Peter Schneider:
Was wäre, wenn die Mauer fällt?
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After forty years one could call the division of Germany a social experiment. The experiment is similar to the scientific research of twins separated at birth, both of whom later have a common criminal record. Through the efforts of the Allied Powers the twins are forcibly separated and placed into two quite different boarding schools... The twin named FRG grows up in the stimulating climate of western values, he learns, initially only with great effort, then with growing enthusiasm, to appreciate democracy, capitalism, and individual freedom as basic values. Not lastly he learns to respect the western director of research. The other twin, named GDR, often physically abused, works just as hard to absorb the basic values of eastern culture: the virtues of solidarity, social engagement, passion for socialism and naturally eternal friendship with the eastern director of research. Let's assume that a wall is built between the twins and unusual visitation rights are agreed upon. The FRG twin is allowed freedom of movement, whereas the GDR twin is restricted from going to the West...

The FRG twin is supported by the Marshall Plan and the western market economy, and gradually becomes wealthy. His twin brother, the GDR, not only has to repay war reparations to the much poorer eastern research director, but he is also forced to adopt an inefficient economic system and prove at a high level that this system doesn't work... The twins have one cultural element in common: obedience. What kind of results can we expect from such an experiment?

One result is predictable: the GDR twin will develop an insatiable curiosity for everything on the other side of the wall. This doesn't necessarily mean that he wants to switch places with the FRG twin. He is simply the victim of a psychological law: every wall on earth, whether German or Chinese, creates the challenge to overcome it...

The GDR twin develops an attitude of reproach toward the western twin, whose visit he can only await. He cannot initiate a visit. He resents his twin who could visit or call more regularly, who could be more generous and who simply was lucky to be living on the correct side of the Elbe River. He's not more hard-working than the GDR twin, but he's become rather arrogant and self-righteous...

The western twin, on the other side of the wall, is annoyed that the GDR twin always expects something from him and refuses to believe that he (the FRG twin) has to work hard in order to enjoy a high standard of living. Furthermore, the GDR twin refuses to accept that the socialist system of production is bankrupt... There is a growing distrust between the twins...

One of the first results of the experiment is that, after 40 years of separation, ambivalent feelings for each other have developed, even enmity... How deep are these differences between the twins? The answer to this question touches a basic bone of contention within twin research; that is, the debate about the effect of the environment and genetics.... Although their common family traditions are preserved in language, basic convictions and quirks, the environmental elements may prove to be stronger than genes. The culture of obedience, inherited by birth, results in a loyalty to the corresponding research director. On one side of the wall, the twin becomes an obedient democrat, on the other, an obedient communist. (Translation: Ursula Rice and David Miller)

Page updated and maintained by Donna C. Van Handle.   Last modified on April 16, 2003.