The Wonder of a Unified Germany

As JFK boldly stated… “Ich bin ein Berliner.” So am I.

In 1983, I was fortunate to have been awarded a Fellowship, called a Rotary Group Study Exchange, from the US to the West German Rotary District around Hanover. In addition to Northern Saxony, the team also spent a long weekend in West and East Berlin. During that five weeks, I became an international citizen.

There have been very few international events that have drawn my interest and fascination more that the plight of the this country cut in two by opposing political factions.

One of the most emotional events that happened while the five of us were visiting was at a local Rotary club in West Germany. The club president requested that one of our GSE team (who was an accomplished tenor) sing the US National Anthem…  He shocked the host president by stating that he would do so only on one condition… they the club sing their National Hymn. Carl launched himself into a wonderful, a cappella rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. After he had completed his end of this agreement the German Rotarians, including the NATO General siting immediately across from me, started singing their National Hymn.  Although the tune was robust, it was immediately obvious that there was some problem, some disagreement with the words until late in the hymn when they all, somehow, came together. After this, everybody sat and started lunch. One of the local Rotarians turned to our group and remarked, “that was extraordinary.” He then proceeded to explain that when Germany had been split that the National Hymn of West Germany had become the 3rd verse of the same National Hymn, and that recently some Germans had begun singing the 1st verse again as a statement for reunification. It seems that this club of community leaders had split the verses, some singing the more correct 3rd verse and some singing the reunification 1st verse (remember this is 1983, 6+years before the wall fell). Eventually they all completed singing their Hymn, singing the 1st verse. It was both a bold and radical statement of reunification for this group.

More that 26 years has past since that day. The wall, or ‘frontier’ as they called it, has fallen. The eastern block has tumbled. I have become a Rotarian here in San Jose, CA. I still treasure that moment when that Rotary Club in West Germany, who had lived in their Germany, in two parts, for almost 22 years, made a reunification statement both to themselves and to their guest from the USA. Those Rotarians became a piece of who I am today… Thank you and Godspeed in your reunification journey.  J

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