The AfD rushes from east to west Germany from one success to another, fueling the debate about why, even three decades after reunification, there is a deep rift between the "old" and "new" "federal states, politically, economically and culturally.
Historian Marcus Böick, 35, examined in detail the process that was perhaps the most controversial between East and West: the work of the Trust, the institution where Western leaders pushed the transformation of the economy planned by the GDR from 1990 onwards for four years.
The theme is still fermenting in today's population.
How much, as shown by the requests of the AFD in the Bundestag, according to an investigative committee of the trustee or an ongoing exhibition in Leipzig, which presents portraits and interviews protocols of contemporary witnesses by companies as if they had survived a war.
Good king News: Mr Böick, trust has existed for only four years. Why did he still burn in the collective memory in the East?
Böick: It is an almost mythical reference. At that time, trust was one of the most powerful institutions that the East Germans had known immediately after the end of the GDR. And it was also one of the first institutions of the new German state. And this just when the state had to settle in the completely new East: the administration, the universities – after the fall of the SED state, all the old institutions were practically discredited.
Good king News: You said: what happens today in East Germany, you can no longer explain with the GDR. What do you mean?
Böick: There are still extensive support programs for research on DDR, so that doctoral students elaborate the illegitimate character of the SED regime. But today it is no longer possible to explain the phenomena in the East exclusively with the past of the GDR.
Good king News: With confidence already?
Böick: I was asked a few years ago: Treuhand is an accomplice to the rise of the AfD? I denied intuitively, but now I see it more differentiated. We are talking about the long-term experiences of the post-change generation – obviously in combination with the experience of the GDR – and I believe: especially in this combination it could be an explanation. Finally, trust is a central component of this reverse shocking experience. People in the East have often perceived the work of the trustee as a degradation. People came from western Germany and took the book in the East. Then one of them came abruptly from Dusseldorf and said, "Your business is worthless." This freezes.
Good king News: Is it not also the fact that many affected people are looking for an understandable explanation of why they fell so dramatically in the early nineties – and do not find the perfect scapegoat in the trustee?
Böick: There are two interpretations of what happened after the fall of the East, which was the cause of the turbulence. Some say: In the end, the GDR itself is responsible for the shocks and shocks, the SED regime in distress, its crimes and its economic incapacity. From this point of view, all that came after is just the crisis management needed to eliminate the rubble of socialism. This view is the classic right-wing conservative view of the old Federal Republic. The second field, on the other hand, sees the icy avant-garde of neoliberalism in trust: these are the cold settlers who ruthlessly dragged everything that was not part of the capitalist "scheme F". According to this opinion, trust in particular caused unemployment and acted in the interest of western capital owners. It was also a matter of eliminating the unpleasant eastern competition from western industry. The view is widespread in the East.
Good king News: Both are very schematic. Who's right?
Böick: Both parts a little bit and not really. It was not just one or the other. The thing has had its strength, that only because two things follow each other dramatically, one with the other intertwines: the planned economy of the frozen GDR is immediately replaced by the force of privatization. Both work together inseparably.
Good king News: They conducted many interviews with former trustees, mainly men from the old western industry. How do they remember the time?
Böick: "We are sitting here trying to somehow satisfy expectations and hopes in the East and the West", is a typical phrase. But this has been difficult under politically established conditions and with companies. Many felt beaten while the key players remained in the background.
Good king News: Do you mean the federal government?
Böick: Bonn has deliberately entrusted the trustee with the lightning protection function, since the administration expert Wolfgang Seibel has worked very well. It was said: storms, there are lightning strikes on the new, expanded house of the Federal Republic. But the Treuhand lightning rod derives the displeasure of the disappointed Eastern Germans and therefore the political house remains intact. Today you have to ask with certainty if this comparison is suitable for the long term. We see the enormous socio-economic and long-term cultural consequences. The Trust course has produced deep tears and lines of conflict. This has shaped the mentalities and millions of people affected by the deep need to find explanations for these fractures. Because he suddenly became unemployed; because suddenly my business was no longer worth anything. Working-class figures with hard hats and blue collars, they had just been the heroes of socialist work, and suddenly they were the problematic bears of post-socialism, of early retirement candidates or job creation programs to break down their old factories.
Good king News: How is the breeding ground for populists?
Böick: The fiduciary experience joins the argument of "Those up there betrayed". And the topic is very emotionally charged, every family in the East has something in common with it. On the other hand, trust in public debate was barely long. There was a huge vacancy in the school sector, in the universities, even in the media, apart from the occasional MDR reports. Verdi and SPD have also tried to fill the discussion. But they tried to differentiate, but the horse is incredibly difficult to drive. Now the left has requested a commission of inquiry. Since AfD has drangehängt directly – which in turn has had the consequence that SPD and Green back row. They don't want to have anything in common with the AfD.
Good king News: Why the topic doesn't matter at school?
Böick: It is found in the gray area among the subjects, between history and social studies. There is still little historical-empirical research. This is finally changing, for example through the work of the Munich Institute of Contemporary History. Moreover, in a very limited number of hours of history, numerous topics must be treated: National Socialism, Federal Republic, GDR. In social studies, in turn, the topic often returns to more recent ones: Europe, migration, climate protection. This is a significant gap in education. It was similar in politics. For the parts, it was like Pandora's box: don't open the door because you know an open debate could quickly become uncomfortable. We hope that it will change under the impression of the rise of the AfD.
Good king News: Does it have anything to do with repression? The Federal Republic met with the conviction of having the superior system in all respects. This could scratch such a discussion, yes.
