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Monday, 21 August, 2000, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Are East and West Germans growing further apart?


It is 10 years this October since German reunification, but instead of a seamless merging of the two Germanies many Germans believe the gap is still there.

The forthcoming unity celebrations have already been drowned in the uproar over a string of right-wing racist attacks.

Extreme right-wing violence of the type causing all the headlines during the summer originated in West Germany but its influence is now felt mostly in the east - another example of an east-west divide that refuses to go away.

So are east and west growing further apart? Was German reunification a mistake?

For this Europewide debate, Europe Today's Janet Barrie brought together two German journalists - the westerner Caroline Fetscher and the easterner Susan Behrens, both in Berlin

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction


The physical barriers came down ten years ago, but the psychological ones did not

Peter Hofschr÷er, Austria
The physical barriers came down ten years ago, but the psychological ones did not. Two generations must pass before Germany can be fully reunited. East Germans over 30 at reunification were simply too old to want to change their ways and an overgenerous benefit system meant they did not have to. Massive investment has not and will not change this significantly, only time will.
Peter Hofschr÷er, Austria

I think that Germany should first look at moves towards banning or curtailing the activities of the far right National Democratic Party. The German government also needs to tackle the education system, especially in the east. Racism is very prevalent in East Germany where youths have little experience of living alongside immigrants and this is leading to the rise in fascism.
John, UK

Having friends among both easterners and westerners, I'm really sad whenever I observe the lack of mutual understanding between them. Both sides are to blame for the problem but it also means that they can improve the situation. Westerners can do this by keeping in mind their own situation some 40-50 years ago instead of taking their present democracy and economic welfare for granted. The Easterners can do this by "opening" their minds to new ideas instead of focusing on the transitory problems or looking for an escape in well-known ideologies.
Jarek Adam Pacek, Poland

Unification turned out to be a mistake. First of all, the German Democratic Republic was absorbed into FRG without asking East Germans' opinion. Somehow it was assumed that since around 1 million East Germans had emigrated to the West it meant that the remaining 16 million also wanted to live there. At the time it was thought that the poor and corrupt East was joining the virtuous West, but voila, now we know that Western Germany is plagued by scandals and Kohl was not an honest chancellor.
Julius, USA

East Germans unfortunately didn't had the luxury of having huge numbers of "Gastarbeiters" making life a pleasure for them.The eastern dilemma actually is that they can't afford foreign servants and on the other hand they don't want to become Gastarbeiters themselves for their rich neighbours. But to solve that problem they should instead rely on some very German qualities like hard work, instead of expecting to be rewarded just for belonging to the German race.
Berk, Turkey

Of course there are problems such as different dialects (people from Munchen and Kiel barely understand each other), different religions, and different socio-economic thinking. But as long as there is a national ideal of unity, the process will not stop.
Andrej, Russia

I do not think East and West Germans have grown further apart. They were never really together. Living in separate countries for 40 years with practically no means of communication or cultural interchange leads to divergent lifestyles. The 10 years since reunification have definitely seen a bridging of the gap. But scars take a long time to heal, and whenever problems surface, people seek refuge in their old identities. That is part of human nature and may take a generation or more to cure.
Andy, UK and Switzerland


I felt that I had much more in common with people from other Western European countries than with East Germans

Lars Werner, Germany, currently New Zealand
I am from West Germany and was born there in the early 70's. By the time, the Wall came down, I felt that I had much more in common with people from other Western European countries than with East Germans. To me, and I believe to many people of my generation, unification was not a natural aim. However, encouraged by the right-wing Kohl government, an irrational wave of national euphoria arose in the aftermath of the democratic revolution in the GDR.
Lars Werner, Germany, currently New Zealand

I believe that, eventually, Germany will split again due to major differences.
Will Ryan, USA

East and West Germany have never merged together economically. In the East, the unemployment rate is high and people are poor, whilst West Germany is prosperous. Due to this reason, the leaders need to take appropriate action to bring both East and West Germany to the same level. If this fails to happen, the whole of Germany will suffer for long time to come.
Navid Iqbal, USA/ Pakistan

I think it will take at least a generation before East and West can become fully integrated. After all, both East and West Germany underwent different patterns of socio-economic development based on socialist and capitalist models respectively.
Gevork Nazaryan, Yerevan, Armenia


These barriers of fear and lack of trust slow down the progress of reunification

Artur, USA/ Poland
One cannot expect two countries with different political systems to merge into one overnight - it takes years to reprogram the minds of ex-communist citizens. These barriers of fear and lack of trust slow down the progress of reunification.
Artur, USA/ Poland

Charles de Gaulle asked rhetorically how possible it was to unify a country, in his case France, which has 238 different kinds of cheese. Contributors to this page muse about the extent of Germany's patchwork demography, and all the while, the wheels are turning. Who considers the lunacy of trying to unify Europe?
Stephen, UK

The Korean people have been searching for the best way to reunification for a long time. So it's difficult for me to understand why reunification has given agony and regret to the German people.
Kim, H Su, South Korea


Of course it's going to be difficult

Joseph Kisiolek, USA
Of course it's going to be difficult. The country was separated for over forty years - forty years of political, geographical, cultural and economic differences. I suspect it will take another ten years for the differences to subside but it will happen. Just give it time and don't stop trying.
Joseph Kisiolek, USA

There may well be differences between Saxons, Bavarians, Rhinelanders and Berliners etc, but they are all still Germans. No-one can seriously suggest a return to the East-West division.
Abdullah Drury, New Zealand

Reunification cannot be considered a mistake - at least not long term. We must remember that East Germany was subjected to a totalitarian system for a long time and the Germans there had been manipulated by that system since childhood.
Miklos Nomad, Hungary

Wherever there has been a wide gap involving cultural, economic, political and social inequalities there is bound to be a legacy which, unless tackled by a truly unified people, will remain for some time. Although, there is much evidence of the gap between the "two Germanys" lessening, it is inevitable that there are many inequalities still remaining as a result of the East -West division as well as those which affect all nations globally, not only those plagued by wars or other conflicts and difficulties.
Benj'min Mossop, Britain

It took a generation to tear them apart; it'll take another generation to fully reunite them. 10 years really isn't very much time, but look at how much progress has been made in the last decade. Reunification was the right choice and anything else would have been a disaster.
Stephen Kenney, USA

Reunification was done in the most stupid way possible. Kohl was just keen on his place in the history textbooks, therefore it had to be done quickly but not sensibly. He misused his power for egoistic, narrow-minded motives.
Jan Drexel, Germany

I doubt that Germany has ever been "one". Only 150 years ago it was divided into dozens of small kingdoms and principalities along religious lines. Konrad Adenauer, for example, referred to Berlin as the "City of the devil", because during his time it was overwhelmingly Protestant and social-democratic and so different from his Roman-Catholic Rhineland.
Marco Schuler, Germany

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