Historian Hope Harrison Interviewed for article on German Reunification in The AtlanticHistorians in the News
tags: historians, Germany, BERLIN WALL, reunification, Hope Harrison
I am reminded of what Momper told me he did in Berlin: With so many things to deal with in those first 24 hours, he nevertheless arranged special bus lanes and shuttles to ferry hundreds of thousands of East Berliners to ooh and aah at KaDeWe, West Berlin’s iconic department store and a temple of consumerism. It was a trip that a young, then-anonymous Angela Merkel also made.
At the time, East Germans expected that “they’d all have a Mercedes or a BMW and be happily prosperous,” says Hope Harrison, the author of After the Berlin Wall. The array of choices had not yet been overtaken by the reality of what was to come, and the accompanying surprise and disappointment that would ensue. Even then, “choosing culture” for East Germans was not the Herculean psychological task it would be for North Koreans. Enough Easterners remembered a world before communism, and some even knew democracy from the Weimar period. North Koreans would need to learn not only how to choose what to buy, but also how to choose whom to lead them. Soberingly, many cannot entirely shed authoritarianism—defectors in the south have expressed dislike for democracy.
With so many factors, planning seems like the only way to mitigate disaster. One person I spoke to questioned the utility of preparedness, though: Momper, West Berlin’s last mayor. No amount of it, he believes, can anticipate what will actually happen.
“I don’t think it’s necessary or even good to makes plans for unification,” he says. “Because what I know about it is this: that it all comes differently from the way we plan it. Even the small parts of unification we had in the process—they were all for nothing.”
comments powered by Disqus
- He Escaped Death as a Kamikaze Pilot. 70 Years Later, He Told His Story.
- The Trump Administration Just Made the Citizenship Test Harder. How Would You Do?
- Trump Hints at Another Act in Four Years, Just Like Grover Cleveland
- Laws and Customs Guide Presidential Transitions — But Some Go off the Rails Anyway
- Democrats Introduce Legislation to Strike Slavery Exception in 13th Amendment
- Washington History Seminar: Mira Siegelberg on "Statelessness: A Modern History" (Monday, Dec. 7)
- Beloved University of Kentucky History Professor Dies from COVID-19 Months into Retirement
- David Hackett, Historian and Holocaust Expert, Dies at 80
- American History Scholar Richard Polenberg Dies at 83
- What Does African American Studies Need to Thrive?