Panel discusses recent German events

By Michelle Harris

Four international panelists discussed how breaking down the German border might affect relations between the East and the West and possibly inspire revolt in other countries.

About 80 people attended the panel discussion entitled “The People’s Struggle in Eastern Europe: What does it mean? What Lies Ahead?” The event was sponsored by Freedom Now and topics ranged from the Polish Solidarity movement to feminism.

West German native Heinz Osterle, an NIU professor of foreign languages and literature, discussed the background of Germany—unified and divided. He explained how Germany became divided and why the wall was built.

Osterle said he embraced the idea of a possible peaceful unification and hoped it “might come in a slow and cautious way, as President Bush has said.”

Vlasta Giese, a DeKalb resident from Czechoslovakia, related remembrances of being questioned “for three and a half hours by Communists. Looking them straight in the eye, I never became afraid, I never let them break me. As long as you are alive you have freedom. You were born with it.”

Giese said she is “extremely optimistic about the possibility of East and West Germany reuniting.”

Giese also said “Democracy is something very different in this country. People here sit at home and grumble to the four walls about the things that bother them when they are lucky enough to have the privilege of being able to vote.

“I am a great admirer of American democracy and I want to see it keep functoning. Vote. It never killed anyone but it affects changes,” she said.

Peter Vermuth, a writer for News and Letters, a Marxist-Humanist publication, said, “The issue is not how to redraw the map of Europe.”

“Last week, seven million East Germans, in a country of only 15 million people, were out on the streets together in that mob. Their leader thought that opening the wall would diffuse the tension, but this inevitably lead to the diffusion of him right out of office,” Vermuth said.

Jerzy Cienchanski, a Polish political science doctoral student, opened the panel discussion emphasizing “this changing is coming from an existent struggle, as does the desire for any change.”

Cienchanski said the U.S.S.R. needs help to stabilize their economy, but outside funds would not make the Soviet economy independently efficient.

One audience member said the occurences in Eastern Europe are just a link in a chain of events.