Germans Quietly Pass an Equinox of Unity, but the Walls Remain

The Berlin Wall has been down as long as it stood. One generation lived with the wall, one without it. But in many ways it is still a tale of two countries.


Comments: 129

  1. Regan did nothing for the reunification or Berlin, Kennedy and America did. Kennedy and the USA are remembered in Berlin and Germany and so is Gorbatchov.

  2. No Sparky, you mean Lech Wales. and Solidarnosc--and all those who stood and fell during the Prague Spring of 1968, In Budapest in 1956, the 98 who died while trying to escape or wandered too close on the East Berlin side. All the citizens of the DDR who protested and went on strike from Jan of 1988 until the wall fell. and the countless others whose lives withered away behind the iron curtain. Ronald did nothing but add a line that was scripted for him.

  3. The thing you don't see in that piece of video propaganda was that Reagan's trip led to some of the biggest protests in West Berlin and that much of the city on the (free) west side was under lockdown. Jimmy Carter got a better reception. So by that logic, thank you Jimmy Carter.

  4. Every so often, the Times trots out a “Mauer im Kopf” Story, full of manufactured Angst. Exacerbated of course, and felt to be very timely by the Times because of the AfD’s 13% vote and the subsequent intricacies of forming a government in a PR system, and the general impatience with the patient Merkel. The reporting is akin to the paper sending someone down to rural Alabama for some interviews and then reporting on “the State of the Nation”. It’s noticeable that the Times’ German op-ed writers all have a left-wing slant. My German relatives tell me the country is doing fine, by and large. 13% is way less than Trump, or Le Pen, or pro-Brexit, got.

  5. Let me guess.....your relatives are from what used to be known as West Germany. Yes, I too have German relatives who feel the same. Will even go further to note that they to some extent resent having to pay to support the rebuilding of the East. But that world view doesn't negate the cultural issues highlighted in the article.

  6. I have relatives from both sides of the wall and spent time in Dresden and other areas in the former DDR and the alt right is alive and well and in Bavaria and other rural areas as well-The same conditions that allowed the Nazis to come to power are gathering again, just as they are here in America. Yes they are a minority but so were the Nazis . In 1928 they received 2.6% of the National Vote. 4 years later 37%. Sound familiar and timely to me. Wake up Neo.

  7. Every state in the world with a large population has this divide. North and South in the USA and in Italy are prime examples. Germany's problem is just a newer one.

  8. Germany has also a huge North–South divide, but somehow this is canalized into the realm of folklore and culture.

  9. I lived in West Germany when the wall fell and quickly found that Germans hadn't considered how the culture clash would shape the narrative. Everyone was caught up in the idealism that brought the wall down. What happens when an East Berliner want to pay rent with "funny" money in the West? That began a story about how sorry the West Germans felt for the easterners but sympathy wasn't going to pay the rent. That led to lots of silly discrimination.“Inequality of attention shades into inequality of respect,” These problems are what we're facing here in the US today. Many Americans who read "Hillbilly elegy" feel that more attention should have been paid to that demographic & that's the reason we have nationalism & Trump supporters. Some people feel they've gotten the lion's share and that's the reason we have racial & gender inequality. When do these problems converge to become "American issues"? I'm patiently waiting for this lightbulb moment to happen. In the meantime, I am preaching "American issues" don't get better if we divide them up via race, gender, or class. We need citizens & politicians who talk about how all these individual issues are national issues. Just like Germany. In my mind, that's how we fight "American issues", when we respect each demographic enough to work out their individual issues, America wins. Equality for all. We can no longer keep one traditional demographic above others, it's time to share the wealth.

  10. "When do these problems converge to become "American issues"?

    When people who think that addressing injustices of traditionally oppressed groups is somehow taking away from their own group, and when people who think that only problems that affect traditionally dominant groups are the only true "American issues."

    That's the fundamental lie behind the Hillbilly Elegy narrative. It wasn't "coastal elites" that left rural West Virginia behind. It wasn't Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, or whatever minority group that left rural West Virginia behind. West Virginia was left behind by the very politicians it voted for over and over again, and by politicians from similar areas. Perhaps West Viriginia's economy would not be so tied to the single, obsolete industry of coal mining if it didn't keep voting for politicians who took generous campaign donations from coal companies.

  11. It seems to me that the U.S. is trying to deal with a similar situation involving the alt right and the rest of us. We cannot afford to leave segments of our own citizens behind.

  12. I find the plight of rural Americans much the same as our inner city folk who are short changed educationally and have few opportunities to thrive. One way to say we care is to supply healthcare as a right, so they don't start to fight over their own survival. Trump is going the opposite direction.

  13. Except that some of us did get a decent education in a rural area (Kansas, believe it or not), were able to accumulate undergraduate and graduate degrees. Out of my high school class of 50 people, 80% have undergraduate degrees from accredited state institutions and private colleges. In that respect, we were far better off than non-white students of color in the Twin Cities for example.

    However, my class's aggregate political leaning is 90% pro-conservative, pro-Republican. It is not solely access to quality education that determines whether or not an individual has empathy; respects, recognizes, and wants to protect the rights of others.

    I wholeheartedly agree that supplying healthcare--comprehensive, higher-level care--is a right. But the sense that rural folks have to always "fight for survival" rather than use existing tools or create new ones is ridiculous. My particular hometown was hard-hit by ag and petroleum product busts in the 1970s and 1980s, and has revitalized itself. The "fight" narrative was always around even when I was growing up, but was a marginalized viewpoint in my hometown. 30 years later, it's the only narrative and it is self-sustaining and self-feeding--even though things are better.

  14. America is a tale of two countries. And we haven’t even had a wall . . . at least not a physical one.

  15. We have plenty of physical walls, they just tend to be small. I know a fair number of Trump supporters who, when convenient, talk about how working class Americans have been neglected. Many of them live in gated communities cut off from the "bad parts of town."

