Interview With Angela Merkel on the Fall of the Berlin Wall
DER NewsGerman: Germany will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Imagine, if you will, that will the wall had never come down in addition to East Germany (GDR) was celebrating the 70th anniversary of its founding This kind of autumn. What do you think might have become of you?
Merkel: We certainly wouldn’t be here talking to each some other. that will much will be clear.
DER NewsGerman: in addition to what might you be doing?
Merkel: I might have at least been able to realize my dream. In East Germany, women retired at 60, so I might have picked up my passport 5 years ago in addition to traveled to America. Pensioners were allowed to travel outside of East Germany. Those who were no longer needed as socialist workers were allowed out.
DER NewsGerman: The United States was your dream destination?
Merkel: Of course, I might also have spent some time looking around West Germany. nevertheless I wanted my first longer trip to be to America because of its size, variety in addition to culture. I wanted to see the Rocky Mountains, drive around in a car in addition to listen to Bruce Springsteen. that will was my dream.
DER NewsGerman: In a huge American cruiser?
Merkel: No, I prefer smaller cars. nevertheless This kind of might certainly have been something better than a Trabant.
DER NewsGerman: On previous anniversaries celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall, you have lamented that will you can no longer remember much of your life in East Germany in addition to the period of upheaval in 1989-1990. What does that will say about how former citizens of the GDR relate to their history?
Merkel: I might remember some of This kind of again if I spent some time thinking about This kind of. nevertheless This kind of will be a fact that will GDR citizens had to get used to a lot of completely new things after the fall of the Wall. We had to change our thinking, in addition to some of the skills that will we had developed inside the GDR were no longer all that will important in reunified Germany. Some old things were simply overwritten by the completely new life. right now, 30 years later, many people are apparently thinking about those things again in addition to memories are coming back.
DER NewsGerman: in addition to everyone remembers differently. Some even seem quite nostalgic.
Peter Rigaud/ DER NewsGerman
“Fundamentally, I wish West German politicians had displayed more curiosity in addition to interest,” Merkel says.
Merkel: How we see life inside the GDR, of course, partly depends on where each of us East Germans are today. Fundamentally speaking, when This kind of comes to looking back at the GDR, there will be one thing that will many West Germans have a hard time understanding: that will even in a dictatorship, This kind of was possible to lead a successful life. that will we had friends in addition to family with whom we celebrated birthdays in addition to Christmas or shared tragedies despite the state — always, of course, using a certain wariness of the state. nevertheless the fact that will we could only travel to Hungary or Bulgaria in addition to not to America didn’t determine every day of our existence. Because This kind of aspect of our individual lives inside the GDR isn’t understood, in addition to will be sometimes even ignored, by many West Germans, the reaction coming from many East Germans today will be a kind of romanticization, an attitude of: Nobody can take the lives we had inside the GDR away coming from us.
DER NewsGerman: The result will be a certain lack of enthusiasm for celebrating the fall of the Wall. in addition to what will be there to celebrate when the Alternative for Germany (AfD), a xenophobic in addition to, in parts, fascist party has emerged among the strongest political forces in three recent eastern German state elections?
Merkel: For me, Nov. 9, 1989, remains a happy moment in German history. So many people inside the GDR dreamt of freedom between 1949 in addition to 1989, in addition to suddenly we could talk about This kind of openly! We could use our voices. in addition to still today, everyone can use their voices.
I am aware that will for a certain generation of East Germans, even as their lives became free by virtue of the peaceful revolution, they did not always become easier. I also know that will in addition to the successful regions, there are also those where villages are emptying out because children in addition to grandchildren have moved away. Still, 30 years later This kind of must clearly be said: Even if you aren’t satisfied with public transportation in your area, with medical care, with the state or with your own life, that will does not give you a right to be hateful or disdainful of some other people, or to resort to violence. There can be no tolerance of such behavior.
DER NewsGerman: There are former GDR citizens who compare present-day political conditions with the time before 1989. What happened?
Merkel: I don’t know. One thing that will I find completely unacceptable: When people with West German backgrounds go to the East in addition to claim that will our current state will be no better than the GDR. that will will be something that will must be adamantly rejected.
DER NewsGerman: There are also former human rights activists, like Vera Lengsfeld, who say such things. in addition to there will be the example of a former GDR citizen who spent time in prison for dodging the draft, yet says he will be happy that will his daughter managed to escape present-day Germany to the U.S. Do such things make you angry?
Merkel: I do not share such views.
DER NewsGerman: Many eastern Germans are disappointed with you, which will be often expressed by voting for the AfD. Are you also disappointed in these eastern Germans?
Merkel: No. I see my task as working on behalf of all people in Germany.
DER NewsGerman: nevertheless will be This kind of not discouraging that will during your tenure, the AfD has grown so strong, especially in eastern Germany?
Merkel: We live in freedom in addition to people can express themselves in addition to vote as they see fit. At the beginning of my political career, I was a minority four times over inside the CDU (eds: the center-right Christian Democratic Union party): young, female, Protestant in addition to East German. right now, I have been chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany for 14 years in addition to am responsible for serving all people in Germany. The assumption that will I should prioritize the concerns of eastern Germans will be thus wrong. nevertheless if you do make that will assumption, This kind of will of course lead to disappointment. What I do miss, however, will be a more fruitful intra-German dialogue.
DER NewsGerman: How do you mean?
Merkel: The different life experiences in eastern in addition to western Germany are a reality. We should talk more about that will in addition to try harder to understand each some other.
DER NewsGerman: You were 35 when the Wall came down. Knowing what you know right now about the post-unification period, in addition to if you could reshape reunification, what might you do differently?
