Adapting to a New Life
Lothar de Maizière, 75:The elections [in spring 1990] were not really elections — they were a plebiscite for the unity of Germany, a state ruled by law, a federal system with a social market economy and the Deutschmark. I knew very exactly studies on the state of East Germany economically, so it was clear to me that I was not really prime minister but administrator of a giant bankruptcy. Back then I had 160 clients a year as a lawyer, now I had 16 million clients, full of unbelievable expectations.
The Russian Connection
Regrets?Mr. de Maizière, 75:The first time [Mikhail S. Gorbachev and I] met in Moscow on April 29, 1990 ... I had brought a piece of the Berlin Wall … as gratitude for his words, “He who comes too late gets punished by life.” And then he said something that I will never forget: “Didn’t we all come too late?” Gorbachev is for me a hero from a Greek tragedy. He wanted to have a humanized form of socialism, and got a shabby capitalism, pretty much the shabbiest. He wanted a democratized Soviet Union, and got its collapse. And yet he remains one of the great saviors of the second half of the 20th century.
Mr. de Maizière, 75:I always said there was a 10/10 generation — 10 years too long in East Germany to really make a fresh start, and 10 years too young to retire. And that is tragic, because they were the people who for 40 years effectively carried East Germany. And then they were told we don’t need you any more.