  16. Two thoughts here re. so-called "populism," which seems to have the small "l" "liberal" commentariat in such a lather. Dorfchemnitz, the town that mainstream parties ignored: what a perfect emblem for stick-your-head-in-the sand mainstream politics! If you ignore the problem, it won't go away. It'll grow. Second, the absolutely correct quote at the end of this article: "We have to let people speak their mind." The Germans especially seem to have a problem with trying to squelch "inappropriate" speech. You don't win elections by screaming "racist, fascist" at your political opponents (especially if most of them aren't racists and fascists). The AfD, for all its quirks, is a welcome antidote to smug, self-satisfied Merkelism.

  17. ......The AfD, for all its quirks, is a welcome antidote to smug, self-satisfied Merkelism.
    Man, you dont know what you are talking about.
    Ms. Merkel is smart -if somewhat boring technocrat with hyper middle-of-the-road political views and a sober common sense. Yes, she is not particularly charismatic but then, which German is? Kohl was not, and Schröder neither.
    The AfD on the other hand is a fledling political party, which harbors at least som elements that located close to the "braune Untergrund". If the AfD is able to shed this part of itself and transforms into a party that fully embraces the Grundgesetz not only in word but also in spirit, and is able to cope with its covert and overt issues with immigrants, homosexuals, black people and foreigners and does not want to erect a fifities-type regime, they will be a welcome stalwart conservative force that cleans up the decades of complacency and pushes our politicians to a higher standard.
    Should the AfD - and the thought makes me shudder - devlop into something more what we have seen in the thirties then we all will have a problem, even though, history starts as tragedy and repeats itself as farce.... And Lotzapappa be careful what you wish for.....

  18. I fail to understand how the AfD or any other ideology that is racist and xenophobic is a 'welcome antidote' to political smugness. It actually makes all matters worse because it is grounded in anger, mean-ness and threat of violence. It instead points to a human pathology much like the arrogance associated with smugness. Neither are life affirming and consequently lead people down a dark alley. Revenge is not a virtue.

  19. Thank you, James, for making my point.

  20. I only wish there could be more to this article. Besides the cold war and communist economic disadvantages, the East Germans were made to pay steep reparations after the war, and taught to buy into that rationale. Then in one crippled generation, they watched those that helped give re-birth to holocaust complicit corporations in the west "win history". So among other questions, How were any legitimate leftist instincts in the east incorporated into the west where that happened?

    There was no shortage of the extreme right in the old BRD. The states comprising the 2 old republics also have various underlying histories. Etc.

    Good timing to bring this back to our attention though, thx.

  21. My Berlin had a Wall. I grew up with it. It was always there. We never thought that one day it would fall...then it did.
    And now in its place is a city I don't easily recognize if I stay away for too long -- but that's not because it was once divided into East and West-Berlin, it's because to a great extent the city has lost its memory of itself by morphing into something else.
    The Wall is still there. Yes. But this time it's financial, and that has become the new dividing factor of how, and where one gets to live. Plus there's a lot more money in Berlin these days.
    To a certain extent, it can be said that there are several socio-political similarities between what is happening here in the U.S. and what is happening in Germany, as life has become more of a pitched battle of class-warfare than anything else.
    And there's no doubt that Chancellor Merkel's "Wir Schaffen Das!" (We Can Do It!) attitude which opened the door to more than a million refugees in 2015, has contributed to many of the immigration problems that both countries now face, while also contributing to the rise of right-wing nationalist groups like The American Conservative Party, or Alternative für Deutschland (AfD).
    However the advantage of the German Bundestag is that it still consists of more than two main political parties to form a government -- something this country has yet to achieve.
    But that may also be something to think about.

  22. I agree US needs a parliament.

  23. German reunification was one of the most extraordinary political acts of the second half of the Twentieth Century. It's a far from perfect accomplishment but it's nonetheless an extraordinary achievement. Perhaps like the former Confederate States of America, the legacy of human rights abuse that stained East Germany's political culture will take generations to put right. But let's not let the shadow of the Wall darken Germany's current achievements. As an American fortunate enough to be living in Germany today I am constantly impressed by the overwhelmingly thoughtful, reasoned debate that characterises contemporary German politics. There is nothing akin to Trumpism in today's Germany; the AfD is worrisome of course but there's a long way to go before it becomes a national threat. And the greatest wall against Trumpism and similarly stupid politics is Germany's first-rate educational system. While there will always be those who listen to the siren calls of populism, Germany today is in a better place than most of our peer nations. Its people are employed; its factories are humming; its infrastructure is far better than America's. I worry more about the U.S. today than I do about Germany.

  24. Thanks for this column Andrew. As a frequent visitor to Dresden I couldn't agree more.

  25. Among all the talk of "cultural colonialism" let's not forget that back in '89 and early 1990 it was the East Germans who called for rapid unification, turning their chant of "we are the people" into "we are one people". At that stage, most West German politicians, Helmut Kohl included, still envisioned a slow transition into a confederation. In the first free election, East Germans made it clear that they wanted unification and they wanted it now, no matter the cost. That they complain about cultural colonialism now is disingenuous. It also betrays a longing for a nanny state that looks after every aspect of their life, something the Western style capitalist system doesn't offer. Lastly, the rise of right-wing authoritarian thinking is seen all across the former Eastern Block, and it is much worse in Poland, Hungary and former Czechoslovakia. It is no doubt a remnant of totalitarianism that seems only to come to bloom a generation later.

  26. Please don't put ALL East Germans in the "complaining "category. Not sure if that category is even a majority. Also Germany's amazing social benefits apply to all Germans and are a part of what makes Germany and all European countries so dynamic and good places to live.

  27. I am from Eastern Germany. Born in '85 I experienced the post-unification anxiety among all the adults. My Patents lost their jobs, my father - like so many others - commuted to the west every week to work there for "eastern wage" for twenty years. Of my childhood friends most moved to the west. Some areas are getting better, some seem hopeless (so do some regions in the west, especially the former coal towns). I cannot imagine going back ever. To me the article is not overly dramatic rather quite spot on. Also, Garton Ash is one of the people that understands Germany best. So if you want to know about Germany, read the books of a Brit.

  28. I have nothing but the highest regard for the West Germans and their reunification with the East. There was no drama that played out on the world stage; they just put their head down and did what needed to be done. The infrastructure in the former East Germany is much better than the West as they had no real infrastructure at the time the wall came down so the West poured billions into securing it. Education, political and religious thought all had to be dealt with in the reunification and goes on today. It will take several generations before the remnants of the past are bled out, but it will happen. Their undertaking is nothing short of remarkable given the current economic state of their European brethern.

