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EUROPE: FIVE YEARS LATER : 'We can't afford this stupidity anymore.' : Friedrich Schorlemmer, Eastern German clergyman

November 01, 1994|Mary Williams Walsh

H\o7 e was a father of the East German revolution, but Pastor Friedrich Schorlemmer is saddened by much of what has come of the fall of East Germany, and Germany's subsequent unification.

"I have the impression that the West is treating the former German Democratic Republic as if they were on a hunting party and we were a lame deer," he said, interviewed by Times correspondent Mary Williams Walsh in the compartment of a train traveling from the eastern state capital of Magdeburg to the western city of Cologne. "They have already killed us, and now they're going to take the very best pieces for themselves."

His is a hard view, and yet Schorlemmer had never intended that the fall of the Berlin Wall should lead to the dissolution of East Germany and unification with the West. Like many other East German intellectuals and reform agitators in 1989, he had merely sought a recasting of the East German state.

When he appeared at the microphone in the huge demonstrations of November, 1989, he quoted Martin Luther and urged nonviolent resistance to Communist authority: "Let the spirits clash together, but not the fists," he said:

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Question. What, exactly, were you trying to achieve in 1988, when you promulgated your 20 Wittenberg Theses?

Answer. The main goal was to do whatever I could to ensure that the final document of the Helsinki Accord (the charter of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, signed in 1975), which East Germany had signed, would be fulfilled, particularly its provisions on culture, communication and human rights.

If this were to happen, then East Germany would have to become a state where people would be happy to live, where work would be meaningful, where people could participate in public decision-making processes and where the state wouldn't make all the decisions for everybody. This meant that there had to be free elections.

Second, I wanted the detente and the arms reduction that was going on in the outside world to take place within East Germany. I wanted East Germany to stop madly categorizing every country in the world as good or evil, friend or foe. I wanted ours to become a society capable of peace, a society that could survive without organizing itself around an enemy. That is, a society that could negotiate with its internal critics and not clap everybody who suggested there might be some problems into prison. East Germany thought that by banning seismographs, it could prevent earthquakes.


Q. Instead, East Germany has disappeared. What made the quiet revolution in East Germany turn out the way it has?

A. The problem with the revolution of 1989 was the following: The people who were calling for change, until November, 1989, wanted a democratic revolution. Then, when the Berlin Wall was broken through, the participants in the demonstrations, and also the leaders, changed. The revolution was detoured toward German unification.

Money was a big part of the game, even though everybody was talking only about the ideal of German unity. If someone says, "Here is unity," and unity means you get to have the deutsche mark, then everyone will say, "I am for German unity."


Q. What sort of attitudes toward the former East and toward unification do you encounter on your travels in western Germany? Will the former West ever understand eastern Germans?

A. Forty-five years of separation have caused a tremendous mental gap between eastern and western Europe. In addition, there is the equally large economic gap. These divisions will be with us for another generation.

The majority of west German citizens consider the fall of the Berlin Wall to be nothing more than an irritating accident. Because now, the poor, poor citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany are being asked to pay (for the reconstruction of the former East). And, the east Germans take the money, and then have the ingratitude to turn around and vote for the Party of Democratic Socialism (the former East German Communist Party).

But one shouldn't forget to mention that there have been a considerable number of (western) people who are truly delighted, and who have been willing to make a sacrifice for East Germany.


Q. What else has surprised you about the way the events of 1989 have turned out?

A. The problems of converting the military infrastructure to peaceful purposes are so much larger than I ever imagined. The two superpowers, and their allies, were able, with conventional and nuclear weapons, to fight each other and destroy everything on Earth 50 times over. So one can see that it's very hard to come up with answers to questions like: What will we do with all these weapons? What will we do with the weapons factories? What will we do with the workers there, in America as well as in Czechoslovakia? What do we do with the gigantic armies? How should we motivate them, the sailors in Murmansk (Russia) with their submarines, for instance, to come ashore? They don't know whom they're doing it for.

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