Platzeck made his plea writing in Der Spiegel magazine this weekend, he is about to form a new state government between his Social Democratic Party and the Left Party – and just before Germany celebrates the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
He writes, “Two decades after the revolutionary upheaval in the GDR we in Germany have to finally start to seriously mean business with the overdue process of reconciliation.”
He said East Germans were still split within themselves over their roles during the communist regime, a situation which Platzeck called unhealthy. “Barriers were re-formed, splits have solidified,” he writes.
Platzeck even made reference to the gesture made by former SPD party leader Kurt Schumacher, who had been a concentration camp prisoner for nearly 10 years, but in 1951 said reconciliation even with surviving members of the Waffen SS was, “a human and civic necessity”.
The Brandenburg leader said reconciliation attempts had made better progress in united Germany since 1990 than in a comparable time after the end of World War Two in 1945. But he said it had not yet been possible to effect a comparable integration of the two former sides.
Talking of the Left Party as the successor to the East German Socialist Unity Party, SED, Platzeck said the weight of the past could still be felt.
“The power of the past is easy to explain. But it does not do East Germany any good, and it does not do the political culture in our republic, united since 1990, any good,” he writes.
And referring to his future governing coalition with the Left Party, Platzeck writes, “Whether we have learned the right lessons from history will be shown less by our ritualised processing of the past, as by our readiness to make an active new start.”
His essay will provide fuel to the debate being held within the SPD, about how to react to last month’s general election defeat, and the gains achieved by the Left Party, which includes many trade unionists and disaffected former SPD members.
Many SPD members, including some who have risen within the ranks since the election, want to take the party further left to gather support from the Left Party, and might even consider some kind of alliance.
Others feel the party must remain in the centre to avoid scaring middle-of-the-road voters by working with people described by some as leftist extremists.