Is the German Unification a Failure?

4 10 2007

About a fifth of the German people would like to have the Berlin Wall back. 74% of the former residents of East-Germany say they feel like second-class citizens.

The 17th German Unification Day was celebrated all over Germany yesterday, but the above mentioned figures may have clouded the celebration..

The survey, conducted by the German independent opinion research firm Emnid, was commissioned by private broadcaster N24, and published just before the Unification Day.

Behind the headlines, there is actually a sad story. 73% of the westerners believe easterners are not at any disadvantage. 74% of the easterners, though, say they are second-class citizens. And technically they are.

Berlin Wall East side gallery

Unemployment rates in the east are as high as 15 percent, about twice more than in the west. Salaries are 25 percent lower (according to the German Institute for Labour Market and Career Research).

This may be another case of over romanticizing, but 21% of the easterners admit to feeling nostalgic about the Berlin Wall, which used to separate the east from the west in the communist era. 19% of the respondents surveyed say the days of the GDR (German Democratic Republic) were better for them.

Of course, these findings should be taken with a grain of salt. 75% of respondents said they were glad the Berlin Wall had fallen. Also, the nostalgia for GDR days is not a new phenomenon. It’s even have a name: Ostalgie, the nostalgia for the Ost (east).

One can have better understanding of Ostalgie by watching the film Good Bye Lenin!, a beautiful movie from 2003, which deals with the vast – sometimes cruel – changes in the easterners life after the unification (you can buy the DVD here).

German capitalism may not been as harsh as the GDR regime, but it’s heartless and alienated enough to make people miss the days when – at least formally – welfare was more important than profit.

Not surprisingly, 31% of Germans now say they would give their vote to the left-winged SPD – this is 12 times more than 15 years ago.

Ostalgie aside, the situation in east Germany isn’t very optimistic. Since reunification, the population in the regions of the former East Germany has declined by 1.3 million (7%), as the result of people leaving, and because of a drop in birthrate.

Another survey released recently shows that a third of young women in the region plan to leave and look for a better life in the West.

Further reading:
One of five Germans want the wall back at Daily Telegraph.
Communism Seems Preferable to Some Germans After 17 Years Deutche Welle.
Eastern Germany still emptying out 17 years after reunification AFP.


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One response to “Is the German Unification a Failure?”

9 04 2009
Mark Breman (14:39:52) :

I think the german reunification is indeed a failure, the infrastructure has greatly been improved but there a no jobs. Companies who used to be in the eastern part of Germany for example Allianz ag, Deutsche bank, Lufthansa, Siemens etc. are nowadays headquartered in Frankfurt or Munich. It’s not surprising that people in eastern Germany leave that part of the country.

After the reunification of germany these companies did not return to the cities where they used to be.

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