For example in the disposal income visualisation what kind of magnitude of a difference is there. Is the average 2 thousand euro a year lower or 10 thousand euro a year?
What concerns me is that some of these stats can be massaged with the right visuals into producing a difference between East and West that isn't as big a difference as the graph makes it out to be.
I do not know why the Washington Post removed the numbers in their graphics...
The bigger picture is that the eastern part of Germany got deindustrialized twice. The first time post-WW2 from both sides. In part by the US-forces who had seized the western parts, like Thuringia, but had to hand them over to the Soviets in time, so they seized anything they could easily move out to the western zones; We take the brain.
On the other hand the Soviets, who were way more strict in getting their reparations than their western counterparts, took apart a lot of factories and railways and shipped them eastwards.
Every bigger company that could, moved their HQ and center of operations to the western zones — where they stay until today — on their own as well. With them went up to 3000 mostly well educated people per day, in total more than 3 million (of 17M total) in the 16 years before the wall was built in '61. The motivation of building the wall was therefore economic in nature, since the GDR couldn't survive this ongoing brain drain with the mythical Wirtschaftwunder going on next door.
30 years later in the early 1990s after the fall of the Wall and the reunification the Treuhand, a state owned-holding, who's sole purpose it was to sell-off the former GDR state owned businesses to potential investors, kind of more or less knowingly finished off the rest of what was left of the industry.
Since not a few of the western investors were solely interested in buying up potential rival enterprises, so they could dismantle them shortly after. This left the east in a highly disadvantageous position with the west of Germany, since there were practically zero industry clusters left and since then state subsidies had could only do so much in creating the organic growth that was needed.[2 includes some good maps]
The allies also used a lot of them. Not their brightest hour.
When I came to Leipzig for the first time I was surprised how new and clean everything looked. Much nicer than in rich Munich. Because in Leipzig everything WAS new. However, they also had some building scandal (one guy defrauding banks to do lots of expensive building), I am not sure if that also factored into it.
I heard back then (a couple of years after reunion) that for example universities also had better equipment in the East because everything was new.
On a related note, I've never understood how you could live in West Berlin and yet travel freely to the rest of west Germany, because the city itself was deep in East Germany. I know the city was supplied by airlift during the blockade, but that eventually stopped. So how did someone from West Berlin travel to, say, Frankfurt by car? What was to stop someone from East Germany doing the same thing? The wall only went through the city, right?
I have travelled in East Germany and I found it to be a pleasant place, with very friendly people. Though they tended to have bizarre fashion sense and much more limited English compared to west Germany.
Wikipedia has a good overview under the Travel section of the article on West Berlin though:
Seems like there were a few ways out, and they all had systems of monitoring in place. Westerners on the highways could interact with Easterners, but their trip was monitored at check points, down to how much time they took for the journey, to make sure they weren't fraternizing too much.
Apparently the GDR, who was bearing the cost of the transit roads and was facing economic difficulties, began levying fees on travel from West Berlin and West Germany. They tried to increase these fees, but eventually the FRG, probably realizing it was over a barrel on the issue, just started paying the GDR a yearly fee to keep the roads toll free.
The flight travel bit is interesting. If you had fled into West Berlin, you can't exactly drive through East Germany like everyone else. The Western government subsidized a flight service between West Berlin and West Germany primarily for such travelers.
Conflict-wise it's interesting to contrast the general Cold War with the non-wars if Afghanistan, Iraq.
There were few approved transit routes from West Berlin to West Germany. So you could get a transit visa (which you had to pay for in west german currency) upon getting on one of those routes and present it to exit the GDR again (you weren't allowed to leave the transit route midway, and if you took to long to pass through, you'd be questioned). Note that transit between West Berlin and West Germany is different from simply crossing between the two Germanies, which was relatively easy for est german citizens, but particularly difficult to do for east german citizens.
> What was to stop someone from East Germany doing the same thing? The wall only went through the city, right?
The wall may have only gone through the city, but there still were border checkpoints outside of Berlin.
And yet, the GDR only existed for 40 years.
I believe the highway was cordoned off from the rest of East Germany.
So the East/Soviet leadership was able to close the roads and railways without violating any agreement; the Western/US/UK/France leadership had simply not anticipated originally that this would happen.
