As a child in the East, you constantly fantasized about the West; in the West, you had no idea about the East. Has it remained so until today?
Detlev Buck as a Volkspolizist in "Sonnenallee": Many West Germans get their image of the East from television. Picture: dpa
Do you know a West German? Have you ever met an East German? Really face to face?
If you happen to be from West Germany and are between the ages of 16 and 29, chances are you know East Germans mostly from TV. This is the result of a survey by the research institute Forsa. East Germans are much more likely to form an opinion of West Germans "based on their own experience," according to a survey conducted by Forsa. As many as 67 percent of East Germans feel the same way. 43 percent of West Germans, on the other hand, give the answer with television.
East Germans? Westerners? 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, one could also think that these are outdated categories. Perhaps the numbers only come about because these West Germans do not even know how many East Germans they know, because that hardly plays a role with these post-born.
19 percent have never been to the East
taz.at the weekend
They are two of the best German writers: Jochen Schmidt comes from East Germany, David Wagner from the old Federal Republic of Germany. In the new taz.on the weekend of 11./12. October 2014 they talk about growing up in a divided Germany, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Also: Boris Palmer is the Green mayor of Tubingen. Ambitious, not just popular – now he wants to be re-elected. What he has achieved? And: Starting on Saturday, Ina Muller will be back on the airwaves of the German TV station Ersten. Your studio is a pub in Hamburg harbor. "Drooling and boozing is on," she says. A Conversation. At the kiosk, eKiosk or right away in a practical weekend subscription.
Finally, the main message of the Forsa survey is this: Most young people clearly see more connecting than separating aspects when it comes to the differences between east and west. The later they were born after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the more often this happens to them.
Nevertheless, there are other figures that make you think in these days of celebratory speeches and affirmations of the unjust state: 19 percent of West Germans, for example, have never been to the East, //:the survey institute Info GmbH once stated. Only one percent of East Germans have never been to the West.
The writer Jochen Schmidt, who grew up in East Berlin, also took a look at the West after the Wall came down. But then he decided he’d rather not leave his old home: "His first trips to the West had shown that everywhere looked like old Derrick episodes. Berlin was my home; in my backyard apartment I lived like I was in a mountain hut, overlooking a picturesque ravine and with a coal fire to keep me warm in the winter. The rent didn’t give me a headache. It could have stayed that way forever, for all I care."
With fellow author David Wagner, who grew up in Bonn, Schmidt has just published the book "Druben und druben," in which they recall their childhoods in the GDR and the FRG. For the cover story of the taz.on the weekend of 11./12. October 2014, Schmidt and Wagner now write about the "childhood of the other". Schmidt imagines what it would have been like if he had been in Wagner’s place in the West – with a slice of milk, a cleaning lady and pizza with cheese at Rand.
"Back then, I didn’t waste a single thought on the East"
"Where," the then asks, "can you even grow up today in a different social system? In which money hardly plays a role?"His origins will always leave their mark on him: "And our protecting power, which sounds increasingly incomprehensible to me, was the Soviet Union. Their cultural offerings and language were seen as a nuisance back then, whereas today I appreciate the contact with them as a broadening of my horizons, if only because it makes me feel at home everywhere in Eastern Europe, where people often have more confidence as soon as it is clarified which Germany you come from."
David Wagner, on the other hand, who won the Leipzig Book Fair prize last year for his book "Leben" (Life), finds it hard to imagine what it would have been like in the East, even in retrospect. "Back then, when I was a child, I didn’t waste any thought on the East. We knew almost nothing about the GDR," he writes in the taz.at the weekend. "We knew it existed, yes, it came up in the news now and then – shootings at the inner-German border again, new self-fire systems installed, political prisoners ransomed – but otherwise it tended not to exist. Movies and series were set in America, in France, Italy or England, some also in a country called Czechoslovakia or CSSR. Never, however, in the GDR. Stop, an exception: Present was the GDR at Olympic Games and World Championships, which had nothing to do with soccer."
Does this imbalance of two writers’ childhood memories mirror an imbalance of all-German memory culture? Should people in West Germany be more interested in the East? Or have categories such as East and West long since been absorbed into everyday life in Germany as a whole??