Böick: If you look at the official culture of remembrance, you could have a long impression, with October 3rd 1990 the story ended after all the catastrophes of the 20th century. The day marks the national happy ending. This is also understandable: therefore a spotlight should be turned to the peaceful revolution, which led to the unexpected end of a dictatorship, the introduction of a democracy. In addition to this brilliant result, however, now this gray confuses the intricate east-west conflicts, which does not perfectly fit the first image.
Good king News: The story does not end in 1990.
Böick: Shortly after reunification, there are still demonstrations on Monday in the East, only then are they already directed against the Treuhandanstalt. It goes wild to the point: Helmut Kohl is compared there with Erich Honecker, the Federal Republic with the GDR, the trustee with the Stasi. This frustration of the east, unemployment, is not part of a happy national ending. In public and official consideration, this usually falls on the back. That is why the celebrations of October 3 have always seemed rather strange: the celebrations take place in the respective provincial capitals, but at the same time one wonders both in the East and in the West if there is some reason to celebrate.
Good king News: The West blames Jammer Ossis and socialism, for Ossis they are the Western managers of the Trust. Who's right?
Böick: This is the wrong question. To date, the Federal Republic derives its self-image from a specific interpretation of the past. Historians call this main narrative. It reads: with the German unity ends the post-war period and unified Germany begins in the unification of Europe. This neo-patriotic saga of success and heroism is debatable, no longer fits the increasingly clear inter-German differences. Even Europe is shaken, it is no longer clear that the development of the EU is always progressing, as an uninterrupted and irreversible success story. The question is whether we can finally find narrative perspectives or interpretations that can better capture it. And what happened then.
Good king News: Do you mean: the rhyme that politics makes on history does not fit?
Böick: A western perspective still dominates today. It's a story of seemingly unparalleled heroes. At that time, all those who acted at that time are blocked: the federal government, the Treuhand. They combine this with a great lack of interest in everything that does not fit into this image, sometimes it turns into annoyance: what is the hooligan's thing? The East, on the other hand, maintains its classic sacrificial story of submission: everything we had was devalued. We were not allowed to be involved, we had to adapt. This does not continue. I would suggest seeing the East-West relationship as a complicated story: how exactly was this historical constellation born? So how could these interpretative schemes in the East and in the West become so solid? This should be discussed not only between East and West, if these categories make sense, but also between generations: grandparents, parents and children.
Read the first part of the interview with Good king News +
Good king News: All parties are firmly convinced that they are right. How should it work?
Böick: I always try to explain with which baggage marched each side traveling when he suddenly found himself in the 1989/90 situation. With what ideas did the western Germans go to eastern Germany? What did Eastern Germans expect from them? You can solve it differently without giving a hasty moral judgment. It can therefore be shown how conflicts develop, although the majority of actors are firmly convinced that they are doing the right thing, in everyone's interest. So get out of these black and white patterns, victims and authors.
Good king News: It works?
Böick: During the discussion events many listeners say: Now at least I can understand where this frustration comes from. The Wessi has an idea of how it was concrete: to be sent home with 50; your steel mill is a scrap metal; What you've done in 30 years is scrap. But hey !, get social help.
Good king News: And what do you explain to the Germans about the east?
Böick: So I talked to many trustees: they came with good intentions. They wanted to break something, most wanted to help people improve quickly. But then they also failed because of the confusion and contradictions of the practice. It was an extreme upheaval, from which eventually the western Germans were taken away and in which they themselves carried themselves helplessly.
Good king News: This time you lived as a child in Saxony-Anhalt. What did this do to families?
Böick: For some of them, this could be a starting point, new career opportunities and unimaginable freedoms. Some have established themselves as teachers, employees. For many, however, it also meant demolitions: unemployment, lack of prospects, early retirement, retraining, job creation measures. But we must understand that a social shock of this magnitude then affects all groups: even the "winners" have seen and experienced the shock in their environment. Like a motorist who sees a serious car accident on the highway and thinks: that too could easily have caught me.
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Good king News: Can you think of an example?
Böick: I spoke with a manager of a medium-sized company in the GDR. Trust did not have an investor. At one point he himself faced the choice: either I do it now – or everyone here is unemployed. He succeeded in his case, but it is not suitable as the triumphant story of the founder. For him it was a huge risk, he had stress and he knows he was lucky even in the end. When he makes the point, his gaze turns automatically to the next, to those who have not made it. To the families that broke it. Everyone knew: if I had to quit my job, what would be the prospects for a 30 percent unemployment rate?
Good king News: What needs to change in order for a German-German conversation to start on this old scar?
Böick: This is not a question for science. It must be in the curricula, it must be in schools and colleges. Only in this way does this theme emerge from the mythical murmuring memory. We need to get the debate out of the family kitchen speeches and make it wider. The question will be how does politics deal with it: does it ignore the topic as it has done so many times before and remains simply symbolic and idiosyncratic?
Good king News: What role do the media play?
Böick: So far they remain in old patterns similar to a woodcut: trust is always negotiated in a similar way. Or the stories of scandals about the "crime of the trustee" – or just discussions that the trustee could not do otherwise. But this is not the way to start a dialogue that highlights the multiple contradictions. Instead, the polarization continues to advance. Both fields have arguments. But everyone deduces that the other side must necessarily be wrong. This is the reason for this bitter forgiveness. But this change has been so enormous, so complex that both are equally true – and the search for the culprit will never lead to a clear and satisfying result. That's why we need different perspectives.
Good king News: Could inquiry commissions or a truth commission be useful, as required in the Saxon SPD?
Böick: I am skeptical These are formed of political struggle, they also operate according to the logic of scandals, revelations, guilt and political responsibility. We must also accept that in our recent history we have something that is neither black nor white.