There were documented cases of harassment of planes, but shooting them down would have provoked another war immediately. And the Soviets knew they were not prepared to fight another war. Especially because the Soviets did not yet have nuclear weapons at the time of the blockade/airlift (the blockade lasted June 1948-May 1949, and the USSR did not conduct its first successful nuclear-weapons test until August 1949).
The difficulties these regions face are a direct consequence of the exploitation done by the communist dictation (the SED). It took billions of euros to alone fix the environmental damage, e.g. in Bitterfeld (unfortunately in German). Also, the industry there was not on level to compete in the world market, how should it? State-directed economy might have theoretically advantages when applied worldwide by humans without human flaws, but in our real world it has been proven wrong again and again.
The damage done to a region by 40 years socialism can't be fixed within 25 years with 0.95 ... 2 trillion (!)  euros. But people still vote for the party who has done all the damage. (And I haven't talked about the personal damage that has been done by prosecution, murder and torture by the Stasi (the secret forces of the DDR).
While that is an often repeated trope, you'll be hard pressed to find actual studies supporting it. In fact is seems that correcting for the different start positions of both economies (marshall plan in the west vs. reparations in the east) explains pretty much all the difference that was appearent in the late 80s. (see e.g. "Das Scheitern des Realsozialismus" by Steinitz).
I'm not sure why that trope is so successful, but one reason could be the that from the viewpoint of someone from the western parts of Germany looking at the eastern parts, what catches the eye is the abysimal effiency of the micro economical structures, as micro economical effiency is something a market economy shines at. The macro economical aspects are not that appearent for an observer because apart from monetary policy macro economies aren't part of the western political discourse. But Eastern Germany had a planned economy, e.g. the focus laid on the macro economical development, and macro economical growth was indeed consistently higher than in Western Germany from the 50s until the 80s.
It took billions of euros to alone fix the environmental damage, e.g. in Bitterfeld
...as it did in Western Germany in the 80s. Haven't you seen the pictures of the massive acid rain damages of the black forest in Western Germany? (have a look at "der Spiegel" from 1981: http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-14347006.html) Those massive environmental destructions were results of the industrial zeitgeist and could be observed in both political hemispheres.
as it takes a magnitude more energy to refute bullshit than to produce it, i'll be brief.
1., the complete soviet block collapsed due to its economic system and policies. growth, consistently from 50 to 80s, higher than in the west? are you delusional?
2., the "saurer regen" was a) never that bad and b) still tackled and fixed. what exactly did the east ever fix?
as someone who travelled into the old eastern block due to my heritage i have to say that your revisionist bullshit is deeply offending.
Thanks for that insightful reply.
BTW: I met a lot of people who'd been incarcerated mostly for their political motivation, but I've never met anyone who was murdered. Although I see how that might be difficult, I haven't even as much as heard about it. So, either the Secret Police really kept it secret or you are being overly dramatic.
plus hard to meet someone who has been murdered...
I am not sure about flu jabs and childcare or even who does their recycling, however I am sure that most of the comparisons can be said about England and Wales. It would be funny if pollsters did surveys and found 50% of English people didn't think the union with Wales had worked out as well as the king had told them it would.
Another difference: the Ampelmann
Those both stood out against the backdrop of dry political speeches. You have a leading statesman, sure, of a country with plenty of its own flaws, but calling out a system that is completely absurd, immoral, and against the course of history. Speaking partly from national interest, no doubt, but still calling something out, calling it like it is.
Leaders seem to get a lot of extra points in their legacy column when they're able to pull this off.
If the sitting President were to make such a speech today, I wonder what and where it would be.
What you say makes no sense.Of all the countries in middle-east,Syria is one of the least islamic and did a good job at protecting minorities like christians.
Your saudi folks on the other hand are no different that what ISIS is preaching.But your government loves saudi money.
With the US boom in shale / fracking oil (and Canada's coinciding oil boom), Saudi oil not only matters less by the day to the US, but Saudi Arabia is increasingly becoming a hostile oil competitor looking to fight the US domestics for market share. That conflict will get worse by the year going forward, likely eventually ending with the US reducing its guarantees of security for the monarchy and with the Saudis turning increasingly to China for protection.
In the specific context of Germany, while its true that Germany has been a nation for quite a long time (long before it was a single state), but nations are just social identities, and both sides in the Cold War were quite active in actively using propaganda to build "us" vs. "them" identities, and its not that surprising that without strong organized active supporting for the old pan-German identity and with active efforts to create opposing identities to replace it over a couple of generations, that there is a gulf created which will take another couple of generations of active effort -- at least -- to erase.
