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Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker on the Meaning of Being German (1986)

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A fitting expression is: The German Question will remain open as long as Brandenburg Gate remains closed. This gets at the core of the unresolved German Question. It concerns the freedom of the people. Nowhere can this be felt more clearly than in the center of the divided Berlin. But it affects all Germans and all Europeans no less.

[ . . . ]

Today as well, the German Question exists within the tension-field of unity and freedom. But it is different than it used to be. At the core of the German Question is freedom. Any progress in the German Question made at the expense of freedom would be a step in the wrong direction.

Not only Berlin and Germany are divided. The community of Europeans is also divided. The European powers have fought each other for stability or supremacy long enough. They had the same historical and cultural roots, but in the struggle for power and through excessive nationalism, the consciousness of the community of European peoples receded into the background.

[ . . . ]

These topics were also discussed at the European Conference on Security and Cooperation in Helsinki. Unity of the Europeans does not mean state unity or the equality of political systems, but a common path in history, moving forward with respect for human dignity. The German Question in this sense is a European task. To use peaceful means in working toward such a goal in Europe is above all the responsibility of the Germans.

Source: Richard von Weizsäcker, “Was ist das eigentlich: deutsch?” [“What is that acutally: German?”], in Reden und Interviews [Speeches and Interviews], vol. 2, pp. 395-412.

Translation: Allison Brown

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