The parlotones remember the karaoke lyrics

Field of tension

Ilja Bohnet in an interview with Dr. Nikola Rührmann, founder and chairwoman of the Foundation for the Salvation of the World - a foundation for the promotion of literary writing.

Nikola Rührmann: Dear Ilja Bohnet, do you remember November 9, 1989?

Ilya Bohnet: Isn't that the opening question from the detective novel “Fridays you eat fish”, which is about how you, dear Ms. Nikola Rührmann (alias Nikolaus, Niko, Nik, Sput-Nik or Laus) got into a pretty criminal mess in the rainy summer of 1989 slide in?

Nikola Rührmann: You know that better than I do, because you wrote this sentence. As well as the next. November 9, 1989 is one of the days when every person, even decades later, would still know what he was doing back then.

Ilya Bohnet: Interestingly enough, historical events and their socio-political effects are often only understood in retrospect. Of course, I remember November 9th, 1989. The trembling of the fall of the Berlin Wall could literally be felt as far as Hamburg. But I did not recognize the historical significance of this day. Maybe you don't even want to recognize it. I was embedded (not to say “pickled”) in a youthful-student-autonomous milieu, politically totally correct, which had established itself very well in the thought structures of the Cold War and not without a lot of pathos. That was certainly not wrong or objectionable. But well. And it just reflected a personal and very limited and, moreover, time-limited reality of life. Sven Regener describes this student milieu and its time color in his book "Herr Lehmann" quite appropriately. If “Fridays you eat fish” is something like a snapshot of the bohemians in the early summer of 1989 in Hamburg, then “Herr Lehmann” marks the end of this scene on November 9, 1989 in West Berlin.

Nikola Rührmann: Was this scene gone after November 9th?

Ilya Bohnet: Of course not. But she changed. Just like how society as a whole changed. Imperceptibly in small steps, but when you look at things from a time lag you are surprised. Not just how (badly) people were dressed. The collapse of the Soviet empire and communism (at least in Europe) in 1989/90 marked the end of an epoch that, for decades and despite all the changes, including the cultural turbulence of the sixties, was always marked by the political-ideological polarity of West and Had stood east.

Nikola Rührmann: The fateful day was preceded by violent events in May 1989, first the scandal surrounding the manipulated local elections in the GDR, then the dismantling of the border facilities in Hungary, which resulted in the influx of refugees from the GDR, and finally the growing protest demonstrations in Leipzig, Dresden, Berlin and elsewhere in the GDR. The SED leadership tried desperately to react to this dramatic development, but ran after it hopelessly. At what point did you, Mr Bohnet, think of the possibility of reunification?

Ilya Bohnet: I'm afraid I didn't think much back then. The behavior patterns and thought categories to which I attached due to the scene were not particularly complex, in any case they did not contain any plural approaches. But I was probably not alone with this rather single-track view of things, I think that my personal behavior and experiences during these world-shaking events were symptomatic and very stereotypically corresponded to that of a broad, left-liberal West German public. The left in the Federal Republic, from the Autonomous to the Social Democrats and Liberals, had a huge problem with the concept of the "German Nation", which was no coincidence (the right-wing extremist side of the reunified German nation showed theirs in autumn 1990 at the latest ugly grimace, just remember the murder of Amadeu Antonio Kiowa). Whatever the case, the thinking of the left-wing liberals in 1989 (as declared anti-Germans) was firmly bonded and preserved in the power relations of the political blocs. Somehow everything was in order with it. Accordingly, this left-wing liberal public reacted in disbelief to the collapse of actually existing socialism as an enlightened and intellectually understanding, left-wing liberal public. Before she could form an opinion, the events, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification at a gallop overrun her. For me, symptomatic of this reactive, defensive attitude is the seemingly bizarre comment by Erich Böhme (who later became extremely embarrassing to him himself), in which he was editor-in-chief of the news magazine “Der Spiegel "Conjures up the fear of the" Fourth Reich "(" I do not want to be reunited "). As if the status quo in 1989 had been worth preserving (apart from the fact that Erich Böhme had a relationship with the GDR news anchor Angelika Unterlauf a decade later, so for him personally there was a German-German reunification - which he granted him from the bottom of his heart be). Rudolf Augstein, editor of the news magazine, gave the passionate answer a week (before the fall of the wall): “Why a wall right through Germany, when all the walls down to the Urals should fall? Why a divided Berlin when, despite all ethnic and annexation problems, Jerusalem should and will apply: Divided into two? No way. […] The younger generation will no longer bear this false weight, because it has nothing to do with Auschwitz. ”But he belonged to a minority among left-wing intellectuals.

Nikola Rührmann: What were the reasons for the lack of patriotism in the left, West German public?

