The next time smart German Europeans bring to your attention just how ignorant you as an American are, and they will (and you are), just remind yourself where this less than well-intended instruction is coming from. It’s been a full eighteen years after the German unification, or reunification if you prefer, and a survey taken about German history indicates that when it comes to the post-Berlin Wall generation (primarily in the East), for instance, they don’t know diddley squat about their own recent past. So you can imagine what they know about ours.

Students asked about the GDR have only a vague idea at best about the communist dictatorship their parents grew up in. Some of the gems that came out in the study: Only about one third asked knew that the GDR constructed the wall that separated the two Germanys, only half asked thought it was a dictatorship at all, the Stasi was an “intelligence service just like every other country has”, and only 17 percent of those questioned were even aware of the fact that the GDR practiced the death penalty. And when it came to personalities, the answers weren’t much better. Almost a third thought that Konrad Adenauer was an SED (East German communist party) politician, for instance. Well, maybe he was. But nobody has been able to prove that yet.

Hmmm, it appears as if questions concerning the very recent past are not thoroughly discussed at home or at school in “the new federal states”. It seems in fact as if they are thoroughly avoided. But I’m sure that doesn’t really surprise anyone. That type of thing has a long tradition here and drüben (over there, as in the West), too. After all, there are so many more interesting things to talk about instead. You know, like how Ahnungslos (clueless) Americans are, for instance.

Come visit me at Observing Hermann…

Be Sociable, Share!