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Thursday, November 4, 1999 Published at 09:52 GMT


Ten years on, disillusionment

Leipzig: The city where it all began

By Berlin correspondent Caroline Wyatt

Ten years ago, East Germany's prayers for freedom were finally answered. At the Nikolai church in Leipzig, the peaceful revolution began.

Communism - the end of an era
After Monday prayers, tens of thousands of people gathered to march for freedom of thought and freedom of travel.

But a decade on, one of the leaders of that movement, the Reverend Christian Führer, fears that money has now become the new religion.

"Nowadays, materialism has taken over - it's the new creed," said Rev Führer. "The banks and shops have become the temples of this capitalist religion.

But people are starting to realise this obsession with money can't satisfy the soul."

For some in Leipzig, unity has brought material prosperity that could only have been dreamed of before.

But with almost 20% of people unemployed, such luxuries aren't within everyone's reach.

Capitalism takes its toll

A decade since the Iron Curtain crumbled, eastern Germans are still trying to come to terms with the changes wrought by capitalism.


Caroline Wyatt reports from Leipzig: "Tens of thousands who marched in 1989 didn't all get the society they wanted"
High unemployment has sent many back into the arms of the reformed Communist party, the PDS, who promise a better future.

Learning the language of capitalism has been hardest for the older generation. Take Guenther Schier, 59. He lost his job shortly after unity.

Now he's taking English classes for the unemployed. Most people here know they're unlikely ever to work again.

Employers told him he was simply too old: "In this society, you need to be able to sell yourself," he says.


[ image: Rev Christian Fuehrer]
Rev Christian Fuehrer
"It's something we never learned under Communism."

Even among the younger generation, there is disillusionment with capitalism.

In 1989, Peter Wasem marched for freedom. Today he works for the former communist party to fight for a better deal for eastern Germans.

I grew up in the GDR and we have special problems as east Germans. Because unification was done on the terms of the west - it wasn't something the people here did for themselves and that's what they feel."

Debunking the myth

But others are keen to remind people that the communist past wasn't quite so rosy as some would like to remember.


The BBC's Brian Hanrahan: "For East Germans, pruging memories of the past is more difficult than expected"
A new museum in Leipzig, the Zeitgeschichtliche Forum, traces that history. It is dedicated to showing the history of the dictatorship and resistance in the GDR against the background of the division of Germany.

One of its curators, Uwe Schwabe, was spied on and then imprisoned by the communist authorities for his leading part in the democracy movement.

Today he and his wife have been able to buy a farmhouse just outside the city. As their daughter Amina grows up, she'll probably take for granted the freedom her parents fought so hard to gain.

"I'm not nostalgic for anything about the old East Germany. It was a grey, depressing place - a prison, and now I have all the freedom I ever dreamt of.

"Life is so much better."



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