On the espresso journey of a transparent conscience | EUROtoday

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Ein Ereignis, das Anne Rabe, wie sie sagt, nie vergessen wird, trug sich um die Jahrtausendwende am mecklenburgischen Ostseestrand zu. Rabe, geboren 1986 in Wismar, saß dort mit Freunden aus Ost und West im Sand, die Gruppe hatte verbotenerweise ein Lagerfeuer entfacht. Plötzlich sei eine Gruppe von Neonazis aufgetaucht. „Die Wessis durfte ich mit denen nicht reden lassen“, sagt Rabe, „das geht schief.“ Sie selbst wusste dagegen aus Erfahrung genau, wie man die Nazis nicht provoziert, der gewaltsam ausgetragene Konflikt blieb aus. Dann erschien die Polizei – nicht wegen der rechtsradikalen Besucher, sondern wegen des Lagerfeuers. Die Nazis hätten den Polizisten klargemacht, dass das mit dem Feuer schon in Ordnung gehe, und die Beamten hätten sich wieder zurückgezogen.

Anne Rabe sitzt an diesem Abend in der Nikolauskapelle im Frankfurter Stadtteil Bergen, neben ihr der Schriftsteller Marcel Beyer, der aus dem Westen stammt und 1996 nach Dresden gezogen ist. Der Abend ist warm, gerade findet das Spiel der deutschen Nationalmannschaft gegen die spanische statt, sodass sich zum Gespräch über Ostdeutschland kaum zwanzig Zuhörer eingefunden haben.

Anne Rabe
Anne RabeFrank Röth

However, they are experiencing a discussion that, despite some consensus, was characterized from the outset by a fundamental contradiction: Rabe, who now lives in Berlin, declared that she would “never again” live in East Germany, while Beyer, on the other hand, cannot imagine returning to the West.

Why? Last year, Rabe published her novel “The Possibility of Happiness” (FAZ, June 17, 2023), which was shortlisted for the Leipzig Book Fair Prize the following spring. This evening, she reads a few passages from it that focus the conversation with Beyer and sometimes force him to say “really hard”. It is about what is left of the GDR in East Germany after the fall of the Wall, about an attitude that one must adopt in the increasingly aggressive society in the face of open violence, and about old resentments that are passed down under the auspices of a new system.

What does the GDR have to do with the Nazi state?

The novel's provocation lies in showing continuities between National Socialism and the GDR and in doing so repeatedly asking about the freedom and commitment of the individual against obvious injustice. An observation by Beyer, who described young people in Saxony who had quite naturally learned to avoid Nazis, is echoed in numerous scenes in Rabe's novel in which children or young people are harassed and adults, even their relatives, ostentatiously look the other way.

“Where are the parents?” Beyer rightly requested, and Rabe recalled the intensive instructional energy of the GDR state and the glorified justification that folks who appeared the opposite method discovered for their very own actions within the motto: “We are raising our children to be independent.”

Marcel Beyer
Marcel Beyerdpa

Those who don’t maintain issues depart behind areas that enemies of democracy would have used after the autumn of the Wall, says Rabe, explaining how through the years a story has turn into established amongst some within the East that she calls “the SED's greatest victory”: the idea “that all evil comes from the West.” The grim image that she describes and calls the “social reality in the East” additionally contains the elevated assaults on politicians within the current election marketing campaign and the witch hunt towards those that opposed right-wing extremist tendencies. Because she now not needs all of that, she says, she prefers to remain within the West, the place society is “a little friendlier.”

Beyer, however, speaks of the experiences he can share with few within the West after 28 years within the East, of enrichment, and sees the social state of affairs with extra hope than Rabe, for instance when he enthusiastically recollects the massive democratic demonstrations in Dresden. It is necessary to reclaim public area from the right-wing extremists, he mentioned, and to take this to the provinces, for instance with buses filled with demonstrators, which he referred to as “the coffee trip of a clear conscience”. In this he met together with his really sceptical dialog companion. If obligatory, non-voters have to be “carried to the polls”, she mentioned. It would at the very least be a begin on the trail from indifference to participation.