Background: today is the day the Berlin wall has been down for as long as it has been up - http://nationalpost.com/news/the-berlin-wall-has-almost-been...
(German only, but the headline basically just means "do you know where where the wall divided Berlin?")
I've lived here for a few years, but I found it really challenging myself!
Must have been so weird to look out from a high-up apartment on one side of the wall all the way over no-man's-land towards the windows of another block on the other side.
Have you seen many cities where buildings that are merely 30 years old do not exist anymore ?
I once wrote a rather personal ramble that touches on this, here https://thebreakfastpost.com/2014/09/23/alte-schonhauser-str... with some pictures taken in 1993 of the area around Hackescher Markt. If you click through on one of the photos, there are a few more on the Flickr set that don't appear in the article.
When's the last time you were back in Berlin? Have you seen how Neue Schönhauser Str. has developed?
I didn't immediately realize it. My German is lousy. Etc.
Check this: https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2013/apr/21/astr...
Pretty awesome, in my opinion :)
You can see this by looking at the ground; modern Berlin marks the route of the wall with a line of bricks in the middle of the pavement. In many of the current pictures, that line runs just between the traffic lanes and the parked cars.
Quite the opposite: Yes, suburbs flourished, but the appalling differences between East and West prove it has nothing to do with suburbanization.
And the pictures of East German inner cities prove something else: That class differences still existed. Like only government-loyal members of society get to live in Pyongyang, all the Eastern German "white trash" would be found in those inner cities. People with connections had an easier time getting into new High-Rises being built at the city outskirts.
This is not incompatible with suburbs remaining popular in general, they just fell a bit out of favour with a certain culturally influential group.
Most of the overall urban growth from the census is, in fact, in the suburbs. My 7,000 person town where my neighbors and I split about 100 acres is considered urban by the census.
And mind you, that when we're speaking about Eastern Europe, we're talking about the more prosperous part of the communist bloc.
 granted, WW2 left its mark as well but Western Germany started with the same handicap and didn't turn it's inner cities into Favelas.
It depends. Some counter-points:
- Western Germany had all (or at least nearly all) of Germany's supply of black coal, the energy source that powered nearly all of Germany back in the day. East Germany only had brown coal, which has a worse energy density and is more complicated to mine and use e.g. because of the water contained in it. Over the lifespan of the GDR, about 40% of all investments in industry went into the energy sector as they tried to make brown coal more efficient and build nuclear reactors.
- While the Western allies realized fairly early on that it makes more sense for them to integrate West Germany into their political and economical networks, East Germany had to pay huge amounts of reparations to the Soviets. Entire factories and hundreds of kilometers of rail tracks were disassembled and shipped to Russia.  That also took decades to recover from.
 While motivated by an understandable desire for a payback on the part of the Soviets (who suffered millions of casualties during the war), this was an incredibly stupid move for the Soviets: A lot of those reparations got lost to their "brother countries" through which stuff was shipped to the Soviet Union, and when machines managed to arrive in the Soviet Union, they often lacked qualified personnel to operate them. And, of course, it also reduced competitiveness of the GDR (and, therefore, of the Communist bloc as a whole).
Also, in the Winter War Finland fought alone against the Soviets. During the Continuation War we made an enemy-of-my-enemy sort of pact with the Germans and, in 1944, wiggled out of that agreement and sued for a separate peace treaty with the USSR (as it was becoming clear that the alternative was being run over).
The terms of the treaty dictated that we had to drive remaining German forces out of the country, leading to the Lapland War as the understandably pissed Germans used scorched earth tactics as they retreated from Finnish Lapland to Norway, at the time under Nazi occupation.
I'd take it any day over most parts of West Berlin.
1. The wall was all around West Berlin, separating it from East Berlin and the rest of East Germany.
2. There was a whole wide border defence strip, known as the death strip. The wall was just the inner most ("western") part of it. From West Berlin you could walk right up to it (though sometimes there was a thin strip of East Berlin strictly speaking), but on the outer ("eastern") side there was the considerable "defence in depth" and guards and fences etc. Basically, if you ever stood in front of the wall on the "eastern" side, you were either a border guard or about to be shot.
