© Karsten Thielker

Germany in conversation: How do we want to live together?

Dialogue with and among citizens is at the heart of the Federal Government’s anniversary year activities. The “Germany in conversation” initiative has given twin towns within Germany the opportunity to come together and engage in open and critical exchange about the process of German reunification. Matthias Platzeck, the Chair of the Commission on the 30th Anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution and German Reunification, describes the fundamental idea of these meeting and dialogue events as follows: “Thirty years into German reunification, we still need to work on drawing East and West closer together. We want to renew people’s interest in one another and, by doing so, reduce prejudices.”

Germany in conversation: How do we want to live together? – Online

The dialogue series “Germany in conversation: How do we want to live together? – Online” engaged citizens from twin towns on either side of the former border in a discussion of the unification process. From 24 August 2020 to 2 September 2020, six dialogue events took place in the form of moderated online discussions. Each event focused on a topic which the Commission on the 30th Anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution and German Unity had identified as particularly relevant to current political and social issues during its work in the anniversary year. Thirty years after Germany’s unification, questions arose such as how the Day of German Unity should be celebrated in the future, whether there are separate East and West German mentalities and whether they still play a role today, or what contribution voluntary work can make in the ongoing unification process.

Members of the Commission took part in the online discussions. Participants in the six meetings and dialogue events organised between November 2019 and March 2020 in the series “Germany in conversation: How do we want to live together?” and citizens from the 20 cities whose dialogue events had to be cancelled as of March 2020 due to measures to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) were invited to the discussion.

Review of the events “Germany in conversation: How do we want to live together?

At a dialogue event in Rostock, a participant speaks with the person sitting next to him. In the background, participants are sitting at round tables holding discussions.

In moderated workshops, participants in “Germany in conversation” were able to share and discuss their thoughts on the crucial question “How do we want to live together?”. They talked about their experiences in the past 30 years, as well as the successes and challenges of the reunification process. They also discussed their ideas for greater social cohesion and for creating equivalent living conditions in all parts of Germany. The outcomes of these conversations, which were guided and evaluated by academic experts, will be incorporated into recommendations for political action that will be presented to the Federal Government at the end of 2020.

Along with the moderated discussions, the events also featured shared meals and a varied programme of cultural offerings, giving plenty of opportunities for conversation.

School pupils from the twin towns took part in all the events. They attended the dialogues and produced reports on them. As part of a media workshop, they conducted interviews on a topic of their choice at the event location with living witnesses to past events, dialogue participants and passers-by. They examined the topics of the peaceful revolution and German unity, adding their own perspective as young people.

As ten of the 16 planned meetings and dialogue events had to be cancelled as of March 2020 due to measures to curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus), an online format for the dialogue series has been developed.

Two men and a woman are engrossed in a conversation during a dialogue event in Heilbronn.
Jan Josef Liefers, a member of the Commission on the 30th Anniversary of the Peaceful Revolution and German Reunification, participates in dialogues on the question “How do we want to live together?”
During the moderated workshop, participants select the topics that they consider most important.