  29. I spent three army years in West German and worked with a number of civilians. A number of them had relatives in the east and somehow received permission to visit. They brought gifts of niceties such as perfume, make-up chocolates, and the like. Upon return they could only talk about how they didn't appreciate the gifts, they didn't know how to use the items including putting on lipstick. They spoke of they as if they were, as the author says, a bunch of hillbillies. I found that interesting, still do.

  30. My western uncle was married to an eastern woman. My aunt once told me about an exchange student from western Germany who did not understand their eastern culture and was very ignorant about anything GDR. Back than she thought he was just stupid, but today she would call it condescending. There are always two sides of a story.

  31. The tale of Germany is the tale of the greatest clean energy success in the world. A united Germany is a treat to the global hegemony of the dirty, disease causing fossil fuels.

    The US needs to decide whether to stick with the fossil fuel losers, Russia and Saudi Arabia, or advance into the future along with Germany and China. Trump who gave his daughter a Russian name (Ivana or Ivanka feminine for Ivan) increasingly is acting as a Russian agent.

  32. Germany's advance into the energy future has certainly taken a hit after coal burning became the way out of the energy deficit resulting from shutting down nuclear after Fukushima. Thus, huge wind and solar parks joined with "good clean coal".
    Another german contradiction?

  33. Sorry to disappoint you Gr in CH but your statement is contradicted by the facts.
    https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/germanys-energy-consumption-a...

    As you see lignite the dirty, disease causing coal went down at the same rate as nuclear went down in Germany (the slopes of decline are parallel). Hard coal went down even faster. There is no good or clean coal.

    According to the chart above, the contradiction is yours not Germany's. Germany has emerged as a world leader in clean renewable energy. While coal consumption has not declined as fast as everyone wished, the numbers show it has gone down. So rejoice the end of fossil fuels is around the corner.

  34. Sometime in 1962 or late 1961, my family took the train from Frankfurt a.M. to Berlin. My parents wanted to see it, and wanted us kids to see it. We took the tour through Checkpoint Charlie. I do remember the wall, and the palpable sense of menace at the time. I was 10. When my children were born, they have no conscious memory of the Communist world. We are friends with a number of people in the East, and they have "ossie-stalgia", nostalgia for the time of the East. As my friend said "We weren't always miserable, you know", and then she lights a cigarette.

  35. Just for the sake of fairness, let me point out that Western Germans smoke as much as Eastern ones.

  36. We cannot really blame the West Germans for the angst of the East Germans. The latter are still reeling form the effects of a world view shaped, distorted or corrupted by two authoritarian systems, first by the Third Reich and then by the Soviet-backed Communist ideology. It will take a while before they get back their mooring!
    Let's also not forget that it was West Germany that was one of the main beneficiaries of the Marshall Plan. East Germans were not the recipients of a comparable plan and continued to remain mired in a command economy.
    I also think that the move of the capital from Bonn to Berlin was a great gesture by the West Germans. It has also helped pour a great deal of resources and jobs into the eastern part, fueling economic development.

  37. East Germans were incredibly lucky to be “taken over” by Western Germany. Their secret police was truly dismantled, all communist high level civil servants replaced. People who wanted only “prosperity and authority” had to learn something about freedom.

    Other former communist countries were far less lucky; the change was only in name, and communist, secret police -connected elites continued to rule undisturbed. People who wanted only food but couldn’t care less about freedom gave them perpetual parliamentary majorities. The people who really wanted freedom became a minority in their own country and many were forced to flee elsewhere.

    Hard to feel any compassion for the East-German nostalgics.

  38. Most people prefer safety and prosperity to freedom, actually.

    Every time a new technology get introduced, all the risks are emphasized and lamentations for the old order continue until people get used to it. Early printed books, typewriters, ballpoint pens, computers, internet, mobile phones, etc.

    People get used to the “natural order of things” and only want small improvements, not get upended into a new system.

    Then there’s the problem of choice overload, where when there are too many equivalent options, most people end up not picking anything at all.

    For a freedom-loving country, why have only two parties? Often, people are born into a family party and it becomes a cult-like devotion, as it’s the safe and familiar route. Any opposition fails because it’s seen as a personal attack.

    Freedom to live can sometimes mean freedom to die. Having an authority promise a minimum of safe living conditions can be attractive in those situations.

  39. As someone who has visited and studied these parts of Euope over the years, this is spot on in its dissection of what has objectively happened these last 50 years. As someone who now works in the "touchy-feely" world of personal and team development, I feel it's missing a piece. Surely, the point of the article isn't whether or not those living in former East Germany are better off post-unification, but whether they FEEL better off.

  40. "Having an authority promise a minimum of safe living conditions can be attractive in those situations."

    Germany is an example of how that attraction might wear off when the authority starts a war that ends up with the country flattened, occupied, and divided. The problem of giving power to an authoritarian regime who "take care of everything" is that it gets extremely hard to take that power back.

  41. Very interesting piece. Americans are experiencing similar resurgence of nationalism and populism among some segments of our population who feel ignored, but the press is ridiculed whenever they try to analyze or understand it. Suppressing these attitudes will only force them underground to fester and proliferate.

  42. the press doesn't try to analyze or understand it. they only heap hate and mockery on it, calling it "trumpism". it's exactly the same only in reverse and with the belief that their holier than thou opinion is infinitely more correct than anyone else's.

  43. In reading this article I was hoping that some references might be made to the historic divisions within Germany that go back to the 19th century and its initial unification under Bismarck.

    East Germany, an abridged post-war version of Prussia, was always a distinct entity with important cultural and historic differences from, say, Bavaria, Saxony... And within that construct, Berlin was a place apart from its Prussian context.

    All countries have these types of fault lines; the test of greatness is whether the solitudes are able to reach out and find common ground and accommodation for the sake of the greater good. I am confident that Germany will find a way. I am less confident of the US doing the same.

