Sunday, November 09, 2008

Happy Anniversary Deutschland

As this article notes, November 9th has an awful lot going on for it in Germany. The end of the Monarchy, and establishment of the Weimar Republic, KristallNacht, and the end of the divisions of East and West Germany. At the time that the wall came down, I was here in Missoula teaching ROTC at the UofM, so I only got to see it on the television. But I had been in both East Germany and East Berlin before the wall came down, and I remember the changes that occurred were dynamic, but not always positive.
Before the wall came down, I would venture through the driving corridor, which required that we had to go through the East German checkpoint, and then through the Russian one. We weren't allowed to do anything with regards to the East Germans because of the Status of Forces Agreement which dated back to the end of WWII. When we got to the Russian side, I had to get out and present my papers to the Russian soldier, who I doubt could read a word of what was written on my travel papers. Afterwards, I was to go into the pass control office which had a window like at a bank, but it was painted shut. I slid my papers under the window and listened as the People's Copy Machine recorded all of my important data. After a few minutes, the papers were slid back and had been duly stamped.
While I was waiting, I started looking around in the waiting room. Brezhnev's picture was still prominently displayed even though he had been dead for sometime. I think that it was Andropov who was Premier at the time, but at the gateway to the socialist paradise, they still had an out of date photo of their dear beloved leader of the communist party and government.
When I got back, my wife told me that the guard had been circling the vehicle looking in at her and my two kids. They had been smiling and waving, as kids are wont to do, but this particular guardian of the Soviet state had no sense of humor for such antics.
East Germany was significantly different from the West. In the West, you could always find the American barracks because they still had the bullet holes from the last time the Germans undertook urban renewal. Towns were densely packed, and it was hard to find anyplace, except near the border, where towns were less than 3 miles from each other. East Germany on the other hand, had collective farms, so they had mile after mile of fields punctuated by the barracks like structures for the farmers who worked there.
East Berlin was a real trip. At least one third of the population was in uniform, and it was my guess that half of the remaining ones were undercover something or another. But the thing that I noticed most clearly, was the color of socialism isn't red, it's gray. The sky was gray, the buildings gray, even the people were gray. There was no sense of anyone having any fun there. Just a sense of dreary toil for no purpose. But I guess that is what socialism is really about anyway.
In any event, 19 years ago, after the introduction of the Pershing IIs, the GLCM, the M-1 Abrams, the M-2 Bradley, the AH-64 and other improvements, the Soviets gave up.
Now this is something especially amazing. Normally empires don't fall quietly. In their death throes, they can become extremely violent. I don't know why that didn't happen, but I sure as heck am grateful.
Germany is united again. A country the size of Montana with over 90 million people in it is a very densely packed country. And while some worried that the Germans might reorganize under another Hitler, I am not worried about it. The youth of Germany are only going to continue to invade the beaches of Spain and North Africa. They are not interested in territorial aggrandizement, but in the aggrandizement of comfort.
But happy anniversary on this Wiedervereinigungs Tag! Best wishes for the future.

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