“People are whitewashing the dictatorship, as if reproaching the state meant calling their own past into question. "Many eastern Germans perceive all criticism of the system as a personal attack," says political scientist Klaus Schroeder, 59, director of an institute at Berlin's Free University that studies the former communist state. He warns against efforts to downplay the SED dictatorship by young people whose knowledge about the GDR is derived mainly from family conversations, and not as much from what they have learned in school. "Not even half of young people in eastern Germany describe the GDR as a dictatorship, and a majority believe the Stasi was a normal intelligence service," Schroeder concluded in a 2008 study of school students. "These young people cannot, and in fact have no desire to, recognize the dark sides of the GDR."
[...] Schroeder has made enemies with statements like these. He received more than 4,000 letters, some of them furious, in reaction to reporting on his study. The 30-year-old Birger also sent an e-mail to Schroeder. The political scientist has now compiled a selection of typical letters to document the climate of opinion in which the GDR and unified Germany are discussed in eastern Germany. Some of the material gives a shocking insight into the thoughts of disappointed and angry citizens. "From today's perspective, I believe that we were driven out of paradise when the Wall came down," one person writes, and a 38-year-old man "thanks God" that he was able to experience living in the GDR, noting that it wasn't until after German reunification that he witnessed people who feared for their existence, beggars and homeless people.
Today's Germany is described as a "slave state" and a "dictatorship of capital," and some letter writers reject Germany for being, in their opinion, too capitalist or dictatorial, and certainly not democratic. Schroeder finds such statements alarming. "I am afraid that a majority of eastern Germans do not identify with the current sociopolitical system.”