Cultural Polarities? Grass, Walser, Wolf: Reflections on the Process of Unification

  • Michael Butler
Part of the New Perspectives in German Studies book series (NPG)

Abstract

Any comparison of the two German unifications at first sight throws up more striking differences than similarities. Most obviously, Bismarck’s Reich was founded on ruthless and calculated violence, prepared over a number of years, whereas the events leading up to the second unification were in no way anticipated and the peaceful conclusion was unique in German history. The first unification created a country with disputed borders within which were to be found Danes and Poles, not to mention the population of Alsace and Lorraine. This presents a sharp contrast with the settled borders of the new Germany with its (relatively speaking) ethnically more homogeneous population. In 1871 a resurgent Germany was surrounded by suspicious and hostile neighbours. After 1990, on the other hand — despite some initial misgivings particularly in London and Paris, and despite the international uncertainties precipitated by the collapse of Soviet power — the new Germany, firmly integrated within the European Union, was broadly welcomed in terms of human rights and the Germans’ right to self-determination.1

Keywords

Candida Bran Seco Metaphor Folk 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Helmut Kohl’s initial prevarication over the Oder-Neisse Line caused momentary concern, but the widely accepted position was best summed up by Willy Brandt in 1970 when he presented to the FRG the Moscow Treaty in which existing European borders were recognised: ‘In this Treaty nothing is lost that has not long since been gambled away.’ Quoted in Christa Wolf, Essays/Gesprache/Reden/Briefe 1982–200, Werke, edited by Sonja Hilzinger, vol. 12 (München 2001), p. 741. References to this volume hereafter: W12, followed by page number.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Figures quoted by Victoria Kaina, ‘Mit Herz und Konto? Zur Wertigkeit der deutschen Einheit in den alten Bundeslfindern, Das Parlament, Beilage: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B 37–8, 2002 (16 September 2002), pp. 6–12.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See James J. Sheehan, ‘1871 1990: KontinuitAt und Wandel in zwei Vereinigungen’ in Walther L. Bernecker and Volker Dotterweich (eds), Deutschland in den internationalen Beziehungen des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts (Miinchen 1996), pp. 347–61.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Walter Scheel, ‘Ansprache zum Gedenken an den 17. Juni 1953 in der Sitzung des Deutschen Bundestages am 17. Juni 1986’ in Wen sclnnerzt noch Deutschlands Teilung? Zwei Reden zum 17. Juni (Reinbek 1986), pp. 7–27, here p. 14 and p. 18, respectively.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Harry Maier, ‘Mittelstand in den neuen Bundeslanderri, Enquete-Kommission. Ubercoindung der Folgen der SED-Diktatur im Prozef.t der deutschen Einheit. Wirtschafts-, Sozial- und Uinweltpolitik III, 1 (Frankfurt a. M. 1999), pp. 828–974, here p. 869.Google Scholar
  6. 12.
    Jan-Werner Muller, Another Countn,/. German Intellectuals, Unification and National Identity (New Haven/London 2000), p. 152.Google Scholar
  7. 13.
    Martin Walser, Ich habe ein Wirnschpotenfial. Gesprache (Frankfurt a. M. 1998), p. 26; hereafter WP.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Martin Walser, Dorle und Wolf. Eine Novelle (Frankfurt a. M. 1987), p. 118; hereafter DW.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    ‘Uber den Leser — soviel man in einem Festzelt daruber sagen soil’, in Martin Walser, Werke in zwolf Banden, edited by Helmut Kiesel with Frank Barschel (Frankfurt a. M. 1997); here vol. XI, p. 569. Future references to this edition by volume (Roman) and page (Arabic).Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    As late as September 1988, Willy Brandt similarly dismissed such rhetoric as belonging to ‘the life-long self-deception (Lebensliige) of the second German Republic’; quoted from Gregor Schollgen, Willy Brandt. Die Biographie (MUnchen 2003 = Ullstein edition), p. 266.Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    See Jiirgen Habermas’s refutation of Walsers argumentation in a letter to Christa Wolf, dated 26 November 1991: ‘This orientation towards the West has not meant any distortion of the German soul, but an opportunity to learn through practice how to walk with one’s head held high’ (W12, 370f.).Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    See his Frankfurt ‘Poetik-Vorlesung’, Schreiben nach Auschwitz (Frankfurt a. M. 1990), p. 40.Google Scholar
