GHDI logo

A Liberal Intellectual Reflects on "the Burden of Being German" (September 2, 1983)

page 3 of 4    print version    return to list previous document      next document

The whole matter of German national consciousness would probably have been much easier if the demarcation line between East and West had not also divided what remained of Germany into two halves. To be sure, even a “German Democratic Federal Republic GDFR” would have had a hard time dealing with Hitler’s legacy, the lost Eastern territories, and the mistrust of the superpowers. And also with what the world considers the “German national character.” A genuinely lighthearted national pride would not have arisen there either.

But what does it mean to say: if the division of Europe had not also divided what remained of Germany?* It did, and it makes no sense to cry over spilled milk. The findings of a survey commissioned during the SPD-FDP coalition by the Ministry for Intra-German Relations and conducted by the Infratest public opinion research institute were recently published in Bonn. The most telling result: Whereas about 20 percent of the total West German population is either indifferent to or rejects reunification, the figure is about twice that for young people between fourteen and twenty-one. This means that including Leipzig or Dresden in images of “Germany” will not really seem natural to the adult Germans of tomorrow.

Young Germans feel like members of a separate generation – that’s the most obvious [point of identification], the most clear-cut, and the most fleeting. For what about the forty-year-old who once vowed to trust “no one over thirty”? The solidarity of the “young” is deceiving, since youth passes so quickly. The bastion of the German family has crumbled – certainly not as completely nor as drastically as in the picture painted by one-sided sociologists but definitely more drastically than in the Romance countries. If anything, it is region of origin [“Heimat”] that is most likely to continue holding people together. If someone here still wants to feel proud, then he is proud of coming from Lake Constance [in the south] or the Waterkant [on the northern coast], from the Black Forest or the Rhineland. He’s proud of being a Bavarian or a native of the Hanseatic cities.

* The reference to West Germany in the original is likely to be a typo; the repetition of the previous reference to Rest-Deutschland makes more sense – eds.

first page < previous   |   next > last page