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Stuttgarter Celebrated Day of German Unity
|by Satis Shroff|
En route from the Stiftskirche to the Swabian-style Mauntaschen cusine with Winfried Kretschmannn at Stuttgart’s Schillerplatz, I saw a man in the bus who looked rather familiar. Ah, I thought, that must be the former Ministerpresident Lothar Späth, now an elderly, thin elderly man. I got up, walked up to him and asked him if he’d like to sit. I introduced myself and we started talking. I asked if he remembered the Royal visitors from Nepal in Stuttgart when Ms. Margot Busak was the then honorary consul of Nepal (Now it’s Ms. Ann-Kathrin Bauknecht).
‘Yes, I remember her,’ he said. He even remembered the royal couple from the Himalayas King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya.
I’d been invited by Ms. Busak and we’d gone to the Graf Zeppelin Hotel to see-off the Royal entourage on their way to Munich from Stuttgart. The Nepalese journalists took some photos and I accompanied Ms. Busak in her luxurious Mercedes to the hotel, greeted the King and Queen, and from there to the Echterdingen airport. The Bundesgrenzschutz (BSG) played the anthems of Germany and Nepal and the Royal pair walked on the red carpet to the three green BSG-helicopters. Mr. Späth, Ms. Busak and I returned to Stuttgart.
A few days earlier the German President Richard von Weizsäcker and his wife Marianne had graced the reception held by the Nepalese Royals at La Redoute in Bonn. Bonn was the capital of Germany then. Petra Kelley and General Bastian, Professor Grizmeck and a host of well-dressed Gurkhas in civil from the British Rhine Army, and accompanied by their wives in colourful saris, also attended the reception.
I asked Mr. Späth, ‘You went to Jena after the Berlin Wall fell, didn’t you?’
‘Oh, yes! I went to Carl Zeiss Jena’ he replied with sparkling eyes and a boyish grin.
‘How did the East Germans receive you?
‘I had to fire 17,000 of them. You can imagine how it was.
Not an enviable job, eh?
You know, they said, ‘We’ve survived the World War I and World War II. But we can’t survive Lothar Späth,’ and laughed.
In those days 20,000 East German people worked at Carl Zeiss in Jena. Lothar Späth, who was the Ministerpresident of Baden-Württemberg from 1978 till 1991, became the CEO of the newly founded Jenoptik in 1991.
* * *
The great masses of people...will more easily fall victims to a great lie than to a small one. (Mein Kampf, A.H.). I spent New Year in a former Stasi-hotel in Thuringia with some West German and East German friends. It was a great, old-fashioned party. There was a nice feeling of togetherness and it was only a matter of time when all the Stasi barbed wired posts would be pulled down. We also went to Meiningen. Along the Bavarian-Thuringia border you could see the barbed wires and automatic guns lest you dare escape from the communist state called the German Democratic Republic. There was a memorial with the words of Konrad Adenauer (CDU): Hier ist Deutschland noch geteilt. Auch drüben ist Deutschland. The entire German people behind the Iron Curtain beckon us, not to forget them! We shall not remain idle and not rest till Germany is united again in peace and freedom.
This memorial was erected on 13.08.1981, on the 20th year of the Berlin Wall by the CDU.
A friend of mine named Heinz Handke had bought a few Trabbis from the former East Germany and his East-German girl-friend Kirstin showed me a Gulash-Kanone outside the old Stasi-hotel. The Gulash is actually a Hungarian meat-dish cooked with a lot of onions and spicy paprika. It’s great to eat this on a cold day, and is generally served as a soup with bread. The Gulash cannon was a big metal Russian Army field cooking device with a built-in chimney. Kirstin also showed me the endless Stasi barbed-wire fence separating Thüringen from Bavaria. The German Democratic Republic had another political, military, economic system, along with its own communist society.
It’s 23 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and it shows that you can’t isolate, imprison and lie to a people of a separated state forever.
A start was made on August 19, 1989 when the Hungarian Democratic Movement invited people to a pan-European picnic on the East-West border. The demonstration had been registered but lasted only a few hours (from 12 noon till 3pm) and that was the beginning of a walk to freedom towards the west (Austria) for hundreds of East German citizens. That was the dawn of democracy and then end of the German Democratic Republic.
The border was closed soon thereafter by the GDR, but the fact remains that the picnic planners had beaten the civil servants of East Germany at their own game in a police-state where security and bureaucracy accompanied you in every step of life. The picnic organisers had acquired all necessary permits and permissions from the official side. And the police officers at the Hungarian-Austrian border were helpless and awed at the phenomenon unfurling before their very eyes.
Old chancellor Helmut Kohl has gone on record in a parliamentary statement made on November 8, 1989:…Germany’s future lies within a peaceful order which will unite the people and nations of our continent in freedom. To us, the European dimension of the German question implies national unity and European unification.
Coming back to the Day of German Unity celebrations at the Schillerplatz in Stuttgart, it has taken on a new meaning for the members of the Baden-Württemberg delegation and the nation. In the middle stood the memorial built by the Danish sculptor Betel Thorvaldsen. The poet Friedrich Schiller had been a pupil at the Hohen Karl School from 1773 till 1780. As we relished the Swabian Maultaschen (dumplings with spinach) below the statue, I spoke with other delegation members who were heroes from real life. The burly Thorsten Ahl (German Rescue Society) had done duty along the Elbe river in Bavaria when the town and homesteads went underwater, and he’d saved lives. But as fate would have it, he suffered from a stroke after the mission. He said, ‘I lost my speech.’ And there he was telling his story in a controlled and quiet manner. Another countryman Wolfgang Käßgang (dentist) had saved a 20-year of woman from drowning. Wolfgang Urban, a robust academician (theologist) who sat near me said about Mr. Kretschmann, ‘As a young man he used to distribute pamphlets for the Maoists.’
Mr. Urban went on to say with a hearty laugh, ‘I also come from the mountains. 850 metres high. Swabian Alb.’
Well the celebrations in Stutgart are long over and what catches our attention at the moment is what’ll happen to the Lampedusa issue, the Syrian chemical weapons (Nobel Prize for Peace went to the OPCW) and whether Bishop Tebarts van Elst of Limburg with his building extravaganza, will go to see a pope in the Vatican, who preaches austerity, spirituality and humbleness, prior to Bishop Zollitsch. In Britain more and more people are feeding themselves at the kitchen for poor people of the Brit Red Cross like after the Second World War.
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