Leaders of a German government-funded foundation tasked with assessing the legacy of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) yesterday stressed the importance of dialogue, education and preservation of memories when dealing with a country’s authoritarian past, after the legislature last month passed the Act on Promoting Transitional Justice (促進轉型正義條例).
Federal Foundation for the Study of Communist Dictatorship in East Germany chairman Rainer Eppelmann and foundation deputy director Robert Gruenbaum discussed their country’s experience of handling the Socialist Unity Party of Germany and its illegally obtained assets at a public forum in Taipei at the invitation of the Executive Yuan’s Ill-gotten Party Assets Settlement Committee.
The foundation was established in 1998 by the Bundestag to clarify historical truths and promote human rights education.
Photo: Chien Jung-fong, Taipei Times
Eppelmann, who spent the first 46 years of his life living under East Germany’s authoritarian regime, said it is imperative to legally restore the reputation of political victims, but it is equally important to let them tell their stories and share their experiences.
“The purpose of doing so is to prevent people today and tomorrow from committing the same mistakes and to preserve the memories of what happened in the past,” Eppelmann said.
Dialogue with the perpetrators is a must, as most of them have been living with the fear that others will find out about who they once were and will do to them what they used to do to others.
That is why efforts should be made to let perpetrators know that people are not looking for retaliation, but rather seeking an explanation and a sincere apology, he said.
“People living in the same society must talk to each other and explain themselves. Otherwise, how could we live together?” he said.
At a time when more people than ever are born in democratic societies and take democracy for granted, it is all the more important to teach people about authoritarianism and the values of democracy, Eppelmann said.
Younger Germans do not have any any experience of the country’s auhoritarian past, so the government has attempted to teach them what people’s lives used to be like, Gruenbaum said.
“It is vital to incorporate history about East Germany into college education, because only when college students have a clear understanding of that part of history can they pass the knowledge onto the next generation,” Gruenbaum said.
The forum was overshadowed by members of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) protesting against government efforts to recover the party’s illegitimately gained assets and remove past authoritarian symbols. Eppelmann was asked how such protests should be dealt with.
“Protests are normal, as long as they are not violent,” he said.
Eppelmann from Monday to yesterday led a three-member delegation to Taiwan, which met with officials from the assets committee, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Culture and the Mainland Affairs Council.
They also visited sites of cultural significance, including Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and the National 228 Memorial Museum.
‘CORNERED ENEMY’: China’s rise is threatening peace and stability, and the US would aim to restrict it with help from allies in the Asia-Pacific, Soong Hseik-wen said A draft bill on protecting Taiwan from invasion is likely to be passed by the US Congress, but it remains to be seen how US President Joe Biden’s administration would implement the act if it is passed, Taiwanese academics said on Sunday. US Senator Rick Scott and US Representative Guy Reschenthaler on Thursday reintroduced the proposed Taiwan Invasion Prevention Act, which was shelved in September last year due to the impending US presidential election. Arthur Ding (丁樹範), a professor at National Chengchi University’s College of International Affairs, and Soong Hseik-wen (宋學文), a professor at National Chung Cheng University’s Graduate Institute
OVERHAUL NEEDED: The government should improve its agricultural processing capabilities and expand to new markets to limit its reliance on China, an expert said China’s ban on Taiwanese pineapples was “unsurprising,” and Taiwan should have years ago altered its produce export strategies and target customers, experts said. China on Friday abruptly suspended imports of pineapples from Taiwan, saying that it had on multiple occasions discovered “harmful biological entities” on the fruit. Calling it an “unfriendly” move, the Council of Agriculture (COA) said that 99.79 percent of the pineapples sent to China since last year have met China’s import standards. Chiao Chun (焦鈞), the author of Fruits and Politics — A Recollection of Cross-strait Agricultural Interaction Over the Past Decade (水果政治學：兩岸農業交流十年回顧與展望), said that China’s announcement is clearly targeting
‘NOT COLD ENOUGH’: Schools are disregarding Premier Su Tseng-chang’s instruction that students may wear out-of-uniform clothing to stay warm, an association said An investigative report revealed that 72.5 percent of the nation’s senior-high schools and 95.6 percent of junior-high schools punish students for wearing unapproved winter clothes in contravention of educational guidelines, lawmakers and student rights advocates said yesterday. Speaking at a news conference at the Legislative Yuan, the Taiwan Youth Association for Democracy said there is an endemic disregard for the Ministry of Education’s regulations and that private schools are more likely to contravene ministry rules. The report is a compilation of 2,856 student reports about dress code reinforcement at 425 high schools and vocational high schools, the association said. Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌)
DISSATISFACTION? If the referendums collect more than 700,000 signatures each, they would have gotten the most signatures in the shortest time, the party said The Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) two referendum petitions — one on banning the importation of pork with traces of ractopamine and the other on holding referendums on the same day as national elections — had as of Thursday gathered 691,398 and 674,497 signatures respectively, the party said yesterday. If the petitions collect more than 700,000 signatures apiece, they would have garnered the most signatures in the shortest time since the Referendum Act (公民投票法) was amended in 2017, party officials said. The KMT proposed the “anti-ractopamine pork” or “food safety” referendum just days after President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) announcement on Aug. 28 last