  44. An economist's view of East vs West

    State GDP per capita (Euro)

    Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 24,909
    Saxony-Anhalt 25,198
    Thuringia 26,364
    Brandenburg 26,493
    Saxony 27,776
    Schleswig-Holstein 30,134
    Rhineland-Palatinate 32,814
    Lower Saxony 32,890
    Saarland 35,409
    Berlin 35,627
    North Rhine-Westphalia 36,509
    Baden-Württemberg 42,745
    Hesse 43,073
    Bavaria 43,092
    Bremen (A city State) 47,603
    Hamburg (A city State) 61,729

    Eliminating Bremen and Hamburg, that for historic reasons (Former Hansa cities) have the status of a State, the most productive States in the West have an almost two times higher GDP per capita than the least productive in the East.

    In addition to an East-West gradient, there is a North South gradient. GDP per capita of Schleswig Holstein is 2/3 of Bavaria.

    From "its the economy stupid" to "the real border is between where Germany was occupied by the Romans who taught civilization , and the Teutonic North that lagged behind ever since, the speculations are endless.

    If you talk to a linguist, you shall find that the words for "more civilization" items in German , from Wall, (Mauer Latin Murus) , to window (Fenster Latin Fenestra) are of Roman origin, pushing cultural memory back to the Romans

  45. An economist's view? Would love to see your credentials.

  46. The economic gloss is too glib by half. Eliminate Hamburg and Bremen!

    Like considering the economics of New England if we eliminate Boston. That would certainly skew the economics of the region. Your numbers are being massaged to a specious conclusion.

    Having lived in West Berlin, I can attest that most Germans consider Berlin a northern city, particularly the Bavarians. Shall we eliminate Berlin along with Hamburg and Bremen?

  47. West Virginia $40,071
    Connecticut $73,643
    Alabama $37,40
    New York $75,360
    South Carolina $42,272
    Delaware $73,931
    Arkansas $40,388
    Massachusetts $74,564
    States in the North East have an almost two times higher GDP per capita than the least productive in the South East.

    What was your great insight again?

    Linguistic difference are even bigger than economic disparities between these states than in Germany.

    Not to mention anti-scoience attitudes like not believing in the:
    biological evolution through natural selection;
    threat from Global Climate Change;
    huge benefits from vaccination;
    etc. etc.

    Culturally the pseudo-pious South believes that their religion, that sees abortion as being against God's will, wants their religious beliefs to become the law of the land. No respect for the US Constitution's protection of Freedom of Religion. Politically, they voted overwhelmingly for a self-admited genital grabber, serial adulterer, who paid off prostitutes to silence them, Donald Trump who is as pious as Tartuffe (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tartuffe).

  48. My PawPaw was in the airforce and was stationed in Germany when the wall went up. Keep in mind that the wall went up over night to stop East German's from fleeing to the West. He told us stories of how they did food drops over the wall so that people wouldn't starve. These people survived but when the wall fell they once again had to adapt to a changing world. Then their country welcomed refugees and seemed to care more about their needs than those of their fellow citizens. People can only survive so many traumas in one life.

    We have the same thing happening here. Pelosi gave an 8 hour speech about dreamers. Where were the speeches for Americans who were crushed by the recession and never recovered what they lost. This is why Trump and Bernie were so popular because they went to those people. They didn't dismiss them as deplorables.

    If we want to heal the divisions in our country we need to pay attention to those who have been left behind. Whoever delivers solutions to them will win their support going forward. FDR had social workers as advisors who educated him on how trauma effects communities. Much of the New Deal programs were intended to combat these issues until the private sector improved enough. The past can teach us how to address our current divide.

  49. You are confusing the Berlin Wall with the Berlin Air Lift. (https://www.nytimes.com/topic/subject/berlin-airlift-194849) The United States never dropped food into East Germany. They supplied the western part of Berlin with food and fuel by air for one year when the Soviet Union cut off all supply lines to Berlin in 1948.

  50. "If we want to heal the divisions in our country we need to pay attention to those who have been left behind."

    Who left whom behind? The popular narrative is that "liberal elites" from coastal blue states for left them behind, but who were the politicians opposing the kind of programs you are talking? They sure weren't liberal politicians from California or New York. In fact, those states have been de facto federal tax donors to red states, and that money have been used to maintain federally-subsidized infrastructure. If people in so-called "left behind" places like Mississippi or Alabama want to find fault, they should look at the very politicians they elected over and over again.

  51. Remember Eisenhower warning against the "military-industrial compex".It's alive and kicking.

  52. The Berlin wall came down almost 30 years ago. Since then, Germany has grown to dominate the EU economically, and to have effectively controlled its immigration policy, much to the annoyance of multiple other EU countries.

    There is something distressing about the fact that internal divisions within Germany have received so little attention in the US press. This article barely dips beneath the surface.

  53. I think we have enough to worry about right here.

  54. The difference between the US and Germany is that while in parts of Germany the right-wing, anti-immigrant extremists gained more than 20% of the vote, in the US they are sitting in the White House. And somehow that's the new normal.

  55. I could be wrong, but haven't the western sections of Germany - those regions before German unification in the 19th century - always been wealthier, even 300-400 years ago?

  56. city folk.. country folk.. the bridge and tunnel crowd.. the have’s and the have not’s.. east coast vs west coast.. new york vs new jersey and you can throw california in there too.. sound familiar..?

  57. Anyone want to investigate how Russia is maintaining this political/cultural division via social media?

  58. As a German, I doubt that is an issue.

  59. "Many easterners feel that their history — outside the evils of Stasi crimes and Soviet tanks — is silenced" .

    I find this statement and premise for the article misleading and shallow. Surely there is more to culture then just being more used to flag waving, joiing the young pioneers, or having a Trabant. Deal with your history under Soviet rule and stop romatisizing it. The history the DDR had outside the period of Soviet occupation after WWII and during the Cold War is one it shares with the former BRD - the 3rd Reich, Weimar Republic, Prussia, etc.

    The differences that define both former states is that they existed on either side of the Cold War front line and were subjected to different propaganda to prepare the future battlefield of the former Allies, now adversaries. The methods were just different: the DDR with a Sovjet-style authoritarian state that, for example, by definition was declared to be anti-fascist, thus not guilty or complicit of anything. Conversely, the BRD spent the next 30+ years trying to understand its role in the holocaust, exorcising its ghosts, the guilty, and the complicit. To just blandly state that the East is being ignored or isn't integrated is ignoring the above and not facing your history.