Ilya Bohnet: The twelve years of the darkest German national history. The concern about a new German nationalism. The fear that the European unification process could slip out of the German field of vision as a result of reunification. The fear that the reform movement of the Soviet Union (under Gorbachev) would be weakened or undermined, that it could even turn into aggressive reactions? But above all the basic problem of the Germans with "patriotism". The "enlightened Germans" were ashamed of being "German". You were from Hamburg, Munich, Berlin, but not German (that "German" in its original meaning is not meant in a people-specific way, but etymologically refers to the community of German-speaking people, even today only very few people know). The West German intellectuals believed that they had successfully overcome the romantic national feeling, which had taken fatal developments in the case of the Germans, and they reacted emotionally to every emotion in this direction, seeing it as a dangerous revanchism that would have to lead to a new exudation. This controversy is congenially expressed in the correspondence between the Social Democrats Peter Glotz and Klaus von Dohnanyi, which was only published in retrospect, and which arose after the latter publicly advocated a clear position of the SPD in favor of reunification in the magazine “Stern” a week after the fall of the Wall had pronounced. Otherwise the SPD threatens to “lose the conceptual leadership of our foreign policy”. Von Dohnanyi saw reunification as an inevitable consequence of the upheaval in the GDR. For him, the division was no longer tenable, but rather an “unnatural” situation that would take on grotesque excesses after the fall of the Berlin Wall: “Do we want to ban or quota immigration from Schwerin and Halle, but allow immigration from Seville and Naples unlimited within the framework of the EC? [...] In Berlin at Potsdamer Platz a customs border for years (decades?), None of that is correct. And what is wrong, that doesn't last either. ”Glotz, on the other hand, strictly rejected reunification, although he did not consider it to be completely ruled out:“ If the citizens of the GDR really want the 'Anschluss', the Soviets will allow them to join and the western powers allow it to us too - then no one will stop this connection. Then we Social Democrats could talk for a long time; after all, we cannot build a wall on our part ”. Which he obviously seemed to regret. It is noteworthy here (I quote from the accompanying text of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, from which I took the original quotations of the two politicians) that Glotz did not consider this scenario (which actually occurred a short time later) to be very likely. He was apparently just as blind to the inexorable progressive development as the Chancellor candidate Oskar Lafontaine, who in 1990 with the slogans "Withdraw all nuclear weapons from Germany, prohibit arms exports in principle, renounce the Hunter 90, and: align the duration of community service with that of military service" entered the first all-German federal election campaign (see also Daniel Friedrich Sturm's article "Disunite in unity - How Lafontaine and his sympathizers maneuvered social democracy into disaster in 1989/90")

Nikola Rührmann: What do you learn from it?

Ilya Bohnet: Definitely that the view of historical events often becomes clearer in retrospect. At the current reception of the historical event - 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall - I am again astonished that this broken, ambiguous attitude of the left-liberal, West German public towards German reunification is not discussed more in retrospect. (Left-wing liberals in the GDR thought quite differently: either they dreamed of a “reform of socialism” (from Christa Wolf to Bärbel Bohley), or of a reunification of the two German states on an equal footing (such as Werner Schulz), i.e. a unification of the two German states under Article 146 of the Basic Law, instead of joining the Federal Republic under Article 23 of the Accession.

Nikola Rührmann: ... which ultimately happened exactly the same way. The accession of the GDR to the Federal Republic was a result that was not originally intended by some of the opposition members of the former GDR, and in particular by the spokesmen for the non-violent popular uprising.

Ilya Bohnet: An “open, democratic socialism” - this old ideal of the humanistic left-wing camp -, a social order in which the social achievements of the GDR were preserved, deserved the advantage in the opinion of many, also as a counterweight to the liberal-capitalist Federal Republic. I agree with the cultural scientist Hermann W. von der Dunk, who says that behind the ideal of an “open, democratic socialism” there was neither a significant historical tradition nor a system with a sound economic foundation or a well-organized following.

Nikola Rührmann: As we know, the pull of West German prosperity, symbolized by the strong D-Mark, had the greater power.

Ilja Bohnet: It is interesting (and now I want to venture a perhaps unconventional thought) that today's Russian (Putinian) politics are not seen more strongly against the background of these historical events. Were the left-wing liberals' fears about the East German population's striving for unity, which could bring Russia into dangerous isolation, perhaps not entirely unjustified? Or to put it another way: how much does the European Union isolate the giant Russia, which has grown again, today? A question that, in my opinion, is asked too rarely.

Nikola Rührmann: In conclusion, back to one: Do you remember November 9, 1989?

Ilya Bohnet: Yes. At night I sat alone on my loft bed in my student dorm in front of my little black-and-white television and watched the news, saw the images of the crowds as they pushed through the border crossings, past the border guards who looked out of place, climbed over the wall, on the west side hugged and cheered each other beaming with joy. Unobserved by my supposedly “politically correct” scene, and free from imposed shame, I spontaneously began to cry for joy.




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Category: Dialogue with Nikola Rührmann | Keywords: November 9, 1989, Bärbel Bohley, Christa Wolf, the West German Left and the Fall of the Wall, Erich Böhme, intellectuals and patriotism, intellectuals and reunification, Klaus von Dohnanyi, Oskar Lafontaine, Peter Glotz, Rudolf Augstein, Werner Schulz, reunification, Vladimir Putin