I am the descendant of a family of daily labourers and uneducated individuals. My oldest known ancestor, Dahm Joeres or Dahm Gores, was born around 1680 in Brandenberg, a small village with about 600 inhabitants today in the middle-range German mountains of the Eifel about 50 km from Cologne. I was born in Dueren, which is only about 15 km from Brandenberg. So, it took my family 300 years to come down the mountains because they lacked any economic and social and thus geographical mobility.
The educational level of my ancestors improved somewhat once Prussia took over the Rhineland and introduced basic education for all. My great grandparents were house wife, wine farmer, train conductor, home decorator (Stuckateur) or assistant accountant. Only my grandmother’s family (on my mother’s side) were members of the small bourgeoisie in Dueren before World War I as their crafts business could benefit from decorating the homes of the growing upper class in Dueren. However, they lost most of their fortune in the 1923 inflation. My parents were the first in their families to go to university.
The Rhineland was traditionally a Catholic region where Protestants only moved with increasing industrialisation or as delegates of the Prussian state. As a consequence, very often the economic and political elites of Dueren were Protestant. Having been incorporated into Prussia after the Vienna Congress, the Rhineland Catholics sought political refuge in the Zentrum party. From various anecdotes, I am very certain that my great-grandparents (born around 1880) were not any different and cast their vote for the Zentrum. Allegedly in 1949 or 1953, my grand-father Peter Goerres went to the voting station to cast his vote for the German parliamentary elections. He took his father, my great-grandfather Eduard, with him. The latter went into the booth first. Then it was my grand-father’s turn. When he inspected the ballot paper, he noticed that someone was behind him: his dad had illegally entered the booth another time. Apparently, Eduard refused to leave before my grand-dad would put his cross next to the Zentrum party (which was still running on its own in the early post-War elections).
Funnily enough, I am less sure about my grand-parents (born around 1910). But judging from their religiosity and the CDU’s ability to garner support among previous Zentrum voters, my hunch would be that they also voted Black (CDU). None of them was self-employed or educated to higher than Realschule (O Levels). Thus, any liberal vote seems unlikely. My parents broke this barrier between secular and Christian parties. They grew up during times of increasing secularisation and social emancipation. As my father was self-employed and my parents had friends in the local branch of the FDP, I am convinced that they voted liberal.
When I was first allowed to vote in the national election in 1998, I voted for the liberals. I was just about to start my studies and my level of political sophistication was very low. Thus, according to the expectations of David Butler and Donald Stokes, I cast my vote for my parents’ party or what I thought their party was. However, I became more involved in current affairs and (hopefully!) matured in terms of my political values, so that I have changed my vote several times since 1998.