeze Theory and Other Hypotheses

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addressing fears of German reunification (the deep-freeze theory--that Germans will just go back to what they were doing before they were so spectacularly defeated) and the typical differences between East and West Germans

Schneider, P. (None). The Deep-Freeze Theory and Other Hypotheses. In Schneider, P. The German Comedy: Scenes of Life After the Wall. , pp. 137-172

155

One cannot quibble with the fact that the East German government managed to completely recast the old apparatus, often at great cost, since many of those dismissed were far more skilled than their replacements. What is problematic, however, is that from the outset, this housecleaning was performed to the accompaniment of ideological music. By 1949, the task of Vergangenheitsbewältigung--overcoming the past--had already been completed, according to article 6, paragraph 1 of the East German constitution, which declares: "The German Democratic Republic has ... rooted out and destroyed German militarism and Nazism." Such instant success could be achieved only by bureaucratic fiat: anyone who joined the ruling Communist party was automatically clean. Carrying a party card became a substitute for the more laborious work of self-examination, remorse, and mourning. "The decisive factor is present political stance, not prior organizational affiliation," went the party line. As the economic disparity between the two Germanys grew, the antifascist refrain became the prime raison d'être of the Eastern state, and evolved in time into a full-blown historical lie that claimed antifascist resistance was strong in East Germany even before 1945. The Nazi monster had, miraculously, stopped at the Elbe. Although it was never stated quite so bluntly, many East German citizens--particularly young ones--believed this fiction, thanks to the government's subtle deception.

I love the phrase "bureaucratic fiat", it's so apposite

it's complicated because there's an almost dialectic approach to this: should everyone (even the worst Nazis) easily get a second chance? should they have to earn it? what amount of "self-examination, remorse, and mourning" is enough? can it ever be enough?

—p.155 by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

One cannot quibble with the fact that the East German government managed to completely recast the old apparatus, often at great cost, since many of those dismissed were far more skilled than their replacements. What is problematic, however, is that from the outset, this housecleaning was performed to the accompaniment of ideological music. By 1949, the task of Vergangenheitsbewältigung--overcoming the past--had already been completed, according to article 6, paragraph 1 of the East German constitution, which declares: "The German Democratic Republic has ... rooted out and destroyed German militarism and Nazism." Such instant success could be achieved only by bureaucratic fiat: anyone who joined the ruling Communist party was automatically clean. Carrying a party card became a substitute for the more laborious work of self-examination, remorse, and mourning. "The decisive factor is present political stance, not prior organizational affiliation," went the party line. As the economic disparity between the two Germanys grew, the antifascist refrain became the prime raison d'être of the Eastern state, and evolved in time into a full-blown historical lie that claimed antifascist resistance was strong in East Germany even before 1945. The Nazi monster had, miraculously, stopped at the Elbe. Although it was never stated quite so bluntly, many East German citizens--particularly young ones--believed this fiction, thanks to the government's subtle deception.

I love the phrase "bureaucratic fiat", it's so apposite

it's complicated because there's an almost dialectic approach to this: should everyone (even the worst Nazis) easily get a second chance? should they have to earn it? what amount of "self-examination, remorse, and mourning" is enough? can it ever be enough?

—p.155 by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago
156

[...] the government's need to legitimize its own educational dictates coincided completely with the citizens' need for exoneration from historical responsibility. Add to this a kind of "Hiroshima effect." The genocidal bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had transformed the Japanese into victims, and they no longer wanted to hear about their own complicity in starting the war. Similarly, East Germans were transformed into victims by the Soviet occupation. Whatever role they may have palyed during the Nazi years was atoned for by their sufferings under Stalinism. Unlike in West Germany, the perpetrators had become the victims, and that's how they saw themselves. [...]

about how East Germany (government and citizens together) had somehow recast German imperialism and Nazism into something for which West Germany had been responsible, to the extent that children believed that "East German troops had fought alongside the Red Army to liberate Germany from Hitler and the fascist yoke"

—p.156 by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

[...] the government's need to legitimize its own educational dictates coincided completely with the citizens' need for exoneration from historical responsibility. Add to this a kind of "Hiroshima effect." The genocidal bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had transformed the Japanese into victims, and they no longer wanted to hear about their own complicity in starting the war. Similarly, East Germans were transformed into victims by the Soviet occupation. Whatever role they may have palyed during the Nazi years was atoned for by their sufferings under Stalinism. Unlike in West Germany, the perpetrators had become the victims, and that's how they saw themselves. [...]

about how East Germany (government and citizens together) had somehow recast German imperialism and Nazism into something for which West Germany had been responsible, to the extent that children believed that "East German troops had fought alongside the Red Army to liberate Germany from Hitler and the fascist yoke"

—p.156 by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago
162

[...] While the West German says, "After all, I earned this with hard work," the visitor from the East holds out his hand expectantly, with the reply, "You were just lucky," and hopes for a private contribution to the "balanced burden." The conceit of the first is that his success is due solely to his own industry, while the second would like to think that the only difference between the two is a matter of luck.

of course the truth is somewhere in between the two

—p.162 by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago

[...] While the West German says, "After all, I earned this with hard work," the visitor from the East holds out his hand expectantly, with the reply, "You were just lucky," and hopes for a private contribution to the "balanced burden." The conceit of the first is that his success is due solely to his own industry, while the second would like to think that the only difference between the two is a matter of luck.

of course the truth is somewhere in between the two

—p.162 by Peter Schneider 3 years, 1 month ago