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Europe must use Berlin Wall anniversary to learn from the past

The fall of the Berlin Wall was commemorated in the European Parliament today with an elaborate ceremony and a speech by the president of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Schäuble.

Speaking on behalf of Left MEPs was group co-president Martin Schirdewan who, as a child growing up in East Germany, offered his own thoughts on this anniversary month.

He also used the occasion to reference the renowned East German-American intellectual, Stefan Heym, and his journey from Chemnitz to the US via the beaches of Normandy and then the Bundestag in a united Germany.

 

Born Helmut Flieg into a Jewish merchant family, Stefan Heym was an antifascist from a young age. He later moved to the US to study and launched a left-wing weekly, German language publication ‘Deutsches Volksecho’,

He soon became a writer and an American citizen, fought in the US army and was there in Normandy during the famous 1944 invasion against the Nazis.

 

The McCarthyist purge of left-wing intellectuals in the 1950s forced him to relocate back to Europe, initially to Prague but then to the German Democratic Republic in 1953.

But he soon fell foul of the East German regime when Heym’s publications were banned.

However, he remained active, and spoke in favour of German reunification under socialist auspices in the early 1980s. Heym was right there amongst the protesters in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz in November 1989. He was later elected to the Bundestag in 1994 but resigned the following year.

He added that:

“Thirty years after this political change, we need a social change not only in Germany but throughout the EU.”

 

“But it is not just the social and economic development that are limited and should have been overcome long ago. It is also the mistakes made in the dealings between East and West.”

 

Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/mustangjoe/

 

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