Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The German (re)unification after the fall of the Berlin Wall

After I had written about the German unification of 1871 (and I wrote about as much as I have below), I found out that on my final exam I was supposed to write about the 1990 unification and had to start all over again. 

Moo laid on my notes in support of my efforts. I didn't find that helpful.

The following belongs to me. Please do not reproduce it in any fashion. 


The unification of West and East Germany in 1990 brought back together the country that had been separated by “die Mauer” and politics.  One major positive effect of the reunification was that Germany was one again and her residents could freely travel where they wished. Families who had been separated since the Wall was erected could meet again. Young people, previously grounded at home in the East, could go out and see the world.

The reunification also brought the positive result of reuniting intellectuals and professionals with their country as a whole. Before the Wall was built, the intelligentsia fled the DDR in droves to escape to the West. With the reunification, Germany’s doctors, scientists, and skilled workers could work together in an open environment for the good of the whole country. “Ossies” would now have access to all the resources and information from the West.

Additionally, unification restored freedom for everyone. The oppressive Soviet rule and spying were gone. There was freedom to read Western literature and to have an intense debate. There was freedom of speech without worrying if one’s neighbor would be reporting on the conversation.

One negative effect of the reunification was that some Germans still felt that there was a split between East and West Germany; “die Mauer im Kopf” was a result of perceived cultural differences between the two. East Germany had become a separate, foreign country during its separation and isolation and the reunited Germany had to work through this. My colleague experienced this first hand. She was US exchange student in a former East German high school in the late 1990s. The school went on a tour to perform a play at other schools in the former West Germany to promote friendship and acceptance. At some points they were met rudely by the students they were visiting, being called “Communists,” even though they were just young children when Germany was still divided.

Another negative effect of the unification was that East Germany, with its Soviet control, saw its economy and infrastructure finish crumbling as the Wall came down. It had been weak before the fall of the Wall and this event was the final straw. Since the fall of the Wall, the former East Germany was slow to recover from the weak economy and needed injections of money from West Germany to help recover; some former West Germans were not too thrilled about sending the money. Many former East Germans had to learn new professions as their State-run jobs were gone.

At the time of reunification, neighboring countries were concerned about the reunification of Germany. Margaret Thatcher, British Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhack Shamir, among other European leaders, were concerned about Germany’s unification. They were anxious that a newly strengthened Germany might return to its history of military aggression or hostilities toward Jews. This attitude of paranoia was not what the newly reunited country needed.

Germany’s (re)unification was a happy time for many, but was not without its struggles. In the short term, there was a feeling of unease and paranoia, both about the power of a reunited Germany and in the economic reality of taking on an economy that had crumbled. In the long term, the former East Germany is still weaker economically and there are some residual feelings of differences between the two areas. However, Germany, united now under an “Ossie” Chancellor, Angela Merkel, continues working through these problems.

No comments:

Post a Comment