Preparation Assignments for the German Unification Case Study
- Have students introduce themselves in character to their perspective group members. This might be done via e-mail, a newsgroup or in an open-letter format directed to the members of the group. Writing the introduction will require the student to familiarize him/herself with the character and to develop the character in more detail. Urge students to refrain from copying the character's description verbatim and to include their perspective on particular issues.
Hi, my name is Marcus Entenmann and I am a part of Group B. I am a former border guard for the DDR. The issues I wish to address are those of the government officials and the border guards. The border guards should be treated leniently, for we were forced to go into service. My experience manning the Wall and watching for refugees was horrific and frightening. Also, I knew my only options were to obey orders. Just the smallest slip could mean jail for me, or even worse for my family. Many times I wished to cross over the Wall, but I had too much to lose. We had no choice but to obey orders, and I don't think punishment is warranted. On the other hand, I definitely believe high military/government officials should be tried and investigated. They may have been following the laws of the country, but they had no one to answer to. What they did, they chose to do, and, therefore, they are reprehensible for their actions. Many of them had less to risk than I did. Almost all border guards were young and strangers to each other; and we all had families to think about. It was the high officials who created this situation and manipulated it. The unofficial collaborators are certainly dirty and disgusting, but it is impossible to put them all on trial. To do so would be a waste of time and money. Keep in mind that we were all caught up in the system, and without power; it is easy to justify otherwise unfair actions. I don't respect all the Stasi informers, but I see where they are coming from. Still, none of them were forced to inform the Stasi as I was forced to be a border guard. Yet, when they number one in 10, it would be a bad allocation of money to punish them. On the other hand, let me state once more that the government should investigate and try Stasi officials. These people helped make life in East Germany a fearful existence watching out for big brother. Biased as I am, being a former border guard myself, you cannot disregard the inflexibility of my situation and my job.
- Suggest the students locate a link under their character description and have them write up a summary of the link from the character's point of view. This will familiarize the student with more background information, while also learning more about the character.
- Have students write position papers to be shared with their group members prior to the in-class discussion. Students will learn about their group members and can refer to these papers in order to focus the discussion. Urge students to draw connections to other group members based on the short character description (see: List of Characters A or List of Characters B). Obviously, the scope of these papers can vary. What follows is an example of one possible position paper:
My name is Annemarie Schönfeldt, and I am a participant in the Group A discussion. As an unemployed engineer, I wish to discuss the issue of unemployment that has resulted from the reunification of East and West Germany. In addition, as an East German, I am concerned with the questions concerning property rights and claims by West Germans. Under Marxist systems, every citizen had not just the right to work but they have the *duty* to work. Unemployment was very uncommon, even among women with small children. We were needed to increase productivity and to bring in money to our families. We may not have had all the pretty goods to spend our money on that we do now, but we had autonomy and power within our families because, even as women, we had the duty to work and we did work.
Now there are large numbers of unemployed workers because of unification. The Marxist equalist system has also been replaced by a patriarchal, parochial system that discourages women from the workforce. Disproportionate numbers of the unemployed are women who once enjoyed and excelled in their jobs under the GDR. Capitalism has meant inequality, joblessness for millions of qualified women, and this must be remedied.
Why is it that gaining East German "freedom" from the Iron Curtain costs women their economic freedom? Discriminatory attitudes from West German companies and a backlash against women's power need to be curbed. Women can and are as productive as men; they should be able to secure jobs and fulfill their opportunities in the new Germany.
The second issue I would like to address concerns property rights in the former GDR. Not only have West Germans cost us our jobs, but they dare to take away our homes, our farms, and our factories. After 40 years, West Germans are laying claim to land they gave up in East Germany. While many of the claims are legitimate, why can't the West at least let us have our own land? They left the ideals of socialism, and they shouldn't be allowed to reclaim and replace homeowners of 40, 50 years. There are some exceptions I can think of, such as Jewish people forced from their homes, that may have claim, but for the most part we need to establish that East Germans deserve title to their own land. By emigrating to the West, old landowners gave up their right to the East. If this issue were to be solved, we might see other benefits too. Right now, people are unwilling to buy property in the East. No one wants to buy a home only to have someone knock on their door and demand that they move! Moreover, some firms willing to buy our failing businesses are afraid to do so. Claims might be made by other parties, and they may lose their investment.
Maybe if we could solve this problem, we would have more businesses-- and more jobs then! I look forward to discussing these issues, along with those raised by Eva Schmidt-Braunemünde, in tomorrow's meetings, Annemarie Schönfeldt.