I'm aware that you were referring to the idea of a nation as it was established around the time of the French revolution. However, "Germany" as some kind of coherent construct is not just a recent concept.
It's also always astonishing how very little basic views change over time in people. I can well remember that many of the generation who grew up before or during WWII was anti-semitic views long after the Third Reich. Even people who were not active racists had them. The Third Reich was responsible for some, but some views were very old (see for example Martin Luther http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_and_antisemitism ).
For some change the previous generations have to die away, but there are underlying views which are hard to change even between generations.
> Germans are known for doing or thinking what they're told
Well, actually communism was a German invention. You may have heard of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and others. The particular combination of Racism and National Socialism / Fascism was also a home-grown development. A working model of democracy had to be explained to us, though. It took a few decades in West Germany to make it work, put the results were positive.
So what I actually meant was that in German media, the cultural differences between east and west are still heavily emphasized, there are special shows about it and thus the people tend to think about eastern Germany as "them". The differences do exist, but you could take any 2 Bundesländer and they'd have almost or even more differences to each other, than any western Bundesland has with an eastern one.
There are differences between Bundesländer. But West vs. East has a lot of special differences: ownership, farms, small and medium companies, political views, religion, etc...
For example North and South parts of West Germany differ in religion: protestant vs. catholic. East Germany OTOH has a larger atheist population.
From a long term cultural view, somebody from Rostock is not much different than somebody from Hamburg (where I live). It's just that Hamburg had several decades economic success, and Rostock did not. This affects employment, job opportunities, population development, GDP, etc. The differences between the former East and West Germany are real, even though some are getting smaller. It will take more decades to change things. The equal living standard is a goal. Generally differences are okay and Germany had always states which had their own business/views/traditions - different from countries where there is a more centralized situation (UK/London, France/Paris, ...).
There are two sides to this. After the fall of communism in Poland in 1989 people would buy EVERYTHING they could put their hands on. We had 3 washing machines in our basement - when I asked my father why, he replied that during communist times you had to apply to the government for a permit to buy one, so after 1989, when you suddenly could just walk into a store and buy one with no restrictions, it made perfect sense to buy 3 at once! You never know if you won't need more! And the same principle applied to everything. In fact, my father made a very successful business importing stuff from the West, since (as he put it) you could bring back a truck full of any junk you could find, and people would buy it - they were so eager to breathe in this new capitalist freedom where anyone could buy anything, that they were buying old TVs and motorcycles by a dozen.
Even Hitler himself presented the NSDAP as alternative to the US capitalism in the 30s. On the surface, it was, but when you looked deeper it was some kind of "undercover capitalism" under the hood of a movement that claimed to be social and unite the people -- but in reality it united some people, by tearing the whole apart, by finding some new foes, the rest of the people should feel as one. But this was an illusion from beginning.
I think, the right wing parties and groups do the same today again. They find the problems, the people have with capitalism -- and capitalism did not treat the eastern people well after the fall of the wall -- and use it as cheese in their big mouse trap.
Yes, Germany is still divided in my opinion today, because the rulers did not understand that the people need more than only bananas and some money in their pockets to go shopping.
Many women -- it is said -- even had an abortion in Eastern Germany after the fall of the wall, because unemployment was pressing so hard and in spite of German laws, some employers pressured them to do so. With unemployment still high and wages still lower than in the western parts, it is understandable, that many people don't feel to comfortable with a system that gives money, but once again no hope to those people. In the old system, they lacked bananas, but they had peace of mind and did not have the pressure to beat their neighbors. I heard many times, that people where much more friendly and helpful with each other in the old system, than they are today.
It's hard to describe what it was like traveling as a tourist to East Berlin. Stepping out of the S Bahn station into the East was like emerging into a movie set of the immediate post war era, it even seemed like being in a black and white movie. Trying to spend the 25 Marks they forced you to exchange into Ostmarks was nearly impossible, there was just nothing you wanted to buy there except for Russion literature, maybe.
A bit defocus and diversion don't hurt either. It's not the kind of breaking news I come here for, agreed. Social issues are everyones responsibility, anyway, so it's a fruitful basis for comments.