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An East German Journalist Criticizes the Lack of German Unity (August 25, 2005)

Looking back on fifteen years of unification efforts, journalist Jens Bisky, son of PDS chief Lothar Bisky, emphasizes the continued existence of significant differences between East and West Germans. These, he argues, make claims of inner unity appear utterly illusory. His article gives special attention to the economic rebuilding of the East and asks whether the “blooming landscapes” promised in 1990 would ever materialize.

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German Unity?
East against West

Minister Manfred Stolpe is calling halftime in the economic reconstruction of the East. Does that mean that Eastern landscapes will bloom in fifteen years? And will there finally be the yearned-for “inner unity”? Hardly. A taboo is being anxiously guarded: German unity has failed.

You don’t have to try very hard to be considered an enemy of German unity and to provoke sharp calls for “order.” You only have to mention the facts. For example, that in Germany two separate societies exist side-by-side, that the East remains more pagan, less bourgeois, and poorer than the West, that the project of German unity has failed.

Immediately, the keepers of harmony speak up and make accusations: whoever talks like that is endangering the growing-together process, which should, after all, be of equal concern to all of us. The defenders of the East Germans don’t hold their tongues either: whoever talks like that is defaming the people; moreover, society in the new Länder is in reality much more diverse than our image of it.

These are all lame excuses. For fifteen years, the illusion that there is actually such a thing as an “inner unity” capable of transcending all conflicts and conflicts of interest has hindered free debate about the correct path to rebuilding the economy of the East.

This patriotic taboo has harmed unity more than anything else. Because the quarrel over differences and the substantially divergent interests in East and West is not carried out with civilized equanimity, because there is a desperate attempt to deny the very existence of conflicts and to marginalize differences as soon-to-be-overcome nearly every season brings us a brief outbreak of intra-German quarreling.

Recently, [Jörg] Schönbohm and [Edmund] Stoiber provided new occasions for this, and once again the therapists and mollifiers jumped in to end the debate before the interesting problems could be discussed.

A Different Social Temperature

If someone were to draw a map of Germany today and color the federal states according to how the economy, the party system, social life, culture, politics, generations, and family are developing in each of them, that person would rediscover the old intra-German border in every significant case.

That the electoral results in the new states diverge reliably from FRG normality is a source of frustration not only for the Minister President of Bavaria. The economic strength of the East is about two-thirds that of West Germany. The net product is stagnating at about 63% of the Western level; there is a shortfall of around 3,000 medium-size companies and 700,000 workers; the existing companies are too small and suffer from weak capital bases. The combined sales of the 100 top-selling companies in the new states are about the same as the sales of [the West German companies] RWE or Metro alone. One in five employable persons has no regular job, out-migration continues. Every third Euro spent in the East was earned outside the new states. There are hardly any signs of an economic catch-up.

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