Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Germany will mark the 20th anniversary of its reunification on October 3 — but not everyone in Germany will be celebrating two decades together.
German unity has been a shaky marriage. That may seem like a surprise to people outside Germany. But opinion polls inside Germany show widespread discontent, especially in the formerly Communist east. Chancellor Angela Merkel has called it a success and other political leaders will be singing the praises of unification in their lofty speeches and German media interviews this weekend. But for many in the east, like straight-talking Brandenburg state premier Matthias Platzeck, German unification in 1990 was not a merger of equals but instead an “Anschluss” (annexation) with West Germany taking over East Germany.
Many easterners have endured change, hardship, upheaval and various negative developments – including sometimes being evicted from their houses that people who fled during the Cold War returned to reclaim. Free speech and freedom to travel have been great but the price has been high: millions lost their jobs, their homes as well as the fabric of their society and their way of life. Many are still struggling to come to terms with life in reunited Germany – and are understandably nostalgic about life in East Germany, to the great irritation of western Germans who have helped pay 1.6 trillion euros to rebuild the east.
Reasons for their disenchantment can be seen everywhere: The eastern population has shrunk by about 2 million, unemployment soared, young people are moving away in droves and what was one of the Eastern Bloc’s leading industrial nations is now largely devoid of industry. Did it all have to happen like that? Platzeck thinks not. There are no ghost towns in the east yet but some cities with dwindling populations have torn down thousands of flats on their outskirts and let the forests grow back around them.
Nobel prize-winning writer Guenter Grass is dressed in a
mustard-brown cord suit and reading his work to a reverent
audience in a hushed Berlin night club.
It feels more like a book launch than a political campaign
event just days before the German election. Yet as far as
celebrity endorsements for German political parties go, this
is as big as it gets.
Are young German voters getting the short end of the stick because the country’s political leaders fall over themselves to placate senior citizens?
Or is it simply a case of democracy pure when politicians listen attentively to what seniors demand because they are the group that votes more faithfully than any other age group?