“Is there a right-radical program? Those who are pursuing one today are the extreme Left.”
The following article from Die Welt is a left-wing perspective on a historical fact that has been swept under the rug: the remnants of National Socialist ideology were kept alive by Communists and Socialists in postwar Europe.
Many thanks to JLH for the translation.
The Brown Legacy of Socialism
by Freya Klier
November 22, 2011
Already at the time of the Turnaround [the political turning of East Germany after the Fall of the Wall], Freya Klier was on a death-list of the East German Neo-Nazis. She describes its roots in the German Democratic Republic [GDR] and explains why it is nonetheless necessary to seek dialogue about it.
In 1993, the West German chair of the Republicans, Franz Schönhuber, padded the then thin Western personnel with cadres from the East. He found especially worthy of sponsorship a professor who had for many years been a member of the SED [Socialist Unity Party of Germany], and head of the discipline of sociology in the section for Scientific Communism at the Karl Marx University of Leipzig. He became Saxon state head of the right-radical Republicans. In June, 1993, there was a party meeting in Augsburg and, during it, an “act of national reconciliation.”
In this connection, the party head enthuses about the GDR. At one point, he opines: “The GDR was much more German than the Federal Republic. Here, there was a sense of family, and not this dog-eat-dog society.” At another point, he praises the “orderly lock-step” in the GDR; yet again, its “total freedom from foreigners.” Schönhuber shared this perspective with a number of citizens of the deceased GDR and many socialist comrades.
Schönhuber had still not realized at all what these comrades were capable of: an anti-Semitism that had been nurtured for 40 years, as well as a vice-like hold on the extremely small minority of foreigners who were allowed to stay temporarily in the isolated GDR. After the flight of millions of GDR citizens, there was such a permanent shortage of workforce that the socialist leadership at the end of the 1970s decided reluctantly to admit contingents of Vietnamese and Mozambicans — for three years at a time, then they were exchanged for the next group.
“Fitchis” and Mozis” were housed in isolated housing developments. They were not allowed in the official guest restaurants. They could not leave the city without permission, performed menial labor in businesses and were not even allowed to learn German. Most importantly, their wives were under abortion compulsion — a fact which still makes right-radicals happy. Is there a right-radical program? Those who are pursuing one today are the extreme Left. And shortly after the fall of the Wall, they put the blame for the meanness they practiced on the West.
Right-radicalism now forged ahead unimpeded. In 1990, in the General Jewish Weekly Newspaper, I published my essay on anti-Semitism and xenophobia, which I had written deep in the GDR era. That got me place #8 on the death-list of the GDR Neo-Nazis, as an escapee confessed to me years later. I had written about what was going on in our elaborate German ward-heeler system when the “FRG” [West Germany] was still not present there.
I wrote about the Vietnamese women and my old Jewish friend, Johanna, who now saw sitting before her as SED party secretary the very Nazi who had raped her and thrown her into the Elbe. I wrote of our little anti-racist play which I had rehearsed in 1986 with two Berlin young people who had come out of a German-Sudanese student liaison. The young people grew up as “niggers” and “coals” and finally had to be put into a special army unit, and that is how they survived the NVA [National People’s Army] in good health. We were also rehearsing this theatrical piece at a time when the Anti-Fascist Protective Barrier [official East German term for the Berlin Wall] was still protecting us from the Western Nazis. I vividly remember the fascist horde which fell upon the neighboring church in October, 1987 with “Sieg Heil” and “Jews out of German churches” and stabbed at the fleeing punkers with broken bottles. A year before that, I had collected signatures to stop the bulldozing of the Jewish cemetery of Berlin-Weissensee.
“We are looking at a ruin,” I wrote in 1990, “and must take stock of a society that is unreliable. In 1990, a climate of open violence reigns in the cities of the deteriorating GDR .” Shortly before that, I had to run away from an empty city train station because a rabble in combat boots and bomber jackets had worked out from my dark hair that I was a “Jewish c—t.” I did not feel safe until I reached West Berlin territory. I would never have expected to be protected by an East Berlin policeman.
The policy of the ruling socialists was the fertilizer for resentments against everything that deviated from the norm. The homeless never darkened the gray cityscape of the GDR. Anyone who was not inclined to work found himself behind bars as antisocial, where he was forced to work for slave wages. There were no ramps for the handicapped. Integration schools were an alien concept.
Directly after the fall of the Wall, I saw the responsible socialist comrades begin to push the whole thing off on the “West,” the “Federal Republic,” “capitalism.” Their propaganda machine rotated so massively over the years that today a sentence like the one about “youth torn from their roots after the fall of the Wall” is just as much pan-German as the one about the wonderful kindergartens of the GDR. What is once learned stays learned. Simultaneously, comrades of the SED mutated to the PDS [Party of Democratic Socialism] and then to the sweet-as-honey party, Die Linke [The Left].
