You would think such a question would be particularly easy for the Germans. They should even be the world’s experts in this sort of thing.
What do you do with the legacy of a monstrous political regime? Particularly when you represent the successor regime, which in reaction rather understandably becomes hesitant to tell people what to think? Inevitably, there are going to be some partisan holdovers, even some misguided fans from new generations that never had to live with it. (See Russia: Papa Stalin.)
Do you refrain from banning the former dictatorial party and its symbols, confident that the voting public at large will have too much sense to ever let it get close to power again? That has been the Czech Republic’s approach to its Communist Party, which after the Velvet Revolution was allowed to survive and simply renamed (rebranded?) itself the Communist Party of the Czech Lands and Moravia (KSČM – that link is to their English page). This decision has not quite redounded in an unfortunate way on the Czech political scene – by which I mean, the Communists have never been back in government – but occasionally they have come close, even though all major political parties claim that they will never work with them. (I actually treated this question of the KSČM on this site back in 2003, in a somewhat over-long post.)
Or do you say “Yes, we believe in free speech, but sometime there have to be exceptions and this is one of them”? In particular, this is what Germany – or the Germanies, both of them – did with the Nazi Party once they were allowed to regain some measure of sovereignty after World War II: no swastikas allowed, no Mein Kampf, no organization calling itself National Socialist, all under threat of real legal sanction.
Now the question has arisen with respect to the DDR, that is, the Communist and Soviet-dominated “German Democratic Republic” that was the ruling regime of East Germany from 1949 until almost a year after the Wall fell – until Reunification on 3 October, 1990. That’s what this tweet, and the Die Welt article it links to, by Richard Herzinger, is about, namely a growing consensus (at least among Germany’s ruling coalition parties, the CDU/CSU and FDP) to try to get a law passed that would similarly forbid the display of DDR symbols. (more…)