‘They wanted the West’s bananas’
East German woman explains why she was disappointed when the Wall came down.
Like so many other Germans on that historic day 20 years ago, Dorothea Kunz wept when she heard the Berlin Wall had fallen.
But you might be surprised about the reason. Speaking to Al Jazeera at her mother’s home near the former East German city of Dresden, the former student activist said: “I watched the fall of the wall on the TV and really cried because that wasn’t what we wanted to achieve.
“I was very engaged and fighting for a new form of society. So I was disappointed when the crowds began shouting we are one people. It only meant they wanted to eat the bananas of the West.”
She told me she felt her victory against the Communist system had been hijacked by the politicians in Bonn who were determined to speed through the process of reunification.
“I was full of idealism and thought we would create a new way of living together. But I soon realised you can take no part in decisions reached at the top level. It was quite disillusioning.”
Uncovering the truth
Dorothea told us that when she crossed into West Berlin she spent her whole time shopping for books that had been banned from the shelves of the libraries in East Germany.
But that thirst for information was also to lead her to uncover a tragic truth about her own life.
Like so many others of her generation she had been stalked by the Stasi – the notorious secret police – for her anti-Communist activities.
Retrieving her file from their archives, she was horrified by what she found
“I was living with my boyfriend who was working as a caretaker. I had been
engaged in an environmental political group. He was a Stasi spy and had been reporting back on me and my friends.”
Her 12-year-old daughter Salome has sat around the family dinner table many nights absorbing the stories about what life was like under the Communists.
“I am very glad I wasn’t living in those times,” Salome told me. “On the other hand
I’m very curious about how it must have felt. Sometimes I wish I could go back and spend one day there … but just one day. Not longer!”
Her grandmother Ilse was born in 1930. She watched the rise and fall of the
Nazis, the bloody arrival of the Red Army and then what she called the astonishing sight of the wall going up in Berlin.
On the day it came down she had only one phrase to describe her feelings.
“It was really smashing.”