Dancing with “Luv” behind the Berlin Wall

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

The band “Luv” from Holland was very popular in both Germanys at the end of the 70’s, and of course we in the East saw it all on West TV. Coincidentally, I recently came across one of their old songs, which triggered strange-seeming memories in me of experiences I hadn’t written down at the time.

The Dutch Girl Band “Luv”, performing their “Oh, Yes I Do” in 1979.

In 1979/80, when the “state-owned” Magdeburg Housing Combine built a boarding school for the Technical University “Bruno Leuschner” in East-Berlin, my bearded colleague Burkhardt Zitzke, only a year older than me and already married, had brought his cassette recorder with him. On the ceiling of the fourth or fifth floor he had it turned up to full volume, while we both tried to imitate the dancing of “Luv” on the edge of the chasm, which was not easy to do. In our construction workers’ clothes with gloves and helmets on our heads, we probably offered a strange sight. In the midst of our fun performance, we earned the laughter of the residents of the already completed neighboring boarding school, who passed by below. They knew what we were performing, of course.

The western song resounded undisturbed for hundreds of meters. Only a few miles away ran the Berlin Wall; in the same Karlshorst district where we worked was the headquarters of the Soviet Secret Service (KGB).

Our construction team had their beer bottles in buckets of water to keep them cool. Unimaginable today.

We were anything but “brainwashed by the socialist system,” as some know-it-alls claim these days, who in reality lack a certain amount of knowledge about true historical backgrounds. We knew the truth in our divided country from many circumstances and did not believe the hate slogans of the communists against our own relatives in the West. On the other hand, no one ever called me into their office for a rebuke at that time, as happened forty years later in a company called Walmart for me telling them the truth. The facts also include that we did silly things when we were young in a supposed society of communism, but these pranks were harmless compared to what happens in a country of our time, where gun violence is the order of the day – for we did not harm anyone.

I have no reason to defend in retrospect the dictatorial unjust state of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in which I was born, and I can document my opposition from back then – but private gun ownership was absolutely unthinkable for it was simply forbidden. Common sense says that was the right thing to do, of course. In 29 years, I have experienced a single homicide, when a police colonel shot his wife, then himself, in his home. By profession, of course, he was allowed to carry a gun.

Anyone who believes they must own a gun for self-defense is not supporting a free country, but a sick society where guns will not solve a single problem. A clear “no” against weapons should actually be the explicit attitude of true Christians – one would think. However, most of them read out of their Bible what seems to them advantageous for their purposes of justification.

Here is the refreshing band “Luv” from Holland. The girls are well into their sixties in the meantime: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-baUQDHabU

Memo From Camp David

When George H. W. Bush and the German Chancellor Conferred on the Future about Germany and beyond

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

It should all happen very quickly: Three months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Chancellor Helmut Kohl (CDU) traveled to the United States to reassure himself of American support for Germany’s future plans toward state unity.1 At a meeting at Camp David on February 24, 1990, he easily found the backing he had been hoping for from U.S. President George H. W. Bush. However, the Americans were primarily concerned not only with German reunification, but also with the expansion of NATO.

In the meantime, a public memorandum about the Camp David meeting exists and can be viewed online.2 It illustrates how, in the period immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the West was keen to shift its sphere of influence together with EU and NATO to the East and closer to Russia, the legal successor of the then still existing Soviet Union.

Excerpt of the memorandum of the conversation between then U.S. President George H. W. Bush and then German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, at Camp David on February 24, 1990, released by the National Security Archive. The marked comment of the American President is telling.

In contrast, there is little sign in this conversation of plans for compromise or even peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union within the framework of a future security structure in Eastern Europe. One participant in the conversation is intent on a possible reunification of Germany under the protective shield of the Americans; the Americans themselves see their supremacy in the world after the end of the Cold War as their most important interest in the context of “a new world order”. Both sides unfold their strategy at the expense of the disintegrating Soviet Union. The fact that the Soviets possessed nuclear weapons and that up to half a million of their soldiers were stationed in the GDR is completely ignored, as is Moscow’s reaction to the surprise opening of the Wall on November 9, 1989, which could have turned out quite differently.

I had been born and raised in the GDR, the frontline state of the Cold War, and even on the morning after the opening of the Wall, my father did not trust the situation: “The Russians will not tolerate this, they will send their tanks again.” His “again” referred to June 17, 1953, when workers’ uprisings in East Berlin and other cities had brought the GDR to the brink of collapse and the Ulbricht regime could only hold on to power through Soviet military intervention.

But this time, in the fall of 1989, the Soviet tanks and soldiers stationed on GDR soil remained in the barracks during the crucial hours. The reform policies of Mikhail Gorbachev, brought about by huge economic problems in his own country and mass protests in several Warsaw Pact states, ushered in the end of the Cold War; a development that culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Whoever looks at Europe today and sees a despicable war, which hardly anyone thought possible especially after 1989, should remember the recent historical development of the past three decades. There is no justification for Russia’s war against Ukraine – but the historical causes of the current catastrophe go back further than pointing to Europe’s and Germany’s dependence on Russian energy supplies. The terrible suffering of the affected people in Ukraine could have been prevented by more than one side if the Western powers, including Germany, had had the honest intention of building trust with the successor state of the Soviet Union instead of cornering it.

Notes:

1 Kohl had the valid fear that the chance for reunification, which had been offered to the Germans as suddenly as it had been unexpected, might not last long, so that swift action was the order of the day. This was especially true of the Soviet Union’s position, whose concession the German chancellor saw as a singular opportunity in history.

2 The published memorandum of February 24, 1990, can be read here: Memorandum of Conversation between Helmut Kohl and George Bush at Camp David. | National Security Archive (gwu.edu)

As a side note: It’s quite amusing that no small number of people in the U.S. believe Ronald Reagan brought down the Berlin Wall. In truth, Reagan did not pressure the Soviets, but took successful steps of détente with them toward disarmament, undoubtedly paving the way for what was to follow a short time later. His words at the Berlin Wall on June 12, 1987, remain unforgotten: “Mister Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” In contrast, American foreign policy under his successor, George H. W. Bush, very quickly returned to Cold War practices.