What the Communists taught me

How the language of propaganda is related then and now

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

Fifty years ago, in socialist East Germany (German Democratic Republic, GDR), I and others were drilled into believing that only fools do not believe in communism. Once or twice I also heard the phrase, “Only a communist is a good person.”

Always pray nicely. So far, hundreds of abuse cases have come to light that the Southern Baptist Convention tried to cover up for decades. The number of unreported cases is probably much higher.

In a slight variation and a few decades later, I heard the following pithy phrase in a Florida church that made my ears ring: “Only a Christian is a good person.” What a merciful, Christian assessment for all those who dare to think differently. I left the institution of totalitarian opinion at the same moment these words were spoken, because I had heard all this before in my life.

Deriving from such experience, when we replace the words “communism” with “God” and “communist” with “Christian” in the first paragraph of this article, we should not be too dumbfounded to discover certain similarities.

The propaganda is comparable in each case, because there is no credible contrast between good and evil here. If you look at the history of Christianity objectively, you can hardly avoid the realization of the role the church has always played in the oppression and extermination of entire peoples in the name of their God. Not even the misdeeds of the churches from today’s time should be mentioned here – starting with the Catholic Church up to the Baptist sect and thousands of cases of sexual abuse. In general, communism lags behind Christianity in the crimes committed only because it did not have 2,000 years in its infamy to cause similar damage on humanity as was inflicted under the Christian cross. Mendacity, however, differs in nothing.

For myself, I come to the impossible conclusion that I am in some way indebted to the Communists. For anyone who has been exposed to their propaganda and, moreover, has not only resisted but rejected its effects, is inevitably endowed with the instinct to smell any form of propaganda from a hundred miles away for the rest of his life.

The absolute majority of people in what was then East Germany (often incorrectly referred to in the U.S. as “communist East Germany”) had a similar experience. Otherwise, a peaceful revolution like that of 1989, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators every Monday on the streets of East Berlin and Leipzig under the eyes of snipers posted on rooftops, would not have been possible. We were sick and tired of listening to the demented socialist propaganda any longer. Needless to say, a revolution like the one in 1989 cannot be carried out with people who are on the side of the power apparatus. The tireless protests swept away the communist rulers, which would not have been possible without the tacit restraint of the Soviet occupation forces. During the workers’ uprising of 1953, which had already brought the GDR to the brink of the abyss, things looked quite different.

Experience from history should teach:

One’s own life and the independent, free thinking associated with it are too precious a personal good to let it be influenced by unscrupulous impostors – whether from religion or politics. They are easily recognized by their use of language. For such propagandists want nothing else than to bring about the unity opinion, which in the end finds no more contradiction, and all this for only one purpose: Allowing only what they and no one else think is right in the (profitable) interest of the few over the many. Nothing is more dangerous for a society than that.

It sounds like a bad staircase joke: Much of what I can observe in America today reminds me of the old GDR – with the only difference being that in the USA the danger does not come from socialism, but from the extreme opposite, namely real existing neoliberalism. Every encyclopedia explains what that is and what it stands for.

Under Socialism I went to Lutheran Church

Our Church originated from the 12th century

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

Pastor Thom’s church of “Peter and Paul” at Elbeu, my hometown. Originally built in the 12th century, the structure was destroyed five hundred years later during the 30 Years War by passing Swedes. In 1758 the church was rebuilt with donations from the most famous Prussian king, Frederick II. – an atheist. The graves directly in front of the church date back to the 17th and 18th centuries; former pastors who ministered in the church are buried here. – In this church I took part in the Christmas Eve nativity plays as a child – unforgettable experiences.

Since I came to America in 1998, I have occasionally had to listen to the following words: “The only reason you don’t believe in God is because you grew up under socialism and were brainwashed by that propaganda.” Those who said this could obviously not imagine that there had been a church at all in East German socialism under communist rule.

Here is the contrary evidence (see documents below). The documents bear my name and date from when I was seven and eight years old. I possess another four documents from the corresponding subsequent years. That’s how long I went to church in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). It was the only time I went to church regularly.

