Miracle fails for deprived Ossies

The fall of the Communism did not bring riches to all freed from behind the Wall, writes Imre Karacs

Schwerin - The freshly gilded turrets of the enchanted castle that is home to the legislature of Germany's most sparsely populated region are a dazzling display of affluence. Yuppified Ossies (those from the former East Germany) race along the cobbled streets of the capital in BMWs, jewellery stores tempt consumers with a selection that would be the envy of Bond Street. The billions flowing into this part of the East have evidently been well spent.

The place is flush with money, yet the locals are whingeing. This may have something to do with the fact that unemployment in the surrounding region of Mecklenburg-Western Pom- erania is 40 per cent; that the crime rate and alcoholism are among the highest in the EU; and some people feel they have become second-class citizens in their own country. They have seen one wall tumble, six years ago, but now they are trap-ped behind a new barrier.

There is, in the view of those who have prospered in the ruins of Communism, a Darwinian inevitability about failure, one that can be enumerated. "About 70 per cent of people have been able to make themselves fit for the market economy," says Bernd Seite, the Land's Prime Minister, who used to be a vet in the old East Germany (GDR). "But 20-25 per cent have not succeeded."

Their flaws are allegedly inherent in their make-up, which can only be erased by time. "It will take at least a generation to change the mental outlook of the people," Mr Seite predicts.

It is a long convalescence and a high ratio of wastage, which still does not explain the Ossies' remarkable under-performance in the job market. In Mr Seite's regional administration, perhaps the only employer that can offer job security, two-thirds of staff are recent immigrants from former West Germany. The rest of the public sector is bleeding from a thousand cuts, with teachers next in line for the chop because of the falling number of pupils. Ten per cent of the population have emigrated in the past six years, and the birth rate among the remainder is down by a third.

The losers demonstrate their displeasure by voting for the ex-Communist Party of Democratic Socialism, by hitting the bottle and taking the winners' BMWs for a joy-ride, or by beating up foreigners. Mecklenburg's fascist thugs have the fiercest reputation in Germany, but lately they have been venting their anger not at Turks or Poles, but at Wessi (former West German) tourists. The new battleground is the camp-sites along the Baltic coast, where local lads have been attacking rich "foreigners" from as far away as Munich or Berlin with baseball bats. Class war has arrived, and there seems no shortage of youths willing to fight on the beaches.

Opportunities for more meaningful leisure are scarce, and employment prospects for a school-leaver practically nil. The region has been in economic decline for centuries, and the few factories that sprang up along the coast during the Third Reich and the Communist era lie idle.

There is nothing unusual in that, except that here the ravages of capitalism were inflicted not by blind market forces, but by wanton West Germans. At the People's Shipyard in Stralsund, the curses of the lucky few who still have jobs are daubed in huge letters on a three-storey steel structure once destined to be the hull of a new vessel. "We want our millions back," they proclaim, in a gesture as futile as it is bitter.

The millions in question - DM850m (pounds 340m) to be precise - were literally stolen from the region's shipyards by the WestGerman company, Bremer Vulkan. They were government subsidies earmarked for the east and siphoned off by crooked managers in Bremen to keep Western workers in jobs. The scam was only detected this year when the EU started asking questions about the investment it had approved. The local management - consisting of Wessies - never complained.

The legacy of the Bremer Vulkan era is an unfinished hangar next to the halls where a few hundred workers weld bits of metal delivered on wooden carts. The shipyard is kept afloat by the local government, its workforce of 8,500 before unification eroded to 2,000 today. Half of them will be out of work by the end of next year.

It is not just the relatively uneducated who are condemned to a life of indolence. In the pretty Hanseatic town of Greifswald, a plaque at the 500-year old university commemorates students who in 1870 gave their lives in France for the Prussian Fatherland. There are few signs of recent skirmishes, other than the metaphorical blood on the carpet and a decimated staff list. Over the past six years, senior academics have been culled in a process described by the rector as "renewal", and replaced invariably by Wessies fleeing from lack of tenure at home.

But some rays of hope are penetrating this gloom. Cut off from the rest of Germany by a lack of roads and fast rail links, the remnants of the Hanseatic world have been thrust back into the sea. The ships are sailing again to Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the cities of Tallinn and Riga, and trade is resuming with Pomerania across the Polish border. The eastern Baltic is forecast to become the fastest-growing region in Europe, its cities serving as magnets to tourists and industry. A golden future lies ahead, though how Schwerin and its hinterland will survive without a social explosion is hard to see.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Sport
Moeen Ali wearing the 'Save Gaza' and 'Free Palestine' wristbands on his left arm
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tv
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Battle of the Five Armies trailer released
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Extras
indybest
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Business Analyst - London - Banking - £400-£450

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Banking - London...

Application Engineer - Flow Metering

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Application ...

Chemical Engineer/Project Coordinator

£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Chemical Eng...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on