Interview with K. Witt: “You don't talk about the pain” by Anja Maier and Katrin Gottschalk

text_skate

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1,271
The weekend edition of the German daily newpaper “taz” has a 16-page special about the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago. There is a 2-page interview with Katharina Witt. “A conversation about hard training, heroes of the East and men at the stove.”

Please click on link: https://taz.de/!5636400/
_Due to copyrights the pictures are not online.
_Excerpts translated with the help of deepl-tranlator. I shortened the interview about a third. I focused mostly on the figure skating related subjects. The political aspects are alo interesting, you may see for yourself with the the translator of you choice ;). Enjoy!

taz: Mrs. Witt, we have here photos from your time in Karl-Marx-Stadt.
KW: Oh, look at that. Mrs. Müller and I in the training hall in Chemnitz! Oh God, how great, I must have been about thirteen.

Who do you see in these pictures, who were you then?
That's a different girl than the one I remember. Short hair, very boyish, more like a boy. And I'm looking pretty seriously, Mrs. Müller is obviously telling me what's going on. I listen and am a bit scared.

She was your coach from 1977, had an almost soldierly charisma. How strict was this Mrs. Müller really?
Mrs. Müller was even stricter than you would imagine. (laughs) She wanted the best of us, that's the coaching job. Sometimes she had to be extreme without you taking it personally and immediately calling the lawyer, as it is today. After all, the sport was also a serious matter for me. If it didn't work out, you took it to heart. An athlete basically has to be able to go beyond his pain threshold every day, to patiently repeat even boring things.
[...]
Are you a heroine?
Not at all. Heroes are others. I was a competitive athlete and stood my ground, also under immense pressure. We did perform, but we weren't heroes, we didn't rebel against something. For me, heroes are the people who took to the streets in 1989. They showed courage, backbone. In sports, I had what I wanted to do.

How is it that there are so few heroes and heroines from the East in the German narrative today?
I notice that there is still a separation. When, for example, after the death of Sigmund Jähn, the first German in space from the GDR, I shared an older photo of both of us on Instagram, these reactions came from the East: one of us, one of our heroes, one of our side. I also get these reactions about myself. Also my life took place before 89 and after 89. Of course we heard Nena and Modern Talking - but "with us" I say when it has to do with my former country. Even if I don't want this back. Now there are other heroes, for many it will be Greta Thunberg.

When Sigmund Jähn had died, a debate developed as to whether someone who had been Major General of the GDR would be a good hero. How do you see that?
I think it is right that these discussions should take place. But that's like saying to the athletes from the GDR: You couldn't have been heroes, because you represented a dictatorship. Sigmund Jähn and I grew up in the GDR and went to school. Jähn was the first German to fly into space. What do you want to accuse him of?

What else are you accused of in 2019? You were long regarded as a SED profiteer.
Actually nothing. (laughs) Sure, there was a time when I polarized a lot. At the end of the day everyone, whether East or West, says that I have maintained my opinion, my attitude in a good way. I owe everything to my country and the sports system, to my trainer, to my parents. Nevertheless, I didn't go around the world with my eyes closed, I saw that sport was the area where people like me could make their dreams come true. In other areas this was not possible, and of course it was bad for those affected. Others were told what to learn, what to study.
[...]
You are known for protecting your private life very well. Recently, however, you told a very personal story. For the portrait book "Ostfrauen verändern die Republik" you described how your parents felt after the fall of communism.
Stop it, I'll start crying again.

Your father became unemployed and you supported your parents for years. A very East German experience. How do you deal with it as a child?
I was 23 years old at the time. My parents, who are over eighty today, were just as old then as I am today. They always tried to keep problems away from us children. This upheaval at the beginning of the nineties, the pain that went along with it, the injuries, that's what's happening now. Our parents are only now beginning to talk openly, and that is new for us, their children.

More about Witt family, and what happened after the fall of the Wall: skills no longer in demand, East Germans were used to solve problems as in “We came from a country where - if you will excuse the expression - crap was made into sweets”. They were not entrepreneurs. After fall everybody had to fight for pensions, recognition of degrees etc.

KW: […] That is the problem today: these people feel, they are being treated second-class. I even experienced this with my Frau Müller.

What happened?

