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"Talk Is Cheap" (1989)

Against the backdrop of growing hostility towards foreigners, the author makes critical mention of the fact that demands for reunification were being increasingly seized upon by radical right-wing groups, whereas the majority of Germans in both East and West had come to accept the country’s division. This acceptance, he writes, was also accompanied by a lack of interest in the GDR on the part of many West Germans.

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[ . . . ]

In the forty years that Germany has been divided into two states, we have proven what some Soviets and Americans, as I know, never believed at the outset: the Germans, capable and thorough and obedient as they are, have made their country's division work. Both [states] are model students in NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and the GDR is an example for Poland, Hungary, and now even for the Soviet Union.

And what about us? We offer permanent lessons on how to deal with Communists – carefully measured reason and as little condescension as possible – so that even the CDU has learned how to do this.

That most West Germans take little serious interest in the other Germans, that most citizens of the Federal Republic have, in fact, turned their backs on the East Germans – who gets upset about this?

That emigrants from the GDR are also feeling the effects of xenophobia, that the growing number of visitors from the GDR should finally be treated as economically welcome guests, that rather than being forced to make humiliating visits to the welfare office to pick up their "welcome money"* (maybe up to three hundred DM a year), they should be able to exchange their hard-earned money with us in the regular fashion – who in this country is really thinking about this?

Once upon a time there was a beautiful big country, almost a hundred and twenty years ago. This German Empire [Reich] we gambled away, rather like "Hans in Luck."** Nevertheless, there are still plenty of young people running around – they are naïve, neither adequately educated in school, nor well-cared for by our ruthlessly competitive society, who sport clothing that reads, "I'm proud to be a German," and in this way demonstrate their xenophobia.

* Citizens of the GDR were entitled to "welcome money" in the amount of 100 DM from the Federal Republic of Germany – trans.
** Written by the Brothers Grimm, "Hans in Luck" is the story of a young servant who carelessly parted with a lump of gold earned for seven years of service. – trans.

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