Postcard from... Berlin



Ostalgie is the term coined after the fall of the Berlin Wall to describe harmless nostalgia for East Germany. But a group of about a hundred East Germans now stand accused of taking Ostalgie too far. Their crime is to have paraded in a central Berlin park dressed up in the uniforms of the former communist National People’s Army (NVA) and the despised Feliks Dzierzinski regiment of East Germany’s hated Stasi secret police.

The parade was staged by a group of diehard communist sympathisers to mark the anniversary of the Red Army’s defeat of Nazi Germany. But it has since invoked the fury of conservative politicians and former anti-communist dissidents. They say such displays are an insult to those who suffered under communism.

The leader of one Stasi victims’ group called the parade, “The worst provocation imaginable”. Although the authorities point out that wearing the uniforms of a non-existent army does not constitute a criminal offence, the objectors are demanding that the display of communist East German symbols should be outlawed much in the way that all Nazi insignia is banned in Germany.

Apart from the fact that Stasi crimes were not quite the same as Nazi crimes, few have considered how such a ban would affect Berlin’s tourist industry. Hundreds of East German army caps and other communist paraphernalia are sold  every day. Perhaps the organisers of the Stasi-NVA parade should get in on the act and start charging spectators a viewing fee.