The Legacy of Democratic Awakening

April 7, 2010

Please join AGI for a discussion with Daniela Dahn, author and journalist, on “Twenty Years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall: The Legacy of Democratic Awakening (Demokratischer Aufbruch).” The discussion will take place on Wednesday, April 7, 2010, at 12:00pm; a light luncheon will be served.

In this lecture, Daniela Dahn will examine why, after the victory over East German dictatorial constraints, the desired period of happiness and harmony was elusive on both sides. The reality was somewhat more complicated. Eastern Germans desired Western freedoms and prosperity, but many believed that they could keep the Eastern social benefits: no unemployment, free education and health systems, and emancipation for women. After the collapse of the SED regime in November 1989, many in the opposition civil movements (such as Ms. Dahn’s group Democratic Awakening) would have been grateful for more time to consider how the advantages of both sides (East and West) could be retained. But the fusion of two partners of varying strength is always the hour of lobbyists, resulting in 95 percent of nationally-owned economic assets being transferred into Western hands. Today, the social inequality between East and West persists. Yet, as Ms. Dahn will outline in her presentation, there have also been success stories of the unification: the construction boom of the early years, the new modern infrastructure, environmental protection, and new travel opportunities. Ms. Dahn will combine her practical knowledge of the political upheaval in 1989 with a sharp analysis of data, statistics, and facts concerning crucial problems of contemporary democracies. The dogmatic GDR system has been overcome – the democratic awakening was worthwhile. But the reformation of both Western and Eastern systems stopped half way. As the last financial crisis showed, the socially destructive path has not been abandoned.

Daniela Dahn was born in Berlin and studied journalism in Leipzig. She worked as a reporter for East Germany’s television station until 1981, when she left her position for ideological reasons. Since 1982 she has worked as a freelance writer. In 1989 she was one of the most vital activists during the political change in East Germany: a founding member of “Demokratischer Aufbruch” (Democratic Awakening), one of the new civil movements at that time, and vice chairwomen of the first independent GDR inquiry committee, which investigated police and state security. Daniela Dahn has held residencies at several universities in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom and lectures internationally. She has written nine books, from short stories to political essays on contemporary history, and has received seven literary awards, including the Fontane-Award, the Tucholsky-Award, and the Börne-Award. She is also a co-editor of the weekly magazine “der Freitag.” For more information about Ms. Dahn please visit