See pictures here:
EDIT to add:
3. Similarly, there was a 1400 km border between East and West Germany, which was also heavily guarded. It also had a border defence strip on the eastern side, up to 5 km (3 miles) wide, which incidentally turned it into a habitat for endangered species. While this "innerdeutsche Grenze" is less unusual and thus less famous than the Berlin Wall, more people died trying to cross it than at the Wall.
4. The crossings at that border were the stuff of spy movies: East Germany actually installed secret gamma-ray guns to detect people concealed inside vehicles. If someone arose suspicion and tried to flee with their car, there were 6 ton barriers, "Kraftfahrzeugschnellsperren", that could be catapulted across the road using hydraulic rams.
There were also secret doors in the wall, and on several occasion people from the western part who ended up on this thin strip adjacent to the wall were "kidnapped" by the stasi to the east and later usually traded for eastern agents captured in the west.
A less detailed article in English about the same event: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/nov/03/east-ge...
I remember a person from the old West Germany saying to me that they'd like that wall back twice as high and the same depth underground because of all reunification cost and the entitled attitude of 'osties'
Having been bombarded with arguments against reunification for decades by at least one half of the spectrum, will have shaped the views of many. A lot of people felt unease about an American president pushing so visibly for it, as Reagan did.
For the German Easterners it must be said, they were the only "revolutionaries", the only Germans who risked anything and showed courage and actually fought for freedom. Yet, there is almost no official commemoration of it. Partly because many Easterners were part of the system. Partly because the West-German left hated to be reminded of their own amorality.
Thus, "reunification costs" are only a translucent argument. As if the redistribution policies already existing in West-Germany weren't the real culprit why the West-German worker was left so little of his wage and why the job market was stagnating at best for years.
I don't think you can dismiss Ostalgie (nostalgia for East Germany/democratic socialism) either. There are quite a few people who miss those days, as incredible as it might seem to us who come from countries which don't shoot you if you want to leave. I know some folks who grew up in another Communist country, and they mention that everyone seemed bound up together. They'll admit that materially things are much better now, and sometimes they'll admit that everyone was in bondage together — but most of the time they really do miss what we would consider a repressive state (so bad that they weren't even allowed to speak their native language at home, and had to hide religious artefacts from the secret police).
What amorality are you talking about?
Which is why the SPD (with a few exceptions) and the Greens have never set foot in the East as did the conservative CDU.
 that remarkable story of course includes the whole of Eastern Europe and that human progress may only be equated to the rise of China (although not politically).
While I doubt, that anything else than a single Germany would have happened after all - how the reunification came to be could have certainly be different.
But looking at the options that are usually brought up when speaking about "the lost chances" of remaining an independent but free East Germany, the implications are usually so undesirable and unrealistic, that a) those still complaining about it come across as melancholic revanchists and b) the reunification as it happened seems to have been inevitable.
And to me it looked pretty spot on. I imagine it's pretty hard to find the exact same position after twenty years.
> I remember a person from the old West Germany saying to me that they'd like that wall back twice as high and the same depth underground because of all reunification cost and the entitled attitude of 'osties'
That sounds like a very selfish person. Freedom for our east german brothers and sisters, unless I have to contribute...
There are digital cameras and laptops. There's really no excuse for not comparing directly and seeing if you got it at least kind of right.
>That sounds like a very selfish person. Freedom for our east german brothers and sisters, unless I have to contribute...
It's not like people were completely opposed to it. But now after so much time has passed we're still paying an extra tax that exclusively benefits the eastern states. And if you read the local newspapers in Eastern Germany you still hear a lot of complaints about "Wessies" (Western Germans). It kind of breeds resentment if you put your hands in someone elses pockets for 28 years, and still complain you're not getting enough.
What we need to do is wean the East off of these extra taxes. There are large parts of Western Germany which have just as many unemployment problems, and didn't get any of the infrastructure investments.
Which tax would that be? If you mean the Solidaritätszuschlag: It isn't actually bound to any task and is used for more or less everything the government wants, not to help East Germany (just like any other tax). It is also payed by people in both West and East Germany.
Just one of the many stupid myths people tell themselves on both sides that breeds sentiment.
Also it may not be possible to stand in the same place due to new construction in the position of the old shot.
Edit: or should I rather put it this way:
They have lived in the GDR, and have years of firsthand life experience of what it was like. And they also live in the reunited Germany. And they also have years of firsthand life experience of what that is like.
