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Left deputy leader wants to expel Wall apologists

The Local · 20 Aug 2011, 15:42

Published: 20 Aug 2011 15:42 GMT+02:00

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In what is developing into a damaging internal row for Germany's Left party, Bartsch told state broadcaster SWR on Saturday, "Those who refuse to stand when it comes to commemorating the victims of the Wall should ask themselves whether they are in the right party."

Bartsch was referring to last week's incident in the state parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, when a handful of MPs refused to stand for a minute's silence called by the session president Angelika Gramkow. Among them was the former social affairs minister for the eastern state Minister Marianne Linke.

Some marginal leftist political groups have justified the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961 as a necessary measure to protect the economy in communist East Germany, since thousands of people had been migrating West.

But the Left party, successor to the Socialist Unity Party (SED) that ruled in East Germany's one-party state, officially rejects such arguments. Steffen Bockhahn, party leader in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, declared in a recent speech, "The construction of the Wall cannot be excused."

Bartsch called on his party to show unity, and "to keep certain debates in places where they belong, and not carry them out in public first."

Story continues below…

The Local/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:11 August 20, 2011 by johnny108
The political/economic motivation for the Wall's construction does not matter.

The sacrifice of those who tried to escape it is what matters!!
17:50 August 20, 2011 by yourholiness
Yes, thats right. Keep your views to yourself because they might give the voters an insight as to what you really think. And we were thinking America's politics is damaged!
18:38 August 20, 2011 by _JD
This article over simplifies the issue - the protest over the wall anniversary was an attempt to deny the black/white triumphalism of the dominant narrative. This article also does not mention the controversial newspaper article which framed the issue by asking if people missed some of the benefits of socialism, like child-care, health-care etc.

For the many of us foreigners who appreciate the public support for child-care here (which is entirely absent in the US, Netherlands or elsewhere, making raising a family extremely difficult), it would be appropriate to show some respect for the political organizations that preserve some of the old 'socialist' traditions.
20:45 August 20, 2011 by JAMessersmith
The idea of encaging people inside of a country, on pain of death, to preserve a political ideology is insane. There is no justification. Perhaps if they built the Wall because Westerners were flooding into East Germany, that would be one thing, but thousands, upon thousands of East Germans did not want the government they had, yet they were trapped like rats in their own country and made subordinate to it, lest they take a machine gun round to the back.

There may have been some benefits to the East German model, but certainly, it is crazy to force people to take them. The real reason the Wall was built was because the Soviets understood the East German state was non-viable, and most East Germans didn't want it, so they turned the country into a giant prison and said "you cannot leave".
23:07 August 20, 2011 by _JD
The issue is not just the pros and cons of a long gone system (although if one wants to reflect on history this is an interesting anecdote - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LOT_Flight_165_hijacking - the plane was hijacked to west germany as a way of escaping the east and 6 passengers joined the hijackers, the other 150 odd preferred to return to east germany) - but rather what is the political direction of the unified republic.

As they prepare to bring back the Schlosspalace, a defining symbol of Prussian nationalism, these debates have real meaning in terms of the looming 'structural adjusment' of western europe, and what kind of social and political system will be established here. The comforts of moralistic posturing are empty ones, and the contestation of Die Linke was constructive in intent and effect, in my opinion.
23:07 August 20, 2011 by ECSNatale
I agree with the above statement by JAMessersmith 1000%. It does not matter what political beliefs those ministers had regarding some positive aspects of life in the DDR, but when murder of ones own people in support of the state is necessary to keep the state running, then you are on the wrong side of the argument.

Those ministers are a blight to Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
23:29 August 20, 2011 by _JD
Correction - it was only 50 or so people who decided to go back to East Germany - the plane only held 63.

And in terms of murdering one's own people, I absolutely agree with you, but perhaps I would extend it to murdering other people as well. In this way the odious East Germany system, after all, never committed the grand crimes of the US or the UK for that matter. With such things, a lot depends on how you keep count.

For some people in Mecklenburg to look back and wonder if things are really better is their right. As Gunter Grass noted in 1990, it was the people of East Germany who fought for democracy and thus know what it's worth, "they have had to struggle to achieve it on their own, while here we [west germans] stand amid our riches, poor by comparison." Those of us who are guests here are in this way equally poor in the experience of struggle, could show some respect for the trials and tribulations of those were liberated from one system to then find themselves in another that some did not prefer.
23:31 August 20, 2011 by wood artist
The rationale for the wall is a debate for historians. The effects of the wall is an issue that lives every day, even now. What is the value of human freedom, and is there EVER a time when it should be restricted in this way?