  13. 24.
    Michael Braun, ‘Gunter Grass’ Ruckkehr zu Herders “Kulturnation” im Kontrast zu Martin Walser und Gunter de Bruyn. Essays und Reden zur Freiheit’ in Volker Wehdeking (ed.), Mentalitätswandel in der Literatur zur Einheit (Berlin 2000), pp. 97–110, here p. 110.Google Scholar
  14. 25.
    Winkler, ‘Abschied von der Abweichung. Deutschland am Ende seiner Sonderwege’, in Die Zeit, 14 December 2000.Google Scholar
  15. 26.
    Michael Martens, ‘Ich werde die Wunde of,ferihalten…Ein Gesprach zur Person und iiber die Zeit mit Gunter Grass (Winsen 1999), p. 23.Google Scholar
  16. 27.
    From an article ‘Was rede ich. Wer hort noch zu’ in Die Zeit, 11 May 1990), reprinted under the title ‘Einige Augenblicke vom Platz der Angeschmierten’, in Giinter Grass, Ein Schnappchen namens DDR. Letzte Reden vorm Glockengelaut (Frankfurt a. M. 1990), pp. 18–28, here p. 27f.; future references to this collection of speeches as ES.Google Scholar
  17. 28.
    See Irene Heidelberger-Leonard, ‘Der Literaturstreit — ein Historikerstreit im gesamtdeutschen Kostum’ in Karl Deiritz and Hannes Krauss (eds), Der deutsclr deutsche Literaturstreit oderFreunde, es spricht sich schlecht mit gebundener Zunge’. Analysen und Materialien (Hamburg/Zurich 1991), pp. 69–77.Google Scholar
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    The controversy is fully documented in Thomas Anz (ed.), ‘Es geht nicht um Christa Wolf. Der Literaturstreit im vereinten Deutschland (Mtinchen 1991).Google Scholar
  19. 30.
    See the tellingly satirical portrait of Christa Wolf’s contribution to the Alexanderplatz demonstration by a member of the younger generation of East German writers, Thomas Brussig, in his novel, Helden wie wir (Heroes like us) [19951 with the punning mockery of its chapter-heading ‘Der geheilte Pimmel’ (Willy Restored) (Frankfurt a. M. 1998), pp. 281–8.Google Scholar
  20. 32.
    The disastrous performance of the PDS in the general election of September 2002, when it was reduced to two seats in the new Bundestag, may mark its final decline in the face of the slow, but steady improvement of the economic situation in the new Bundesländer Indeed, in a survey in September 2000, 66 per cent of former East Germans considered themselves ‘winners’ in the unification process, while 80 per cent felt ‘integrated’ as against only 5 per cent who felt they would never be comfortable in the new Germany; figures quoted by Mechthild Matheja-Theaker, “‘Aufschwung Ost?” Poverty and the Transformation Process’, in Kathrin Kohl and Ritchie Robertson (eds), Words, Texts, Images (Bern 2002), pp. 245–64, here p. 247.Google Scholar
  21. 33.
    At the time Wolf was on the candidates’ list for election to the Central Committee of the SED. Her principled stand led to the removal of her name at the next party conference and the end of any possibility of her being instrumentalised as a Staatsdichterin (‘writer in the service of the state). The award of a second National Prize in 1987 (the first was in 1964) had more to do with the unpredictable nature of SED cultural policy than any kind of rehabilitation. Wolf distributed the prize money among needy writers. See Jorg Magenau, Christa Wolf. Eine Biographie (Berlin 2002), p. 354.Google Scholar
  22. 34.
    Round Tables were set up all over the GDR, and such democratic grass-roots activity helped to counteract the dangerous power vacuum that was developing in late 1989. The most comprehensive study of the phenomenon is André Hahn, Der Runde Tisch. Das Volk und die Macht — Politische Kultur im letzten Jahr der DDR (Berlin 1998).Google Scholar
  23. 39.
    The commitment is anchored in the new Artide 23 of the Basic Law that specifically calls on a united Germany to work for the achievement of a united Europe. The re-written Artide has been called ‘a symbolic act of profound significance; see Timothy Garton Ash, In Europe’s Name. Germany and the Divided Continent (London 1993), p. 385.Google Scholar
  24. 40.
    See Heiner Meulemann s survey, ‘Werte und Wertwandel im vereinten Deutschland’, Das Parlament, Beilage: Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, B 37–8, 2002 (16 September 2002), pp. 13–22.Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Michael Butler

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