I did not realize the political history or Germany and Berlin was so complicated over the past 100 years. World War II and the East and West divide occurred in a span of about 50 years, which means that many people lived through all of those changes. Living during that time must have been unsettling and I would assume that the lack of a constant government would cause some uncertainty. For the most part, the American government has been the same since the country was formed, so people more or less know what to expect. But, when the government and the state of the nation is changing so frequently there is no sense of security or predictability. Being German during that time meant so many different things. Germany was not the friend of many nations during these years, so it had to be difficult for Germans to know that their country was seen as the enemy by most of the world.
I also underestimated how present and relevant the east/west divide still was. I have noticed that everyone that was alive when the Berlin Wall was up says which side of the wall they lived on and gave a little context about what that meant for their life. Our tour guide at the Reichstag also pointed out that Angela Merkel, the current Chancellor, was from the East. Since it has been over 20 years since the Wall has fallen, I expected that the effect of the wall would be less and that German citizens would want to move on from it in the spirit of unification. However, as I have thought about it more it seems reasonable that the influence of the Wall would still be very prevalent, especially since those who were born when the Wall was up would have very different childhoods than their counterparts. I have noticed from visiting various memorials that Berlin and Germany is very willing to recognize its past even the parts that are far less than positive. So, in that case it is understandable that people would be express if they were from the East or West. In doing so they recognize that the Wall greatly impacted life during the years that it was up and that impact is still present today. By recognizing the effect of the Wall it is possible to move on.
Underestimation has been a theme for me the past few weeks, as again I was surprised by how Germany treats its immigrants and refugees. As I sit on the subway here in Berlin and look around and see people of many different colors and nationalities, I just assume most people are German. I am sure that is not the case for native Germans, which is very interesting to me. I was very surprised to hear that it is almost taboo to say “I am proud to be German” yet such a large divide exists between German immigrants and native Germans. It makes me wonder what causes that divide if it is not a pride in being German by blood and what caused that divide to form. It is very evident to me that national identity and immigrant identity takes on a different form here than it does in the U.S., but I am still not sure why. I wonder if the drastic changes in Germany over the past 100 years has caused Germans to hold onto anything that is constant and shy away from anything that may cause more change or if it is something else entirely? These are some themes I want to explore further in the next few weeks.