A guy on our team speaks with a very noticeable German accent. I never thought much of it. Another guy is from South Vietnam, another from China, the new person on our team (just today) and my officemate are both from India. If there is anything unusual about the foreigners around the office is that they work harder than the U.S. born people. This guy is no exception. I see emails sent by him from late at night and all weekend.
But he stopped by to talk about stuff last Thursday and we ended up talking about where he grew up. He was born in East Germany. I hadn’t realized that. For some reason I always thought of West Germany whenever I might have considered his origins. He hates the communists. “Communism makes people lazy. Yah!”
I said it always amazes me that experiment has been run so many times and resulted in 10s of millions dead and still people keep wanting to try it again. I told him of someone I know who told me they didn’t think people should own their own houses. The government should own them and allocated them on the basis of need. This person told me, “You and Barb don’t need such a big house. Some other family with a larger family needs it more than you do.”
His eyes narrowed and his jaw clenched. “You tell them I lived that. You tell them to go visit this town. Yah!”, and he showed me a town on a map of Germany. “Not one bomb was dropped on that town during the entire war”, he said. “There was no fighting in that town. But if you go there that town looks like it was all bombed out. When people don’t own their property they don’t care. The roofs, they are all falling down. Yah! You tell him to go there and look for himself.”
After he got married they applied to the housing allocation board for a place to live. There was “nothing available”. But other people who applied after him got really nice places. But they were the children of the people on the board, and the people who had connections to people on the board. After two years the housing board told him that his parents had permission to make some changes to their place (I understood this to be partitions, plumbing, etc.) and then he and his wife could live there.
He told me he graduated, “The best in my class.” But he couldn’t get into college because his family weren’t “good communists”. He got a job in a picture tube factory (television sets I presume) and he did so well the company used its pull to get him a position in school. He got a B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering. Then he got a PhD in Computer Science.
After the Germany’s were reunited his father obtained his secret police file. Every letter to or from West Germany, where some of their family lived, was read and a summary was put in his file. He found out who had spied on him and who said things about him that put his loyalty to the communist party in doubt and stopped his career.
“Joe”, he said, “People complain about how unequal things are with the rich executives in a capitalist society. But it’s just the same under communism–it’s the politically connected that have the money and the people that aren’t connected don’t have anything. I know. I lived it. Communism, it’s very bad.”
I need to ask what he thinks of the plans for health care and the take over of the banking industry, etc. in this country. That should be interesting.