This world-class trainer was really “put on ice” (=sidelined). The rivalries between the East German and West German skating federations broke out completely. We were the more successful in the past years, we had the world champions, the Olympic champions. There you already had this feeling: You lost, and now we'll tell you what's what. So even here, in this manageable area, we didn't manage to bring together the best experiences from both systems. There was a great arrogance, such a condescending winning mentality.

Did you personally feel that, too?
No. Fortunately, I belong to this generation for whom the doors have once again opened wide. With our school education, our way of making the best of things, we have come through these thirty years well. My generation had so many opportunities. I was able to get off to a good start as a professional again, I certainly wouldn't have had that opportunity in the GDR.

[...]

More about reception of GDR nowadays, people talk differently, look back differently. A lot of is kept quiet on a personal level, because it is painful

So you'd rather keep the past quiet?
I find the whole debate enormously important from a social point of view. But in my private life it is difficult, I sense a great deal of sadness and bitterness. You know, my parents are fine. I was able to absorb them economically. Nevertheless, this time was difficult, especially for men. Actually, fathers should take care of their children and not children for their parents. Today this is more natural than 20 years ago. As younger children we should be a bit generous and generous.
[...]

After the Second World War Witt’s mother came from Hinterpommern (today Poland), her father from Bessarabia (part lies today in Moldova)

Then we will come to your home Chemnitz ...
I don't even know what my home is. On Instagram I always write about my "old homeland".

What is the new home then?
Brandenburg and Berlin, this is where I live.

Your old home Chemnitz, at any rate, is currently applying for the title of Capital of Culture in 2025. You spoke positively about this six months ago.
I would like Chemnitz to manage that, yes.
[...]

They talk about Chemnitz and what happened a year ago. They talk about right-wing extremism, about Nazis.

Freedom was fought for in the autumn of 1989. The most obvious question of all is: Where were you on 9 November 1989?
I was in Seville, Spain. I had shot the "Carmen on Ice" film. So I was on the ice - where else? We were shooting at night when our producer came to the set. A former Dresden native, a refugee from the republic. He came and said in Saxon: The Wall has fallen. I: How? That was completely absurd. Then we finished shooting, around 6 o'clock in the morning I drove back to the hotel, turned on the television and saw these pictures. I was sitting on the bed, staring at the TV and couldn't even figure out what was happening.

You were still a GDR citizen in 1989, but you had actually already left. They had already achieved freedom.
That is always so exaggerated. I still lived in the GDR and was still at home there. I did not have infinite freedom. I always had to fight for it for the respective project, in this case for "Carmen on Ice".

Then we forget the boundless freedom ...
... but of course I lived in my own bubble, where everything was a bit more generous. But it wasn't like I had a passport and could drive wherever I wanted. I had to register that.

We actually wanted to go beyond your horizon of experience.
They accused me of that. Relatively fast, maybe already on 10 November a television station was with me on the set in Sevilla and asked me what I would think about the opening of the wall now. And then I said that it was great. And that I would grant my countrymen that they could finally travel. I also said: I have seen the world and not all that glitters is gold - so give people time. And for that I was called a "SED Ziege (=goat)" and a "red sock".
[...]

What is the difference between Eastern and Western women?
We grew up much more naturally at eye level with the men, as our parents' generation had already exemplified. My parents both worked. They shared the household and went to the ironing room together with the laundry over their arm.

But your parents were very progressive. In the GDR the women actually worked twice as hard: full-time at work and then at home for just as long ....
I also know my dad scrubbing in the apartment. He always cooked, too. In general, I only know that the men are standing in the kitchen, not the women. My brother, my uncle, my dad - we had men at the stove.
[...]

Katrin Gottschalk is deputy editor-in-chief of the taz and, like Witt, comes from Saxony.
Anja Maier is parliamentary editor of the taz and has gone through all times with “Gold-Kati” (the way the German press called her).
 
Last edited:

skatfan

Well-Known Member
Messages
5,977
The weekend edition of the German daily newpaper “taz” has a 16-page special about the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago. There is a 2-page interview with Katharina Witt. “A conversation about hard training, heroes of the East and men at the stove.”

