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Sample text

Eisenach found itself in a process of becoming something different from what it was before, but what it would become was uncertain and under dispute. Almost everyone agreed that the city had to be renewed, modernized, made presentable. But there was also a palpable impatience with this process. The city’s physical image embodied for residents the gains and losses of unification, the successes and failures of political regimes, cultural virtues and atrocities. A little over 20 years after unification, the tone of everyday life in Eisenach might still be described as uneasy normalcy.

In East Germany this aspect of heritage fetishism enables an avoidance of mourning. It relies on and helps to maintain the fantasy that an untainted national past can be retrieved, that what has been lost or damaged can be returned or made whole again. In this way heritage fetishism appears as a version of what Eric Santner (1992:144) calls narrative fetishism, which he describes as “the way an inability or refusal to mourn emplots traumatic events; it is a strategy of undoing, in fantasy, the need for mourning by simulating a condition of intactness, typically by situating the site and origin of loss elsewhere.

Battleground Eisenach For preservation activists the 1989 revolution seemed to snatch Eisenach’s architectural heritage from the jaws of the socialist state. They would soon conclude, however, that unification had delivered it into the hands of equally menacing forces. Some ominous signs actually appeared shortly after the GDR opened its border to the FRG on 9 November 1989. West German businesses struck out for the east almost as rapidly as East Germans crossed the border in the other direction to get a glimpse of the affluence they had dreamed of for so long.

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