‘Reunification Day’. Domestic news in Germany was dominated today (3 Oct) by coverage of the annual national holiday. Extensive television coverage of reunification issues. The films Das Leben der Anderen and Goodbye Lenin were on national tv. Chancellor Angela Merkel is shown saying how positive it is that she – from the former GDR – can become chancellor of the whole of Germany. A good number of cafe, pub and street interviews ask how people feel about East Germany.
Interesting discourse moment:
- If this day celebrates ‘German reunification’, it’s interesting that the coverage is primarily about the former GDR and not pre-1990 BRD.
- As a result, the media covers primarily negative memories of the GDR. Haven’t yet seen anyone recalling their positive childhood memories, or teenage memories or first boyfriend, wedding day, social networks, first flat… the normal things normal people do, and remember doing, in the course of their lives. Hegemony has been achieved by the the kind of comment made by one teenager interviewed ARD’s Tageschau: ‘I don’t remember much about it’, he says to camera, ‘I wasn’t born at the time. But my parents have talked about being over there and how spooky [gruselig] it was.’
- His comment reminds me of an exhibition I saw in Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie museum a few years ago. Shoolchildren had been asked to draw images of the Berlin wall. Several rooms were devoted to their pictures. These were kids aged around 10, all born several years after reunification. All (I mean all) the pictures showed something along the lines of coloured flowers and happy smiling families on one side of the wall, and grey/black barbed wire unhappy people on the other side.
- Not to pretend that everything was rosy in East Germany. But what happens to historical understanding if only one side tells the story? As even the most basic of introductions to history now regularly say:
However, history could always have been different. Whenever a history is told, it creates another side of the story, so the question of who gets a chance to speak – the politics of representation – is crucial to our understanding of history.
Also today, international news was focused primarily on the debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. My favourite comment: