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A Conservative Journalist Criticizes the Disappearance of the Term "Germany" (1972)

The conservative journalist Matthias Walden inveighs against the disappearance of the term “Germany” as a result of the de facto recognition of “the GDR” as denoting the East and “the FRG” as standing for the West. Walden feared that any hope for the recovery of a united country might disappear as well.

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Instead of Germany, Now Just ‘FRG’?

In the three years of rapprochement with the “GDR,” the Federal Republic of Germany has been subject to a change that cannot merely be felt and understood but also read: it has shrunk down to the three letters “FRG.” This soulless abbreviation is an import from that other three-letter-region whose division-strategists hope to extinguish the term “Germany.”

It didn’t take long for the SED coaches and their drills to bring the West German valedictorians of rapprochement to fluent repetition. Now you hear it all across the country, even from us: “FRG.” It is easier to say, sounds like ABC and Pkw,* and no one needs to waste a second thought on it. Yet another bit of added comfort.

Yes, but don’t people know that the “GDR” (adjective: “German”) is trying to get the country to stop using the name of its fatherland (noun: Germany)? They know it in the palace whose name is so rich in associations: Schaumburg.** And they let it go on nonetheless – or even for that very reason. The “GDR,” liberated from nothing but its quotation marks, is on equal grounds with the “FRG”; two German states, one recognized as much as the other, and no more Germany.

That is the reason for the Basic Treaty. When the declaration of division was signed, Egon Bahr, the representative of the Federal Republic of Germany, spoke once of the “FRG” and once of the “German Democratic Republic.” He felt that it was worth the effort to say these twenty-four letters for the benefit of the other side’s prestige, the two sides having dressed in the “partner look.” He compensated for the added effort by saying “FRG.” We abbreviate things. “Germany” takes too much time. The matter was also pressing since the election was approaching. Our election! We get to choose! The others have no choice, but they, too, live in Germany – or don’t they anymore?

When the Four Powers offered their aid in the forceps delivery of the Basic Treaty, they insisted on the continuation of their responsibility, but they could no longer say what they were responsible for. Their declaration omits the term – Germany has become ineffable.

In exchange, we now have good relations between the two German states. But the preamble to the neighborly agreement offers proof of inherent incompatibilities: The unity of the nation, which in the lead-up [to the Treaty] had been advertised as its cement, was negotiated down to a “question.” They agreed not to agree. It’s the same thing with citizenship, which is indeed a fundamental question. That, too, went unanswered in the Basic Treaty, since it touches upon the untouchable: Germany.

* Pkw means car [Personenkraftwagen]. When FRG, ABC, and Pkw are pronounced in German, they all rhyme – trans.
** Schaum literally means froth, so the word Schaumburg evokes the image of a palace filled with nothing but airy froth. This is ironic since, at the time, Schaumburg Palace was the site of the Chancellery of the Federal Republic. The name derives from its former owner, the Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe – trans.

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