Nearly 25 years after the collapse of the "Deutsche Demokratische Republik" some high-school history teachers are telling their students ""Es war nicht alles schlecht in der DDR". Dictatorships, they teach, are not so bad - as long as you "play by the rules".
Sound incredible? That is the experience of the writer Roman Grafe, who has been visiting high schools around Germany and telling students about the total repression of freedom in the former East Germany. Often, these talks elicit hostile reactions from the faculty. At the Comenius-Schule in Stendal a "history teacher" lashed out at Grafe:
"Ich habe mich wohlgefühlt in der DDR", .... Und Sie haben heute die DDR schlechtgemacht. Wenn man sich in Diktaturen an die Regeln hält, passiert einem nichts. Ich frage mich, warum Sie wieder hergekommen sind, wenn Sie Stendal nur schlechtmachen."
("Life was good in the GDR... And you come here today to denigrate the GDR. Nothing can happen to you in a dictatorship if you play by the rules. I really wonder why you came if you just want to say bad things about Stendal.")
At another school he was told by a "history teacher":
"Ich habe eine andere Meinung über die DDR als Sie. Ich habe direkt am Grenzzaun gewohnt, mich hat der Zaun nicht gestört. Wir konnten nach Ungarn und Bulgarien reisen, das hat uns genügt."
("I have different opinion than you about the GDR. I lived next to the border fence- it never once bothered me. We could travel to Hungary or Bulgaria- that was plenty for us.")
Comments like this are made openly to a vistor to the schools. But what are teachers telling their students when no outsiders are around? What are students learning about recent history? And could this Ostalgie (nostalgia for the old East Germany) result in hostility or plain indifference to democratic principles?