October 3, 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of German unification. The period between the fall of the Wall in November 1989 and the signing of the Unification Treaty on October 3, 1990 stands for German political ingenuity in reclaiming a unified nation. At the same time, we need to acknowledge that Willy Brandt’s dictum “Now what belongs together will grow together” has been only partially realized. While formal unification took barely a year, it turns out that unity takes generations. Continuing differences in living standards, pensions, political orientations or democratic values indicate that the process of unifying former East and West Germany is a multi-generational project. In what ways do perceived political, socio-economic, and cultural differences impact how Germans of the old and new Länder see and participate in their country? Have Germans dealt adequately with their separate pasts in order to craft a joint 21st-century political identity? While there is much to celebrate, what is at stake during the next decade of ‘unifying work’? We will discuss these and other questions with three distinguished experts on German politics, society, and culture:
Marianne Birthler was the spokesperson for the Alliance90/Green Party in the GDR Parliament and from 2000 to 2011 served as the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records, responsible for investigating the past crimes of the Stasi, the former communist secret police of East Germany.
Michael Zürn is professor of political science and director of the research unit on ‘Global Governance’ at the WZB Social Science Center Berlin. Michael Zürn is a 2020 Thomas Mann fellow at the Thomas Mann House in Los Angeles.
Joyce Mushaben is professor emerita of political science at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and adjunct professor at the BMW Center for German and European Studies at Georgetown University.
The event was co-organized by the Center for West European Studies (CWES) at the Henry M. Jackson School of International studies at UW and the Goethe Pop Up Seattle. It is sponsored by the Department of Germanics at UW and the Germany Embassy to the U.S.
The virtual panel discussion on Saturday, October 10, 2020 has been recorded and uploaded to Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/469057670