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"Many Young Berliners Ignorant of Totalitarian Past":

MedienKritik reports on a poll of 15-17 year old students in Berlin:

* "The DDR (GDR - East Germany) was not a dictatorship -- the people just had to conform like anywhere else." 24.6% of all students agreed with this statement .... 54.1% of all students rejected the statement .... The remainder (21.3% total ...) selected "neutral".

* "The Stasi (Ministry for State Security of the DDR) was an intelligence agency, just like any other state would have." 31.1% of all students agreed with this statement .... 49.6% of all students rejected the statement .... The remainder (19.3% of all students ...) selected "neutral"....

* "The command economy in the DDR was not better or worse than the market economy in West Germany, just different." 20.1% of all students agreed with this statement .... 43.9% rejected this statement .... The remainder (36% of all students ...) selected "neutral"....

The results are generally more pro-Communist (sometimes much more so) among East Berliners. More details at the link.

Jon L.:
And how many Germans regret reunification?
11.12.2007 12:17pm
dearieme:
At Checkpoint Charlie, a couple of years ago, I saw a memorial - a field of crosses - to those who had been killed trying to escape, plus those who had successfully escaped and then been hunted down in West Germany and murdered there. There must have been lots of communist collaborators in the West. What a pity that they were not hunted down.
11.12.2007 12:17pm
Vovan:

And how many Germans regret reunification?


There appears to be very little difference between the views of the selected age groups of the poll respondents as to the question: "If the wall were to be erected today again, which side would you prefer to live on?"

37% of the 35-50 age group and 35% the 14-24 age group of former East Germans prefer to live in the East again.
11.12.2007 12:30pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):

There must have been lots of communist collaborators in the West.

The West German security police were well known to be badly infiltrated by East German agents. As a result, debriefing of escapees often resulted in their escape route being cut off because word of how they had done it got back to the Stasi.
11.12.2007 12:36pm
Anonymouseducator (mail) (www):
Doesn't a huge percentage of American teens think the government should get to approve newspaper articles before they are published?
11.12.2007 12:40pm
ramster (mail):
The 27% crazification factor is not a purely American phenomenon. It's a sad fact that approximately 1/3 of people anywhere are morons. This poll is simply another confirmation of that fact.
11.12.2007 12:42pm
Enoch:
A lot of these kids are into Forties Retro.
11.12.2007 1:14pm
PersonFromPorlock:

It's a sad fact that approximately 1/3 of people anywhere are morons.

Actually a bit less than three percent are morons or worse. But sixteen percent are one standard deviation or more below 'average'... and of course, these are the ones journalists would be most comfortable with.
11.12.2007 1:25pm
barts185 (mail):

It's a sad fact that approximately 1/3 of people anywhere are morons.
I'll take the over.
11.12.2007 1:37pm
Paul Allen:
I was talking an otherwise intelligent chap yesterday about the wiretapping activities of the NSA. Steve was fervently opposed to wiretapping of private citizens; he believed that such acts were Orwellian. He felt that the situation is very bad. He then argued that the NSA had become the moral equivalent of the Stasi.

Now, this got me thinking: What is really creepy about the world in 1984? Is it the listening/the informing itself? Or is it mostly the total control of everyone's lives.

It seems to me that it is the latter more than the former. If the government listens but never acts--cannot act--listening primarily risks enabling future totalitarianism, which while this sort of behavior must be closely checked is surely a step away.
11.12.2007 1:44pm
Arkady:
"Many Young Berliners Ignorant of Totalitarian Past"

Well, many young are ignorant of the past, period.
11.12.2007 2:36pm
Thales (mail) (www):
They should watch the Lives of Others, an excellent German film.
11.12.2007 2:55pm
Mark Field (mail):

But sixteen percent are one standard deviation or more below 'average'


I think there's something wrong with your math here.
11.12.2007 3:27pm
Cornellian (mail):
They should watch the Lives of Others, an excellent German film.

If they do, they'll hear a great pre-unification East German joke about former East German president Erich Honecker. It goes like this:

1) On morning, EK sees the sun and says "Good morning, dear Sun!" and the sun replies "Good morning, Dear Erich!"

2) At noon, EK sees the sun again and says "Good afternoon, dear Sun!" and the sun replies "Good afternoon, dear Erich!"

3) At sundown, EK sees the sun again and says "Good evening, dear Sun!" but this time the sun does not reply. EK says "what is the matter, dear Sun?" and the sun replies "F**k you Erich, I'm in the West now!"