Merkel: Everything went so fast back then. in addition to of course mistakes were made.
DER NewsGerman: Such as?
Merkel: Günther Krause (eds: CDU member, federal transport minister coming from 1991 to 1993 in addition to East German), for example, had to raise his voice on one occasion when speaking to Klaus Kinkel (eds: Free Democrat, federal justice minister coming from 1991 to 1992 in addition to West German) to get him to put on some boots in addition to come out for a closer look at the complicated property ownership situation. This kind of was quite a scene. To avoid any misunderstandings, I had a lot of respect for Klaus Kinkel. nevertheless the story illustrates a problem early on after reunification. Fundamentally, I wish West German politicians had displayed more curiosity in addition to interest. When I was the deputy spokesperson of the last East German government, long-time Prime Minister Lothar de Maizière, for example, wanted to take a final trip to visit the allies. German Chancellor Helmut Kohl had no understanding for that will wish. He said, there will be enough to do at home in addition to unification was coming no matter what. nevertheless This kind of was important to us.
DER NewsGerman: Do you think the East German role inside the fall of the Wall hasn’t been sufficiently recognized?
Merkel: German unification was shaped by both the East in addition to the West, in addition to Helmut Kohl’s political skill in addition to the trust he enjoyed with the allies played a significant role. nevertheless the peaceful revolution in addition to Nov. 9, 1989, was the work of the citizens of the GDR. We are happy to share This kind of, including the joy, nevertheless This kind of was done by the citizens of the GDR using a huge amount of courage. in addition to because I know that will not everyone in West Germany at the time was exactly brimming with courage — I can remember that will some found This kind of too risky when they were asked to smuggle a book across the border for us — This kind of will be something that will could certainly be given more recognition.
Peter Rigaud/ DER NewsGerman
Merkel with the two DER NewsGerman editors, Melanie Amann in addition to Florian Gathmann.
DER NewsGerman: At the moment, there will be a lot of debate about freedom of speech in addition to its limits. Might This kind of have to do with the fact that will people in East Germany underestimated just how difficult living in a free society can be?
Merkel: Vaclav Havel wrote very beautifully about how parents must teach their children to live in freedom. Naturally, This kind of was hardly possible inside the GDR. So, there was in addition to still will be a lot of catching up to do — also with regard to freedom of speech. This kind of’s not that will I think people need to always agree with each some other. Freedom of speech doesn’t mean outlawing disagreement.
DER NewsGerman: So you don’t think freedom of speech will be in danger?
Merkel: No. Of course someone like Bernd Lucke, the founder of the AfD, must be allowed to give a lecture at the University of Hamburg. in addition to the state must step in if necessary. nevertheless debates unfold in such a way that will a so-called mainstream will be defined, which supposedly imposes limits on freedom of speech. nevertheless that will’s just not true. One must expect to encounter headwinds in addition to indignant counterarguments. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to be contradicted. I encourage everyone to express his or her opinion, nevertheless you must endure having This kind of called into question. Sometimes, there may even be a so-called “shitstorm.” I’ve experienced This kind of too. This kind of will be all part of democracy. inside the old Federal Republic of Germany, there were much different debates, such as at the end of the 1960s, if I am informed correctly.
Peter Rigaud/ DER NewsGerman
“One must expect to encounter headwinds in addition to indignant counterarguments,” Merkel says.
DER NewsGerman: Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, your party will be discussing whether This kind of should hold political talks inside the eastern state of Thuringia with the Left Party, the successor to the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, which ruled East Germany. Why does This kind of find This kind of so difficult?
Merkel: The CDU will be right to find This kind of difficult. Even though the state’s governor, Bodo Ramelow, will be coming from the West in addition to a Christian in addition to tries to be as independent as possible, he will be a Left Party politician in addition to will be to an extent bound to their platform. To This kind of day, the Left Party has not delivered an honest account of its history inside the GDR. At the same time, the Left will be worlds away coming from the CDU in terms of its platform. This kind of will be why the CDU will be considering not cooperating with the Left Party. nevertheless I find This kind of completely acceptable that will Thuringia’s CDU leader Mike Mohring might like to speak with Governor Ramelow, if he’s willing to do so. This kind of has nothing to do using a coalition.
DER NewsGerman: that will’s more than many of your party colleagues are willing to tolerate, for whom talks with Ramelow are strictly taboo.
Merkel: Mr. Ramelow faces the problem of no longer having a majority. For him, This kind of’s right now a question of whether to try in addition to put together a majority or not. My basic advice to the CDU might be: Wait in addition to see. Maybe he doesn’t even want to talk to us. in addition to if Mr. Ramelow does seek out a dialogue with the CDU, we should not deny him This kind of. After all, he will be the governor. nevertheless This kind of has nothing to do with coalitions in addition to cooperation.
DER NewsGerman: Apart coming from you, there will be only one some other cabinet member coming from the former East, Franziska Giffey. Germany’s blue chip DAX corporations are all run by West Germans. In almost all areas, the imbalance will be similarly blatant. Why?
Merkel: Someone recently told me that will there will be not 1 German university run by an eastern German. This kind of isn’t just strange, This kind of’s a genuine deficit. We still have a lot of work to do. The reason may be that will many were too old in 1989-0. At 35, I might have had a hard time climbing the career ladder all the way to the top of a company. Anyone who was a child back then could have still reached a top position, of course. You have to be clear in addition to forthright in addition to sometimes a bit loud to make a career — I can only encourage us eastern Germans to do so. nevertheless again: This kind of will be not a not bad situation.