Debate history in the classroom, and learn from it. Today, ask yourselves if the Syrians or Palestinians or Sudanese or anybody else deserves a wall.

10:46 August 21, 2011 by Sastry.M
The Wall was erected by the East German Regime to stall the escape to the West for freedom. The typical German spirit to fight against preached ideals and morals implemented by coercive enforcement with corrupt self proclaimed virtues is not new and which led to Reformation of the Church.

The best work which vividly discussed the merits and demerits of capitalist and communist systems was " The Anatomy of Soviet Man" by the eminent sociologist Prof.Klaus Mehnert of Aachen Univ.

With due respect for human spirit for freedom from all self woven conceptual entanglements those fallen at the Wall should be remembered with reverence. Now, with Its fall after 20 yrs. disparity between the rich and poor has advanced along positive and negative gradients respectively and the inspired Fighting Time Spirit has made death commonplace around the globe.
11:12 August 21, 2011 by ECSNatale
JD.. it absolutely should extend to murdering others as well... for example Bush, Cheney, Blair et al should stand trial for crimes against humanity for what they have done in Iraq...but that is not the topic of the article... it was the act of those who refused to lend any type of respect to those murdered trying to flee East Germany.

Why is it that one topic need be clouded by another?

By refusing to stand those ministers showed their true colors. As a resident of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern myself, I hope that they are voted out in the next election. I know its a slim to none chance... but that is my personal feeling.
14:06 August 21, 2011 by storymann
Justify the wall anyway you wish. I find it unreasonable that any country builds a wall to keep it's citizenry inclosed with very limited access to the outside world.

These victims of a paranoid regime were heroes not villans and should be given a moment of respect.
14:48 August 21, 2011 by DavidtheNorseman
So the Left lot approve of chain-gunning unarmed civilians commiting the "crime" of attempting to find freedom and hence also the STASI terror tactics of the old Soviet satellite government of East Germany. Bartsch's comment about not publically discussing these things would only confirm it means the leadership thinks it's a legitimate issue (that the public just aren't wise enough to weigh in on).

Well, at least it lets the voter know what they're getting if they choose to vote Left and kudos to Marianne Linke for being honest enough to be open about her position. Ahh for the good old days of bowing to Russians and Trabants on order...
22:38 August 21, 2011 by MichMash115
_JD I agree that it is legitimate to ask whether or not some people in the `new states´ actually had more prospects and better quality of life before re-unification, particularly with the ever-widening gap between rich and poor, and the rates of unemployment etc in parts of what was East Germany. In fact, I think it is an essential part of the dialogue that must take place on what kind of country Germany wants to be in the future.

I don´t, however, think that exploring that issue, and the idea that there may have been some positive aspects of life in the GDR excuses a refusal to honour the people who died trying to flee a system that they did not want. Thinking their were some positives in the GDR and mourning the violence and murder that resulted from aspects of its ideology are not mutually exclusive.

Why is it that so many politicians incapable of subtlety of thought, of seeing multiple perspectives, the complexities of issues? Sometimes I think becoming a politician requires leaving your brain at the door.

I am left-leaning, and had high hopes for Die Linke, but they are crashing and burning on a spectacular scale. The left is a broad church, but anti-semetism, refusing to honour people shot trying to cross the boarder, and sending birthday cards to Fidel Castro are not necessarily things I want to be voting for. I wish Gregor would get a grip on his idiots.
08:48 August 22, 2011 by frankiep
It's disturbing that so many Germans hold this disgusting party in such high esteem. It's even more disturbing that this party is for the most part viewed as an acceptable government coalition partner. The media and the public would do well to ostracize these closet tyrants just as they ostracize other extremist parties.
08:59 August 22, 2011 by moistvelvet
I thought it odd to have a commemoration for the building of the war, we don't normally see such things for the invasion of Poland and start of WW2 and other events in history that led to long suffering.

But hey regardless of why the wall was built and whether people think it was reason enough to save the DDR economy or not, c'mon building the wall happened 50 years ago... get over it!
18:18 August 22, 2011 by Jack Kerouac
"A neccessary part of protecting East Germany's economy"?

Democracy may not be perfect, but at least we never had to build a wall to keep our citizens in!! (in fact, people get angry when too many people try to get IN to the country now!)
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