Family in the German Democratic Republic, GDR

Family in the German Democratic Republic, GDR

mb. When I first travelled to the new federal states of Germany about ten years ago, I became suddenly aware of my deep-rooted prejudices – also and especially with regard to the family. I got to know different families very privately, almost all with three to five children. I noticed how alive family life was. Parents caring lovingly for their children, they were the next and most important to them. In fact, independent of their political view. No matter if the parents defended or rejected socialism, no matter if both father and mother were working: family first. It was cooked at home, eaten together, taken care of school, feasts were celebrated such as birthdays, Christmas and Easter. Even if there were conflicts or differences in opinion, teenagers never turned against their parents and siblings, something I experienced in the 1968s in Western Germany. Family cohesion was tangible and was lived as a pleasure and self-evident. The youngsters simply did not have the perception of our West German youth generation of the 1968s: that parents are fundamentally bourgeois, an obstacle to freedom and development of the personality and that they have no “vista” anyway. “Do not trust anyone over 30!” – in keeping with this motto, a large part of a whole generation in the West had turned away from their parents or opposed them. Family celebrations were taboo in my teenage years. On Christmas Eve as a young girl I went to a pub in protest against the petty bourgeoisie. We would never have discussed with our parents our life problems at work, in friendships or love. Discussions about political or social issues – certainly not with our parents or if so, only in a fundamental opposition. As youngsters we knew everything better, even if we had no idea. Do parents’ experiences take seriously? No chance!
When I got to know the families in the former GDR, I had already disputed my disguided juvenile opinions about the importance of the family from an intellectual and emotional point of view, but immediately I became aware of my GDR image which was full of prejudices. For I was not only a child of the 1968s, but also one of the Cold War: According to this image, “in the East” all children from the earliest childhood on were put into daycare centres and strictly ideologically educated in the collective. The parents are busy in the production process and in building up socialism. Joy and humanity, personal freedom and everyday life did not appear in my image at that time. Everything is serious, dark, dreary, and joyless. All people are either Stasi informers or victims. All day long everyone thinks only about the fact that they live in a dictatorship and that they want to emigrate, but are not allowed to. I never thought that all people have a private life first and that family and friendship are important to them and the basis of life.
In the 1980s, Sting brought a song against the arms race, which states:

We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
What might save us, me, and you
Is if the Russians love their children too

With this song, he expressed the hope that humanity could find itself in peace by acknowledging its nature. And Sting, after all, spoke of a common human nature. I remember that this song had touched something inside me.
Thirty years later, through the experiences in the East of our country, I became aware that family bonding is a constant in human nature, independent of ideology, and that it leads to a happier and more fulfilling life if you set up your life accordingly.     •
(Translation Current Concerns)

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