Lafontaine acknowledged the individuals and groups that had made the process of German unification possible. He referred to those who suffered political persecution in the GDR, who had kept the wish for democracy alive there. They had made it clear that an oppressive system which promised paradise in the distant future was doomed to fail. Those who tried to escape from the GDR – Lafontaine named Peter Fechter – had also made important contributions. They had shown the world that the GDR was always a system of oppression.
Without the citizens’ rights groups in East Germany and without the churches there, the democratization process would not have been possible. Lafontaine recalled the contributions made by the Polish “Solidarity” movement, by the Czechoslovak group “Charter 77,” by Gorbachev and Mitterrand. He mentioned Adenauer’s policy towards the West, Brandt’s policy toward the East, acknowledged the importance of the Schmidt government’s support of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, but also named Kohl’s contributions and his talks with Gorbachev in the Caucasus.
The SPD chancellor candidate said that the process of uniting Germany had to be done in a democratic and European fashion. The people had to decide on their constitution. To this end, a constitutional council should submit a draft to a referendum.
Lafontaine warned that European unification should not be forgotten in the wake of German unification. One day, according to Lafontaine, a European nation should exist. The “national concept” should orient itself toward that of the United States. The values of the French Revolution, “Freedom, Equality, and Brotherhood,” should not be limited to a national perspective but rather be understood in universal terms. In view of “poverty migration” from Eastern Europe, Lafontaine advocated the establishment of social conditions necessary to integrate such people.
He demanded once again that the costs of unification be clarified and that military service and community service be deemed equally important. Lafontaine accused Kohl of wanting to direct the unification process “on his own,” which he considered a mistake. He also felt it was a mistake for the federal government to tell the people of the Federal Republic that no sacrifices would be necessary in the course of German unification. With such assertions, the “prerequisite of solidarity” was done away with. Lafontaine announced that there would be social hardship in East Germany and that people in the Federal Republic would “have to do without, to some degree.”
Source of English translation: “East German Decision in Favor of Accession” (August 23, 1990), in Konrad H. Jarausch and Volker Gransow, eds., Uniting Germany: Documents and Debates, 1944-1993. Translated by Allison Brown and Belinda Cooper. Berghahn Books: Providence and Oxford, 1994, pp. 180-83. © Berghahn Books. Please note: additions and slight modifications to this translation were made by GHI staff.
Source of original German text: “Ein Tag der Freude für alle Deutschen” [“A Day of Joy for all Germans”], Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, August 24, 1990, p. 1.