It is more than 36 years since I first breathed Germany's air. Well, for the life of me, I cannot remember it. You certainly cannot remember your birth either.
When I was born there were two German countries - the Federal Republic of Germany (capital: Bonn) and the German Democratic Republic (capital: East Berlin). The latter was a socialist country belonging to the so-called Eastern Bloc. It was not unusual to hear people talking about the Soviet zone. In contrast to this, the Federal Republic of Germany with its then 10 federal states was a country with the economic and social order of capitalism. It was (and still is) not pure capitalism. After the Second World War, Ludwig Erhard and Alfred Müller-Armack, in particular, established the social market economy under government responsibility. Instead of a pure or unbridled capitalism, the state framework was intended to secure the functioning of the market economy.
From the 4th of September 1989, mass demonstrations were held in Leipzig, a city in eastern Germany at the time. These Monday demonstrations were an important part of the Peaceful Revolution in the German Democratic Republic in the autumn of 1989. Later in the autumn of 1989, regular mass demonstrations took place in other cities of the GDR, for example in Dresden, Halle, Karl-Marx-Stadt (now: Chemnitz), Magdeburg, Plauen, Arnstadt, Rostock, Potsdam, and Schwerin, some of them on other weekdays. Week after week, hundreds of thousands of GDR citizens throughout the country called out "We are the people" and protested against the political conditions. The aim was a peaceful, democratic reorganisation, in particular the end of the SED regime, and there were also calls for freedom of travel and the abolition of the Ministry of State Security.
When Günter Schabowski, the spokesman for the SED Politburo (SED - Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands), announced on the 9th of November 1989 that, on the recommendation of the Politburo, a revised travel law would come into force which would allow permanent departure from the GDR and private travel "without the existence of prerequisites" [and permits], he was asked by journalists when this law would come into force. Schabowski replied haltingly: "As far as I know, this will come into force ... it is immediate, immediate..." In response to these sentences, which were broadcast live on GDR television, East Berliners and people near the German-German border began to flock in crowds to the border crossings.
That is the history that I have witnessed. However, I can hardly remember these events, I was just 5 years plus a few months old at the time.
The establishment of German unity took place on the 3rd of October 1990 with the accession of the newly established federal states on the territory of the former GDR to the scope of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany. This is also known as German reunification. 3 October has been a national public holiday since.
People in East Germany had to face serious changes in a very short time. A completely different political system, a market economy instead of a planned economy were just a few of these challenges. Many people, like my husband, managed to cope with them in a short time. The following year he was already co-founder of a company based in Bavaria. But when the strategic direction of this company changed to his dissatisfaction, he sold his company shares. He founded a small business for himself. Shortly afterward, he invested his sale proceeds and almost all his savings in the idea and business of friends. Risk-taking combined with naivety is what he called the latter. It was precise during this period that he had to learn about the dark sides of capitalism. His trust in business partners, in other words, clients of his own business, put him in a difficult economic situation. Surrender was never an option and my husband extricated himself from this situation. A short time later his investment in the idea of his friends bore fruit. My husband still owns a single stock of this company out of sentimentality. He bought the majority of the company he co-founded in Bavaria when it was on the verge of bankruptcy and took over the management himself for a while. It is, by the way, the company which I was later managing for several years and in which I invested more than my work.
Everyone who grew up in a socialist country has had their own experience of these changes. For me it is admirable. As is well known, I was born in the western part of Germany (geographically speaking south). I also grew up there for the first few years, until my parents moved to the former eastern part of the country to Thuringia for job-related reasons (i.e. northwards). German reunification is a part of my childhood. But it accompanied me through the years that followed. Although the Wall came down and the inner-German borders have been removed, even after 30 years some people still have prejudices, the differentiation between East and West still exists. Ossi and Wessi are terms I do not like for this reason. Well, I was born as a Wessi, became an Ossi, and am Ozzie now.
If it hadn't been for the changes in the entire Eastern Bloc at that time, I would never have met my husband. He would probably still be working in the profession he learned, in the same company where he completed his training.
I met my husband apart from work and career. At some point, I'm sure I mentioned that we met for the first time at a gym. At that time, however, I was only looking for a hot and sweaty night. But we didn't have that until weeks later. By then I was already in love with him. In love with a man who is loving, considerate, calm, and modest. Someone who tries to catch you when you fall, but helps you up if he couldn't prevent you from falling. This description may sound like an underdog to some people. It is not that incorrect. I thought a little bit of the same for a short time before I discovered more facets. Character traits such as determination, perseverance, tenacity (up to lovingly stubbornness) are not apparent at first sight.
So I was quite surprised when I was looking for a new job shortly after the beginning of our relationship and my partner and current husband (I had already moved in with him) told me that a Bavarian company was looking for a new CEO. My initial enthusiasm faded a little when he admitted that he was one of the shareholders. (I discovered more and more slice by slice later on.) On the one hand, I felt my independence was at risk while on the other hand, combining the job and the relationship could cause a heavy strain or even end the relationship. I dared to take the risk, not least because of his promise not to interfere in the daily business. My concerns were unfounded. We had created certain rules to avoid mixing private life and business too much. My independence even encouraged it. My husband consistently supported my need for independence. Is it surprising that I love him so much? BTW, we have had countless hot and sweaty nights since.
As I said, Saturday will mark 30 years since there is once again a single Germany. Socialism in its old form no longer exists - doomed to failure by its totalitarian implementation. The core idea of socialism is nevertheless to be welcomed. Socialism wants to be nothing more than the liberation of every human being. The liberation from suffering, from misery, from exploitation, from immaturity and suffocating responsibility. It is the empowerment of self-determined life.
In the beginning, I leave the impression that everything started in Germany. That is not the truth. If you look at the whole history, which also heralded the end of the Cold War, it all began in the Soviet Union with reforms and restructuring initiated by Michael Gorbachev.
There were politicians on all fronts involved and willing to negotiate.
June 12, 1987
"We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Ronald Reagan - President of the United States of America from 1981 to 1989
I do not want to leave unsaid that many people had great difficulties during these years. The rapid transition combined with a lack of prospects due to mass unemployment has left deep scars on entire regions - not only in eastern Germany but also in the countries of the former Eastern Bloc.
For us, it is a day that is part of our lives. If these changes had not happened, ... everything would be different for both of us. We would not even know that there is a soul mate. It is also a day that should be a reminder. A reminder that walls and borders should not exist in this world, either in physical form or in people's minds.
Why "long weekend" ahead when the holiday is on a Saturday?
Every first Monday in October Queensland celebrates the birthday of its monarch. It is the Queen's Birthday, a public holiday.
Happy birthday to Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Australia and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.
Edited by Tomster