Happy Days in Eastern Germany?

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary I have a close friend named Constanze. She was originally born and raised in what used to be the German Democratic Republic (also known as East Germany). Despite the conditions of the former Communist state, she stayed and worked in the local clinic near her home. Strangely enough, things have drastically improved where she lives now. Health care is much better than in the days of East Germany, there are more consumer goods than they could have ever imagined, public transportation has greatly improved, and she has political and social freedoms that she could never have dreamed about before the East German state fell in 1989. More than that, there are job opportunities that did not exist even ten years before. After the German Democratic Republic collapsed and both East and West Germany reunited, many German manufacturers, corporations and small businesses relocated to the eastern part of Germany.

This is not surprising—lower taxes, a gifted workforce, lower costs, and enough infrastructure to build new and far better factories and technology centers at a far lower cost than would be possible in western Germany. Strangely enough, this is leading to resentment among those Germans living in the western part of the country. They see many of the choice jobs, the high-paying occupations and some of the country’s government infrastructure going east when many Germans in the western part of the country need jobs. While there are some parts of eastern Germany that are still not much more developed from the days of the East German state, this is beginning to change. And yet my friend says this is not unusual—with how badly the former East German government ran everything about the only direction growth could go in eastern Germany was up. While she is sad for her fellow Germans in the western part of the country, Constanze explains that in truth Germans in the eastern part of the country are not really getting welfare for living day to day—they are working hard to upgrade the living and working standards of the eastern regions.

All of this hard work has paid off and has of course attracted major German companies to set up shop in eastern Germany. Many Germans in the western part are complaining that they are paying what is called the “solidarity tax” to help the Germans in the eastern part. My friend explained that even if this tax was abolished it will not change the situation. Yes, there is some resentment between Germans in the eastern part of the country and western part of the country. This is historic baggage left over from the time when there were two Germanies for over 40 years. Each Germany was under a different system of government, and this has produced some lopsided problems that have yet to be overcome. Many things have changed in both the eastern and western parts of Germany for the better in the 22 years when the two countries reunified in 1990. But still Germans have yet to see eye to eye on a whole list of issues because of the division of the country a long time ago.

Comments are closed.