    Those +50 year old, non-mobile males sitting in their white towns need to stop whining and pointing fingers at convenient scapegoats, such as migrants, immigrants, them versus us. This no different in the US.

  60. I suspect you have no idea how difficult it would be to have worked in the Trabant factory (there weren't many other choices in the DDR) and find yourself at 50 unemployed when the Wall came down.

    Much the same can be said for, say, 50-year-old sopranos in Prague: after the Wall came down, those markets were flooded with 28-year-old sopranos from the West. Your conductor, the opera director and the older soprano were done.

    What you seem to miss, equally applicable to the Trabant employee and the soprano in Prague, is that they played by the *only* rules possible for decades to establish their careers. There was no other option. The reference to "whining" gives you away. You have no clue, on the ground, what that adjustment would entail.

  61. The Confederacy is only partially integrated into the "United" States. Why should it be easier in Germany? The problem in both cases is inferiority complexes based on real inferiority.

  62. We do however have the Mason-Dixon line.

  63. East Germans were the first to arrive with their hand open to receive welcome money and overnight became part of the Wirtschaftswunder formerly known as West Germany, as result of the Marshall Plan. They should show proper respect and eternal gratitude to the society of WEST Germans who rebuilt the country after the war while being busy pursuing a socialist utopia until it was morally and and financially bankrupt. Having lived in West Germany until 1986 And having had relatives in the East, I have nothing but contempt for their sniveling nostalgia. Thank you USA for having stood by Germany and ensuring Western Europe was not overrun by the USSR. I will be eternally grateful for that!

  64. This comment is the pinnacle of arrogance, and factually wrong. The 1950s and 60s were called "Wirtschaftswunder", so it was long over by the time of reunification. The GDR didn't pursue a "socialist utopia" because the people wanted it, but because the Big brother in Moscow told them so. And while they rebuilt the country, unlike the West they had to pay reparations.
    Most companies were moved out of the GDR, and never came back. (Berlin alone used to be the seat of companies such as Siemens, Deutsche Bank, AEG or Allianz, all of which moved to the West after 1945.) After reunification Eastern companies were privatized and sold for almost nothing to their Western competitors, who sometimes proceeded to immediately close them down and lay off all workers, because they were so "unproductive". I guess they should be thankful for that, too?

  65. You paid for their loyalty and you deserve it. Of course, there are things money can't buy.

  66. Every nation is a work in progress...until one day that nation ceases to exist in its current form. Always.

  67. Bad infrastructure, lack of jobs and opportunities, rural exodus - you need a big government with a lot of empathy and social determination to counter this.
    You americans should know, you got a lot of east germanies, in fact you got that all over the western world, and you will get more of these when you believe wallstreet and a white xenophobic government of hypocrits and robber barons will fix this.

  68. So is there a lesson here if (and it's a big if), North and South Korea get reunited? As I understand, many South Koreans would look at the experience of Germany and say it's too high a price and would take forever.

  69. The added dimension of North Korea's nationalist cult will prove to make reunification far more difficult in Korea than in Germany. How does the same government that has spent decades promulgating the literal deification of their leaders suddenly say, "Not really!" and dismantle its own decades long lie? At least communism and capitalism were in competition during the Cold War. The North Korean public is told of nothing beyond the deification of their leaders and the evil of pretty much anything outside of North Korea. Very complicated.

  70. The issues that plague Germany today exist in every country. My mother in law this morning spoke of how a public employee spoke of how tired he was of Californians moving into Salt Lake City & driving up real estate values sky high. I met 'liberal' Vancouver Canadians last week repeatedly stating the same thing about Chinese doing the same. We sometimes are so comfortable with the status quo ,no change at all,& that is an impossibility. If you do not keep up with your education, with competing , you will find yourself at standstill as the world continues to change & you do not. Then there are regional prejudices, stereotyping of people of different regions. I have to laugh that I live in both Texas & California, with both areas claiming to be 'normal' ,yet claim the other state is abnormal or less educated. In every country it is north versus south, east versus west, city versus country, Just look at the American Civil War, it may be over ,but can still be hotly debated today. Best way for a country to homogenize their country is through a mobility within it as part of service to its country. Something Germany needs to try today. Along with many other countries. It would reduce conflicts & increase understanding. Lord knows we need more of that! Can you imagine how much it would help Isreal & Palestine?

  71. I think national non-military civil service is a wonderful idea and I would vote for it.

  72. - Neither in the article of Ms Bennhold nor in practise "immigration" is the everyday problem. The influx of "Wossi" immigration (Westerners who became Easterners) is relatively small, limited on academics and was without option because Easterners were not familiar with Western law and economic system that was to apply in Eastern Germany from 1990. This problem is exaggerated by Eastern academics who had suffered most from this. Because most of these "Wossis" have reached their sixties they will retire soon. Nearly all successors will be local "Ossis".

    - Mobility was one of the first issues to fix. Billions and billions were transferred to the East for lnfrastructure like High Ways, railways mostly as "dual use" projects because Germany is a transit country for Eastern Europe.

    - "Ossis" (Easterners) had been extremely mobile from the start.

    - Educational system in GDR had been absolutely equivalent.

    - The problem is the breakdown of obsolete Eastern business not because of tecnical backwardness but due to long term gap of investments. GDR was tight on money and had a dysfunctinonal political system. After 1990 business was usually smashed by superior competitors in the West and crushed by the dozens. Most investments not funded by subsidiaries went to the intact West then and automatization finished off what was left.

    Actually agricultural strongholds, de-industrialized places or traditional SME regions with non competitive structures are problematic. Dorfchemnitz!

  73. I grew up in West-Germany. This is very thoughtful and spot on article. There at resentments between east and west Germans. The resentments will fade over time, they have faded between the South and the North. You have to know the South used to be more agricultural and poorer and the North used to be more industrialized, international and wealthier before the second world war, it is now almost the opposite. The cultural differences remain and that is not a problem. The cultural differences are in fact cultural diversity and richness , they are an asset. Give it some time and you will see the same happen between the east and the west. Just talk and look at the population under 30, the ones without the "Mauer im Kopf" (the wall in their head).
    Maybe we in the US could embrace our social, geographical and cultural differences and celebrate more our strength in diversity.