Please click on link: https://taz.de/!5636400/
_Due to copyrights the pictures are not online.
_Excerpts translated with the help of deepl-tranlator. I shortened the interview about a third. I focused mostly on the figure skating related subjects. The political aspects are alo interesting, you may see for yourself with the the translator of you choice ;). Enjoy!

taz: Mrs. Witt, we have here photos from your time in Karl-Marx-Stadt.
KW: Oh, look at that. Mrs. Müller and I in the training hall in Chemnitz! Oh God, how great, I must have been about thirteen.

Who do you see in these pictures, who were you then?
That's a different girl than the one I remember. Short hair, very boyish, more like a boy. And I'm looking pretty seriously, Mrs. Müller is obviously telling me what's going on. I listen and am a bit scared.

She was your coach from 1977, had an almost soldierly charisma. How strict was this Mrs. Müller really?
Mrs. Müller was even stricter than you would imagine. (laughs) She wanted the best of us, that's the coaching job. Sometimes she had to be extreme without you taking it personally and immediately calling the lawyer, as it is today. After all, the sport was also a serious matter for me. If it didn't work out, you took it to heart. An athlete basically has to be able to go beyond his pain threshold every day, to patiently repeat even boring things.
[...]
Are you a heroine?
Not at all. Heroes are others. I was a competitive athlete and stood my ground, also under immense pressure. We did perform, but we weren't heroes, we didn't rebel against something. For me, heroes are the people who took to the streets in 1989. They showed courage, backbone. In sports, I had what I wanted to do.

How is it that there are so few heroes and heroines from the East in the German narrative today?
I notice that there is still a separation. When, for example, after the death of Sigmund Jähn, the first German in space from the GDR, I shared an older photo of both of us on Instagram, these reactions came from the East: one of us, one of our heroes, one of our side. I also get these reactions about myself. Also my life took place before 89 and after 89. Of course we heard Nena and Modern Talking - but "with us" I say when it has to do with my former country. Even if I don't want this back. Now there are other heroes, for many it will be Greta Thunberg.

When Sigmund Jähn had died, a debate developed as to whether someone who had been Major General of the GDR would be a good hero. How do you see that?
I think it is right that these discussions should take place. But that's like saying to the athletes from the GDR: You couldn't have been heroes, because you represented a dictatorship. Sigmund Jähn and I grew up in the GDR and went to school. Jähn was the first German to fly into space. What do you want to accuse him of?

What else are you accused of in 2019? You were long regarded as a SED profiteer.
Actually nothing. (laughs) Sure, there was a time when I polarized a lot. At the end of the day everyone, whether East or West, says that I have maintained my opinion, my attitude in a good way. I owe everything to my country and the sports system, to my trainer, to my parents. Nevertheless, I didn't go around the world with my eyes closed, I saw that sport was the area where people like me could make their dreams come true. In other areas this was not possible, and of course it was bad for those affected. Others were told what to learn, what to study.
[...]
You are known for protecting your private life very well. Recently, however, you told a very personal story. For the portrait book "Ostfrauen verändern die Republik" you described how your parents felt after the fall of communism.
Stop it, I'll start crying again.

Your father became unemployed and you supported your parents for years. A very East German experience. How do you deal with it as a child?
I was 23 years old at the time. My parents, who are over eighty today, were just as old then as I am today. They always tried to keep problems away from us children. This upheaval at the beginning of the nineties, the pain that went along with it, the injuries, that's what's happening now. Our parents are only now beginning to talk openly, and that is new for us, their children.

More about Witt family, and what happened after the fall of the Wall: skills no longer in demand, East Germans were used to solve problems as in “We came from a country where - if you will excuse the expression - crap was made into sweets”. They were not entrepreneurs. After fall everybody had to fight for pensions, recognition of degrees etc.

KW: […] That is the problem today: these people feel, they are being treated second-class. I even experienced this with my Frau Müller.

What happened?

This world-class trainer was really “put on ice” (=sidelined). The rivalries between the East German and West German skating federations broke out completely. We were the more successful in the past years, we had the world champions, the Olympic champions. There you already had this feeling: You lost, and now we'll tell you what's what. So even here, in this manageable area, we didn't manage to bring together the best experiences from both systems. There was a great arrogance, such a condescending winning mentality.

Did you personally feel that, too?
No. Fortunately, I belong to this generation for whom the doors have once again opened wide. With our school education, our way of making the best of things, we have come through these thirty years well. My generation had so many opportunities. I was able to get off to a good start as a professional again, I certainly wouldn't have had that opportunity in the GDR.

