Thursday, November 08, 2007


Over a third of East Germans Would Prefer Life in GDR

Nineteen years ago today the Berlin Wall came crashing down, as the picture shows. I recall the euphoria in the west and the joy unconfined in Germany as the human lust for freedom found another dramatic expression. Yet now we find that what was joy then has curdled more than just a little. Unifying east and west Germany cost 1.3 trillion euros and there were many examples of resultant social unrest mainly reflecting western resentment against the pauper east.

Now, a Forsa Survey based on German from both east and west, has produced what I think are astonishing results; they suggest that many Germans would like to see that grim symbol of repression, the Berlin Wall, reconstructed. 73% from the east felt that socialism was a good idea poorly implemented with 90% saying they enjoyed better 'social protection' under the GDR. Most of the Germans interviewed said they would prefer to live in West Germany should the wall still be in place but no less than 36% of former east Germans said they would prefer to live in East Germany. Anyone who has seen that rivetingly grim German film on the Stasi, The Lives of Others, will find this very hard to understand.

One wonders how many Romanians still hanker after the benign political ministrations of Nicolae Ceausescu and his lovely wife or how many Poles yearn for the repressions of Gumulka or Gierek. I suppose one should not be so surprised when we learn that many Russians think Stalin was a good leader and regard Putin as the nearest contemporary substitute for him. Even more depressingly it seems that only 5% of relationships in Germany are between east and west Germans, suggesting that these survey results reflect an ongoing gulf between the former communist part of the country and its bigger western counterpart.

Sometimes the converse stat (although essentially the same thing) can give a very different view - the fact that 64% of former East Germans wouldn't want to go back is a pretty ringing endorsement of a western market-led society (for all it's flaws).

As for 73% thinking 'socialism is a good idea badly implemented' I wouldn't be surprised if you got similarly high results even in the UK - in fact change it subtley to 'a good idea that can't really be implemented' and I'd sign up myself.
Fair points. I suppose also that if you are at the lower end of the skill range the GDR was not too bad in that everyone worked, everyone suffered from the non availability of goods and it was only the middle class who complained bitterly about liberty and the like.Nevertheless I find the figure of over a third slightly astonishing given how awful we know it was.
Yes, 36% longing for the old GDR is still strange.

I've just finished 'The Cold War' by John Lewis Gaddis (a very good one volume fairly light history) - in anything I've read about the cold was the events of Nov/Dec '89 are always very emotional - the sheer lust for freedom from people who'd been oppressed for so long is very moving.

I also didn't realise until I read this book that the wall thing was effectively an accident - the East Germans just wanted to relax restrictions at a few gates to ease the public outcry and it was just a bold (or incompetent) border guard who ended up getting the instructions wrong...!
Thanks for the book reference- I'll add it to my Christmas list though I'm running out of shelf space to be honest.
Obviously I think Liam is wrong in thinking that socialism can never be implemented, but of course it would very much depend on what form you think equality takes. Equally, of course, people could argue that capitalism and the free market would be a good idea if properly implemented, but we haven't seen any examples of that either.

On your main point Bill, I wonder how many from the former Yugoslavia would hanker after the days of Tito knowing what they know now.
Skip myn, Yes, strange survey results on the face of it, but on the other hand, maybe it's not too surprising that 36% of former East Germans say they would like to go back. Most migrants probably feel a degree of nostalgia or "hiraeth" for their homeland and they would certainly miss their family & friends.
p.s. I'm glad to note the recent spate of hackers & spammers invading your blogspace seems to have abated. (Or maybe they just masturbated ? ;-)
Well let's face it the East German women were better looking in those days weren't they? Marita Koch...Renate Stecher...Burglinde Pollak....PHWOARR!
Yes, the spammers were a bloody nuisance- maybe my post on gun control- which attracted the ire of a lot of US gun nuts- was the trigger.
I hope I don't sound too prim when saying that angle had not even occurred to me....
Sorry Skip, I know this is meant to be a serious blog ;-). It's just that whenever I see the words "East Germany" I immediately think of musclebound women pumped full of steroids who look like men.
Rather than criticize the opinions of those from the former East Germany, perhaps you should look for more depth of meaning in the statistics. Obviously, there is quite a large percentage of the population which feels that their current needs aren't been met or attended to properly by the current state. The oppression, which you speak of, imposed by the GDR was apparently less difficult to live with than current conditions. What is the use of certain freedoms, if you have little means of exercising, are unemployed and have no capital to speak of. I am not a fan of the former GDR but I am tired of one-sided views of the East-West situation.
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