  74. Perhaps George Orwell understood the nature of authoritarian power even better than we gave him credit for. All the trappings of left and right, communist and fascist- they are just window dressing. Authoritarianism is just authoritarianism - unchecked power by those in charge, unquestioning obedience from those at the bottom. Maybe that's why Mussolini was a communist in his youth, and why so many East Germans took to similar ultra right-wing ideology so easily.

    Maybe the world will be like Orwell's 1984 - a bunch of authoritarian superpowers that are nominally opposed to each other, but fundamentally the same.

  75. oh my God what a frightening thought

  76. Curious as to why this is a NYT's pick. It does' seem to address what the article is written about. The majority of East Germans have not adopted right wing ideology.

  77. part of the problem, as Paul Krugman and others pointed out LOOONG ago was that the West insisted that the Mark be exahangible one for one AND that wages be set nationally across all 16 states as they had been across the Western 11 prior to 1989. So the East had no competitive advantages in terms of currency or wages.

    Imagine if Tennessee or Alabama car factories or banks in Atlanta HAD to pay Michigan or NYC wages? That is the situation the East has been in for decades.

  78. By the way,the gold that was repatriated to Germay from the US should have gone to Italy and others,for the damage inflicted during WWII.

  79. This story is not complete without noting that the West has transferred $1.8 trillion to the East, with mixed feelings among Westerners.

  80. Thats also only half the thruth. After reunification the entire east German industry was dismantled. The economy shrunk more than during the great depression of 1929. All that money you mentioned than went to western companies. A tiny number of specialized companies wasn't dismantled, but consequently bought by their western rivals....And than dismantled ;) for west germany nothing really changed, only that they could basically rebuild a nation with huge contracts and a very cheap eastern labour force. Thats one of the big grievances, that the west never acknowledged this huge difference in what happened in the 90s

  81. I remember reading Peter Schneider's, "The German Comedy: Scenes of Life After the Wall"in 1991 and feeling the distrust he had for those from the East and wondering how long it would take for those type of feelings to be gone. Apparently, we are still counting.

  82. In many ways, this is like the complaints that flyover states have with coastal ocean states. The walls here may have been geographic but it appears to still exist.

  83. For some reason, although I suspect I know the real reason, German reunification has assumed greater significance than the post-Soviet era and the promise of nuclear disarmament.

    Korean unification is similarly over-blown if nuclear disarmament is also secured.

  84. Dr. Angela Merkel was born in 1954 and will soon be 64 years old. Until 1990, she has spent, had to spend, her most formative (>30) years in the East, in the German Democratic Republic (DDR) under Communist rule. It is unknown why she had certain privileges there. Most likely she was not part of the political system. However, the description you give in this article of people who had to spend half of their lives under the DDR system would very well apply to her in several exemplary ways.
    I have often wondered how her political action and autocratic style of decision making remarkably reflect her past upbringing in the old East. Not her fault, and yet an irreversible part of her biography. She has been admired by some who did not have to cope with the consequences of her politics. During her 12 years as chancellor, she made grave mistakes. She now tries hard to remain in power. Having had to observe her political actions for the past 12 years has convinced me that Germany urgently needs to alter the constitutional law and strictly limit the term of Chancellor of the Federal Republic to two four-year terms.

  85. The failure to establish social democracy in the DDR and premature re-unification is taking its toll, as are the respective wort motives, "bananas" for the East Germans, greedy capitalism and revanchism on the part of the capitalist West.

  86. The "failure to establish social democracy in the DDR"?
    And who is to blame for that? Even pre-unification East Germany was subsidized in various ways by the West, just like today's Cuba, that other darling of the cultish Hard Left in the West. I've lived in various parts of post-Soviet Europe and believe me, people appreciate their "bananas" (why the quotation marks?) and are rather indifferent--or even contemptuous--of any Westerner who lectures them on their failure to create "true socialism."

  87. Substitute the east for the south and you get the United States.

  88. Many assume that Allen because the Dixicrats became the Republicans after LBJ’s civil rights legislation passed but tolerance is not a Northern urban virtue. You will find more in Atlanta than Boston. And San Francisco is brutal with its street people.

  89. I see a lot of discussions drawing parallels between East Germany and America's "red counties" and "red states." I have to point out one misconception.

    One of the fundamental assumptions that a lot of Americans whose experiences are largely confined to liberal, urban areas is the idea that "flyover country" is universally poor. But that has not been my experience. Conservative rural areas have sharp class divides (which often overlap with race.) There are people of middle class and upper middle class people (by income) in rural areas, and these actually make up the bulk of the conservative voters. These are usually small business owners or managers, local professionals, factory or warehouse foremans, law enforcement, corrections officers, etc.

    In contrast, the rural poor that urban liberal voters often imagine rarely vote. They may well be conservative, but historically, people with household income under $30k rarely vote, regardless of race.

    This is why exit polling showed that Trump voters actually had an above- national median household income, and why their household income was actually higher than median for both Clinton and Sanders voters.

  90. The relevancy of this article goes far, far beyond Germany and digs deep into some universal human nature foibles. I heard comments last night during the Olympics that suggest North and South Korea are facing a similar future.

  91. Add to that list Northern Ireland and the Republic if Ireland.

  92. 'As for Ms. Merkel, “she is not considered an easterner in the East,” Mr. Krüger said, “she is considered a traitor.”'

    With the invitation for uncontrolled mass immigration in 2015, Merkel set the stage for future challenges and division that will make the east-west divide look like a picnic in comparison.

    At least with the German east-west divide, people from both sides still had enough in common - a shared language, culture and history, work ethic, education, shared DNA, etc. There was enough glue to overcome challenges of reunification. There is not enough glue to overcome the tremendous multi-cultural challenges associated with mass migration that Merkel wrought. Germans will look at the challenges of reunification with nostalgia.

