Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Berlin + 30 Years: Tour Flughafen Tempelhof

Ruth Bender:
The end of Germany’s division is often referred to as its reunification. But the East German historian Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk’s book on the event is called “The Takeover,” and it offers another depiction: a small, impoverished nation being absorbed by its bigger and richer neighbor. No East German institution survived, while life in the West went on largely unchanged. The newly reunified country even retained its old, Western name—the Federal Republic of Germany. The German government spent two trillion euros on upgrading the former Communist state—repairing its infrastructure, rebuilding the courts, schools, police and military. But while the East has partially caught up to the West economically, the regions remain far apart in many respects. Eastern wages and pensions are lower and unemployment higher; few East Germans lead big German companies; Westbound emigration has emptied many Eastern towns. The government’s latest report on the state of reunification, published in September, claims that 57% of East Germans feel like second-class citizens and only 38% consider reunification a success. In the West, many resent such sentiment after so much tax money was funneled into the region. Politically, East and West have even started diverging again after a long period of growing together. The nativist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, is now among the three most popular parties in the East, according to opinion polls and recent election results. One of its slogans is “let’s complete the Wende,” or “turning point,” as the events of 1989 are known—an appeal to the sense of frustration many feel in the East over issues ranging from the lack of economic parity with the West to the rejection of some Western views on immigration and diversity.