Thursday, November 05, 2009

History Lesson: How to Remember the Berlin Wall and East Germany

Listen up, class! As the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Wall approaches, Claudia Rosett has your history lesson of the day:

When the Berlin Wall came down 20 years ago, it did not fall from sheer wear and tear of tyranny. People actively chose to destroy it. They tore down that iconic wall not only with pickaxes, hammers and bare hands, but as a culminating act of decades of sacrifice, courage, determination and a complex, globally contested war of ideas.

Many of the vital battles were fought by people living far from Berlin. They were fought by people who persisted in the face of everything from ridicule to misguided Utopianism to violence, imprisonment and the hot wars that flared along the front lines of the Cold War.

The wall itself, built in 1961, stood for 28 years, and was just a small part of the massive iron curtain with which the Soviet empire penned in the people of Eastern Europe. But the wall became a symbol of the far larger divide that split the world for much of the 20th century, partitioning great swathes of the globe into spheres of influence in which the basic trajectories were free vs. unfree, capitalist democracy vs. command-and-control Communism.

Yes. This seems obvious, but it's unfortunately not. Read the whole thing.

The Wall did NOT fall because of the current (stupid) tropes floating around some circles, such as (a) it just kind of happened, (b) Saint Gorbachev ended the Cold War because he was just such a nice guy, or (c) everyone oppressed by totalitarian Communism one day woke up, wished really hard, and *poof!* suddenly freedom happened.

The revisionists who are mangling history (out of a combination of willful cussedness and cloudy-eyed ignorance) are out in full force about the Cold War, and I am sorry and angry to say that Obama's just as bad about it as the worst of the closeted academic so-not-crypto-Marxist egghead Communist sympathizers yearning to engage in social engineering, the would-be puppetmasters (with us as the puppets, of course) constrained only by lack of means and opportunity.

Previous rants here and here.

Related news story on the East German aftermath here:
Now, the battle over how the GDR is to be remembered — or not — is raging hot. The former cadres would like the GDR to be remembered as some kind of benign leftist social-welfare experiment, idealistic and well-intentioned in looking after people from cradle to grave, if perhaps a tad over-zealous.

Former human rights activists, political prisoners and historians — of left and right — would have it remembered as it was. Then it might serve as a warning to future generations about the dual seductions of belief and obedience.

A growing degree of Ostalgie — toxic, rose-coloured fantasy — infects misrepresentations of the late state.
Memory IS a battleground . . . which means you better go armed with hard facts and evidence, along with a big dose of skepticism for pretty words and shiny rhetoric.

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