The Brexit Encounter – by an EU Citizen in London

Our son, Thomas, attending LSE in London, shares his Brexit experience.

Flooded London

On the night of the referendum, I found myself at a ‘Brexit Results Night’ event in the common room of my postgraduate student accommodation. As we were watching the votes from various counties of the UK trickle in, beers in our hands, there were casual debates over what would happen if the country actually decided to leave the European Union. Despite some apprehensive glances at the numbers, none of us took the possibility of this outcome seriously. I only managed to stay awake until about 1am to follow the live TV coverage, though I know many who were up the whole night. I went to bed thinking that the whole thing was nothing but a political spectacle; overblown and unlikely to succeed anyways.

As I presume many others did, the first thing I did when waking up was to google the result of the referendum. To my shock and dismay, the British public had voted (with a 52% majority) in favour of Brexit. David Cameron had given an emotional speech announcing his resignation. Motions of no confidence had been passed by Labour MPs with the aim of removing Jeremy Corbyn from its leadership. Scotland had agreed to legislate for a second independence referendum. Various European politicians had taken Brexit as a cue for movements towards their own country leaving the EU.

A large part of my day was then filled with browsing Facebook and reading posts from (university-aged) friends, who, unsurprisingly, were aghast and absolutely crestfallen at the decision that had been made. My news feed was rife with accusations of racism, xenophobia, and foolishness, with only few admitting defeat. Above all, there was a seething resentment towards the older population who had voted overwhelmingly in favour of leaving; a palpable sense of betrayal by a generation who appeared ignorant towards a globalising world, and uncaring of the younger generation’s employment prospects. Nothing had whipped up social media into a frenzy quite as much as this had. The collective outrage and disappointment left me reeling.

On the Saturday following the referendum, I was quietly working near an open window on the top floor of my university’s library. Suddenly, I heard a deafening roar booming through the skies. Looking outside, I saw a squad of jets flying in formation and releasing red, blue, and white smoke into the sky. ‘The colours of the Union Jack, They must be celebrating their independence!’, I said to my neighbour. ‘I hate this country’, she replied.

Thanks for your contribution, Thomas.

Remembering Willy Brandt and the East-West Conflict

Yesterday afternoon, our work group Arbeitskreis Camp King was visited by a special guest speaker, Günther Vieser, to talk of the time, when he was working side by side with the former chancellor, Willy Brandt, from 1979 – 1982. At that time, Mr. Vieser was Brandt’s advisor, when he was Chairman of the Social Democrats.

One of the topics in question was of how much former chancellor Brandt’s doings contributed to solving the East-West conflict versus Chancellor Kohl, who reigned at the time, when the wall came down. Another question was what it was like to work with him on a professional and personal level. Of course, the spy Guillaume from the East German State was also mentioned and it was questioned why he chose Oberursel as his first place of residence in the West. For several months, Guillaume had rented an apartment downtown Oberursel, at the Homm Kreisel. In 1974, Chancellor Brandt resigned over the espionage scandal.

Mr. Vieser’s informative talk lasted close to two hours and we not only got a refresher course in modern history, but also heard some personal stories and tidbits.

After the talk, one of the visitors approached me. She said she remembers one time Willy Brandt came on an official visit to Oberursel. At that time, she was working for the Deutsche Rote Kreuz (DRK) (German Red Cross), and she confirmed how grown up women acted like teenagers as soon as Brandt showed up, with women screaming and occasionally fainting during his visit.

On his other visits to Oberursel, he would also meet with other young politicians of that time: Jürgen Habermas, Oskar Negt, and Joschka Fischer. They would stay at the former Villa Gans, which the state of Hessen had turned over to the Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB) in commemoration after WWII – as a place for Völkerverständigung und des Aufbaus der Demokratie (international relations and founding democracy).

I like the idea, that the beginning of democracy in modern Germany started with parties on a garden patio.

That same place is now the Dorint Hotel Frankfurt/Oberursel (140 rooms, including 15 suites).



Günther Viesner presentation about his work with Willy Brandt

Günther Vieser talked about his work life with Willy Brandt

Mayor Brum also had a few welcoming words for the guest speaker.

Mayor Brum of Oberursel

Mayor Brum of Oberursel

Special thanks to Sylvia Struck, who is in charge of our ‘Work Group Camp King’, for putting together this event.

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