How many decades do deeply internalized patterns of behavior maintain and reproduce? GDR citizens were made uncomfortable by any deviation from the norm: garish hair color in Punks, “Negroes,” “Fitchis,” the physically handicapped, even someone wearing an unusual hat. In 1993, I was at a meeting of citizens in Berlin-Köpenick where residents of a settlement of individual houses were told that an intake residence for Bosnian war refugees would soon appear in their area.
At that time, ex-GDR types were not yet acquainted with Political Correctness, so the city councilman’s announcement was met by the hatred of 300 Köpenickers. Everyone shouted wildly and chaotically, then one loud voice asserted itself: Things were already bad enough for people in the new states of the Federal Republic. They refused to even let these “swine” in (the refugees). Two years later in Brandenburg, half of a town gathered to support a youngster in burning down a renovated asylum seeker’s home. Comment of a resident: “Better ahead of time than if the people were already inside.” How long does something like this last?
Today, many ex-GDR citizens still think like that. But they are not stupid enough to say it out loud. They have withdrawn to their private circles, where they reach the young people at the supper table. Many children have grown up in the East after the Turnaround with the sentence: “Foreigners are taking our jobs.” And with these behavior patterns, not just foreigners are meant. Also, when a “retard gets smacked” or a homeless person is kicked around, there is no cry of protest echoing through the row houses between Frankfurt an der Oder and Magdeburg, Rostock and Gera, The Big Change is already 10 years in the past and still almost 20% of the localities vote NPD [National Democratic Party of Germany].
Since the 1990s, I have been discussing dictatorship, democracy, tolerance and xenophobia in East German schools. One of these meetings, in a trade school in Neuruppin, led to the often heard statement: “We are infiltrated by foreigners here!” When I asked the circa 60 Neuruppin vocational students to show by hand who in this circle was not born in Germany, not one arm went up. Perhaps none of the young people I met had taken part in racist attacks. But the question arises, where does this problem in perception come from — who prepared the ground for this irrational feeling of being infiltrated by foreigners?
A few weeks ago, on the anniversary of the building of the Wall, “Junge Welt” [Youth World] served up a breathtaking title page. There were the vacant faces of a GDR combat group, vintage 1961: Weapons held before their chests, the comrades were blocking the Brandenburg Gate. This was followed by thanks for 28 years of the Wall! “Junge Welt” is the favorite newspaper of the Die Linke party and its youth. I do not recall even one of the readers protesting this mockery of the victims of the Wall or canceling their subscription,
This party should finally stop dissembling and admit that it contributed greatly to preparing the ground for rightist radicalism in the East. Human lives are important to its members only if they are politically useful. And that connects to an old GDR tradition: It was Junge Welt in 1987 that seized on the Nazi attack on the Zionskirche [Zion Church — Protestant denomination] when it boiled over in the West. It would be terrible to omit the fact that even under GDR conditions there were always people for whom tolerance and civil courage were not mere phrases. In the East, too, citizens courageously stood in front of asylum seeker domiciles, crouching before fist-sized stones, when nothing was to be seen of the local keepers of the peace.
These people exist; but they are too few to confront small minds and brutality with enlightenment and broad resistance. Almost alone, pastors, social workers and small citizen initiatives battle clandestine malice and a spiraling silence. Their small number reflects another cause for the unfortunate jumble in the East — the decades-long bleeding away of credible and desperately needed people in authority. The fact that almost our entire critical intelligence is found in the three million intimidated GDR citizens has dire consequences to this very day. Generations have been degraded here. And understandably, the competent members of the younger generation are fleeing the remaining, dull atmosphere.
Some of those 68ers* who did not belong to the glorifiers of the socialist dictatorship could render a service. To credibly pass on natural basic values like respect for the lives of others even in pathetic broken-down towns, we need the time-period witness of the democratically-minded among those who fled, who can get along well with young people in youth clubs and schools. I know that something will come of that. Last year in Greifswald, I worked with rightist radical young people — with the hard kind who had already spent time in prison. We will never reach all of them, but there is a great reservoir there.
The 68ers who are ensconced in many institutions should think about what international projects they could involve the “dimwits” in — yes, them too. We like to criticize the 68ers. But not because they left the collaboration and collaborative silence of their parents during the Nazi era off the agenda. This generation deserves respect for that, and the East should also profit from it. For we had no 1968 — even more, the war guilt was categorically shoved off on the West, where all Nazis had allegedly fled, as every schoolchild learned, year after year. Now GDR history is also being obfuscated. The East is diseased by a past left unreviewed for the second time.
*Varied, but parallel leftist activist groups who hit the streets in 1968 in West Germany and elsewhere. Cf. the various anti-Vietnam War groups in the U.S.