By the way, good old Pastor Gerhard Thoms, who filled these documents out, was the only true Christian I ever met in my whole life. He lived according to the guidelines. A God who allows people to own and shoot firearms? Pastor Thoms would have given such hypocrites a piece of his mind. The man possessed authenticity and did not interpret his Bible arbitrarily, as is usually the case elsewhere. He also did not make a profit through his Christian faith – imagine that.

Nothing was commercialized; there was no crazy band playing in the church, and there were no microphones and loudspeakers. It was a worship service as it should be, not a money-making business, in walls three feet thick, made of field stones.

Translation/left side: Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks: Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them; for such is the kingdom of God. Mk. 10 14
Right side: Uwe Bahr from the parish of Elbeu participated in the second year of Christian instruction 1968/69 for twelve hours, registered on 01/31/1969. He was excused for one hour, no missing hours. Behavior 1 (which is an A), cooperation 1-2 (A/B). Elbeu, 6/27/1969, Pastor Gerhard Thoms, Catechist
Translation: Evangelical Church of the Church Province of Saxony / Testimony of the Christian teaching

Mr. Paris would have liked it

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

It was reported that in Georgia, Union County’s sole commissioner Lamar Paris contracted the coronavirus. That’s unfortunate. As probably the sole German citizen in Union County to whom the thought of acquiring property here, of all places, has occurred, I take this opportunity to wish him a speedy recovery.

However, the senior civil servant may not care much about recovery wishes from such a side. Already in the past, he saw no need to respond to a request sent to him by e-mail from the alien German. This question was simply in reference to the use of tax dollars for a proposed shooting range that apparently has not been completed to date and wastes tax dollars from just about every resident.

Can Mr. Paris do pretty much whatever he wants? It is not for me to question his performance, and certainly he did not invent the system of his own one-man show. But in fact, in that regard, he is someone who is quick to have the boardroom cleared as soon as there is too much opposition to him. When I hear something like that, dark memories come back to me.

As an old political observer on both sides of the Atlantic, it is a complete mystery to me how somebody like Mr. Paris can function in a democratic sense of pluralism. As a contemporary witness, I saw a lot of the “socialist” dictatorship in the German Democratic Republic (GDR; back then elsewhere commonly called “East Germany”) during the Cold War – a state that was anything but democratic and consequently not a Republic. There, too, – in a dictatorship it must be remembered – a district commission existed, consisting of several members though, unlike today in Union County. They “voted” on everything possible, but usually these votes ended unanimously, for only one party controlled everything. Such an institution could certainly not be called democratic.

In the United States of America, still a Republic and allegedly the freest country in the world, it seems outlandish when a single person in public service can de facto say: The party, that’s me. Moreover, according to malicious tongues, Mr. Paris has claimed to be the only one who is up to the task. Somebody like a modern Jesus, in other words.

Self-praise stinks from heaven, says an old German proverb. For Paris pats himself on the back and thus feeds the suspicion of seeing himself as an irreplaceable autocrat, an impression that may or may not be justified.

How things resemble each other – one should not even think it possible. In the GDR, the dictatorship in which I was born and grew up, the comrades cheered each other on. Their party held all the power. They thought themselves infallible. I have the unpleasant and hopefully false feeling that Mr. Paris would have liked that.

Not from Nowhere

Joe Biden refutes himself

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

The American mendacity cannot be greater: President Joe Biden refutes himself during his visit to the Saudis and with what he had said during the election campaign about the murder of the journalist Kashoggi. In the end, however, it is nothing other than the usual policy towards criminal regimes: business comes first. Idealism is the worst enemy of the mendacious.

It doesn’t matter whether human rights are trampled underfoot in the country in question or not. After all, the world gendarme USA itself is anything but a role model, and the much-vaunted democracy is more equivalent to a dictatorship of the moneyed elite, which is not regulated by the state and can therefore do as it pleases at the expense of the masses. The majority of the people let themselves be ripped off and plundered in ignorance, brainwashed by the corporate media and the churches, which all profit from the public misleading in the name of usury.

Long forgotten is the trade with Nazi Germany until well into the Second World War, after the persecution of Jews in Germany had long become internationally known – George W. Bush’s grandfather is only one example of this. At that time, there was also widespread anti-Semitism in the U.S., which only abated with the founding of Israel, at least officially. Since then, the situation has been reversed for American politics, for the specters they called have long since taken over the helm in the “freest country in the world.” As Democratic Senator William Fullbright already stated in 1973: “Israel controls the Senate.”

