Tuesday, 4 November 2014

East Germany: With Love

As I researched a book about East Germans (To Prussia with Love), it was impossible to ignore the hankering not only for a lost childhood, but for an elusive sense of community that only seemed to flourish when the Wall was standing. “We fought hard for our little private freedoms and we don’t like it now when this is shrugged off by westerners who have simply inherited their liberty and squandered it,” one historian told me. He teaches in Bavaria now and loathes the smugness of his pupils.

In the western world view, the East was simply uniformly grey. “Commies love concrete,” proclaimed the dyed-in-the-wool Republican satirist PJ O’Rourke after an exhaustive reporting safari — oh, three, four days at least — behind the Iron Curtain. “Everything is made of it,” he decided. “Streets, buildings, doors, walls, ceilings, roofs, window frames, lampposts, statues, benches, plus some of the food.”

Yet that’s not quite how it seemed if you lived behind the Iron Curtain. It wasn’t all O’Rourkian concrete. It wasn’t all grey and it certainly wasn’t North Korea. Allotment gardeners in Brno started to talk politics with each other after long years of silence. In Bucharest you bought a dog as a pretext for chatting freely with like-minded chums in the park, away from Securitate microphones. A nudists’ association on the East German Baltic coast that met under the guise of being a solidarity group with an African socialist state chucked a local party official into the water when he tried to interrupt proceedings. Nobody is quite as resolute in the protection of his or her rights as an East German naturist.

The wonderfully named Roger Boyes, The Times.

This was Fagburn's favourite building EVER, btw.

Such a shame they knocked it down.


  1. Is it not akin to those "things was better for us gays before they made it legal" stories?
    Bit like that Copeland quote about some people not wanting to be free and then there's the whole gay camaraderie and culture only being a product of being shat on and the more "freedom" we get the more boring we become and so it's sort of an argument for being shat on and/or hemmed in by large concrete walls that some grow to romanticize and stuff?
    Victimhood, yah?
    That sort of thing???

  2. Replies
    1. There was a ting on BBC4 the other week about a brutal Russian prison, where many inmates after being there for 20 years or so expressed unease at the thought of being free and seemed to have grown fond of the certainties and protection of being imprisoned.