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The Double Demands of Reconciliation: The Case of Unified Germany

McAdams, James A.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) In, Philpott Daniel, editor, The Politics of Past Evil: Religion, Reconciliation, and the Dilemmas of Transitional Justice University of Notre Dame Press pp. 127-147

I shall make this case in the following pages by focusing on one of the most thorny and divisive of Germany’s efforts in the 1990s to come to terms with the crimes and abuses of the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR). This involved the opening of the files of the former East German secret police (the Staatssicherheitsdienst, or Stasi) and their utilization in assessing the democratic credentials of literally hundreds of thousands of public officials. By comparing the arguments of two of the most vocal participants in the debates over the Stasi’s records, Joachim Gauk and Friedrich Schorlemmer, I shall demonstrate that there was no obvious way to resolve this controversy. Political prognosticators would have been absolutely right to predict that it would be tough going to locate a middle ground between the desire to reopen this dark episode in the GDR’s past to sustained scrutiny and the countervailing necessity of showing understanding and due restraint in judging the actions of individuals operating in a different political context. (excerpt)


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