Today, the U.S. is demanding tough sanctions against Russia from its allies, while no other country is ruining itself more than Germany.

In turn, only the Americans benefit from this: Their country becomes more attractive for industrial settlements, because no one invests in Europe anymore in view of the high energy prices. At the same time, the American weaponry is running at full speed as long as the war in Ukraine rages – the corporations are making billions in profits and so is the caste of politicians in Washington, who are legally bribed by them. Future tax generations will have to pay for this.

The American elite doesn’t give a damn about their country, whether it’s Trump or Biden, Republicans or the majority of Democrats. The supplication to the Saudis is all about oil. While the world teeters on the edge of the abyss in the manmade climate crisis, Biden continues to heat up the fossil fuel business in firm loyalty to his clientele. When the situation is appropriate, he again feigns a commitment to climate protection. In reality, this tactic is called “greenwashing.”

Thus, the image of the ugly American was created throughout the world. It does not come from nowhere.

Pathological Madness

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

Just another mass shooting, only days after Uvalde, and they wonder again and pray. Constantly repeating phrases can be heard: “Tragic has befallen our community”, and “Our prayers are with the families.”

For those who impartially stick to facts, the main reason for gun violence in this Christian country is a morbid mania for guns rather than a tragedy. The U.S. is a violent country where residents are already afraid to make a doctor’s appointment, go shopping, or attend school. Almost as narrow-minded as the Christian pro-life gun nuts are those opponents of abortion who call for stricter gun laws out of sheer hypocrisy or helplessness. Hypocrisy – because they either cannot move from their traditional, right-wing Republican viewpoint or – at a higher level – fear for their re-election if they question the Second Amendment, which gave people no legal right to bear arms in 1791. The latter is a historical fact, but the unteachable do not concern themselves with the history of their own country.

400 million guns are privately owned in the U.S., more than the country’s population. How many more do they need? If more guns make for more security, then the Land of the Free and the Brave should be the safest country in the world, right? Compared to any other advanced country, the exact opposite is the case. This is also proven.

How sick must man be not to be able to recognize this? Praying does not help and has never helped, except in the imagination of people. For the dear God to whom they pray cannot hear them. It’s going to happen again.

The Message of Hitler Admirers

The reasons why it is hardly possible to acquire a gun legally in Germany

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

I often ask myself what I am doing here in the “United” States of America. People of my host country shoot their own people in droves every day. The good thing is that even after a quarter of a century, I don’t owe this alienated land of the Brave a single crumb.

My country of origin, Germany, has one of the strictest gun laws in the world. This has to do with both our culture and our history. Growing up, my generation sat at the dinner table with family members and relatives who had lived through Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich and now left a message for us that has been imprinted for a lifetime: Only an idiot voluntarily picks up a gun.

Shocking: As always, the USA leads by a wide margin.

These people, long in their graves, were anything but wimps. They had gone out to conquer the world for Hitler and Germany. They were in France with Guderian, on speedboats in the English Channel, on the Eastern Front at Stalingrad, in the desert with Rommel. Several great uncles were in Soviet captivity for several years, which hundreds of thousands of German soldiers did not survive. We were still children when our old soccer coach suddenly took off his shirt in the middle of the sports field and showed us his war wounds, caused by shell splinters. We were shocked at the sight. “Memory of Stalingrad”, he called it, and “look, what it does.” In the end, they had at least come to their senses after initial enthusiasm for their beloved Fuehrer, and this clearly reflected on me and my generation.

Today I am glad, almost proud, to have been surrounded by people who had their minds together. Their legacy is deeply rooted in me, because they spoke out of a very deep experience that was, as it were, extremely painful for them and for which they had had to pay a high price.

Of course, they saw this experience with weapons from a different perspective than is the case today in the U.S. – from the perspective of war. A society in their own country where people justify their gun ownership by claiming they need to protect themselves from their own people – not even the former Nazi supporters could imagine such a thing. But that is exactly the daily reality in the USA, the most Christian of all countries, where gun advocates and proud gun owners sit in their churches on Sundays and call themselves anti-abortionists to boot. How can someone who calls himself pro-life and anti-abortion, in all seriousness, not be firmly against any private gun ownership when tens of thousands of innocent people, including even school children, are murdered in his country every year?

