The turn of the year 1989: “Exciting as a Thriller”


Zsuzsa Breier experienced the German turn of the century in Heidelberg, Germany, and Budapest. Why it was important to her, in the year of 1989, day-to-day to include, and what has you shaken in your Research especially, she told DW.

Deutsche Welle: Ms. Breier, you have worked as a literature scholar most closely with the year 1989. In a year-long historical Research in Germany and Hungary, they have scoured the mountains of files, to write on this basis, a book about the year 1989. Why the need for a novel of this whole study?

This material I’m taking with great humility, because I’m not a historian. History has always interested me, but in communism, you didn’t study two things, certainly: political science and history. To tell the year of 1989 up to the day of the fall of the Berlin wall, but also the exact views of the historian, which is why I’m also with historians in Germany and Hungary, in contact.

Tell that to 1989, in chronological order, day in and day out, until 9. November. What was your concern?

I had mine done, really added to watch and to tell not just the big, well-known events. You are now overlaid by so many stories that you can’t find out what we have at the time really felt. As we were people in Hungary, and in both Parts of Germany? As we have thought? What have we lived? In order to get the feel for that, I have chosen the Form of the documentary novel: to support day-to-day of this year and to see how all of this developed – in our minds. How did the events to us, how we responded, how we have dealt with this all the time? And what has made this time from us, how we have changed in the us?

You can tell from three different perspectives, from Hungary, the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany.

I will show the differences, it is very important to me. We were in the Federal Republic of Germany, in the GDR and in Hungary so different – and yet, this year has brought us so close like never before. And unfortunately, I must say, in retrospect, apparently afterwards as well. This was an absolute highlight, of the will to each other.

What documents have you studied?

It has always bothered me that so many so Different tell. Our societies are ultimately split up today along these different narratives.

Hundreds of refugees from the GDR fled in a short-term opening of the border in August 1989, from Hungary to Austria

For my book I did not want to beat me to a page that I had to work from documents, and conducted research in archives in Hungary and in Germany, in the state security archives, the national archives, party archives, also in a private archive that was not only exciting, but also extremely insightful.

Sometimes I had the impression that I would have to add anything or comment, if I write it like that, as I have found. It was so inhuman, as in the Stasi reports of human spoken and written. The language tells it all.

There were – apart from the 9. November – a day that has you baffled in the study of the particular or impressed?

There was a story that shocked me. I live today in Berlin-Zehlendorf. I have found in the Stasi archives is a picture of the balloon flight of Winfried Freudenberg, where I recognized our street. Freudenberg crashed early on the Morning of 8. In March 1989, as the last victim of the Berlin wall, almost directly in front of our present front door. In the picture I see the trees that are still standing today, and how the balloon-hang snatches. I went to this tree. There is no sign, the no man knows. None of our neighbours had any idea that 30 years ago, the last wall accident dead, the corpse was not found until late in the afternoon, in the vicinity of the Mexico square.

The arbitrariness, the lack of freedom, the brutality the escapes prevented, and people have been prevented of life, are shocking.

How did the removal of Hungary’s border security?

As the border opened, is one of the stories that is told by most of the Stakeholders differently. The image, for example, how the then Hungarian foreign Minister Gyula Horn and Austrian foreign Minister, Alois Mock, with two large Pincers of the border fence by cutting, is made – since the border fence was dismantled a long time ago. For the two politicians a piece has been rebuilt, so that they could stage a media. This is one of the images we have in mind. And everyone thinks, Gyula Horn had mined the border. This was not only not his idea, he should have spoken out against it. It was the pressure from the society, which gave the events in this direction.

It is a pity, if the reminder is based on false images. Because it is true that in Hungary the opposition, which had organized a lot wider than in the GDR, for the Refugees. First for the refugees from Romania, by the Romanian border guards was shot, and then for the East German refugees. There was a bilateral agreement between the GDR and Hungary, according to which the refugees of the Stasi delivered had to be. Of course, the Hungary of what happened with which knew, which ended up in the Stasi. The Hungarian society protested against these inhuman practices, the Opposition made it then policy, by putting pressure on the Regime. At the end of all these little mosaic pieces came together. Not an event, and not one Person has effected the Opening of the Iron curtain, but the steadily rising pressure. Just I want to show also with my day-to-day history. At the end of the fall of the Berlin wall stands.

Symbolic opening of the border: Gyla Horn and Alois Mock cut through the border fence

Everything we have discussed so far, is historically oriented. How do you because of a fabric of a novel that is interesting and may be entertaining or profound read?

What I find in the archives, is exciting as a Thriller, shocking evidence of a brutal despotism, we left thankfully behind us. I need to be able to tell us exciting. My life experience is certainly. The stories I heard from my mother, from the war and from communism. I’m working scientifically-historically, is only one side. That to me is all through my history, under the skin, is one of them.

At the Moment, the relationship between Germany and Hungary on the reciprocal of refugees is the tense policy. Do you have any advice for the present?

I’m not doing this book only because this year is a turning point in European history, but because our life is today, originated here in Germany-and also in the Hungarian society. I’m not convinced, if we tell our stories to each other, if we do not listen to each other, it will be difficult, as Europeans, all living together.

Do you see any connection of what is happening in front of longer than 30 years, so the times of the GDR, to today’s extreme right-wing tendencies?

Me a Fund has in the archives, surprised: how the SED – state, defined itself as anti-fascist, the own Nazis simply ignored and nothing against you in fact. In the acts it was not only a Republic of refugees, again and again, there have been reports of neo-Nazi motives, about young people, the beat, or the stranger, Congolese, and Vietnamese guest workers beat up. This brutality and that is not been punished, has surprised me. This has worked after the turn of hardly anyone. The SED-state verharmloste hidden for ideological reasons, their own neo-Nazism, and as “hooliganism”, neither of the Hitler salute neo-Nazi acts of violence are hardly ever punished – appears to follow late.

You have also found references to anti-Semitism?

The. The SED-state, brought constantly the Argument that the GDR was the better, as anti-fascist state. The reality could not be further from this. In the top-secret Report can be read, as a lot of anti-Semitism and xenophobia in the GDR society was present. And the Scary part: No one took care of it.

Click here to read an excerpt from the novel “special events”, by the author of the Deutsche Welle as the pre-release has provided.

The 1963 Hungarian-born Zsuzsa Breier studied in Budapest and Heidelberg German studies and cultural studies and has taught at the Humboldt University in Berlin. In 2000, she joined the diplomatic service and until 2004 headed the cultural Department of the Hungarian Embassy. In 2012, she was Secretary of state for European Affairs, the first Secretary of state in Germany without a German passport. Since 2016, she works as a freelance writer.