  93. I recently had lunch in New York with a close German colleague and his wife, both of whom grew up in East Germany. He mentioned how, when the wall came down, a simmering wanderlust in many East Germans could be quenched. They are both now world travelers. So, I find the nostalgia about East Germany perplexing. But, whom am I to wonder? I live in a country that is still fighting the Civil War.

  94. If the E and W Germans, sharing same language, culture, heritage have so much trouble integrating after so many years and much expense, just think how they are able to integrate migrants from Middle East, Africa!

  95. My American son has lived in Dresden with his German born East European girlfriend for 15 years. They and all their friends, whom I have met, are German European Citizens of the world types. Having been couped up as youngsters they travel the world joyfully and often.
    I have been in Dresden when huge anti Pegida demonstrations have attracted huge crowds. Even in the cold people and children stand for hours. My seven year old grandson is growing up with this young spirit for tolerance.
    As the writer of this article notes many Pegida followers are men and many over 50. Mr. Kruger and Ms Weiss do a fine job in pointing out the reasons for many East Germans fears and dissatisfaction. They are also very understanding in their proposals to address them openly. My son has mentioned that the AfD is often voted in in small villages with no immigrants. Perhaps fear of "the other" is more a projection of personal fears re abandonment or powerlessness than of immigrants one hasn't even met.
    Great article. Thanks!

  96. Division between east and west Germany stand for much longer. In fact since Roman Empire when the Limes, the areas included into the Empire, started to urbanise. The rest of Germany in the east remained behind in term of development and mentality.

  97. It’s the same here in the USA; red v blue, rural v urban. The self victimization appears similar as well, especially people who just assumed that the world won’t change in their lifetimes. In the animal kingdom, it’s called “failure to adapt”.

  98. It’s good this “equinox“ of the Berlin wall has been brought up.

    Physical walls have had their day, whether they be in China or Berlin or around ancient cities.

    Yet we have incessant “wall” talk in this country from a demented president.

  99. Don’t worry the blowhard is using that “wall talk” as a red herring… To get people fired up, and it really won’t matter anyhow, or has seemingly been dropped

  100. When I was a teen in the early 1960s, I remember "Checkpoint Charlie", depicted in news magazines as the point one had to go through to move between East and West Berlin. It seemed so sinister. In April 2016, I visited Berlin for the first time, and took a tour bus ride throughout the city. We went through what used to be Checkpoint Charlie. The little sentry post is still there for history, but the area is now surrounded by an urban shopping and office complex, emblazoned with "Checkpoint Charlie! graphics.

    Traveling high speed trains throughout Germany, it was impossible for me to identify what was East and what was West.

    Although I doubt it was his intent, President Trump seems to have scared both North and South into exploring how to get the USA off their backs.

  101. Definitely there will be some issues for some.But it is a small price to pay for German unification and freedom.Let this be taken in positive sense in other conflict torn regions

  102. It is no coincidence that the undereducated and elderly are the ones most attracted to these far right politics. Unfortunately, these folks do not have a place in our modern world. They will never be content unless we bend to their view point. And so, we must never give an inch. Hungry and Poland should serve as cautionary tales.

  103. According to American mainstream thinking this article must be Putin-sponsored propaganda, sowing discord among Germans...
    Germany will be fine.
    Unlike Americans we have a decent social safety net, universal healthcare, excellent public transportation, and - most importantly - good and free education.
    We don't live in constant, existential fear like many of our American brothers and sisters, half of which live in abject poverty.
    We mostly participate in our elections (76.2% last time around).

    Unification has been a huge success considering the magnitude of the challenge.
    Of course there are still problems, but Germans have risen to challenges before and the societal general conditions are in place to bring this new German experiment to fruition.

  104. Thank you for your comments Chris. A similar perspective should have been a part of the article.

  105. @ John Otto Magee

    I know...it's hard to believe that in the richest nation on earth there's so much poverty.
    It's, however, not really surprising considering how much money the US spends on its military and its failed military interventions.

    Corporations have completely taken over the US government and own both political parties, aka a Corporatocracy, celebrating greed and corruption while destroying the social contract and social fabric, leaving no one to look out for the lower class or even the middle class.
    Even people not in poverty are often just an illness or unexpected expense away from sliding into poverty, stymied by exorbitant health care costs, credit card rates, student debt etc.
    Worst of all, if you are poor in America you are stigmatized because they've been brainwashed into believing in the American Dream (rags to riches), so it's your fault and your fault alone if you don't make it. Regardless of the fact that the system is rigged against most of them, especially people of color.

    It's a tough place to live, but great if you are rich.

    http://stateofworkingamerica.org/fact-sheets/poverty/

    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/15/america-extreme-poverty-...

    https://psmag.com/news/economic-mobility-is-fading-and-so-is-the-america...

  106. You can also be arrogant and condescendent, thinking that Germans always do the right thing and they’re above everybody else. You should rather reflect on the VW scandal.

    Old habits die hard. Deutschland uber alles, but with a leftist, anti-American slant this time.

  107. If East Germany's merger with the West was traumatic, is there any wonder that many other East European countries have even more trouble? Poland? Hungary? Ukraine? Russia?

    It takes time and deliberate effort to establish democracies. We should not underestimate how fragile they may be.

  108. None of these countries have ever had democracy; yet not even Poland.
    So they have not yet had the time to grow into mature democracies, like Britain and the U.S.
    Indeed, go back to the mid 19th Century in the U.K. and three-quarters of the people didn't have the vote: all the poor and non-landowners, and of course all women.
    It takes time, sometimes centuries.
    Unfortunately Central Europe also has the unfortunate history in 1938-39 of its only democracy, Czechoslovakia, being abandoned to Hitler by the British and the French. Not much a good example from the "democratic" west.

  109. If now is the equinox of unity, I lived in the East during the solstice. Even then, you could feel the "inequality of attention." The imagery of the East and the Wall has always been to see it from the colorful side, the western side, just like the souvenir shard of die Mauer mounted on an arch of Plexiglass, sitting on my desk. I now live in Appalachia, another region facing the inequality of attention. I can see how the inequality of respect can arise but I can only imagine how a region bereft of women will lead to a loss of self-respect by the men left behind.

