Union leaves Germans divided

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The Independent Online
The two nations of Germany commemorated their union yesterday in sombre mood. Six years after the German Democratic Republic was subsumed into the Federal Republic, east and west are united only by a sense of gloom, amid a growing realisation that parity is still more than a decade away.

The fading dream of forging one people has been replaced by bitterness on both sides. The Wessies - seen in the "Zone" as arrogant and intolerant products of the "elbow society" - resent the high price-tag attached to the project. Some 750bn marks (pounds 326bn) have been sunk into eastern Germany so far, but the investment has produced little dividend.

As for the human dimension, the two peoples have less to do with one another than Bosnia's disparate ethnic groups. A recent survey has revealed that a West Berliner is five times more likely to marry a foreigner than someone from the other side of the invisible Wall. Nearly four-fifths of eastern Germans regard themselves as second-class citizens in their new country.

Perceptions about the amount of cash the Ossies deserve and the gratitude they are expected to display in return lie at the heart of the enmity between the two communities. Western tax payers are painfully aware of the 7.5 per cent lopped off their earnings every month to pay for a perceived eastern profligacy. The burden of reconstruction has already brought the economy in the west to a standstill.

The sense of pessimism has, however, masked the progress. Six years ago the GDR was a country with full employment but empty shops and no prospects. Now the service sector is better than its western equivalent, and productivity in eastern factories often outstrips that of the parent company on the other side.

What eastern Germany has been experiencing might well have been described as "an economic miracle". That it is not, owes a great deal to possibly the only view Ossies and Wessies have in common: that East Germans are a nation of losers.

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