Definitely a laugh-out-loud moment in an otherwise pretty grim (but very good) movie. Sad to see that the actor who played the Stasi agent died recently, just as this movie brought him international acclaim.
11.12.2007 3:35pm
PersonFromPorlock:

I think there's something wrong with your math here.

I may have put that badly. 16% percent of the population has IQs of 85 or below, that is, at or below one standard deviation below 'average'. That's about right, since 68% of the population is within one SD from the mean; so 68% (average) + 16% (lower) + 16% (higher) = 100%.
11.12.2007 3:47pm
fullerene:
It is not hard to believe that a quarter of people would perceive themselves as worse off. Undoubtedly, some people actually are worse off, and it is naive to believe differently.

Still, it is worth pointing out that many more feel better off. That seems like a fair trade. I know we would like to believe that freedom, democracy, and capitalism make everyone better off, but, like the same belief about communism, it isn't true.
11.12.2007 4:09pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
fuilerene.

I suppose we are considering the "better off" to be solely an economic issue.

What if it's fear of a society where there are so many choices, some of which can mess you up? They may feel worse off, and, psychologically, be worse off. But it's their own perception, not one westerners would necessarily share. We can all agree that economically worse off is easy to distinguish and lament. Some of the other stuff....
11.12.2007 4:15pm
Enoch:
Undoubtedly, some people actually are worse off, and it is naive to believe differently.

For example, Stasi officials and their collaborators!

In the Third Reich, there was one Gestapo officer per 4,800 inhabitants.

In the 1980s USSR, there was one KGB officer per 595 inhabitants.

In the GDR, there was one Stasi officer per 180 inhabitants. Some two million people (12% of the population) collaborated with the Stasi in some form or another.
11.12.2007 4:20pm
Mark Field (mail):

I may have put that badly. 16% percent of the population has IQs of 85 or below, that is, at or below one standard deviation below 'average'. That's about right, since 68% of the population is within one SD from the mean; so 68% (average) + 16% (lower) + 16% (higher) = 100%.


I was pretty sure that's what you meant. Didn't mean to be pedantic, but didn't want to confuse anyone either.
11.12.2007 4:35pm
ellisz (mail):
The fall of communism hurt a number of people in the East Bloc - some vile, some just vulnerable. I think those regimes were awful, but I can understand why for ex some perpetually unemployed 50 yr old in Dresden might think that the old days were better in some ways.

as for the kids - that's pretty depressing, esp the bit about Stasi. I guess US schools aren't the only ones dropping the ball on history.
11.12.2007 5:25pm
Randy R. (mail):
(yawn) So people are ignorant? What else is new....

I recall that in the 70s, there was a questionnaire sent out to all members of congress. Some high percentage believed that the quotes that came from the Declaration of Indepdence were communist propaganda.
11.12.2007 7:44pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
This is so true. I had a classmate at Arizona State 6 years ago who said to me in class that I made it sound like there was an actual wall between East and West Germany rather than a metaphorical one.
11.12.2007 9:58pm
Patrick McKenzie (mail):
Brian G: That is classic.
11.13.2007 1:24am
neurodoc:
They should watch the Lives of Others, an excellent German film.
Thales, I think you are too stinting with your praise of this Academy Award winner for best foreign film. It was truly superlative, IMO. One of those infrequent occasions when I have left the theater without a sense that I just wasted time and/or money.

Cornellian, right about that joke in the movie, and it might be added that the young agent who was imprudent enough to tell it to a colleague paid dearly, being assigned to work day after day in a windowless basement room steaming open envelopes. Surprised to learn that that actor died, since he didn't appear very old (50-ish). He did do a fine job with the part, though it did not require a great range.
11.13.2007 11:39am
Cornellian (mail):
Neurodoc,

The guy who plays the Stasi agent presents a very buttoned-down personality, as one would expect from that sort of character. While that's narrow, I think it's a very tough part to play because he has to portray a revolution in his outlook on things while still maintaining the same buttoned-down exterior. His view changes but his personality doesn't. In a Hollywood movie they'd ruin it by having him make some absurdly over-the-top Jack Nicholson "You Can't Handle the Truth!" type of speech.

I especially liked the ending - very poignant.
11.13.2007 7:20pm
neurodoc:
Cornellian, I take your point, and since it was so superlative a movie in every regard, I wouldn't argue over who among the actors turned in the best performance. That the movie was the work of a first-timer makes it all the more amazing. After seeing it, I felt that I had a much better appreciation of what life was like in East Germany.

Now, if you can tell me what other movies I would enjoy as much as I did this one, I would be most appreciative.

(BTW, do you know how the actor who played the Stasi agent died? Was it after the film won the Oscar? Did he do other films?)
11.13.2007 11:28pm