Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tag der deutschen Einheit

aka Unification Day, the celebration of the undoing of the post-war partitioning of Germany into East and West. A public holiday, of course, and another fine sunny warm late-autumn day. Antonia's front page currently features a short video of the moment and the place when it all started to happen, late evening on the 30th of September 1989 in the garden of the West German embassy in Prague. Her comment explains the situation well, so contrary to usual practice I'd recommend reading the comments before you watch the video.

For non-German speakers, here's what the Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher is saying (my transcription and translation):
(First scene, afternoon, keeping the press at bay) I do not wish to make an announcement at present, I would like first to speak with the East Germans who are in the Embassy grounds.

(Second scene, addressing 4500 East German refugees from the Embassy balcony) I have come to you today, to tell you that your permission to emigrate ...
And that's as far as he gets, because the import of the sentence was already clear: East Germany will not hold them back, and West Germany will take them in.

In that moment, the DDR ceased to be a functioning state; and with that, the whole of communist Eastern Europe toppled.

One might quibble that the fall of Communism need not have led to the reunification of Germany (i.e. that the East Germans missed a chance to strike out on their own as a free democracy, as many of us thought they should), and one would be right to remember that both sides were lied to monstrously by politicians eager to ensure their moment of fame; and one would be a fool not to wish that Russia's communist Nomenklatura had not simply been exchanged for a Mafia-and-secret-police Nomenklatura in which the same names somehow recurred; but it was a fine and stirring moment nonetheless, one of the nobler episodes in a bloody and brutish century.

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8 Comments:

Anonymous ann marie said...

Hey ... *thanks. The negation was just as much as I figured out. My German stops at early nineties, so written still goes well. Next time you see me, be sure to wear a T-shirt, handed over to you and to dear A, with the words "I'm with stupid" (and ignoramus, not taking care of their German, weirdo avie, et al.)

Splashing you with animated Merlot whispers, yours truly.

October 4, 2007 at 4:18:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Thank you for the translation. What a wonderful day to celebrate.

October 4, 2007 at 4:47:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Antonia said...

I've always liked it a lot that Genscher told them - and also the really simple way in which he did that - and not Kohl for Genscher was sort of really the right person to do that, not just as a foreign minister but also bcause his own personal history is so connected with this whole conflict, he being born in Halle and fled later to Westgermany too.
I agree with what you say in your last paragraph and one could also ask why this situation could not have been resolved earlier and so on and so on and also - very important - one should not forget that after the reunification not everything was sorted in the favour of the eastgermans, but still, it was a fine moment and it's great it could be sorted without having zillions of people die.

October 4, 2007 at 5:51:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Dale said...

Amen. Who would ever have guessed that it could happen so peacefully? Miraculous. Like Spain walking casually out of Fascism. Everybody got very, very lucky. It could so easily have been Prague '68 redux, or worse; it could have been the last war ever -- the one you and I grew up expecting.

There are things to regret, of course, about the change, but not nearly so many as there are to celebrate. But beyond all that, what's really worth celebrating is that we didn't mark the changeover with a bloodbath.

October 4, 2007 at 5:56:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Dale said...

Heh. Apparently Antonia and I were writing more or less the same comment at exactly the same time :-)

October 4, 2007 at 5:58:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Indeed, it's one of the few "patriotic" holidays worth celebrating. Perhaps in a few years it can be renamed "Peaceful Revolution Day" or something equally world-aware.

October 4, 2007 at 6:28:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger sirbarrett said...

Cheers to a great day in history!

October 5, 2007 at 5:20:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Rob said...

Reading today (as one does) some of the American right-wing bloggers foaming at the mouth over the devaluation of the Nobel Peace Prize after Al Gore won it, I read one whose list of unworthy winners included Mikhail Gorbachev. For reasons not unconnected with the current post, and the ending of the Cold War in which I grew up, the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction etc., I would have said Gorby was one of the most worthy winners in my lifetime, as his contribution was actually to world peace (unlike even Martin Luther King). I am proud to have seen Gorbachev - after the fall of Communism - give a lecture in Edinburgh.

October 13, 2007 at 1:33:00 AM GMT+2  

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