[...]

More about reception of GDR nowadays, people talk differently, look back differently. A lot of is kept quiet on a personal level, because it is painful

So you'd rather keep the past quiet?
I find the whole debate enormously important from a social point of view. But in my private life it is difficult, I sense a great deal of sadness and bitterness. You know, my parents are fine. I was able to absorb them economically. Nevertheless, this time was difficult, especially for men. Actually, fathers should take care of their children and not children for their parents. Today this is more natural than 20 years ago. As younger children we should be a bit generous and generous.
[...]

After the Second World War Witt’s mother came from Hinterpommern (today Poland), her father from Bessarabia (part lies today in Moldova)

Then we will come to your home Chemnitz ...
I don't even know what my home is. On Instagram I always write about my "old homeland".

What is the new home then?
Brandenburg and Berlin, this is where I live.

Your old home Chemnitz, at any rate, is currently applying for the title of Capital of Culture in 2025. You spoke positively about this six months ago.
I would like Chemnitz to manage that, yes.
[...]

They talk about Chemnitz and what happened a year ago. They talk about right-wing extremism, about Nazis.

Freedom was fought for in the autumn of 1989. The most obvious question of all is: Where were you on 9 November 1989?
I was in Seville, Spain. I had shot the "Carmen on Ice" film. So I was on the ice - where else? We were shooting at night when our producer came to the set. A former Dresden native, a refugee from the republic. He came and said in Saxon: The Wall has fallen. I: How? That was completely absurd. Then we finished shooting, around 6 o'clock in the morning I drove back to the hotel, turned on the television and saw these pictures. I was sitting on the bed, staring at the TV and couldn't even figure out what was happening.

You were still a GDR citizen in 1989, but you had actually already left. They had already achieved freedom.
That is always so exaggerated. I still lived in the GDR and was still at home there. I did not have infinite freedom. I always had to fight for it for the respective project, in this case for "Carmen on Ice".

Then we forget the boundless freedom ...
... but of course I lived in my own bubble, where everything was a bit more generous. But it wasn't like I had a passport and could drive wherever I wanted. I had to register that.

We actually wanted to go beyond your horizon of experience.
They accused me of that. Relatively fast, maybe already on 10 November a television station was with me on the set in Sevilla and asked me what I would think about the opening of the wall now. And then I said that it was great. And that I would grant my countrymen that they could finally travel. I also said: I have seen the world and not all that glitters is gold - so give people time. And for that I was called a "SED Ziege (=goat)" and a "red sock".
[...]

What is the difference between Eastern and Western women?
We grew up much more naturally at eye level with the men, as our parents' generation had already exemplified. My parents both worked. They shared the household and went to the ironing room together with the laundry over their arm.

But your parents were very progressive. In the GDR the women actually worked twice as hard: full-time at work and then at home for just as long ....
I also know my dad scrubbing in the apartment. He always cooked, too. In general, I only know that the men are standing in the kitchen, not the women. My brother, my uncle, my dad - we had men at the stove.
[...]

Katrin Gottschalk is deputy editor-in-chief of the taz and, like Witt, comes from Saxony.
Anja Maier is parliamentary editor of the taz and has gone through all times with “Gold-Kati” (the way the German press called her).
\
Thanks for translating. What an interesting window into German culture.
 

kittysk8ts

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,820
Oh my goodness that was excellent. I now want to read all of it. Thank you so much for this.
 

olympic

Well-Known Member
Messages
10,207
Wow. I remember thinking back in 1990 when the wall came down that a united Germany would be formidable, considering the talent from both countries. She explains why that didn’t happen
 

Ananas Astra

It's Christmas, what's the difference?
Messages
12,154
It was quite an interesting interview and it made me re-think my perception of Witt.
Which means I kinda like her now.
 

Eisfee

Well-Known Member
Messages
281
It was quite an interesting interview and it made me re-think my perception of Witt.
Which means I kinda like her now.
I loved her with all my heart from my childhood on. But I'm also lived in the GDR!;-) I wish I could have seen her once live in competition. But we couldn't travel all over the world!!
So now I enjoy it even more to go and watch Worlds or Europeans live!
 
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