The Klemms: A Family in Jena

Dad pours tea for sonThis is Uwe Klemm, (left) at whose home I stayed for two nights in Jena.Son, Johannes, shows his smile He is married and has two children, a boy (Johannes, right) and a girl. There are children in East Germany, even very young ones, but it is not frequent now in East Germany to see many babies, or pregnant women. The birth rate has dropped off markedly from the daysof the DDR, because under that regime there were marked advantages to having children in terms of child allowances and housing from the state. Now,financially, times are uncertain, and there are no more incentives and so the birthrate is at a low. Uwe's wife, Katrin, is an elementary school teacher, who has taken time off to raise her children. I watched her produce non-stop activities for a group of children for a whole afternoon. The kids were having a birthday party, which was then continued in the garden.

Seven children celebrate a birthday

High school students involved in an e-mail projectUwe and I discussed the E-Mail Project with which we are both involved. His students (left) were corresponding with a high school in Colorado. The students in Colorado had seen the movie "Schindler's List." So had the students in Jena. They exchanged comments on the film, and a discussion arose: a high school student in Colorado asked if they felt guilty about the past, and about the former East German regime, and what it had done. The student in Colorado had mixed the Nazi and the Communist regimes in her mind. The students in Jena found this puzzling and corresponded with the students in Colorado,insisting that though East Germany had been a repressive regime, it should not be confused with the Nazi regime,and that the atrocities of World War 2 had happened in the time of their grandfathers. It seemed to me a fitting use of the medium, to clarify and rectify this sort of mis-understanding or non-understanding. Concerning the Nazi past, Uwe personally feels like there is justification for a nation like Germany bearing guilt,like a mark of Cain, that there is such a thing as Volksschuld, the guilt of a people.

Later, after the children were in bed, his wife joined us. Katrin talked about feeling disaffected as far as the state or politics were concerned. She said she had been a good student in the GDR years (the former East Germany years.) She talked about a paper she had written at the high-school level for a Marxism-Leninism course, on which she got an A-plus for proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that communism would be victorious over capitalism in the future. Right now, she says, she believes in nothing. Katrin is happy at this point that her husband has a good job. It is obvious that her values and her future are posited in her young family.

Klemm and Hubatsch talk things overThe Klemms have an apartment in an eighty year old building a little bit away from the center of Jena. The owners - it turned out after the fall of the GDR regime - were living in the West. The owners don't have the money to fix the place upright now, so the Klemms pay what they feel is an appropriate rent. They also sublet one large room to a student, and Katrin brings in a little bit of money taking care of a boy - one of her son Hannes' friends - in the afternoons. The family car wasn't running at the moment, but they didn't seem to care. They rely on their new bicycles or goon foot. Everything they need is in the neighborhood. They have a CD player and a computer, but not much else in the way of fancy appliances. While most Americans would think they were not well off, they are doing fairly well by East German circumstances,considering their age and backgrounds.

For Student Exercises in English and German to Part 4 click here!

Proceed to Part 5. Building, Housing and Work in Jena or, switch to another Part:

1. Berlin and Environs
2. Freiburg: Living the Good Life
3. Jena and Environs: Work in East Germany
4. The Klemms: an East German family -Top ofthis page
6. Kahla, an East German Success Story
7. Buchenwald and Beyond: The continuing legacy of the Holocaust
8. Duisburg: The East-West Unification Blues

9. Return to Index