  110. Arguably, America's former-Confederate states still live behind their own wall, one that has stood since 6 April 1861 -- although that wall has been crumbling for a long time. But even one generation behind Germany's own wall was enough to create differences, memories and interests that will take longer than 28 years, 2 months and 26 days to erase.

    Give them time, just as we must give ourselves time … to fully heal.

  111. I am a Berliner...Mr. Gorbachev tear down that wall...I am going to build a beautiful wall on the border and Mexico will pay for it. Walls can be physical or mental or delusional.

  112. Sounds like the differences between coastal California and inland California.

  113. OT. Not to be published. OFF RECORDS.

    Dear EDITORS do you know what is going to happen if you don´t replace a incompetent dysfunctional class of heads of administration and judges after regime change immediately?

    I´m going to tell you: Poland. Even something like Mr. Kaczynskis "court revolution" highly welcomed by a vast majority of Polish population.

    In the mid 90ties I had conversations with "Solidarnosc" and internationally educated Polish lawyer colleagues about Polish judges. They told me nearly all former judges were still in service and would pick their successors according to their own ideas so there was no chance for the badly required drastic sweeping in practise.

    Polish authorities were fully aware of this problem but apart from a slight lack of courage they had no adequate successors in reserve because unlike Germany they had no access to a well qualified staff reservoir then so they could not do the "clean sharp cut" they would have preferred also. No way.

    So Polish colleagues were afraid that the planned continuous replacement would not happen under specific Polish circumstances in future - and now they even have to face a populist rebellion by a party called "Law and justice" kicked off by this issue also. Nobody could imagine this kind of a solid "counter-revolution" then but it was clear that this omission was going to cause severe problems in the future.

    We can be extremely grateful that Mr. Kohl and Mr. Schäuble were so brutal in 1990 here.

  114. Many people, especially Leftists, make the mistake of conflating democracy with liberal values. It has been apparent for years that sooner or later the difference would become painfully clear with a large kick in the rear. When the Soviet Union collapsed, Western Europe allowed itself to wallow in the delusion that East Germany, Eastern Europe, and the new former Soviet nations, people with little if any such tradition, would suddenly be amenable to liberal values, democratic processes, and a transnational imperative.

    As time went on, Eurocrats became isolated from the national aspirations of their own peoples. They did have a chance to reframe and reassert the collective post-World War II narrative that strongly argued for the creation of transnational institutions, which began with the Coal and Steel Pact and evolved into the European Union. The Balkan Wars should have been the wake-up call that all was far from well, as Europe needed the U.S. to halt the carnage. Those failures are what we are facing now.

    Western Europe also ignored the fact that its admirable social safety network was largely predicated on having the U.S. pick up the tab for its protection ever since W.W. II.

    Karl Polanyi's writing goes a long way in providing more perspective on the current state of affairs. He argued that unfettered capitalism would not lead to Marx's communism but rather, to fascism. (See "The Man from Red Vienna" in the 12/21/17 New York Review for an excellent discussion of this.)

  115. The average human will never be satisfied with peace. They must find something, anything to complain about. Without it, they would be bored to tears..

  116. Who won the Cold War? Gramsci would say, "don't be so sure." In the Middle Ages, the Mongols conquered China, but culturally China "conquered" them. In the U.S.,Angela Davis has sold her papers to Harvard.

  117. The reunification of Germany was the one of the most complicated culture process in history. Surprised by history both, East and West Germany have been completely unprepared how to handle the situation. When the wall came down there was no plan or concept of a reunification process at all. A lot of things went wrong in the last 23 years. The dimension of the process of reunification was too big, so there was no warranty that every citizen would be a winner. The process of reunification is still going and it will take another two to three generations. But so far it is a great success!

  118. Note that the totalitarian East Germany called their prison wall an "anti fascist bulwark" -- carrying on the tradition of leftists justifying oppressive actions by smearing their enemies as "fascist." Sound familiar?

  119. Reading this I was thinking of Trump voters in West Virginia voting for him because they feel left behind. the women of the former east Germany took their new found opportunity and ran with it but the men just sat there feeling sorry for themselves. These very same men now blame immigrants for there diminishing prospects regardless of the truth, sound familiar?

  120. It's not symmetrical. The divide between East and West Germany was not just 1961's Wall going up, it was 1945's Curtain coming down. Expect another generation to pass before this is truly history.

  121. Pretty sure the man hammering at the wall is a east german.

  122. Think about what east Germany has gone through over the last 80 years. WWII, communism and reunification. Just like Northern Ireland, it's going to be the Millennials and younger who only know and expect equality - the rest of us have the memories in our DNA. 28 years is not enough time to eradicate the vileness of the previous 50+ years. Give it more time...

  123. Considering that these people, the Germans, twice went to war with The World I am enjoying that they are miserable.

  124. Coming Apart by Charles Murray describes a similar condition in America.

  125. What's evident is the impact that left-behind men in rural areas have on politics - they are staunch supporters of populist rhetoric - both in the US and in Germany. Apparently many people in countries that had been part of the Soviet bloc, don't care much about democracy and won't mind to subject themselves to "authority" as long as they are well provided for.
    In former East Germany, women, as "part of the work force and with free child care, were more emancipated than their western sisters, and proved to be more mobile than their male counterparts. Some eastern villages now have two or three men for every woman." It's true that the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, but the the walls still "remain, in people’s heads." But in a couple of decades, those people won't be around anymore.
    The German experience should serve the South Koreans as an example for the challenges they would face one day, should the two Koreans reunified.

  126. AND THE WALLS COME A'TUMBLIN' DOWN! Or will they in Germany? It remains to be seen whether the shift toward the center left in Germany will have an impact on the rise of the far right. That will probably depend in part on the patterns of acculturation of the refugees settled there in the recent past. The Turks have lived among the Germans for generations with varying degrees of participating in the mainstream culture. For the most part, things have been peaceful (though occasionally "honor" killings occur).

  127. Essentially, people tend to blame their pain on others rather than identify the cause and address it. Opportunists are happy to re-direct it, but few of us ever learn we are the managers of our own misery. It's what you do with it that makes the difference.

    Does the East forget the beast that made them lesser men? Or are they ready to join with him in blaming others for their abusiveness? No surprise with these guys to integrate, Germany is way behind in the domestic violence department.