The west’s misinterpretation of East Germany

One of the things that has always fascinated (and bothered) me is how the west, like West Germany, the British, and the U.S., has misinterpreted East Germany so badly.  It seems, to me, that they were so eager to villainize East Germany that they completely distorted it to fit their image of the evil country they wanted it to be.  Because of this, I often doubt they will ever understand this country.  Even in conversations with people recently I am struck by how people are so intent to find wrong with that country.  People who know nothing about the country sit and, literally, make up reasons why it’s so bad.  I will often prove people wrong and, yet, they refuse to take a different stance.

It’s unbelievable!

Here’s some examples I thought of: 

It appears that the generations after WWII went through something like a youth rebellion.  Adolescents, mostly, went against the establishment, grew their hair long, listened to rock and roll, and all that.  This was seen on both sides of the Iron Curtain and seems to have nothing to do with the government or economy. 

Several times now, I’ve heard Americans sit and say how rebellious kids in East Germany dress and act rebelliously because they are “oppressed, yearning for their freedom”.  This would be said in this horrible condemnation.  Then they would latter say that the same exact behavior in the U.S. (such as the hippie movement in the 60’s where people rebelled and condemned the government) was because people were “expressing their freedoms”.  They’d say this in a look of pride.  That’s quite a jump for the same behavior . . . in one country it’s oppression, in the other its freedom!

That cracks me up.

 —

The East Germans read a lot.  I’ve heard of people filling baskets full of books for each week.  I heard one American say that this shows how poor these people were and how miserable the East German life was.  He was implying that they were so poor they couldn’t afford TV’s so they had to read, I guess out of boredom.  Poor wretched people! 

But, yet, in America they are doing everything they can to get kids away from the TV and to read!  I can remember having “read-a-thon’s” in grade school to try to get kids to read.

 — 

I’ve heard many people in the west speak of the horrible censorship of books in East Germany.  According to what I’ve found out there really wasn’t much of a censorship of books.  They did censor some books but they were an extremely small number.  Mostly, they would advise the author to change certain phrases or aspects of their writing to avoid upsetting people or touching a hot subject. 

Naturally, I’ve heard Mr. American make a big deal about this.  Their oppressive horrible government are restricting peoples freedoms.  But yet, in America, I have to be careful of what I say or do or I could get sued and/or fired from my job.  This is usually for the most stupidest of things.  This has gotten so bad that people have to learn to be PC (politically correct).  We’ve had to have seminars at work on how I must be careful what I say or do around a female.  If I say or do the wrong thing I could lose my job or even get sued.  Many of us are almost scared to say hi to a female for fear she’ll take it the wrong way.  And the list of these stupid things like this goes on and on to the point of absurdity.  This has gotten so bad that I can see a look of fear in people when this subject comes up.  I couldn’t believe it.  I, myself, have been repetitively told and lectured upon how I cannot say this or that around some people. 

And we’re condemning another country for censoring???

 — 

Some years ago I was layed off from my job.  It took me a long time for me to find a job.  I went to some job bureau and the lady there made a statement that made me laugh.  She said that it’s hard to find a job because we’re in a “competitive market”. 

Some days before, I was reading about the work situation in East Germany.  The western author made a big deal how any unemployed people in East Germany was a sign of their ‘failing economy’ and horrible conditions.  But, yet, here I am in the same situation in the U.S. and I’m told it’s because we’re in a “competitive market”.  I guess we don’t have failing economies and horrible conditions in the U.S.

 — 

I heard that many people in Berlin were making a big deal about the street lights in East Berlin and wanted them replaced.  I think they said they were ugly or something.  When I went over there I had to look at these horrible ugly lights.  The lights I saw looked like lights.  I didn’t see anything ugly about them (I’m still wondering if they were the correct lights!).  Oddly, when I returned and was driving home from the airport I looked up and, lo and behold, I saw, in my own town, lights that looked almost the same!  I hadn’t heard anyone complain about them here.

Were they complaining about the lights or the fact they were from East Berlin? 

The last I heard is that they decided to keep the lights in place.

 — 

I found a book on East German fashion.  All the reviews about it talked about the horribly ugly clothes, and how outrageous they were.  Naturally, I was all excited to see them.  When I got the book I was disappointed.  In fact, I wondered if it was the right book.  The clothes were no more ridiculous than the clothes in the U.S. and England in the 60’s and 70’s!  To be frank, if you got a U.S. fashion book from the 60’s and put them side by side and I hid any reference to Germany you’d have a hard time telling which one was East German.

 — 

Almost 15 years ago I met a girl from East Germany.  I asked her what it was like living there.  She said, “oh, it was terrible.”  I asked, “in what way?”  She replies, “we couldn’t see our relatives on the other side of the wall.”  I was struck by this.  To me, that seemed so minor.  I said, “that’s it?!”  “yeah,” she says.  Stupefied, I said, “we were all taught that you guys were in really bad shape over there.”  “Oh no,” she replies, “we really didn’t have any problems.”  Later on, she went on to say that they weren’t a whole lot different than people over here in the U.S., except they didn’t have as much stuff.

