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Identity: How we became East Germans

East Germany is seen by many as a social crisis area, others as an avant-garde. However, it is still unclear what actually defines and distinguishes those who live there and have made their biographical experiences there from the "West Germans". Jana Hensel and Wolfgang Engler discuss this question in their new discussion volume "Who We Are: The Experience of Being East German", which has now been published by Aufbau-Verlag. Hensel writes non-fiction books and novels and is a permanent author in special department D18 at ZEIT ONLINE and DIE ZEIT in the east. Engler is a cultural sociologist and until 2017 he was principal of drama school "Ernst Busch".

Jana Hensel: of course is
the speech of "the East Germans" an unauthorized shortening. We have to
always be clear when we speak of the East Germans speak that we
actually use a term that should not be used because he
in the end, it reinforces our marginalized position even more.

Wolfgang Engler: We speak
from a collective that does not exist.

Hensel: Nevertheless, it should be noted: The
East German society is on today your Kind of differentiated
Society. she is different differentiated than the West German:
less economical, because she does not know these high wealth differences,
Because men and women participate in similar sized groups in the labor market.
But it is characterized by very different biographical imprints. DDR imprints and
East German imprints, which sometimes collided, but also mixed,
which grew or hardened, but in the vast majority of cases
repeated corrections and overwriting, not least by professional
Reorientation or even temporary job loss, been suspended

Engler: We have a "we-problem", and
with the title of our book who we are we make ourselves vulnerable by
we are suspected of having a deputy discourse for all
to have a say. We will do that in all endeavors for a wealth of perspectives
probably can not completely clear out.

Hensel: We make ourselves vulnerable, but that
we like to do, that's what we stand for.

Engler: The term "the East Germans" is
yes, even a reversionary experience or invention. I noticed that it was up
into the early zero years, until 2005/06, as part of the social report
gave annual queries to East Germans. You should say, with which level
they identify the most: locality, region, state / Federal Republic,
Europe or East Germany, The highest approval with over the years
eastern Germany, that category which was neither a
economic still as administrative nor as a political entity tangible
was, but only more, how to say, mentally, culturally. What is here
shows, is a sense of connectedness that did not exist in East Germany. It
many things came together to bring about, crash and loss experiences that after
Compensation on a symbolic level called the external perception of the East Germans
as "misery-ossis", but also the consciousness and maybe first
Line, that you differ from the West Germans in his views and
Habits, even the linguistic, in many ways actually

Hensel: Well, we have that
Millennium started to mark this identity. That had to do with it
do that we deny that East German idiom, as you would say
have held for a lie.

Engler: Clear! This idiom formed in
the repulsion of the GDR, The people had to overcome the GDR in order for themselves
to be able to find out what is in it, in the life that one has in it
Society was considered tradable, with dignity and perhaps even with
Pride is narrable. In the convergence of these personal inventories
The East German idiom was formed. Sometimes both are overcome, that is
On the one hand, rejecting, on the other hand, preserving, so interwoven, that it is too
no clarification comes. One affirms and negates, rejects what one at the same time

Hensel: In the nineties were in
East Germany made fundamentally different experiences than in West Germany.
At that time, especially in the first half of the nineties, a
economic collapse, which in its radicalism mainly by the
Speed ​​with which it happened, historically probably unique. That time is
characterized by a whole lot of extreme experiences, of superlatives and
Records that all describe a downward movement.

Engler: downsizing in East German.

Hensel: Nowhere in the Eastern bloc broke the
Economy after 1989 as strong as here, writes the
Eastern Europe scientist Philipp Ther in his book The new order on the
old continent. A history of neoliberal Europe
, Only Bosnia and Herzegovina shows similar numbers – but after the Yugoslav war.
Ther describes this process as "a disaster in every other
post-communist country would have attracted massive protests ".
Instead, people tuned their feet and headed west.
Alone 1.4 million left until 1993 the east, a comparably high
Migration had been in Europe since the end of World War II
not given anymore. Journalist Uwe Müller writes in his bestseller Supergau German unity: "The reunion was a political one
World premiere with unprecedented consequences: In East Germany raged
demographic quake. "Was in 1989 the proportion of young people
significantly larger and the proportion of over-64s much smaller than in the
West, this relationship reverses within a few years. In 1994 there were in
In the new Länder, with 79,000 births, a birth rate of 0.77 children per woman. No state except
The Vatican has ever registered such a low number. The Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock has come to terms with the
Fertility rates of East German men in the 1990s
and has come to the conclusion that they are as low as in these years
were no other measured time. In parallel, there was a political
and thus cultural change, which was all-encompassing and not just one
Elites exchanged moved. Did I forgot something?

Engler: I think no. This caesura, this
political and economic upheaval, that was extraordinary, one
singular experience.

Hensel: Through these processes –
economic collapse, demographic quake, emigration,
Exchange of elites and political and cultural system change – can the
to describe East German experience in general, but very fundamentally,
with the most varied effects that we still feel today. But you
certainly remember this time better than me.



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