A Novel Protest Against Globalisation
On November 9, 1989, the Council of Ministers still ruling the German Democratic Republic decided to open the border to the Federal Republic of Germany and West Berlin. The Berlin Wall fell on the same day as several thousand East Germans responded to the decision by travelling to various parts of West Germany. Those who visited were given a 'welcome allowance5 of DM 100 each. More than any other event, this collapse of the Wall and the crossing over of thousands symbolized the then irrevocable eclipse of state socialism. With no contending ideology around, global capitalism's advocates declared the end of history in that heady phase.
But, in the midst of this tumultuous period — to be precise, just a week before on All Soul's Day, November 2,1989 — a German art-historian Alexander Reschke was spotted on the opposite eastern side, in Danzig. He still carried the embers of 1968 uprising with him and a chance meeting occurred between him and a Polish widow, Alexandra Piatkowska who specialized in gilding. They were both over 60 but they fell in love. And out of this love which itself defied long-standing German-Polish enmity, a unique idea flowered. Professor Reschke described the 20th Century as the Century of Expulsion and proposed that they could attempt in their own small way to bring the uprooted back to their soil after their death. How? By building the German-Polish Cemetry of Reconciliation. Describing it as "our great nation-reconciling idea" both concluded that "dead enemy was no longer an enemy".1 A simple and fervent hope inspired the two. In the words of the Professor, "What we call home means more to us than such concepts as fatherland or nation, and that is why so many of us long to be buried in our home soil... No, I am not referring to the right to a homeland demanded by our refugees'
"' Visiting Fellow, School of Women Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta
Social Scientist, Vol. 30, Nos. 1 - 2, Jan.-Feb. 2002