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Property and Justice (February 19, 2004)

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But it is unfair that some can now claim only settlement payments, while others can claim compensation. For agricultural and forestry land, the settlement payments amount to triple the ratable value in [the year] 1935, degressively staggered. Payments are higher for building land. That, then, is too little. But has anyone asked what the GDR paid its citizens for expropriations in connection with strip-mining and the like? Triple the 1935 ratable value in GDR marks. After the monetary union, that turned into 1.5 times the value. Hence, those compensations should also be reopened in the name of justice.

Many expellees settled in the GDR. They never received any Lastenausgleich [equalization of war-induced burdens] in the GDR, unless one wants to count the land-reform land they received as farmers. The Western Lastenausgleich was terminated on October 3, 1990 – when “we” came. The expellees in the GDR received merely a one-time payment of 4,000 Deutschmarks. And anyone who had to suffer as a political prisoner under Stalin and who was an East German citizen on October 3, 1990, receives compensation only if he is indigent. Those who lost relatives in Stalin’s camps get nothing. The person who could not attend university and was not allowed to take over his father’s pharmacy also gets nothing. In Germany there are first-class, second-class, and third-class victims. The third-class victims are the citizens of the GDR.

I am not complaining; rather, I am outraged about the outrage of the Western victims of the second class. Germany lost a war that was instigated by a criminal regime and used as the occasion for a horrendous genocide. We are atoning for this with a gigantic Holocaust memorial. But the property losses as a result of the war should be kindly compensated for, retroactively, to the second and third degree. If not, we will become unpleasant and will accuse the politicians of unification of lies, fraud, and breach of the constitution. Now the chief target is Wolfgang Schäuble. I know why. One cannot make good on old injustice through new injustice. Today the new injustice is the charge – formulated wholly out of touch with reality – of lies and breach of the constitution.

Source: Richard Schröder, “Also waren wir eure Hereros” [“We, then, were your Hereros”], Die Zeit, February 19, 2004.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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