 —

I have been amazed about the reaction June 17, 1953 got by the west.  I’ve heard all sorts of things about how it’s all oppression, a repressive regime and that.  The West Germans made a memorial to it by naming the street in front of Brandenburg Gate the Strasse de 17 Juni.  But this, as far as I know, is the only really bad riot East Germany had. 

In the time East Germany existed, how many riots did the U.S. have?  In the time East Germany existed, how many riots did the British have?  Both had quite a few, often these riots were against the government or conditions of the country.  And, in some cases, they brought in police, tear gas, and that.  If any of those events had taken place in East Germany it would be just another sign of the oppressive repressive government.  But it’s O.K. for the west to have stuff like that happen.

 —

I’ve heard many East Germans disgusted with how the west has portrayed them and their country.  I don’t blame them.  The west made it out, oftentimes, as if the people were living horrible conditions. 

 —

Many times I’ve heard East Germans say they can’t believe how the west seems to make it out as if all they are concerned about is consumer products (which they didn’t have a lot of).  The west seems to think that life revolves around consumer products.  But a lot of the west cannot see that there is a life beyond consumerism.  I heard one East German lady say something to the effect of, “we didn’t have enough . . . they have too much . . . they’re both so ridiculous?”

A lot has been made out about how many East German’s wanted western consumer products.  The west, naturally, used this to their advantage as “proof” that their system is right.  I’ve heard many Americans, in particular, use this to show how they had the better system and how their governement/economy was so great.  Of course, we should all be ‘thankful’ we have it for the poor wretches in East Germany (and other places of the world) don’t have this ‘privilege’. 

But, really, is this any different than how everything in the US nowadays, for example, is from China?  Go in a store in the US.  Look at the country where everything is made:  China.  Clothes, furniture, toys, novelties, pots and pans, everything you can imagine.  It’s all from China.  For fun, I’ve gone in stores and just casually looked at the country of manufacture.  Almost always its China (or, sometimes, some other country).  This is why I always said:  “if it wasn’t for China we wouldn’t have anything at all”.  I’ve seen shows where they went into peoples homes and took out everything that wasn’t made in the US (to try to get people to buy American).  The whole house is basically gutted except for a few things. 

So if the East German’s liking western consumer products ‘prooves’ their system is bad, then what does the fact that everything in the US being made in some other country mean? 

Of course, no one mentions this.

Some years ago I actually got into heated disputes with people because I told them Ronald Reagan did not bring the Berlin Wall down. Alot of people over here in the U.S. seemed to think that Reagan’s statement, “Mr. Gorbechev, tear down this wall” was what brought the wall down. Repetetively, I told them this was not true. Most refused to believe what I told them. I’ve always been struck how a lot of Americans seem to think that if anything ‘good’ happens in the world that they are somehow responsible for it.


The wall, also, did not “fall” on November 9, 1989. The borders were just opened a day earlier by accident. The government was already planning on opening them on November 10. One of the government officials accidentally said the borders were going to be opened right away. This caused everyone to get up and go to the border. The west got a lot of video shots of people joyous, crying, and everything. I’ve seen this event turned into some sort of ‘liberation’ by the west. To me, it just shows how the west twists everything to fit the image they want. So now they celebrate an event, which the East German government was going to do anyways, as some sort of ‘liberation’. In reality, a lot more had to happen before the wall would be tore down.

 — 

Many people think the footage of the people smashing the berlin wall with sledge hammers are East German. I’ve seen it used as ‘proof’ that the East Germans hated the wall and their government. I’ve seen it even portrayed as some ‘righteous vengence’ by the poor oppressed people of East Germany, yearning for their freedom.

The problem is that most of these people are West Berliners. In actuality, it was the West Berliners who wanted the wall down, as they were completely enclosed by it, like a prison. They were the ones smashing it and chearing it’s fall. If you look at the footage you see people smashing the side of the wall that had all the paintings and graffiti on it. That’s the West Berlin side! My understanding is that most East Germans were watching at a distance wondering what was going to happen to them.

Before the wall went up in  1961 there was a great flood of people going into western Germany.  It was almost like an exodus, a great migration.  This was a major factor in why the wall went up, as East Germany was loosing its work force!  As usual, a lot has been made out of this, usually in the context that it shows how bad and ineffective communism is.  People were ‘fleeing’ a bad system . . . so the west maintained. 

I’ve always questioned this.  Personally, I’ve always felt that it reflected more the German’s mistrust for Russians.  This distrust is well known.  In fact, my understanding is that when people were asked why they fled to west Germany, before the wall went up, they usually said something to the effect that “I don’t want my kids brought up under the Russians” or “I don’t want the Russians controlling things”.  It had nothing to do with conditions necessarily, or how ineffective the system was.  I have always thought that if Germans were in control of the whole thing and that it was their ‘idea’ then the people of East Germany would of tolerated the problems.  They would of tolerated the poverty, the collectivization, the political problems, etc.  How do I know this?  Because they did it in the past.  National pride would of made them tolerate it.  It seems to me that the German’s in East Germany were fleeing, really, foreign control.  Not only that, they were fleeing the control of a people they historically don’t trust:  the Russians.  It had nothing to do with communism and how effective or ineffective it was.  That, it seems to me, had little do with things.  The west just used this to justify their cause.

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