Why would they prefer the worse option? (hint, they won't) And why would they think the worse option was better, if they have personally experienced both in detail? Who are you to say that what they think is wrong?
It's a similar sentiment to brexiteers, who have a vision of some old England that wasn't actually good.
EDIT: To clarify, I'm not endorsing these viewpoints, I just want to point out that the people who hold them aren't stupid or mistaken about the "good old times", they just have a different definition of "good". So from their perspective, revisionism is perfectly justified.
It took 2 years to coin a term that described a feeling people had already felt. Not 2 decades.
So I don't agree with your theory at all.
There is no doubt that substantial political and social upheavals, even those which we acknowledge as highly positive in the aggregate, will have some negative effects for some people.
Society develops meticulous legal and social processes for political change to ensure that these balances have been well-considered, despite being forced to acknowledge that we don't have a magic wand that will make the world a place of unanimous equity and unlimited cotton candy.
We dismiss the concerns and sentiments of others at our own peril. Concern and sentiment generally arise from legitimate issues. We can't solve every problem or fix every complaint, but smugly discounting the counter-discourse as the ramblings of idiots and yokels generates a massive liability which always come back to bite. "Those morons are too dumb to not vote against their own best interests" is no different than "those morons are just too dumb to learn the right way to use my program."
If some people believe that their personal balance of plusses and minuses was better under the old order, who are we to tell them that they're just too stupid or naive to understand their own generalized quality of life?
The east/west cultural conflict was a thing in the 90s. But today, nobody cares anymore. Berlin, and one or two other large cities in the east have become vibrant centres of culture, attractive to young people from all over Europe. The former east still lags economically. But by and large, the investments helped to catch up, and the economy has been doing well everywhere, making people less anxious about their taxes going to "undeserving" people.
But, of course, history never ends: now we have xenophobes protesting against their taxes helping refugees from Syria. Especially in the former east (go figure). The same dynamic is also playing out in Poland and Hungary: two countries massively profiting from EU membership, with large parts of the population turning their backs on the EU, and the values it stands for.
Since you live in Berlin, I suggest you take a daytrip to the villages around Berlin, or maybe down to the Lausitz (Cottbus, Hoyerswerda, Bautzen, etc.). You'll find plenty of people who care.
The GDR was an oppressive regime towards its critics, but if you managed to keep your head down, you could live a very stable life there. Upon starting work at 15, you had reasonable confidence that you could work at the same place until retirement if you wanted to. Until, of course, the reunification happened, and large parts of the East-German economy were flushed down the toilet for not many good reasons. Now you have a huge number of people who suddenly have to change jobs every few years to keep themselves afloat, and those (and their children!) are the ones voting for the AfD.
Source: I know some of those people.
based on what? on belief that the wise communist party conquered the laws of economics, history and nature?
Maybe disintegration with plunging into poverty is inevitable and natural end for the "oppressive regimes". Then at least East Germans got it easier than their neighbors to the East thanks to reunification.
The recent rise of AfD has been fueled by the resentment of the former East . The vote share of the AfD has strong correlations to the east-west divide. It might be worthwhile to understand the reasons behind this pattern.
100 years vs. 5 months. Pretty close...
A quote from a book "The Beast Reawakens: Fascism's Resurgence from Hitler's Spymasters to Today's Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists" (published in 1999) by Martin A. Lee:
(Chapter eight "Shadow over the East", Page 299) Whereas the United States and the rest of the European Community tried to prevent the breakup of Yugoslavia, Bonn unilaterally recognized Croatia as an independent nation at the end of 1991 and twisted arms to get other countries to comply with its wishes. American officials subsequently charged that Bonn was responsible for provoking the crisis in Yugoslavia, which had existed as a single country since 1919, except for the gruesome interlude when Hitler created a Croatian client state.
Reunified Germany’s preemptive diplomatic maneuver led to a major escalation of the civil war in the Balkans, which took hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced more than a million people. Bonn exacerbated the conflict by supplying Croatia with large quantities of weapons. Between 1992 and 1994, Germany exported $320 million of military hardware — including MiG fighter jets, surface-to-air missiles, and late-model tanks — to Croatia, despite a United Nations arms embargo forbidding such commerce. Convoys of up to fifteen hundred military vehicles from former East Germany were discovered en route to the Balkan farrago. Germany also trained Croatian pilots and provided intelligence reports in an effort to vanquish their mutual enemy. Heleno Sano, an expert on German defense issues, commented on the psychological underpinnings of this policy: “In their ‘historic unconscious,’ the Germans have resented the Serbs since World War II, because despite the fact that Hitler sent in thirty divisions, he was unable to defeat the antifascist guerrillas led by Tito.”
