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René Sternberg

East Germany: A Younger Generation’s Perspective

In 2009, during the 20-year anniversary of the GDR’s Peaceful Revolution, the media debate was dominated by older West German men. This fact served as the catalyst for a group of young people to jump into the political discussion. And so, people born between 1975 and 1985 founded the “Netzwerk 3te Generation Ostdeutschland,” (The Third Generation East Germany Network).

The Third Generation East Germany – A Special Network

Following its founding, numerous initiatives and projects have popped up in and around the network. One initiative, for example, is the organization of biography workshops in various cities. The individually cherished memories of people with either a background in the GDR, or one very much influenced by the 1990s transformation period, are documented and reflected upon using various methods.

What does it mean to be raised in an authoritarian country? How does this past influence me, even today? What roles do people who grew up in the transformation period of the 1990s play in present day society? Do these individuals have any special skills that could be used for societal progress? These are some of the questions that have been tackled not only at the biography workshops, but also during the annual “Meeting of Generations,” in books, at conferences, and in academia.

In 2015, for example, the anthology, The Generation of the Children of the Transformation Period: Expanding a Research Field and the Memorandum 3 I 25: Let’s Just Begin were published. The anthology provides an analysis of children of the transformation period (born between 1975 and 1985) from different scientific angles. First, it shows the diversity of this generation. Moreover, it examines the question of how this generation might use the “transformational skills” they obtained during their socialization in multiple political systems to play a key role in the future of Europe. Examples of their unique voices can be found in the Memorandum, which consists of 21 statements representing a pluralistic 21st century.

The Third Generation East Germany – A Wellspring of New Perspectives

From the very beginning, the activities and ideas of these young adults have attracted wide interest, especially in the media. South Korean television channels have even regularly reported on the network’s events, since Korean and German history share certain similarities. Without a doubt, I can say that in 2016, the initiative has helped broaden Germany’s younger generations’ perspectives and public discourses on the past, reunification, and future of East Germany. To me, this is one of the network’s most beautiful and important successes.

Memorandum 3 I 25: Let’s Just Begin

The Memorandum is one of the network’s seminal texts having the character of a manifesto. Its main theses are presented in the following:

Cover Memorandum 3|25 Wr fangen einfach an! (We just start), Author: Nina Polumsky ©

Cover Memorandum 3|25 Wir fangen einfach an! (We just start), Author: Nina Polumsky ©

“1. We are permanently committed to shaping the world we want to live in, but we change the places, topics and timing of our work.”

“2. For us, diversity is the everyday life we live. We face differences with curiosity, not with fear.”

“3. We consciously live and embody multiple identities.”

“4. Our reality of life is more than the place where we are at the moment.”

“5. Europe is our home. The world is our space for thinking and taking action.”

“6. Our participation in digital space is equivalent to conventional forms of participation.”

“7. We strive to distribute chances fairly. We want to take disadvantages caused by random allocation of natural and social goods into account and balance them out.”

“8. We have emancipated from stereotypes and overcome learned wrong stereotypes.”

“9. We know about the power of spoken, written, and printed words and pictures – they shape our acting, thinking and feeling. We use them responsibly to avoid producing new clichés.”

“10. We are aware of our roots and deal with them critically to shape our future. We build bridges by entering into a dialogue with our parents and children.”

“11. We expect the unpredictable every day. We are tried in change.”

“12. We try to figure out which knowledge we do not have.”

“13. Our paths are not linear. We fail and try again.”

“14. Friction in dialogue brings new solutions. We live a new debate culture and discuss appreciatively and on eye-level.”

“15. We are aware that there are always alternatives to crucial decisions and we discuss them with verve before we come to a final decision.”

“16. We think and act beyond rigid hierarchies. Respect must be earned.”

“17. Teams are stronger: we work interconnected.”

“18. Fun, aesthetics and sensual enjoyment are part of the good life for us.”

“19.We believe that everyone should believe in what they believe in. We are against restriction of religious freedom.”

“20. It is possible to overcome personal, social and cultural barriers, to develop oneself and to leave one’s footprint in the world – we have experienced it and encourage everyone to go their way too.”

“21. We just start.”

For more information, please visit http://netzwerk.dritte-generation-ost.de/

 

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Summary

At Eastbook, we’d like to explore some pan-European but also local transformative initiatives in more detail. We will examine the movements’ models for societal alternatives, as well as their methods for achieving them. Our goal is to identify and share sources of inspiration for regional and global change.

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Plattenbau, Author: carolinamibia, CC BY-NC 2.0, Source: Flickr.com
René Sternberg
Activist

    René, born in the 80s, is a sociologist and lived in Lodz twice during his studies and PhD. He grew up in a small village in Eastern Germany. Now he lives in Berlin, lauches Intranets for businesses and organisations and is engaged in Dritte Generation Ostdeutschland" Netzwerk ("The Third Generation of Eastern Germans" Network).

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