For obvious and logical reasons, the German system of gun control restricts the acquisition, possession, and carrying of firearms to those who have a credible justification for carrying a weapon. Fully automatic weapons are absolutely prohibited.

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.

European Energy Trap

The original failure is not the energy dependence of Europeans from Russia

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

One can imagine how the situation would be now with an American president Donald Trump. Someone in Moscow would rub their hands, and the unity in the appearance of the Europeans would hardly be as determined as it is at present. Hopefully, politicians from Brussels to Berlin and London to Paris remember in this hour that already the next president of the United States might not be a transatlantic friend like Joe Biden.

While his approval rating is dropping dangerously at home, Biden can score points abroad and improve the U.S.’s international standing. But that doesn’t sit well with many of his compatriots, who think along the lines of “America first” and thus in reality support autocratic aspirations – a dangerous path that Trump had already led the U.S. down. Biden’s increasing unpopularity is unlikely to change due to the fact that the Europeans now actually want to buy environmentally harmful fracking gas from overseas.

It is hard to understand why ludicrous sanctions exist against Russian private citizens while the real lever that helps finance Putin’s war on Ukraine is left untouched. Germany, for example – according to Robert Habeck (Alliance 90/The Greens), Federal Minister of Economics and Climate Protection, – is still dependent on Russian natural gas until mid-2024 and is using this argument as justification to continue trading with Russia. A unified and convincing policy against Putin looks different, who now wants the natural gas to be paid for in rubles. Perhaps Germany will experience its decisive showdown next week, when one of the two sides will have to relent. So far, it is hard to imagine that Putin will give in.

A loss of Russian gas supplies would have a devastating impact not only on the German economy and most private households, but also on the entire European market. For the announced gas supplies from America can only cover ten percent of Europe’s demand in the short term.

There has long been criticism that Germany and Europe have become too dependent on Russia, and now we are seeing the consequences. But Germany’s energy agreements – given the country’s long and guilt-laden history with Russia – were seen not least as a guarantee of mutual trust by building reciprocal dependencies. It was assumed that the Russians would have no interest in completely throwing themselves over with us if they themselves have advantages through economic cooperation.

The project has failed. But how to solve the world’s problems without a giant country like Russia? Russia cannot be downgraded or dissolved. Isolated, it would be a constant threat to world peace.

The long-term mistakes were not made in the energy sector, but in geostrategic matters. The West, under U.S. leadership, has not made consistent efforts since the 1990s to integrate Russia into security structures while providing security guarantees to bordering countries without integrating them into NATO and thus not cornering Russia.

From the very beginning there have been no serious efforts to transform the former Soviet Union into a partner after its disintegration. If this had happened, even in America today hardly anyone would be talking about Europeans’ energy dependence on Russia.

A Human Disaster

From my Writing Room
Copyright © 2022 by Uwe Bahr

In 2015, Germany mastered the refugee crisis with flying colors – it is remarkable how a million people were integrated into what was already Europe’s most populous country. But now I am anything but optimistic. Special trains from Warsaw carrying Ukrainian refugees reach the German capital Berlin almost at hourly intervals. 10,000 people arrive here alone every day.

The solidarity of the local population still holds.

At Berlin’s main train station, numerous signs in Russian and Ukrainian warn young women in particular not to accept overnight offers from private individuals. Most refugees are women and children. If they do not register upon arrival, every trace is lost. The police patrol everywhere.

On the tarmac of Berlin-Tegel Airport, which was shut down in November 2020 and where my wife and I had landed just three years ago, an arrival center was opened where refugees are registered, cared for and then transported on to other federal states in Germany. The City of Leipzig has already signaled that it has reached its intake capacity.

The German government now assumes that one million refugees from Ukraine will end up in Germany, almost 300,000 of whom are already in the country. But this figure is vague, because no one knows how long the war will last. And it can hardly be assumed that most of the refugees want to return to their destroyed country.

By comparison, the U.S. is about 27 times larger than Germany, but it has barely four times as many inhabitants.

This is the largest movement of refugees in Europe since 1944/45, when 14 million people from the former German eastern territories were fleeing the approaching Soviet army at the end of World War II. One of them was my father from East Prussia.