Under the auspices of NATO, German warplanes saw action for the first time since 1945, carrying out aerial patrols to prevent Serbian fighter jets from flying over Bosnian territory. And when the tide turned in Croatia’s favor in the summer of 1995, Bonn agreed to contribute up to four thousand military personnel to enforce a tenuous peace accord. German intervention was widely depicted in humanitarian terms, but General Klaus Naumann had something else in mind when he lobbied behind the scenes for a wider military role. While some German officials expressed a genuine reluctance to interfere in a place that had been devastated by Hitler, Naumann saw a chance for his men to test their mettle in a combat setting.
(1) You are a German.
(2) You are advocating for German imperial interests.
(3) "Drang nach Osten" (und Süden) is alive and kicking!
Thus, if anyone interferes with that by quoting facts they are "conspiracy theorists", "heretics", "far-whatever".
Croatia is today, for the second time since the WWII, a German vassal. To "pay" for the German political and military support in the 90ies, they have had to sell everything of value to German interests for peanuts: Most hotels on the Croatian part of the Adria coast are in German hand, Croatian telecom company (actually, a strategic resource for every country) is now "Deutsche Telekom", every Croatian company of value is owned by some German company.
The consequence are a high unemployment and a mass exodus: 300.000, some figures go as far as 500.000, Croats have left Croatia since it became the EU member in 2013 (2017 figures; according to Wikipedia, population estimate for Croatia in 2017 is 4.154.200). Croatian MD's and nurses are in Germany, keeping the German wages low for German hospital owners while German nurses live off of social security (because they don't want to break their backs in 12 hour shifts for chump change). Needless to say, Croatian medical system is in disarray.
And this is only a part of economic woes Croatia goes through. I will not go deep into political woes but name one: Croatia is the only country in the EU and NATO, in which the highest ranking officials (President, cabinet members) (1) attend openly fascistic and nazistic concerts, (2) make a yearly pilgrimage to an Austrian town of Bleiburg where Tito (with the blessing from US and GB) has killed some 90.000 Ustasha (Croats) in 1945, (3) deny the role of the Croat people and their WWII Independent State in the genocide on Serbs, Jews and Roma, (4) actively work (together with the Roman-Catholic church) on rehabilitation of people responsible for those crimes.
One episode is illustrative: End of 2016, in the city of Jasenovac, which is near the concentration camp Jasenovac, Croatian veterans from the 90ties have installed a memorial plaque with words "Za dom spremni!" on it. It is Ustasha greet during WWII, similar to "Sieg Heil" of the German Nazis. Now, as a German, imagine that in the city of Dachau, near former Dachau concentration camp, some veteran group puts a memorial plaque with "Sieg Heil" on it. What would happen? They would be punished at the speed of light while the outcry in the media would be enormous. In Croatia that memorial plaque stood there for almost a year! (it was removed after 10 months in September 2017 and put in the city of Novska, mere 10 km from the old spot)
And what does a "democratic" and "denazified" Germany do while Croatia revives Nazism? It is DEAD silent! Vassal is still needed to do the dirty work (wage a war, any kind of it) for German interests (again: "Drang nach Osten" (und Süden))!
Now that we can understand who you are protecting by accusing others of being "conspiracy theorists" (it took me awhile), one last question: If Martin A. Lee is a "conspiracy theorist", what about New York Times?
Wait, what now? Where do you get this stuff?
"Drang nach Osten" (und Süden) is alive and kicking!
By my actions? What are you even talking about?
By the sheer amount of words you use, I can see that you put a lot of effort in your reasoning. How about improving your thought by not masking out all the evidence that surrounds you, that neither Germans nor Croatians and other Easterners are all about to revive what the Holocaust hasn't achieved?
You know by assuming that I am
and thus must be
advocating for German imperial interests
your reasoning has more incommon with the Nazi-Racists than you might want to realize.