How the Berlin Wall went up, and how it came down, are well-worn memories, and people talk about them easily and often. It’s a conversation that takes in the illegitimate DDR, the peaceful revolution, and the reunited Germany. As a collective narrative, however, it leaves out something crucial: the last, third generation of East Germans.

We, the young East Germans, were perhaps eight or ten years old when the Wall fell. The greater parts of our lives have now been lived in the reunified Germany, with all its freedoms. We have arrived, we've left behind the old East-West divide. Yes, we almost believed it ourselves.

But the Wall is in us. We still have a few faded memories of the first Pioneer afternoons. Some of us, blindly trusting parents and teachers, wore red carnations on anniversaries. Others felt stunned when our parents’ application for an exit visa was rejected. Shame and pride, before and after, nestle close together.

But it’s not just that. The Wall was torn down twenty years ago, but we still sense it today in our families. Today it divides parents from children, and it determines how we remember and what we remember.

With the fall of the GDR came a drastic loss of direction. Suddenly, not only was the imprisoning side of the Wall gone: its sheltering aspect was too. With it vanished a country that not many people had loved, but that almost everyone had a place in. From one day to the next, our parents had to solve problems that they had never encountered before. They had to catch up and grope their way along in a system that was different from the one they had dreamed of. A terse letter from a lawyer or an insurance company could bring on an attack of existential fear, because no one knew what it really meant.

All of a sudden, the visions of life our parents had went blank. It seemed that what they had lived through had been all wrong. Suddenly, waking up in the new Germany, they discovered they were weak. Permanent waves and the Christian Democratic Union never kept their promises, but that was something they had to figure out for themselves. Whether one was the child of a worker, a minister or a functionary no longer meant anything. None of them had any idea. All of them were overwhelmed.

This uncertainty in our families, but in broader society as well, binds us, the third generation of East Germany, together. Our grandparents went through the war. They worked hard at building the GDR and at starting new lives. Our parents, coming along in the Fifties and Sixties, grew up knowing no other country.

Between 1975 and 1985 about 2.4 million babies were born in the GDR. They grew up as the third generation of a country that is no longer on the map. We, too, had no experience with the new system, but we were young and we had nothing to lose. For us, there were more opportunities than risks out there. We even explained to our parents a little about how the world works.

The flip side of the deep uncertainty of these times is a selective memory when it comes to the GDR. Our parents hide themselves away in memories long cut and dried. They say little about the past, and today they mostly just talk about things that don't make them uncomfortable. They don’t want to jeopardise their newly-won identities. So they tell stories from their lives that are full of holes, but bearable. They talk about the collective they all worked in, or the Monday demonstrations and organised holiday trips. But we young ones let them get away with this. We’ve never asked questions about it ourselves, till now. We kept quiet.

Quiet, because we didn’t want to make their world more complicated and messy. We were there when they bought a new car, made their first trips to the West, lost their jobs, took refuge in their little gardens.

We kept quiet, too, when the GDR and the post-regime time were talked about in public. We were very young then and did not fit into a discourse that produced such one-sided interpretations of history. And who wanted to step out in public as an East German? We are integrated and aspirational, ambitious and often more capitalist than many in the West. We preferred shedding our origins to talking about them with others.

The prize for this silent peace is that we have forgotten to ask: “How was it, then, to live under totalitarian rule? Why did it last so long? How did it feel when you were told that you have to join the army, or you won’t get into university? Where’s your Stasi file, so I can read it?” These questions must be asked, so that we may go on to a new discourse, one more complex and contradictory than the old one.

We don't want to be left with a choice between seeing the GDR simply as an illegitimate state or a piece of stale nostalgia. To voice the unspoken words means finally breaking down the walls in our families.