Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

The dark side of German reunification

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Germany will mark the 20th anniversary of its reunification on October 3 — but not everyone in Germany will be SPORT SOCCER WORLDcelebrating 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.

Berlin Wall went down with a party — rather than a bang

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One of the most amazing aspects about the Berlin Wall’s sudden collapse 20 years ago was that no one lost their nerve. Not a single shot was fired. The Cold War ended with the biggest street party Berlin, or any city anywhere, has ever seen. 

Who would have thought that’s how the Berlin Wall would go out? Berlin’s long division was the result of World War Two. The Wall was the focal point of the Cold War — Soviet and American tanks faced off almost barrel-to-barrel at Checkpoint Charlie. Not surprisingly, many people thought that the stalemate would only be changed by another war. But instead on Nov. 9, 1989 there was no bang, no blood. Just a lot of celebrating. And a lot of tears.

The Berlin Wall 2.0

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The Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago on Nov. 9, 1989. A team of Reuters correspondents and multimedia journalists from Berlin and London will be covering the major event in a completely new way — Berlin Wall 2.0. The team from The Berlin Project are joining forces with the Reuters text, pictures and TV correspondents in Berlin to present real-time coverage and impressions of everything going on in Germany’s reunited capital city.

You can also view the best of Reuters’ content on our Berlin Wall global coverage page, follow the team in Berlin on Facebook and get a behind the scenes look at Berlin 2.0 by visiting The Berlin Project. Please send us your thoughts and memories by commenting on the live blog below.

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